City Council is set to take up a 93-item agenda this week, headlined by several prominent items officials pushed off earlier this month.

Among the decisions council is in line to make this week are the scope of the fees Austin charges on new developments to support city parkland and the shape of district planning processes both south and east of downtown.

Votes on those items, and others, were postponed Sept. 1 after council members made the rare decision to end their meeting after its 10 p.m. cutoff rather than extend time to finish off their remaining agenda—a practice that members said they hope to continue going forward.

Officials on Sept. 15 could also approve a new ordinance related to police oversight or vote instead to leave a decision on the measure to city voters.

Council’s next meetings are scheduled during the week of Sept. 26.

Police license plate data collection

First proposed during summer budget planning by District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, a controversial item supporting an Austin Police Department data collection program appears headed for passage.

Kelly proposed spending nearly $115,000 to bring back APD’s automated license plate reader, or ALPR, program. Council took additional time over the past month to discuss the proposal, including a discussion with APD Chief Joseph Chacon over the program’s merits during a meeting that also brought out several members of the public mostly opposed to the program. Mayor Steve Adler said potentially hundreds more could turn out Sept. 15 to comment on the program as well as the police oversight act.

Concerns about police use of ALPRs led District 4 Council Member Chito Vela to forward an alternate blueprint for the program’s return with several additional guidelines. Vela called the program's data collection practices, in particular a 30-day retention policy, a "hard line" that he is unwilling to cross.

A revised resolution shared by Kelly Sept. 13 includes several changes based on concerns raised during recent talks. The new measure includes limits on data sharing with state and federal agencies, guidance for using ALPRs for traffic stops, the setting of data security best practices, and a call for an external audit of the initiative. The program, if approved, would also return as a pilot only, and council would have to sign off on its continuation next year.

The role of Austin's Office of Police Oversight in reviewing the program and related complaints, the length of data retention at APD, and the level of crime ALPRs would be used for were also at issue during council's Sept. 13 work session.

South shore district outlook

The rezoning of 19 lakeshore acres in the South Central Waterfront has remained in focus this summer, although council's review of the proposal from Endeavor Real Estate Group will not wrap up this week. Separately, officials could also update the city's goals for future development throughout the surrounding district.

Endeavor is seeking a new planned unit development, or PUD, zoning plan for the former Austin American-Statesman facility at 305 S. Congress Ave. Endeavor is proposing a multi-high-rise project with millions of square feet of residential and commercial space, and has been negotiating the extent of community benefits in the PUD. The planned development must be “superior” to those provided through base zoning, such as a new waterfront park and mobility improvements.

The Statesman PUD would be a centerpiece of the redeveloping South Central Waterfront, which has been described as a potential extension of downtown if more projects like Endeavor’s rise up there. However, the PUD approval may have to wait until City Council decides how to handle other development and taxing policies for the district that remain unresolved.

The PUD is up for its second of three required readings at council this week—a vote that will likely be put on hold once again until late September or beyond.

Along with those discussions, council could also pass updated direction regarding the drafting of a local regulating plan detailing goals to guide the district's development.

The new regulating plan has been in the works for years and was expected to begin moving through a public review process later this year; council's proposed resolution sponsored by Adler sets a June 2023 deadline for the plan's final council review. That resolution calls for a South Central Waterfront regulating plan designed to maximize affordable housing, new infrastructure and parkland while also protecting the local environment. The process could also see the district receive unique zoning entitlements designed to encourage taller, denser building similar to downtown or Rainey Street.

In reviewing the Statesman PUD, officials have also expressed some reservations about the total amount of public parkland that will be provided. Under Endeavor's plan, much of that green space is either in a critical water zone or underwater and unusable by the public. The blueprint for park space at the property now centers on a revamped hike-and-bike trail connection and a plaza with a viewing area for the Congress Avenue Bridge bat colony.

District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuentes is also seeking to eliminate a proposed hotel use on the property. And multiple officials have said they hope to reach a final plan that includes significantly more affordable housing than is currently proposed.

Parkland fees

Austin has long used a parkland dedication system requiring the builders of new residential properties to offset their new development by contributing either funding or land for public green space expansions. This year, that system could see adjustments both to the level of traditional annual fee increases and the potential addition of commercial projects to the parkland dedication system for the first time.

Those pieces of the parkland dedication fee equation were also postponed from council’s budget talks and earlier September meeting, and have prompted extended discussions on the dais over the relationship between support for city services, such as green space, and potential effects on new construction.

The residential fees, which the city parks department had originally proposed to double in fiscal year 2022-23, could end up seeing less of an increase given some council members’ concerns that a larger hike would discourage new development. Council appears headed toward an annual fee increase of between 0%-25%, rather than the 100% hike originally proposed by the parks and recreation department. The 25% figure was proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter and supported by several of her colleagues.

“This approach acknowledges that the rising land prices make it more expensive for the city to acquire parkland, while striking a balance between the affordability concerns associated with constructing new residential units," Alter said.

Alter also said the continuation of parkland dedication is needed to avoid the "mistakes" of the city's past, when widespread development did not come with new parkland attached, leaving some areas of town lacking adequate green space.

District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who proposed a freeze on parkland fees during FY 2022-23 budget talks, said she is still leaning toward a lower level given Austin’s persistent housing affordability concerns and trickle-down effects on renters—thoughts shared by council members Pio Renteria, Chito Vela and Mackenzie Kelly. Vela also expressed concern that too large of a swing at the city level could prompt state lawmakers to limit the civic parkland dedication process next year.

“As a renter myself, I have a lot of heartburn about raising fees knowing that they’re going to be passed down from developers to individuals, either purchasing or even just trying to stay here,” Kelly said.

The final scope of the program’s expansion into the commercial space is also up for discussion, with Alter proposing PARD's recommendation for those fees. Both pieces of the equation are aimed at ensuring new development is associated with new parkland in the rapidly developing city and to reduce the park system's reliance on bond funding.

East 12th Street planning

Pieces of an update to city land-use plans covering East 11th and East 12th streets have prompted disagreement among neighbors there for months and could now be headed to a final vote.

Development in the Central East Austin district is governed by a pair of Neighborhood Conservation Combining Districts, or NCCDs, for 11th and 12th streets. And both corridors are included in a local Urban Renewal Plan, or URP. While East 11th’s NCCD was approved earlier this year, the 12th street update has proven more divisive given some proposed changes to allowable business uses in the area, such as an option for new cocktail lounges. Bars would be included in the new civic outline as a conditional use, meaning any new establishments would have to move through a public approval process before opening.

That concept has brought many area residents to City Hall to protest a shift they say could open the door for East 12th to become a new entertainment district with noise and safety concerns, with several pointing to East Sixth and Rainey streets as examples.

Many others have called out those worries and noted that a diverse mix of businesses and entertainment options would bring the area more in line with the area’s history as a Black cultural district—a designation the city is formally working to build back up.

Cocktail lounges are confined to the eastern edge of the corridor around Chicon Street, an area home to establishments that include King Bee and the Outer Heaven club. A rough analysis of the effects of the new bar option from city staff found that cocktail lounges could be allowed on a maximum of seven to 12 properties along the street.