City Council members approved the latest in a series of payouts to protesters injured by police, moved forward on several land-use policy changes and voted in favor of a flooding relief measure for North Central Austin residents on May 6.

Protest settlement

Saraneka Alexander, a Travis County resident who said Austin police officers used "brutal and excessive force" on her during the May 2020 police brutality demonstrations downtown, will receive $100,000 from the city to settle her claims. The update is the latest in a growing series of payouts from the event.

Alexander said she was fired upon multiple times by officers Kyu An and Daniel McCameron on May 30, 2020, while protesting near the Austin Police Department headquarters. An and McCameron used "less lethal" shotgun rounds that hit Alexander in the stomach and the back, according to the lawsuit filed against Austin and the officers. An is one of nearly two dozen officers indicted for their actions during the protests.

Alexander is one of more than a dozen people to settle with the city after suffering injuries by police during the protests. Austin has now agreed to $18.98 million in payments to settle those claims, ranging from $100,000 to as high as $8 million each.

Parking, infill rule updates

City Council's focus on housing in the city continued this month with the passage of several resolutions aimed at updating Austin development policies. Those measures included:
  • A proposal from District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool to allow increased building height and density around The Domain in Northwest Austin. The potential changes to the North Burnet/Gateway Regulating Plan follow similar recent action as the city reviews development entitlements in what Pool called a "booming" part of town.
  • A proposal from District 9 Council Member Zo Qadri to wipe out city rules requiring most residential and commercial projects to build a set amount of parking on-site. Qadri said the change could end up decreasing construction costs while allowing property owners, rather than Austin's land development code, to determine how to use their land.
  • A proposal from District 5 Council Member Ryan Alter that he hopes can decrease the amount of time and money developers spend dividing up larger lots into smaller housing projects. Austin's subdivision process for infill development is notoriously time-consuming and expensive, and developer Cody Carr told Community Impact the changes would likely produce "more housing, and faster."
Spring flood support

City officials are working to link Austinites affected by flooding this spring with emergency financial resources following the passage of a resolution from District 4 Council Member Chito Vela.

April storms led dozens of homes across Austin to flood, an issue many North Austin residents said was caused by lacking city debris cleanup and storm response. Community members at council's May 4 meeting testified that they experienced a preventable disaster after several service requests to the city were not fully addressed before the April showers.

"[The Watershed Protection Department] had the opportunity to prevent this disaster just 10 days prior when they came out to our neighborhood and removed branches directly in front of the culvert. But instead of proactively identifying and removing potentially hazardous debris and branches as our neighborhood has been requesting for years, they instead only took what was directly touching the culvert," Ryan Albright said. "This emotional, financial and physical distress was entirely avoidable and should have never been caused by the amount of rainfall we had.”

Watershed Protection Director Jorge Morales said the city could have been more proactive ahead of the storms and said his department is aiming for better responses going forward. He added that city staff are working with state and nonprofit agencies to determine how financial relief can be secured.

“We’re looking at any and all possible sources for assistance for recovery, and as soon as we have that information we will get that over to the homeowners, along with anything that the city can do internally to help them out," Vela said of his item. "Anything that we can do in terms of providing resources for the neighbors, we want to do that as a city.”