Austin police not ending 6th Street weekend closures at this time

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, a memo from Austin Police Department and the City of Austin offered new updates on several action items a part of the Safer Sixth Street Initiative, which is focused on ramping up safety efforts along the Entertainment District amid a spike in violent crime.

Among the updates, Austin police said it doesn’t plan on exploring ending weekend closures along 6th Street.

Previously, the city had offered several recommendations with a goal to “bring a wider demographic to the Sixth Street District and begin to help change the character of the street.” These recommendations included a potential pilot program that would allow some businesses to use designated spaces on the sidewalk, parking lanes and part of the street for seating and dining, live music or art, according to city documents.

The initiative would also mean potentially adding more lighting, changing the entertainment district’s layout or collaborating with bar and venue owners on types of safety training.

On Dec. 27, new action items responses were highlighted in a memo sent to the mayor and City Council.

Action #8 suggested a process and program for entertainment licenses that includes safety training for staff and increased coordination and communication with public safety officers.

  • The interdepartmental team suggested the implementation of an annual “Entertainment Permit” that would be required for places of assembly in the Sixth Street district with operating hours after 12 a.m. The permit would include a required safety plan.
  • The team suggested that the city coordinate regular meetings with permit holders to increase communication between departments

Action #10 suggested initiating the development of a nightlife management plan.

  • The city said the creation of the its interdepartmental team already in place works on strategies to improve the safey of the district and development of nightlife management

Action #12 suggested analyzing Sixth Street weekend closures and see if the team believes changes would be beneficial. If so, the city would need to develop a list of measures that would need to be met for Sixth Street to be re-opened.

  • APD said that due to the current high volume of pedestrians during late-night peak hours (11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.) and narrow sidewalks, the team does not believe re-opening Sixth Street would be feasible.
  • The team said that more diverse uses of Sixth Street would bring people to the area during various times in the day instead of only during late-night hours.

Action #13 suggested engaging with property owners and impacted stakeholders to discuss land use regulations along Sixth Street to determine whether changes could foster more “diverse uses along the historic corridor.”

  • APD is calling for new land use regulations that would remodel historic buildings on Sixth Street to include kitchens, which could lead to more investment and more diverse uses.
Austin’s Sixth Street Entertainment District is located between Fifth and Seventh Streets and stretches from Brazos Street to the west and Interstate 35 to the east (City of Austin Photo)
Austin’s Sixth Street Entertainment District is located between Fifth and Seventh Streets and stretches from Brazos Street to the west and Interstate 35 to the east (City of Austin Photo)

Bob Woody, President of East Sixth Street Community Association and owner of several downtown bars and restaurants, said he believed these recommendations were a “good start,” but he thinks more needs to be done.

“Why are we having these problems? Because no one is doing enforcement. Who is not doing the enforcement? The police department. Why? Because the city has told them not to,” he said. “I think the easy answer is: let the police department do their jobs.”

Woody also told KXAN he worries that requiring entertainment licenses would be a way to tax businesses. Still, he said he was glad to see city leaders taking action to address the area.

“It’s nice to see something taking place,” he said.

The initiative was passed by City Council in June, following a mass shooting that killed a man and wounded 13 others.

To read the Dec. 27 memo, visit this link.

Austin police are holding media availability on Tuesday to discuss the updates. Check back for an update to this story.

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