City council: Austin to dig deep for daycare, music venue funds

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Here is a rundown of the Austin City Council meeting Thursday.

More aid for struggling industries – Approved

Austin City Council approved a resolution asking staff to explore all funding options for struggling local live music venues, bars and restaurants and childcare facilities.

The resolution, known as Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES), was approved unanimously Thursday evening.

Calling the aforementioned businesses “irreplaceable civic infrastructure,” Mayor Adler stressed the need to act quickly but said he didn’t want to create the expectation that additional funding is a “magic bullet.”

“This is going to be hard,” said Adler. “We’re going to lose businesses. We’ve already lost businesses.”

The resolution asks city staff to come back with an ordinance for a vote on Oct. 1.

In July we told you about a study which found the majority of music venues in Austin were in danger of closing by Halloween. Several council members have weighed in on potential funding sources this week, from sales taxes to street fees.

District 9 council member Kathie Tovo said she wants the city to explore the possibility of using temporary use of right-of-way fees, alley and street fees and other developer fees collected by the city. Her amendment language was added to the resolution prior to council’s vote.

Steps toward Convention Center expansion – approved

Austin inched closer to convention center expansion Thursday night with several votes.

Council voted to begin negotiations for the purchase of land west of the current center. The city says up to $6.3 million dollars is available for the purchase, which likely won’t be finalized until sometime next Summer.

Other items passed now authorize the city to pay for consulting and legal advice regarding the expansion effort.

The votes come following a presentation to council Tuesday from HVS Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities Consulting. The firm is being paid by the city to analyze the economics of expansion.

HVS told elected officials that according to a study of event planners, 83% indicated they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely to use an expanded convention center, and 4% said they were “very unlikely” or somewhat unlikely” to use an expanded ACC.

It’s important to note that stakeholder engagement took place prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which became a point of discussion at Council’s Work Session.

The first phase of an expanded Austin Convention Center would be complete in 2024. Presenters said they expected a bounce-back from the recession and increasing demand from event planners.

The group did acknowledge in its findings: “Given the lack of certainty surrounding several key economic variables, HVS projections produced in this report should be considered to reflect assumptions and conditions at the time of this writing.”

Council member Tovo expressed concern about the future of large events due to the pandemic.

“It’s a little hard to predict what and how it might change in terms of moving forward, in terms of our workplaces, our methods of gathering,” she said.

Currently, the convention center has more than 365,000 square-feet of usable space for conventions and events, and three phases of expansion would take it over 900,000 square-feet of space, the memo says. The convention center averaged between 95-115 events per year since 2015, and with the expansion, HVS says the load can increase to around 215 events and 350,000 event attendees per year.

Tighter rules for contractors – Postponed

One item would authorize city staff to create a contractor registration program for building and demolition permitting. Development Services Department documents say the proposed program would include requirements for bonding and insurance and an exemption for the owner of a one or two-family homes with an active homestead exemption.

Council is also expected to approve requirements for neighbor notification prior to demolitions.

Three years ago, an audit found safety risks involved in the city’s demolition process.

The audit found some properties may not even be tested for asbestos as state law requires. Another concern mentioned was the presence of lead paint. The audit states there does not appear to be any process in place to determine whether a building has lead when the city is reviewing a demolition permit application.

Council amends eviction ordinance – Approved

Council extended the requirement for landlords to provide a “notice of proposed eviction” in advance of giving renters a “notice to vacate.” The ordinance, originally passed in March, was intended to provide renters up to 60 days to catch up on overdue rent payments during the pandemic. The requirement would have ended Sept. 30 but is now extended through the end of the year.

On Sept. 1, the CDC issued an order protecting certain renters from eviction due to nonpayment through the end of the year.

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