Members of the public who called in focused primarily on a spending item related to remote public comment. Virtual testimony during public comment was the only option for much of the pandemic. Speakers pointed out many working adults are not able to take time off to come in person to midday city meetings during the work week. The item, which council approved later in the day, directs the city manager to propose a budget change that will add funding for the resources and staff needed to continue virtual testimony as an option.
Among other items approved were plans to improve flood resiliency, help low-income Austinites pay rent and speed up the installation of signs marking the Fifth Street Mexican American Heritage Corridor.
During the meeting, council approved an item presented by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes related to flooding. Fuentes noted that District 2, her district, was under a flash flood warning during the Oct. 14 City Council meeting.
The newly approved item directs the city to identify and inform the community of funding available to increase flood protection. It also directs the city to place a memorial plaque in Onion Creek Metropolitan Park for victims of the 2013 and 2015 Halloween floods.
During the 2013 flood, 745 South Austin homes received some level of flood damage, and 116 were completely destroyed, Fuentes said. She added in the October 2015 flood, over 3,000 residences were damaged, and combined costs of damage reached over $40 million.
The memorial plaque will name Austin residents who were killed by flooding, who ranged in age from victims in their 70s to a mother and her 8-month-old baby.
Homelessness and housing
Council Member Ann Kitchen pointed out an item that authorizes a $77,852 award to The Other Ones Foundation, which provides case management services for people experiencing homelessness. The item was approved on consent.
Kitchen said the foundation has been “really stepping up, especially for our homeless neighbors.”
Council also voted to approve a spending item that allows the Housing Authority of the City of Austin to provide emergency rental assistance for vulnerable households. For this spending, the department can pull $6.6 million from the Budget Stabilization Reserve Fund. Per the approved item, the total agreement amount should not exceed $41.6 million. The funding from the city will not only provide rental assistance, but it will also fund marketing and outreach efforts.
Council also approved several dozen zoning change requests, which moved several proposed affordable housing projects forward.
Council members noted two Southwest Austin projects, the Fox Hollow development on Brandt Road and a proposed apartment complex with 10% affordable units, were only approved on first reading, meaning each will need to be approved on two more readings to be actualized.
Due to council’s vote for approval Oct. 14, the East 11th and 12th Streets Urban Renewal Plan agreement between the the city and the Urban Renewal Agency will be extended to Sept. 30, 2022. The plan includes a series of proposed changes to East 11th and 12th streets east of I-35 in an urban renewal plan for the area.
In a separate item, City Council postponed to Oct. 21 a vote on a rezoning request for the 11th and 12th streets corridors. The request was submitted by the city of Austin.
Council Member Kathie Tovo pointed to another spending item that would enhance an Austin corridor. The item authorized the payment of up to $250,000 over a one-year contract with Found Design LLC to provide planning and design services for the Fifth Street Mexican-American Heritage Corridor.
Tovo said the dedicated corridor has been planned since 2013, but signage has not gone up yet. She amended the item, which originally called for a two-year contract, by shortening the length of the contract. Signs for the corridor should be up within four to six months, she said.
“Various community groups have submitted maps identifying sites they think can be included,” Tovo said. “At the end of the day, some of this work has been in process since 2013, and I want to see the signs up.”