AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are just short of 90 items on Austin City Council’s agenda for Dec. 1. Here’s some of what we’re watching.
Austin Energy rate hike: Vote not taken yet
Austin City Council already approved a pass-through rate increase for average customers of roughly $15 a month. That rate covers the cost of buying and transporting energy.
Now, Austin City Council are weighing on a base rate increase, as is required by the city every five years. That proposal asks the council to approve another $15 increase for customers — this one at a set rate.
The base rate is used for fixed costs, such as employees and equipment.
Council opted to not vote on the item Thursday evening, after public commenters largely denounced the proposed rate increase and its impacts on their energy bills. The item will be taken up for consideration in a follow-up meeting on Friday morning, beginning at 10 a.m.
“This is the very definition of a price shock,” one resident said, with another adding: “You guys can’t pick and choose who struggles and who doesn’t.”
Matt Mitchell, a spokesperson for Austin Energy, previously told KXAN high infrastructure costs and bigger city growth means the utility needs to be able to keep pace with electricity demands and the costs to deliver it. On Thursday, Mitchell said questions remain on what those revenue requirements need to be.
“There are still questions about what that revenue requirement absolutely needs to be, how that is affected and impacted by what the base rate design is going to be, how usage is going to be impacted.”
Austin City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said she wouldn’t be able to sign off on another rate hike, after a separate hike passed in the fall.
“We had one person show up with an array of grocery items that would amount to $15 and that is quite a lot of money for folks who are living paycheck to paycheck,” she said.
She added she hopes Austin Energy will be able to spread the implementation of the fee out over time, to help avoid a rate shock for customers.
Austin Energy CAP program expansion: Approved
Council approved creating enrollment markers for Austin Energy to hit with its Customer Assistance Program (CAP). Council members have previously discussed their desire to expand that program as fees go up.
“This item aims to enroll 90% of eligible residential customers by June 2025. Currently, only about 38% of eligible residential customers are enrolled,” Council Member Vanessa Fuentes posted.
‘Missing middle’ housing: Approved
Council Member Paige Ellis’ put forward a resolution to streamline the review and approval process of “missing middle” housing. It was approved on consent.
“The intent is to make it easier for different kinds of housing that are generally more affordable to be built in our city,” Cortez said.
The different kinds of housing — other than single-family homes or large apartment complexes — include things like triple or fourplexes. It’s housing that’s also known as “the missing middle.”
According to a statement from Ellis, the housing would be geared toward moderate-income families and people at-risk of being priced out of Austin’s housing market.
“These types of housing use land very efficiently. They generally result in housing that you can purchase or that you can rent at a more affordable rate than those large, single-family homes that would likely otherwise be built on those lots,” said John-Michael Cortez, board member of HousingWorks Austin, a nonprofit research, education and advocacy group.
Legal representation for South Terminal lawsuit: Approved
Council members approved an agreement with Winstead PC to represent the city in lawsuits over the condemnation of the South Terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport as the city looks to expand its airport into that space.
According to city documents, the city dedicated an additional $1.5 million toward legal representation. The money will come from the Fiscal Year 2022-23 Department of Aviation’s Operating Budget.
Documents list the total contract amount as just over $3 million.
Data coordination for homeless assistance: Approved
The council directed the city manager to make it easier for groups that deal with homelessness to share and keep data.
“This aims to reduce costs and increase efficiency,” Fuentes said.
According to documents, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), Integrated Care Collaboration (ICC) and Dell Medical School are making a data platform that would track and share medical and social service data.
It will allow groups to see what services have previously been offered to people experiencing homelessness.
The resolution directs the city manager to assist in that process if approved.
Wage theft: Approved
Austin City Council passed a wage theft ordinance that will create a database of employers that have a record of wage theft that will be publicly available. The city will not be able to contract with any of the companies in the database.
According to the Workers Defense Project, the item will also create a wage theft coordinator position “to assist workers that come forward with reports of wage theft violations.”
Brodie Oaks Redevelopment PUD: Vote postponed
Another major development in Austin is headed to the council after the planning commission signed off on the Brodie Oaks proposed planned unit development, or PUD, earlier this month.
The increasingly empty shopping center near South Lamar and the 360 Loop is in the early stages of becoming a small skyline in south Austin, roughly four decades after it was originally built.
Thursday was set to be the first of three PUD readings. However, Austin City Council approved postponement of the item to its Dec. 8 meeting.
Statesman PUD: Vote not taken yet
The contentious 305 South Congress PUD, where the old Statesman building is now, is up for its third and final PUD reading. Council didn’t finish its discussion on the item late Thursday evening, and will pick up the item again on Friday morning when the body reconvenes at 10 a.m.
Simply put, a PUD is a set of rules for developers which typically go beyond what other parts of the city can do on what can and can’t be built or what is required to be included in the space.
This item has been kicked down the line several times as the city and developers have not been able to agree on the details of the PUD. One of the most vocalized during previous meetings is the lack of park space offered by developers and required under the PUD.
The area could eventually become the latest expansion of Austin’s downtown area.