Aug. 13: In the Zone Again
Council plays musical chairs, because what else do they have to do?
If you're one of those people who hates moving the furniture, you might need a program to recognize today's City Council. At last Thursday's meeting, Council members drew lots to determine a new, shuffled seating arrangement on the dais – with Mayor/Chair Steve Adler still in the middle, but the rest rearranged according to their newly drawn number. As it happened, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and District 4 CM Greg Casar landed where they started – I won't spoil the surprise by listing the other relocations. One CM (who charitably shall remain nameless) defended the seat rotation (one of the "changes" installed early by the 10-1 Council) as allowing the members better mutual acquaintance – if Travis County Attorney David Escamilla, under an overwrought "open meetings" interpretation, hadn't imposed hallway silence on the whole crew, perhaps they wouldn't need to play musical chairs.
Today's headline Item (9) is another run at short-term rental regulations, and the resolution, sponsored by D10's Sheri Gallo (co-sponsored by Adler, D5's Ann Kitchen, and D8's Ellen Troxclair) is an omnibus shot at regulations that could include: greater penalties on "bad actors," requirements for commercial liability insurance, occupancy limits, more area restrictions, etc. (see "There Goes the Neighborhood," Aug. 11, 2015). Based on Tuesday's work session discussion, the resolution itself is likely to be postponed. Instead, staff will provide a briefing on the state of current regulations and enforcement, and the whole matter will be referred to the Planning & Neighborhoods Committee meeting on Monday (with public testimony), to return to Council as quickly as possible.
Today's session (Aug. 13) is a heavy zoning day: some three dozen cases on the agenda, including a few historic landmark and mixed-use cases that will likely consume quite a bit of time. There's also a much-delayed public hearing on the Planning Commission granting a variance to the Red Bluff Hotel project off East Cesar Chavez, that would allow construction within the primary setback from the waterfront. Mayor Adler had been working on a compromise that would involve redirecting Red Bluff Road sufficiently to save the setback – perhaps we'll learn today if that worked out.
Also returning from last week's meeting is the postponed decision on how many contractors the purchasing department should include in the Watershed Engineering Flood Hazard Mitigation Rotation List. Would-be contractors (especially Asian-American firms) not currently on the five-contractor list pushed hard last week to expand it to at least 10, and Council asked for more info before making the decision.
No proclamations nor musical honorees on zoning days, but you're welcome to sing "Stairway to Heaven" to yourself, around dinnertime.