BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 14, 2019)



Land Development Code team previews compromise (Austin Monitor)

City Manager Spencer Cronk’s Land Development Code rewrite team claims to have struck a balance between respecting the long-term plans of current homeowners while encouraging new density to meet the city’s housing and transit goals.

As part of the overall effort to eliminate red tape and encourage the development of a mix of housing types and commercial spaces, Brent Lloyd, development officer with the Development Services Department, told the Housing and Planning Committee Tuesday that the code revision team has crafted a way to do so without freezing the rights of single-family homeowners to further invest and improve their properties.

Drawing on lessons learned by other cities, Lloyd said staff members have found an approach to housing that will encourage dense new housing while ensuring that homeowners will not lose any of their current benefits when the new code is adopted. If under the new code, for example, a single-family home is located in a multifamily zone where single-family is not a permitted use, the homeowners will not lose any site entitlements they currently enjoy, such as adding an extra room or remodeling… (LINK TO STORY)

See also:

Austin’s new land code will seek to prohibit new detached single-family homes in multifamily zones (Community Impact)

South Austin residents wary of planned ‘housing-focused’ shelter (Austin American-Statesman)

Some South Austin residents remain skeptical of the city’s plans to develop a “housing-focused” shelter, saying they still have little to no idea how it will function or whether it might endanger people and children living nearby.

The City Council in June directed the city manager to buy an empty office building off Ben White Boulevard and Manchaca Road for the shelter, voting to spend up to $8.6 million for it.

“A lot of people react with this feeling of like ‘I was just almost attacked yesterday in my car,’” said Kathryn Kawazoe, who lives in the Galindo neighborhood near where the shelter will be built. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction like, ‘What? You’re putting that here?’ And then there’s fear” because they might not fully understand the plans for the shelter… (LINK TO STORY)

Tourism Commission wants agreement between city, short-term rental companies (Austin Monitor)

The Tourism Commission has asked City Council to change its long-held stance toward short-term rental platforms like Airbnb in favor of an agreement that would earn the city millions of dollars in new Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue each year.

At Monday’s meeting, the commission unanimously approved a recommendation to Council to reassess its negotiations with those companies, which have been in a virtual stalemate for years. At issue is the city’s demand that the platforms provide identifying information on individual short-term rental sites, so the city could enforce its licensing and tax remittance regulations on a consistent basis. The STR platform companies have resisted turning over that information and offered to hand over taxes incurred after any agreement is reached, which would in essence forgive years of eligible taxes on their part.

Recent analysis by commission members suggests the city would be due millions of dollars each year in additional hotel tax receipts levied on STR sites that currently operate without licenses. For the first quarter of 2019, which includes the robust 10-day stretch of South by Southwest, Airbnb bookings in the city are believed to have reached around $40 million, which would have produced nearly $3 million in hotel tax revenue for the city if there was an agreement in place between the two sides… (LINK TO STORY)

Dallas firm wins $1.4 billion contract to operate Austin's transit system (Austin American-Statesman)

Capital Metro's board approved the largest contract in the transit agency's history Monday, inking a $1.4 billion deal for Dallas-based MV Transportation Inc. to oversee all operations of the Austin area's bus and transit system.

Under the current contract, Cap Metro's operations are split between MV Transportation and France-based RATP Dev. MV Transportation will take over all operations in January 2020 when the five-year contract begins. MV Transportation has been contracted by Capital Metro since 2012. The company operates the transit agency's MetroRapid, UT Shuttle services and several MetroBus routes, the release said… (LINK TO STORY)


Texas vaccine exemption rates: Look up your district or private school (Texas Tribune)

Health officials are watching pockets of Texas closely because of the number of parents requesting exemptions under Texas’s broad vaccine exemption law. Texas is one of 16 states that allow parents to bypass vaccine requirements for enrolling their kids in school by claiming a conscientious exemption, along with citing medical or religious concerns.

Without an exemption, kindergarteners must have 10 immunizations to be enrolled in Texas schools. Since 2006, when the state first started reporting the data, the exemption rate for kindergarteners in Texas has risen from 0.3% for the 2005-06 school year to 2.15% for the 2018-19 school year… (LINK TO STORY)

Houston area voters will have $3.5 billion decision about future of transit on November ballot (Houston Chronicle)

The future of the Houston area’s transit system now lies in the hands of voters. Metropolitan Transit Authority board members voted Tuesday to ask voters in November for permission to borrow up to $3.5 billion, without raising taxes.

The money would cover the first phase of what local leaders expect to be the start of shifting Houston from a car-focused city to a multimodal metro region — even if it does not put everyone on a bus or train. “Even if you ride in your car, it is more convenient if there are less cars on the road,” Metro chairwoman Carrin Patman said. The item will be on the Nov. 5 ballot, the first vote for new transit projects in 16 years for the Houston region… (LINK TO STORY)


FTC Chief says he’s willing to break up big tech companies (Bloomberg)

The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said he’s prepared to break up major technology platforms if necessary by undoing their past mergers as his agency investigates whether companies including Facebook Inc. are harming competition.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons, who is leading a broad review of the technology sector, said in an interview Tuesday that breaking up a company is challenging, but could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition.

“If you have to, you do it,” Simons said about breaking up tech companies. “It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.”… (LINK TO STORY)

Viacom and CBS Agree to merge In $30B deal (NPR)

The corporate boards of Viacom and CBS agreed to merge in an all-stock deal Tuesday, reuniting the Redstone family's entertainment holdings after a series of legal battles and corporate intrigues.

The move is intended to enable the blended company valued at about $30 billion to fight off bulked-up competitors and a new threat from digital rivals with well-financed streaming services. Viacom Chief Executive Bob Bakish is to oversee the new company, which will be called ViacomCBS. The deal would combine such well-known entertainment brands as CBS and Showtime with Viacom's Paramount television and movie studios, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV… (LINK TO STORY)

[BG Blog]

Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham appointed to Rosewood Community Development Corporation (LINK TO POST)

On Thursday Austin City Council approved the appointment six new members to the Austin Rosewood Community Development Corporation including CEO and Founder A.J. Bingham. A.J. was nominated by District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison for this position.

The Corporation is charged with overseeing the operation of Millennium Youth Entertainment Center (MYEC), a 55,000 sq. ft. entertainment facility located in East Austin. MYEC’s mission is to provide a safe, secure, and comfortable environment (free from drugs, gangs, crime, and violence) where families can enjoy a wide range of affordable, high quality recreational and entertainment activities and attractions… (LINK TO POST)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

BG Podcast Episode 28: Rodney Gonzales, Director of Austin’s Development Services Department, on department initiatives

Today's BG Podcast features a conversation with Rodney Gonzales, then Director of Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD). The department was created in 2015 to handle residential and commercial permitting issues separately from zoning issues.

Rodney discusses his background and path to DSD, and current department initiatives with Bingham Group CEO A.J. Bingham… (LINK TO SHOW)

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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