Housing Plan, Stadium Vote in Council Spotlight
Still to come this spring: child-friendly policy, land use code reboot
City Council returns to tackle another relatively light agenda today (Thursday, Feb. 21). Again this week, there's a clear main attraction among the day's discussions: Council Member Greg Casar will introduce his "Affordability Unlocked" resolution to create the framework for a new, citywide density bonus program, which he envisions will allow affordable housing providers to create significantly more units in their developments – "even 500% [more] in some cases," he says – for families well below Austin's median income (see "Austin at Large," Feb. 22, for more). The council will also consider Items 48 and 49, prompted by the successful petition drive by Fair Play Austin and Friends of McKalla Place, to force an election on the city's agreement for a new Austin FC soccer stadium and all future such deals (see "City Validates Anti-MLS Petition," Feb. 22).
In other news, the Sekrit Theater rezoning case is up for second and third readings (Items 35 and 36); it appears Beau Reichert's years-long struggle with the Austin Code Department and his neighbors will finally come to a resolution. Also, frequenters of Yard Bar on Burnet Road will be interested to know that a group of neighbors is appealing Development Services' decision (Item 47) to give the dog park an outdoor music venue permit, asking that its approved maximum decibel level be lowered. For what it's worth, music is only allowed until 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
It won't be on the agenda until next month, but Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison are working to fix the systemic problems that led to last week's ethics controversy surrounding Human Resources Director Joya Hayes and accusations that she had city staff inappropriately caring for her child. Instead of going after Hayes – who successfully pointed out she hadn't broken city rules – Council is looking to increase child care support at City Hall and keep these kinds of ethics investigations private until they are deemed credible.
Also in the background is City Manager Spencer Cronk's continued work on a path forward on land development code reform after the implosion of CodeNEXT. Cronk's office doesn't have a date set yet for when he'll present Council with his plan, but it's expected to happen in the next several weeks. Cronk, who celebrated his first anniversary on the job last week, already experienced a rocky 2018 filled with natural and man-made disasters, but his biggest test to date will be trying to untangle the toxic disputes that ultimately sank the six-year effort to produce a new land use code, which almost all stakeholders agree Austin needs.