AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council has more than 100 items on its Sept. 21, 2023 meeting. Here’s what KXAN was watching:
Palm District plan: Approved
Austin City Council voted to move forward with its Palm District Plan — which covers the Convention Center, Waterloo Greenway, APD’s headquarters and the Palm School and Park.
The proposed district is highlighted in yellow in the City map below:
“This has been a long time coming,” Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said. “At the heart of it is our Palm Park and Palm School which is very important to the Latino community so I’m happy to see that included and to see that move forward.”
According to the Downtown Austin Alliance, the plan will amend the Downtown Austin Plan to more specifically guide future development in the areas highlighted, which focus on eastern downtown.
“A lot of Mexican-American Austinites called that part of town home and have been displaced and their history has been kind of moved out and I think it’s important for us to do right by them,” said Council Member Zo Qadri.
HealthSouth affordable housing: Approved
After a deal fell through, the City of Austin is working to figure out what to do with its HealthSouth building in downtown Austin.
People “overwhelmingly” want to see more affordable housing there – with the priority given to people working in the healthcare, hospitality and service industries — according to a community impact survey referenced in a new City of Austin memo.
In response, the City Manager’s Office made a recommendation to convert at least part of the former HealthSouth property into affordable housing. The land is on the corner of Red River and 12th Streets, walking distance from Dell Seton and the heart of downtown.
Austin City Council approved that resolution Thursday to explore onsite affordable housing options in the HealthSouth building in hopes to bring more people downtown who otherwise would not be able afford living there.
“Our musicians or artists, individuals who work in the hospitality industry, need somewhere to live and what better place than in our downtown area,” Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said.
Expansion of semiconductor plant: Approved
Austin City Council members approved an economic development agreement to support a $290.8 million expansion of NXP, a semiconductor company with two facilities in Austin.
The company filed for a Chapter 380 business expansion agreement, which offers tax incentives to NXP. In exchange, the City of Austin will get a projected $1.53 million and has the ability to tie additional benefits to the deal.
The most widely discussed of those benefits by Austin City Council members were labor requirements and childcare.
NXP will be required to match the City of Austin’s living wage, which is no less than $20.80 starting Oct. 1, 2023. If the City of Austin were to later increase its living wage, the company would be required to do the same.
Additionally, council members required the company to create both a childcare fund for its employees and put money towards a citywide childcare fund.
“We’re supportive of the idea that this is also going to support childcare around the facilities where we operate,” said Mark Kroeker, NXP’s head of U.S. regulatory and government affairs. “We don’t want to be put in a position of picking winners and losers of the districts but we strongly support any equitable distribution of childcare funds.”
Land management plan: Approved
Austin City Council members approved the Parks and Recreation Department’s land management and climate vulnerability plan in order to address issues like wildfire risk and preserve native species.
Council Member Alison Alter said the plan will be a set of guidelines for city staff, which will promote climate resilience for the city’s more than 10,000 acres of open space including parks and greenbelts.
“I’m really grateful for us to see us taking these next steps,” Alter said Thursday. “They’re really important not just for wildfire but for the climate resilience for our parks so that we can be making sure that our residents have access to these natural spaces moving forward.”
Land Development Code transparency: Approved
Austin City Council is regularly working to encourage more affordable housing by changing its Land Development Code (LDC). The LDC determines what can be built, where and can restrict the number of units on a piece of land.
As Austin City Council makes changes to that LDC to encourage affordability, Mayor Kirk Watson wants to expand transparency of that process by beefing up the notification process.
“As we consider notice going forward on any of these items that make these changes that we are going to at least my hope is that we seek robust, complete notice in a way where people feel like we have a credible process, they’re not being left out,” Watson said in work session Tuesday.
Austin City Council members unanimously approved an item tied to the LDC notification process with Alter abstaining.
It comes after a group of homeowners successfully sued the city, undoing its complete LDC rewrite, over notification requirements. That same group is expected to be back in court against the City later this month.
Police oversight item: Approved
Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri brought forward a resolution that would direct City staff to implement parts of Proposition A — a police oversight measure — that voters approved in May. It would not include the parts of the proposition that are wrapped up in negotiations with the Austin Police Association.
It’s not clear which of the proposition apply yet, that would need to be worked out by City staff later. Council members Thursday talked about a new Attorney General opinion which could impact what can be implemented.
“We can’t say we’ll do one thing and then do the other,” Qadri said. “We’re making sure that parts of the Prop that don’t relate to meet and confer are implemented.”