Public Notice: Remember Memorial Day
Why city policy and land development regs matter
Thirty-four years ago, the Chronicle published its prototype issue, covering, among other things, the 1981 Memorial Day flood that had recently trashed businesses all along Lamar Boulevard Downtown. (Two years later, Stevie Ray Vaughan would release his debut album, Texas Flood, but that's a different story.) In response to that shocking wake-up call, the city of Austin undertook massive flood control projects, transforming the Downtown Waller and Shoal creeks, among others, pulling acreage out of what used to be floodplain, and enabling a series of development booms that have transformed the city into something almost unrecognizable from what it was in 1981.
And now, 34 years later, as this issue goes to press, it's hard once again to think of much else besides the (new) Memorial Day flood.
I muse on this not to belittle the flood control projects – without them, obviously things would've been much, much worse – but to point out that whatever we may do, Mother Nature's going to wag her finger at us from time to time, just to remind us who's boss. And that's when some bills come due for all the decisions we've made in the interim, when we thought she wasn't looking. So ...
The neighbors of the former TxDOT land on Bull Creek between 45th and Jefferson are going to start making noise soon about the impervious cover amount, and the drainage calculations, that will apply to that property. When they do, and your eyes start to glaze over at the mind-numbing minutiae of it all, remember: This is what it's about. And when the development lobby wants to chisel away at the 45% impervious cover limit that the Planning Commission just upheld unanimously in the Additional Dwelling Unit regs they're sending to City Council (see, your eyes are glazing over already, aren't they?), remember: This is what it's about.
And when I try to tell you, later this year, that you should care about the latest dustup over allowed Floor-to-Area Ratio in the CodeNext Land Development Code rewrite – well, try to humor me, because, God help me, I think this stuff really matters.
And lobbyists? Don't get me started (too late; see below).
Austin Animal Center operations are more or less back to normal, after the Town Lake Center had to be evacuated due to flooding, even as intake numbers spiked for the same reason. They're still in precarious shape though; see info at www.austinanimalcenter.org. So, a great big wet welcome to new Chief Animal Services Officer Tawny Hammond, previously the director of the Animal Shelter in Fairfax County, Virginia.
The Austin Humane Society is slammed as well, after taking 50 dogs transferred from the AAC, in addition to their increased intake of strays. Under the heading "Urgent Action Needed" they've put out a call for emergency volunteers and donations, plus, of course, adopters and foster families. "If you or anyone you know is looking to make a difference, now is the time."
The Great Austin Lifeguard Hunt was at least a qualified success, it would appear: The Parks & Rec Department reversed field this week, announcing that Deep Eddy and Bartholomew Pools will remain open seven days a week through the summer – but that "the decisions regarding the 2015 summer season continue to be an intricate consideration of many factors."
Regulating city lobbyists: A working group of the Ethics Review Commission will host a public meeting at 6:30pm Wed., June 3, at Austin City Hall, Room 1029, to get input on the regulation of lobbyists as outlined in City Code. Specifically, they want to hear public comment on:
• who should be required to register as a lobbyist;
• lobbyist registration procedures and accountability;
• enforcement and monitoring of lobbyist regulations;
• whether to expand the list of city officials to whom the code applies.
See the existing Code provisions about lobbyists at www.austintexas.gov/department/lobbyists.
Austin Bike Month wraps up this weekend with Frankenbike, a free bike swap, Saturday, May 30, 10am-4pm at Cycleast, 1619 E. Cesar Chavez, and a Bike Month Wrap Party, held by Please Be Kind to Cyclists on Sunday, May 31, noon-3pm at ABGB, 1305 W. Oltorf, with live music, raffles, and more. See www.bekindtocyclists.org.
The Austin Public Library's Youth Summer Reading Program schedules events and activities for everyone from toddlers to teens, all summer long. APL celebrates the program launch at the Ruiz Branch, 1600 Grove Blvd., 1-4pm Saturday, May 30, featuring an African Safari (?!?) followed by crafts, literacy activities, and a performance by the Linder Eagle Choir/Mariachi Las Águilas de Linder. The summer schedule begins June 7; see details at www.austin summerreading.org.
APL has also expanded its Spanish language learning programs, with five free classes a week at various branches; see library.austintexas.gov/programs for the full schedule.