City Council proposes full-scale review of SXSW safety and infrastructure policies


Austin police department officers form a human barricace down 6th street during the last Saturday of South By Southwest 2014. In order to ensure safety at future festivals, Austin City Council member Mike Martinez initiated a proposal to conduct an in-depth review regarding city safety and capacity during SXSW.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

On Thursday, Austin City Council approved a resolution to conduct an in-depth review of South By Southwest activities as they relate to city safety and capacity.

According to City Councilman Mike Martinez, who drafted the proposal, the SXSW crash that resulted in the deaths of four and injuries of more than 20 others was the catalyst for the proposal.

“The tragic incident that occurred during this year’s festival touched a nerve … and frankly it felt to me and many others I’ve heard from like a warning signal,” Martinez said.

SXSW Music spokeswoman Elizabeth Derczo said the organization is in full support of the council’s resolution. 

“It’s a terrific initiative, and we’re eager to incorporate the results to produce the best possible event for all SXSW attendees — global and local alike,” Derczo said. “We look forward to the discussion and ongoing collaboration.”

According to Martinez, nearly 400,000 people flock to Austin to attend SXSW. Martinez said a comprehensive analysis of the event should involve the entire Austin community. 

“[This] conversation needs to include everyone — SXSW officials, venue owners, hoteliers, musicians, cyclists, Public Assembly Code Enforcement … and perhaps most of all, Austinites who simply want to enjoy the city during the festival,” Martinez said.

The proposal also requests the Austin Music Commission and Urban Transportation Commission hold public hearings to improve the festival and its associated traffic management issues.

“The commission is eager to participate in this process to make SXSW and all major events in Austin safer and better for musicians and music fans as well,” said Nakia Reynoso, Austin Music Commission member and local musician.

Martinez said city staff has been making efforts every year to help make SXSW a successful festival but said a more comprehensive look at its effects on the city is needed. 

“I just think it’s time to unleash a whole mess of homegrown creativity and work together as a community to help make SXSW freakin’ awesome for many years to come,” Martinez said.

Linguistics junior and SXSW staff member Emily Hunker said she believes the large SXSW crowds make it harder to keep the festival safe.

“Being around and getting to know the people at SXSW — the locals and the out-of-towners — is what makes it so fun,” Hunker said. “But too many people in one place or venue can get messy and cause incidents like the ones that happened this year.”