Category Archives: Austin City Council

A temporary plaza in the South Central Waterfront Area

 posted 05-03/2017
Neighbors,
Just wanted to alert y’all to this item up for City Council  vote  this Thursday. It’s a small part of the grand South Central Waterfront Redevelopment Initiative that’s been presented at BCNA meetings a couple of times over the past two years. This “plaza” closes off that dedicated right hand turn off Southbound South Congress Avenue onto Barton Springs Road.  It’ll now require a sharper right onto Baron Springs Road at the Bat sculpture. (If the links work on the item pasted below, they’ll get you to ordinance language and a drawing specifically showing plaza area) This area had been similarly closed off during SXSW and City Traffic Dept. was reviewing for traffic impacts.  They”ll do the same with this “pop-up plaza” for about 12 months before determining whether or not to make it permanent. Lee Austin is City Traffic Dept. reviewer who’ll be monitoring this effort.
Cory on Bouldin  BCNA Prez
  1. Approve an ordinance relating to the creation of a temporary plaza in the South Central Waterfront Area; and waiving certain code requirements and associated fees.

( Notes:        SPONSOR: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo CO 1: Council Member Delia Garza CO 2: Council Member Ellen Troxclair CO 3: Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria )

http://austin.siretechnologies.com/sirepub/agdocs.aspx?doctype=agenda&itemid=70739

Plan for Auditorium Shores heads to a vote

Plan for Auditorium Shores, including smaller dog area, heads to a vote
12/08/13
Austin American-Statesman
The Austin parks department’s vision for a new, much smaller off-leash dog area at Auditorium Shores is generating a backlash ahead of two votes scheduled this week on the plan.

Currently, dogs are allowed off-leash on all 18 acres of Auditorium Shores, a popular park on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake.

Related Gallery

The new plan would reduce the off-leash area to about 4.7 acres on Auditorium Shores’ west end. City parks officials say it would be a state-of-the-art dog area built with $1.1 million of a $3.5 million donation from event producers C3 Presents, the company that has held the Austin Food & Wine Festival at Auditorium Shores.

But the plan calls for making the middle section of Auditorium Shores on-leash only and for banning dogs altogether from the large event lawn on Auditorium Shores’ east end.

Those changes have dog owners fuming. They believe the city is more interested in turning Auditorium Shores into a profit-generating event venue than into a great space for Austinites who frequent the park.

+Plan for Auditorium Shores, including smaller dog area, heads to a vote photo
ROBERT CALZADA

Austin’s parks board and City Council are scheduled to vote Tuesday and Thursday on a plan for renovations to Auditorium Shores, … Read More

“The changes have been proposed with very little public input and without figuring out who uses the park,” said Suzann Stover, who lives in a downtown condo and visits Auditorium Shores daily with her two dogs. “There has to be other solutions than banning dogs” from most of the park, she said.

Parks officials say the plan is partly meant to separate dogs from other visitors to Auditorium Shores to reduce the safety risks for runners, walkers, cyclists and dogs converging there.

On Tuesday, Austin’s parks board is scheduled to vote on the design of the off-leash area and other renovations planned for Auditorium Shores. The City Council will consider it on Thursday.

The parks department recently expanded the proposed off-leash area slightly, from 3.25 to 4.7 acres, and made a few other design changes after hearing from dog owners. Still, emails about the project reviewed by the American-Statesman show that the parks department spent months crafting the plan and a “message” for how to sell it — and seemed to view seeking public input as an afterthought.

Public park or event venue?

The hubbub over Auditorium Shores began last summer, when C3 offered the city $3.5 million to renovate the park at the same time as C3 sought the city’s permission to extend the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which it produces in Zilker Park, to two weekends.

C3 partner Charlie Jones said at the time that he was disappointed by the dusty conditions at Auditorium Shores during the 2012 Austin Food & Wine Festival, a high-end event for which C3 charges $250 to $850 per ticket.

The City Council approved the request for two ACL weekends and agreed to accept C3’s money. Although the parks department has repeatedly described the $3.5 million as a donation, it will actually be a reimbursement. The city of Austin will pay for the renovations up front, then C3 will reimburse it the $3.5 million over the next five years.

The city entered into a similar arrangement a few years ago, when C3 paid $2.5 million for a renovation of Zilker Park’s Great Lawn.

The Auditorium Shores renovations will include installing new sod and irrigation systems while eliminating the tiered stone walls to regrade the area into a more flexible event space. The off-leash area will have stone steps, a wooden deck and a concrete ramp that allows dogs to access the water; a landscaped barrier, but no fence; a drinking water station for dogs; grass, shade trees and places for dog owners to sit, said parks department official Marty Stump.

A $2.3 million overhaul of the hike-and-bike trailhead at Auditorium Shores, funded with bond money and a state grant, has already begun.

Construction of the other renovations would be done in phases. They would start later this month and be completed in early 2015. Different parts of Auditorium Shores would be closed at different times. The Butler Hike and Bike Trail would remain open during the work, but events normally held at Auditorium Shores, including the Urban Music Festival and Fun Fun Fun Festival, would have to relocate in 2014.

Dog owners say the parks department didn’t make clear until recently that dogs would be banned from a large swath of the park. They say the new off-leash area would be too small for the dozens of dogs and dog owners who visit Auditorium Shores daily. They also believe that the true intent of moving dogs to Auditorium Shores’ west end is to make room for more for-profit events on the east end.

“It seems like this is setting the stage to make it mostly an event venue,” said Cyndi Collen, president of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association.

Collen notes that the contract between C3 and the city for the $3.5 million also seems to make C3’s donation contingent on a specific design that includes a smaller, off-leash dog area.

“The bottom line is that the donation is a conflict of interest, because C3 uses Auditorium Shores as an event space,” Collen said. “If they wanted to make a philanthropic donation, they wouldn’t have a contract about how the money has to be used.”

Jones said Friday that C3 “has had zero to do with the design. We have done nothing more than make a financial commitment to the city” to give money to improve Auditorium Shores.

“We do not have any opinion about the dogs out there,” Jones said. “These plans (for Auditorium Shores) have been developed by the parks department over many years. … We’re merely trying to do something good and give back to the city. … We have had nothing to do with the planning.”

Stump said the design is the product of more than a decade of planning for Auditorium Shores, and its intent is to balance the needs of dog owners, event organizers and other park visitors.

“There was never an agenda to adversely impact dog owners. We see this as a beneficial improvement. It’s not popular with folks who want the whole space available for off-leash use; however, everyone has to make some compromises to restore balance to that parkland,” Stump said.

“Controlling the message”

The controversy has reinforced the notion that Austin’s parks department can be clumsy about soliciting public input and using it to authentically shape public policy.

Prior parks department proposals to cut down drought-stricken trees at Barton Springs Pool, outsource the management of Zilker Botanical Garden and privatize the Austin Recreation Center, among others, generated public outcries and were scuttled because the department failed to involve the public and build consensus on the front end.

Hundreds of parks department emails obtained by the Statesman indicate that, as the department crafted the Auditorium Shores plan earlier this year, it sought input from a small group of dog-friendly stakeholders rather than asking the broader public what changes it wants to see at the park. The emails also show that parks officials kept C3’s Jones and the Austin Parks Foundation in the loop about the plan, though it’s not clear how much influence, if any, those entities had on the final design.

In one of the few mentions of C3, parks assistant director Jesse Vargas wrote to colleagues on March 5: “Spoke with Charlie (Jones from C3) – he’s ok with one-year shutdown (of the shores for the renovations) but it took a little persuading. … He is most concerned about dog traffic and asked that we move on this soon – before food and wine fest.”

The department wrote up several “talking points” about the plan in late March, including that the design was the culmination of “extensive public input” – even though only a select group of stakeholders had been shown it at that point.

Parks officials were aware the plan might generate controversy, but they seemed in a rush to get it drawn up and approved, the emails show. They focused on crafting and sticking to a positive message and seemed to view public input as a matter of duty — something to seek only after the big details had already been ironed out.

Stump warned his colleagues in an April 25 email: “The greater off-leash community has not been fully apprised of this initiative. The development of an enhanced off-leash area has been part of the master planning process and discussed openly in the stakeholder and public forums related to this project. However there has never been a formal proposal nor agreement to reduce the (off-leash area) at Auditorium Shores. Certain stakeholders know and understand the benefit and I would expect to be supportive. However, to my knowledge, the former OLAC (Off-Leash Advisory Committee) was never asked to endorse a reduced area. We need to be prepared to answer questions from (the City Council) on this issue and plan for further public/stakeholder outreach.”

Vargas responded that doing a 30-day public comment period would “show good faith and give us time to organize a meeting or two to firm up support or neutralize criticism.”

When an American-Statesman reporter asked about the plan for Auditorium Shores in early May, Vargas urged parks public information manager Victor Ovalle to stay on message. Asked by the Statesman how the $3.5 million would be financed — whether C3 would donate that lump sum up front or reimburse the city later — Ovalle said that hadn’t been determined, even though city budget and parks staffers had already privately discussed how the funding would work, the emails show.

When rumors of the Auditorium Shores design began to circulate in early May and a parks planner answered a Statesman reporter’s questions about the plan, Ovalle admonished the staffer in an email for not trumpeting C3.

“We have been working for weeks to give the headlines to C3 Presents and (the Austin Parks Foundation),” Ovalle wrote. “You talking to the media changed the front page headline and changed the focus to the (parks) department. The story was positive but the outcome was very different. It’s called public perception.”

A media relations staffer at the city asked Vargas in early June, prior to a City Council vote on the plan, if the communications office could mention the plan in a press release. Vargas was reluctant: “We’ve done a pretty good job of controlling the message,” he wrote. “Highlighting the item ahead of the (City Council) vote was not part of the plan.”


What’s next

Austin’s parks board and City Council are scheduled to consider and vote on the plan for Auditorium Shores this week.

The parks board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Room 1029 at Austin City Hall, 301 W.Second St.

The City Council meets Thursday in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. It’s not clear when it will discuss the item, but the council meeting begins at 10 a.m.

BCNA Letter to Austin Parks & Recreation Board

BCNA opposes the proposed design for the Auditorium Shores Parkland Improvement Project because it does not consider the enormous feedback from park users to eliminate a fenced-in dog area.  Additionally, the agreement between the Parks department (PARD), Austin Parks Foundation (APF) and C3 presents (sponsors of the ACL music festival) refers to the parkland at Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  This agreement was signed on November 14, 2013 and C3 requires the city to significantly decrease the off-leash area and install a fenced-in dog park, contrary to public input.

Below is the letter I sent out this evening to the Parks and Recreation Board.  They will be meeting at City Hall on Tuesday evening, 6pm and I plan to present BCNA’s opposition to the design.

 

Dear Austin Parks & Recreation Board Members,

 

While Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association (BCNA) wholeheartedly agrees that Auditorium Shores is in desperate need of turf and irrigation renovations, we remain opposed to the proposed design of the Parkland Improvement Project which severely curtails the amount of space available for off-leash dogs, one of the most popular uses of this parkland area and a use that has been protected by City ordinance for several decades.

 

We understand the timely nature of beginning the project while the trailhead is under construction but PARD and TBG need to be more responsive to the public feedback that questions the current “three meadow” design as being too private-event oriented and too unfriendly to public use, especially by dog owners.  It is a public park, after all, and we feel the current design excludes hundreds, if not thousands, of its’ most enthusiastic “public” park users.

 

Additionally, the Park Land Improvement Agreement (“Contract”) between PARD, APF and C3 repeatedly refers to Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  Town Lake Metropolitan Park, as per the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Plan and the Town Lake Master Plan, envisions the Auditorium Shores/Parkland area as a versatile public space that is available for a limited number of public/private events.

 

Auditorium Shores is a Major public park and a Minor venue site.  It should not be the other way around.  BCNA believes it is not in the best interest of our residents if this parkland is considered a Major Event venue.  The current annual 25-event-day maximum is meant to ensure that Auditorium Shores keeps the identity of a Major public park while also keeping its’ balanced use intact.

BCNA is disappointed that we have not been engaged earlier during the design process.  BCNA is a major stakeholder at Auditorium because Town Lake Metropolitan Park is located with Bouldin Creek’s Neighborhood Plan.  We are concerned that the proposed design to segregate dogs into a fenced-in area, which is opposed by an enormous majority of public park users,  directly conflicts with the FLUM designation for the area as “Park” or “Public Use”.

 

Furthermore, BCNA has been alerted that an agreement between PARD, APF & C3 was signed on November 14, 2013 regarding the scope of the parkland improvement project.  The agreement defines the park as a “major event venue” and BCNA clearly disagrees.   As a stakeholder of the park, why weren’t we notified of this agreement and given an opportunity to review it before its’ execution?

 

Even though I received a copy of the revised design from a Council aide on Friday, BCNA still feels the design is problematic due the continued insistence of installing fences on public parkland to segregate use.  Thus, we respectfully ask the Park and Recreation Board Members to oppose the design, direct PARD to go back to the drawing table by engaging with Austin taxpayers, not C3, to create a balanced design for multiple uses by park users first and foremost, and event-attendees second.

 

Respectfully yours,

Cyndi Collen, President, BCNA

 

 

Auditorium Shores Design and Off-Leash Restrictions on City Council’s Agenda 12/12/13

Next Thursday, Item # 33 on City Council’s Agenda will have Council Members vote on a proposed design to renovate Auditorium Shores.

BCNA is opposed to the design and would like PARD to go back to the drawing board and create a design that considers input from all stakeholders and ensures the use of the public parkland will be primarily for park users.   Events (both public and private) should be a secondary concern.

Below is the letter BCNA is sending to Council Members.   If you’d like to ramp up on what’s happening before sending an email to Council, consider reading my recent post or visit the post that has multiple links to Austin media coverage on this topic by clicking here.

To email City Council, click here and include “Agenda Item #33” in the subject line.  Better still, send City Council an email and then join us at City Hall for the fun and fireworks, which will probably get underway around 8pm.

For more information that is more specific for dogs and the off-leash area, click here.

I know this time of year is busy for everyone but please consider taking an hour reading and emailing so that City Council can hear your opinion on how best to utilize the public parkland at Auditorium Shores.

 

December 6, 2013

Austin City Council Members
888 W. 2nd Street
Austin, Texas  78701

RE:    12/12/13 Agenda Item # 33

Dear Council Members,

While BCNA wholeheartedly agrees that Auditorium Shores is in desperate need of turf and irrigation renovations, we remain opposed to the proposed design of the Parkland Improvement Project, which severely curtails the amount of space available for off-leash dogs, one of the most popular uses of this parkland area and a use that has been protected by City ordinance for several decades.

We understand the timely nature of beginning the project while the trailhead is under construction but PARD and TBG need to be more responsive to the public feedback that questions the current “three meadow” design as being too private-event oriented and too unfriendly to public use, especially by dog owners. It is a public park, after all, and we feel the current design excludes hundreds, if not thousands, of its most enthusiastic “public” park users.

Additionally, the Park Land Improvement Agreement (“Contract”) between PARD, APF and C3 repeatedly refers to Auditorium Shores as a ‘major event venue’.  Town Lake Metropolitan Park, as per the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Plan and the Town Lake Master Plan envisions the Auditorium Shores/Parkland area as a versatile public space that is available for a limited number of public/private events.

Auditorium Shores is a Major public park and a Minor venue site.  It is not the other way around; a Major Event venue that has a Minor as a public park and that is available to the general public only when events (many of which are private and/or require the park to be fenced off from the general public) are not occupying that public space.  The current 25-event-day maximum is meant to ensure that Auditorium Shores keeps the identity of a Major public park and balance of uses intact.

Thus, we respectfully ask City Council Members to consider opposing the design and ask PARD to go back to the drawing table.  PARD should engage with Austin taxpayers (not C3) to create a balanced design for multiple uses by park users first and foremost, and event-attendees second.

Respectfully yours,
CYNDI COLLEN
President

Important Information: Auditorium Shores Vote

BCNA_AudShores

 

Residents of Bouldin Creek,

An important time is upon us as the city prepares to vote on keeping our cherished Auditorium Shores a public parkland or re-establishing it as an events venue.

If you are interested in reading the Bylaws of the Parks and Recreation Board, click here.

Stay informed on the details be reading more on the topic:

12/08/13
Plan for Auditorium Shores, including a smaller dog area, heads to a vote
Austin American-Statesman
http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/plan-for-auditorium-shores-including-smaller-dog-a/ncFjL/

The Austin parks department’s vision for a new, much smaller off-leash dog area at Auditorium Shores is generating a backlash ahead of two votes scheduled this week on the plan….

12/06/13
Council Preview: Only Reconnect
Austin Chronicle
http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2013-12-06/council-preview-only-reconnect/ 

12/06/13
Then There’s This: Turf Fight at Auditorium Shores
Austin Chronicle
http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2013-12-06/then-theres-this-turf-fight-at-auditorium-shores/

For a city that strives to be on the cutting edge of all things trendy, Austin lags behind a national shift toward creating more off-leash dog parks – what the Trust for Public Land has called the fastest-growing species of city parks in America, with Portland, Ore. leading the pack. Indeed, according to advocacy group Friends of Austin Dog Parks, Austin has steadily downsized its off-leash acreage while other cities have added more space. The shrinkage argument is amping up in advance of a Dec. 10 meeting of the Parks and Rec­re­ation Board, which is set to vote on a proposed redevelopment plan for Auditorium Shores. That plan calls for reducing the existing 18 acres of off-leash space to about four acres (up from the originally proposed three acres)….

10/18/13
Can Runners, Cyclists and Dogs Coexist on Auditorium Shores?
KUT.org
http://kut.org/post/can-runners-cyclists-and-dogs-coexist-auditorium-shores

Proposed changes to Auditorium Shores – and specifically, changes to the area available to dogs and their owners – have people talking….

10/07/13
Auditorium Shores lawn could soon be off limits to dogs
KVUE.com
http://www.kvue.com/news/Auditorium-Shores-could-soon-be-off-limits-to-dogs-226839261.html

C3, the company that puts on the Austin City Limits Music Festival every year, is giving the City of Austin more than $3 million to renovate Auditorium Shores. However part of the proposal, from the 1999 Town Lake Master Plan, includes getting rid of a large part of the leash-free dog park.

10/08/13
Frustration over plan to move Auditorium Shores dog park
KVUE.com
http://www.kvue.com/news/Anger-frustration-over-plans-to-move-dog-park-at-Auditorium-Shores-227000591.html

There were shouts of anger and frustration at a packed public input meeting Tuesday night. Dog owners are upset over the City of Austin’s plan to eliminate a section of the leash-free zone at Auditorium Shores….