AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council has nearly 80 items on its agenda Thursday. Here’s some of what we’re watching.
Parking requirements for bars: Approved
A resolution from City Council Member José Velásquez calls for eliminating certain parking lot restrictions for bars to “encourage alternative modes of transportation and reduce the incidence of drunk driving,” the resolution read.
The item passed at Austin City Council Thursday, with an amendment from Council Member Mackenzie Kelly to create a stakeholder review process. That component would collect feedback from several local bar and business groups on whether the city should change parking minimums, and if so, how to change them.
According to current building standards, properties that are at least 2,500 square feet must accommodate at least 25 drivers. Bars 10,000 square feet or more must have enough room for a minimum of 400 cars.
The new resolution would still require ADA parking options. The draft of the resolution states parking construction can cost businesses between $10,000 and $40,000 per space.
“Decreasing parking requirements for bars and restaurants could also encourage the growth of local businesses and increase economic activity in the City,” the proposal read.
Curtis Rogers, a member of the city’s Urban Transportation Commission, told KXAN prior to Thursday’s vote he hoped the initiative would combat impaired and drunk driving.
“Having a parking requirement for bars encourages people to drive,” he said, adding: “Removing parking requirements doesn’t stop drunk driving, but it does help the situation.”
Read more on the proposal here.
AFD ladder trucks: Approved
After a KXAN report highlighting the need for new ladder trucks at the Austin Fire Department, Council Member Mackenzie Kelly put forward a resolution asking the city manager to look at what it would cost to staff a ladder truck the city purchased but hasn’t been able to put into service. She also asked him to look at buying and staffing one addition ladder truck.
That item passed during council’s meeting Thursday.
“We haven’t had a ladder put in service in the Austin Fire Department since 1995,” Austin Firefighter Association President Bob Nicks explained. The inability to staff ladders also impacted the expansion of AFD’s wildfire division, KXAN previously reported.
The resolution also asks the city manager to look at response times, staffing gaps and repairs needed at stations. Kelly asked the city manager to report back to the public safety committee no later than July.
Narcan to high need areas: Approved
Another resolution from Kelly would get naloxone, better known as the brand name Narcan, to organizations and businesses located in hotspots of opioid overdoses. It would also include training on how to use the overdose reversal medication.
Austin City Council approved the item Thursday. The proposal will provide funding for Austin-Travis County Emergency Management Services (ATCEMS) who would hand out the naloxone kits.
Kelly said the Sunset Valley and Riverside zip codes were ones that would be targeted. The city will use data to figure out which businesses and organizations get the kits, she said.
Read more here.
Mental health diversion center: Approved
Council members will discuss how much of a stake the city will have in Travis County’s plan to build a mental health and substance use diversion center Thursday.
“I think it’s important to make sure that we play a role in this, and making sure that we’re able to put forward whatever resources that are needed to make this diversion center a reality,” Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri said. He brought the resolution forward.
Students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs calculated an estimate of how much the facility would cost, according to the report. To build a 32-bed diversion center at just over 30,000 square feet, it would cost the county roughly $30 million to create the facility, and roughly $5 million a year to operate.
While the specific details of who is eligible for the diversion center haven’t been hemmed out yet, the goal is to provide non-violent offenders with a mental health or substance use disorder treatment instead of allowing them to cycle through the criminal justice system time and time again.
Read the full report here.
Rainey Street safety
Austin city leaders are working toward creating an interim pedestrian safety plan for the Rainey Street Historic District, following council action taken Thursday.
Austin City Council approved the resolution directing Interim City Manager Jesús Garza to “explore the capacity for Park Rangers to patrol and have EMS stationed at the Rainey Street Trailhead.” Following council action Thursday, Garza is expected to present an initial report to the body by April 20.
This comes after city officials have documented five late or overnight drownings near Rainey Street. Austin Police have said no foul play is suspected in these cases, but Council Member Zo Qadri said work remains to improve public safety in the entertainment district.
In addition to city-led safety improvements, Garza said he would also work with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission to help develop “additional strategies for curbing overserving alcohol,” per documents.
Read the full report here.
Project Connect anti-displacement funding: Approved
Austin City Council is set to approve $75 million in anti-displacement funding to be used throughout the next three fiscal years. The funds come from $300 million allocated to help fight displacement efforts caused by construction of the Project Connect mass transit system.
Funds uses include financing land acquisition, creating affordable housing, and funding rental and legal assistance programs. All funds will be used within a one-mile boundary of Project Connect, referred to in council documents as “areas vulnerable to displacement.”