Austin City Council

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The University will conduct a study about Asian-American quality of life in Austin funded by the Austin City Council. 

On Thursday, the Council approved to pay the University $139,758 for a one-year period of research. The study will focus on five major Asian-American subgroups in the Austin area: Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Indian and Vietnamese.

The fast-growing population of Asian-Americans in Austin — an increase from 3.3 percent of the population in 1990 to almost 5 percent in 2000 and around 6.5 percent today — inspired the study.

Social work associate professor Yuri Jang, the study’s principal investigator, said Asian-Americans have not historically been the focus of research to help identify community needs.

“Asian-Americans [are] a growing population that is underserved and understudied,” Jang said. “This is a unique opportunity to explore unexplored populations because the Asian-American voice is usually unheard.”

The study will primarily focus on Asian-American Austinites ages 18–70 and involve a compiled database of resources that could benefit Asian-Americans in the city. The goal is to have data for public policy recommendations in the future, as well as to improve overall quality of life for Asian-Americans in the city, said Richard Yuen, a forensic and clinical psychologist.

Yuen, who chairs the committee responsible for community research, said the Asian-American population is the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in Austin.

“Unfortunately, the city does not understand nor know much about this rapidly growing population of Austinites,” Yuen said. “Asian-Americans are not known to be activists in the community [and] not known to engage in voting or politics or community projects. Here, we want to have some strong public policy recommendations for programs in all areas that is supported by our research data, not only to benefit Asian-Americans but Austin as a whole.”

Different Asian-American student groups on campus have expressed interest in the study, including the Vietnamese Students Association and the Chinese Student Association, Yuen said.

Tram Ngyuen, mechanical engineering sophomore and president of the Vietnamese Student Association, said she feels that Asians are often overlooked in the city.

“We are looked as neither a minority or a majority,” Ngyuen said. “We are often used as tools to prove another point rather than an ethnic group that can stand on its own. This study is important to show how Asian-Americans have changed throughout this country’s history. We are not an invisible minority. We are a culture that has thrived and grown so much.”

Yuen said this study gives an opportunity to delve directly into the community to identify issues in a diverse population. 

“One of our most important issues … is being able to capture enough opinions from the various age groups so that we can disaggregate the data and understand there is acculturation and generational differences,” Yuen said. 

Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Cuatro Kowalski, owner of the West Campus barbecue restaurant Freedmen’s, plans to oppose the Austin City Council’s proposed resolution that would require restaurants near residences to mitigate smoke emissions. 

The Council will vote Thursday to amend the City code to require restaurants using wood- or charcoal-burning stoves or grills to install smoke-eliminating methods.

Council member Sabino Renteria proposed the code amendment when several District 3 constituents complained about food trucks’ smoke emissions. There are currently no provisions in the City code to regulate smoke emissions from restaurants or mobile food vendors. 

The original resolution would have required restaurants and food trucks located 150 feet or less from a residentially zoned property to install a method to eliminate smoke. After Franklin Barbecue owner Aaron Franklin protested the boundary Tuesday, Renteria changed the distance to 100 feet.

Freedmen’s, located across the street from Regents West apartment complex, falls under this new target for the proposed code amendments.

Kowalski said the current resolution would be too expensive for him to comply with.

“The resolution is all about ‘Let’s start talking about ways to mitigate the smoke,’” Kowalski said. “But how this all could potentially affect me is I would have to buy expensive equipment and custom retrofit to make it work with my barbecue pits and the smokehouse.”

Freedmen’s would need to buy two smoke scrubbers, a device that reduces smoke emissions, to comply with the language as it is now, Kowalski said.

“I’ve seen prices from $15,000 to $30,000 apiece,” Kowalski said. “I’d have to buy two. So you can imagine this isn’t something we can really budget for or really absorb.”

David Chincanchan, Renteria’s policy aide, said Renteria is a big supporter of local business.

“He doesn’t want to negatively impact any of the great small businesses we have around town that are good neighbors to the communities in which they operate,” Chincanchan said. 

In the business’s two years, it has never received any complaints, Kowalski said.

“If you think about it, we dealt with more residents in that time than really any other barbecue restaurant,” Kowalski said. “If any other barbecue restaurant opens around residencies, those residents live there for more than a year. We’ve had several cycles of students, and none of them have complained.”

Annie Xue, business junior and Regents West resident, said she has never been to the restaurant but also has never had any complaints.

“I don’t really notice smoke by my room,” Xue said. “It doesn’t really affect me on a daily basis.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, co-sponsor of the resolution, said the goal is not to burden business owners.

“The intent is to protect the health and safety of residents of our city,” Adler said. “If a business owner of any type of business is engaging in behavior that negatively impacts the health of residents, then that behavior must be addressed.”

Kowalski said he understands that eliminating smoke and pollutants near residential areas is ideal but also said Freedmen’s does not produce that much smoke.

“I would like to see something in there that says we’re going to deal with this on a case-by-case basis,” Kowalski said. “If there are serious health hazards, then yes, we need to deal with it.”

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin City Council is working to block the construction of a strip club on Fifth Street and Congress Avenue by voting to amend the city code. 

The Austin City Council voted Thursday to begin amending City Code to mandate that “adult-oriented businesses” must be at least 1,000 feet away from cultural services, such as museums or libraries. Current city code only requires a 1,000 feet distance from day cares, schools, churches, parks and other adult-oriented businesses.

Behzad Bahrami, who owns MB & MS Enterprises Inc., filed a site plan application in December to build a strip club on Congress, near the Texas Capitol. Jerry Rusthoven, a staff member in the City Planning Department, said strip clubs fall under the definition of “adult-oriented businesses.”

“The city has specific kinds [of adult-oriented businesses],” Rusthoven said. “Most of them don’t exist anymore because of frankly, the Internet, but we have different adult-oriented businesses — an adult theater, adult novelty shop, adult lounge … Most have gone away but we still have adult lounges, [which are] strip clubs.” 

Rusthoven said the City Planning Department is currently reviewing Bahrami’s application to see if his proposed club would fit all the required criteria to operate as an adult lounge. Under current city code, adult lounges are allowed to operate so long as they meet all criteria, but the Council plans to amend city code to only allow them to operate with the direct approval of the Planning Commission. 

Rusthoven said the City Planning Department is in the process of reviewing Bahrami’s application, and said he does not know if it will be approved before code amendments are put in place.

“If the [strip club] on Congress opens before the code changes, they would be grandfather-ed in,” Rusthoven said. “The question is whether the code gets changed before this application for the strip club on Congress gets approved. If the code changes before the plan is approved, the question is, ‘Would this one still be approved?’ And that’s something that I’d work on with our legal team.”

Randell Salinas, international relations and global studies senior, said he thinks the Council’s concerns regarding the potential strip club’s proximity to a museum — specifically, the Mexic-Arte Museum — are unwarranted.

“I understand the museum and kids going to the museum,” Salinas said. “The kids aren’t going to know what that is. They’re just going to think it’s another bar or club or establishment in the downtown area.”

Molecular biology senior Shane Ali said he thinks the potential of a strip club would significantly change the atmosphere on Congress.

“You’d have people seeking this adult measure,” Ali said. “In that sense, it would be a lot more hyped up. It would also be a distraction for other businesses, because they’d lose a lot of business. It would be tough for businesses, especially independent bars.”

Ali said he believes a strip club close to Sixth Street would draw a larger crowd to Congress Avenue.

“Once they’re sufficiently buzzed, they want to go to something exciting,” Ali said. “A strip club in proximity would be exciting. People go to Yellow Rose and all that, but what’s stopping them is paying for a ride there. And this would be walking distance.”

As part of an initiative to increase public participation during meetings, Austin City Council displayed texts and tweets from local residents on a projector screen throughout its Thursday meeting.
Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin City Council attempted to boost public participation in Council meetings Thursday by projecting a livestream of community members’ texts and tweets on the wall.

Although most of the messages were relevant to the meeting agenda, the word-clouds and texts the Council presented also prominently featured Internet memes, such as “doge,” as well as the word “poop.” Eventually, the Council disabled the text-stream service.  

At the meeting, Council members also discussed the formation of a public engagement task force, which will include UT experts.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said she plans on launching a separate student advisory council.

“I see it as a separate project, but I hope the public engagement task force would have some representatives on [the student advisory council],” Tovo said. “This would be a student group to advise my office and make sure we have good communication.”

Robert Svodoba, co-director of the UT Student Government City Relations agency, said the group plans to meet with Tovo to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

“We already talked to her during the campaign, but just from a City Relations standpoint to introduce ourselves and present ourselves as a resource and outlet for students,” Svoboda said. “[We wanted her] to gauge student opinion and to find out how she can reach out to students and how we can reach out to her.”

Tovo said the Council will discuss restructuring City Council meetings to make them more accessible. She said she anticipates future Council meetings will be shorter and more frequent.

“We are trying to improve the process so we have more and more effective public input earlier in the process,” Tovo said.

City Council members Sheri Gallo, Ann Kitchen, Ora Houston and Leslie Pool are working with the mayor’s office to have a draft resolution establishing the task force ready for next week’s City Council meeting. The task force will report back to the Council after six months to make recommendations on how to further improve community engagement in Council meetings.

“We only talked about it as a general idea,” Tovo said. “The task force, as I understand it, would not be Council
members. It would be something we kick off to help us revise our process — but not comprised of Council members. That’s one thing my colleague has taken up and is working on a resolution for next week’s agenda.”

Pool said she is optimistic about the City’s plan to expand and diversify public input at Council meetings.

“Building on this sort of engagement we’re having this evening, the entire Council feels it’s a key component of our ability to work in a transparent and accountable way if we understand the various avenues of public engagement,” Pool said.

This year, Austin City Council will have public hearings to promote public participation in local government, a priority of Mayor Steve Adler. The first public hearing Thursday will discuss how the Council will govern under the 10-ONE system.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Members of the Austin City Council are considering making structural changes to the Council’s decision-making process and will discuss the proposed changes at a public hearing Thursday. 

The Council, which began its term Jan. 6, will discuss moving government hearings to committees before making decisions at general, public meetings.

City Council member Kathie Tovo, the only City Council member who has served previous terms, said restructuring a new decision making process is among council’s top priorities. Tovo said not all hearings would be restricted to committee meetings.

“We are soliciting feedback from the public,” Tovo said. “Most hearings will be moved to committees, but some will still have to be heard in front of the Council, such as zoning and annexation. There are [topics] required by city ordinance, and some by state law, to be heard in front of Council.” 

Mayor Steve Adler said he thinks the restructuring will make public engagement more meaningful.

“Every district representative is chairing a citywide committee and needs to develop a citywide constituency,” Adler said. “Traffic, congestion and affordability are citywide issues. Since those are most pressing, we’ve come out of the box real quickly to restructure the way we do government.”

Adler said he did not realize how much the public wants to participate in local government before his election.

“One of the real takeaways was the sheer number of people that were calling offices when we weren’t there,” Adler said. “It was overwhelming — the number of people who want to talk with one and all of the City Council members.”

The City Council will hold a public discussion about moving hearings to committees before coming to an ultimate decision at a general Council meeting.

City Council member Ann Kitchen said she appreciated how the City Council united to tackle its first initiative.

“I’m excited that we were able to do that unanimously,” Kitchen said. “We learned at orientation ways we can continue to work together for the things that we all [agree upon]. I think everybody is working on the same page. There are some differences across the districts in terms of how we fix things, but we’re all in agreement [on this].”

Last week, the new City Council completed a three-day orientation. Tovo said she enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the other City Council members. 

“I had an opportunity to meet with all Council members and do introductions — to hear their ideas and share mine,” Tovo said. 

Adler said orientation is meant to be informative, but it’s also a chance for new members to discuss ideas.

“The session on open meetings generated a lot of conversation,” Adler said. “We have to find the right balance in that area. A lot of it is nuts and bolts — not romantic or sexy stuff, but important stuff.”

City Council member Ora Houston said the logistics of City operations are the most challenging to learn.

“There’s so much to learn, and now I can see how the City operates behind the curtain,” Houston said.

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

With less than a month until mayoral candidates Steve Adler and Mike Martinez face each other in a runoff election on Dec. 16, the two continued their series of debates last week. Adler and Martinez, who currently sits on the Austin City Council, debated at City Hall on the City Council’s structure and land planning.

Adler criticized the City Council for holding meetings into the early hours of the morning and making policy decisions from the dais. Adler proposed a committee structure for the City Council that he said would cut down on the length of City Council meetings, while bringing the public closer to city decisions.

“Everyone on City Council would chair a committee, which means everyone would have a citywide responsibility and would come up with a citywide constituency, so they won’t think just about their districts, but think about city generally,” Adler said.

Martinez said the committee structure would disengage citizens from the process.

“They don’t want their items sitting in a committee structure,” Martinez said. “They want their items and priorities to be voted on by the City Council. You have to manage that on the dais as well, so people have their opportunity to participate and so Council can make the final decision.”

Tweaking the current City Council structure is enough, Martinez said.

“Democracy is not always convenient, but it is absolutely necessary and we have one of the most active communities in terms of participation,” Martinez said. “I believe we can make some structural changes and cut down the amount of hours. You have to establish rules, stick to those rules, so there is consistency. If you call for a time certain for 6:30 p.m., you stop the meeting; you hear the item because that is what you committed to.”

Martinez defended CodeNEXT, a land development code that the Austin City Council voted on and passed a solution for Thursday night. Austin’s intricate land development code has made building projects in the city expensive and complicated for citizens, according to Martinez. 

“It is an opportunity to take our code, delayer it, and create something understandable so that you, the average citizen, can do your own projects and not hire a specialist,” Martinez said. “It’s also going to help us from a land planning perspective. When you look at public transportation and growth, CodeNEXT is a way we can have an impact on all of those issues.”

Secure Communities and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees impact Austin negatively, Martinez said. He promised to fight against deportation programs like these and make sure no Austin money went to entities that “run against our values.”

“I was so proud of President Obama in taking the first step in stopping organizations like Secure Communities,” Martinez said. “It came from the local level. The president’s executive order is a result for places like Austin who have been fighting and marching and getting local government to adopt resolutions and effect change in any way they could, and it resulted in the president of the United States issuing an executive order.”

Adler agreed that detainment and deportation programs, such as Secure Communities, worked counter-productively. 

“We shouldn’t be detaining people under that program in our community,” Adler said. “You don’t have to look any further than Police Chief [Art] Acevedo, who says that practice makes law enforcement more difficult.”

City Council member Kathie Tovo speaks at Thursday’s Council meeting. The Council voted 6-1 in favor of “The Deep Clean” approach. Mayor Lee Leffingwell voted against the approach.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

In looking at the land development code rewrite Thursday, the Austin City Council voted 6-1 to approve Approach 2, known as “The Deep Clean,” which reformats the code with a medium amount of rewriting. Mayor Lee Leffingwell voted against it and said he supported the more extensive option of Approach 3, “The Complete Makeover.”  

The initiative, known as CodeNEXT, had three options to approach revising Austin’s land development code. Opticos, the city planning consultant hired by Austin to aid in the code rewrite, recommended “The Deep Clean” because it would take less time to execute than “The Complete Makeover” but would still hit many goals the city had in rewriting city code.

Council member Bill Spelman said he was concerned about the symbolism each option held after so much discussion.

“It seems to me the issue has been clouded to some extent,” Spelman said. “The way the issue has been framed — to take Approach 1, Approach 2, Approach 3 — very early became symbolic and political. We lost sight of the fact that we were talking about a scope of work for a particular contract, and it was not necessarily the same as, ‘Will this work better?’”

Spelman moved to adopt the second approach with a few amendments. He proposed to allow consultants to be more far-reaching when they decide how to rewrite the code.

“Coming up with new material is going to be more difficult for us than for Opticos,” Spelman said. 

Spelman added that the medium ground of “The Deep Clean” does not mean city staff cannot extensively rewrite where they see the need.

“They should not feel constrained to some moderate level of review just because it said so in ‘The Deep Clean,’” Spelman said. “If they believe there needs to be more extensive review in a section of the code, they should do so.”

Council member Kathie Tovo said she appreciated Spelman’s focus on giving more rewriting responsibilities to staff as consultants phase their contract out.

“It’s very useful to have a discussion about where the consultants begin to hand over the reins to the staff and empower them,” Tovo said. “That’s what I see is the main piece that you’re adding here.”

Council member Laura Morrison said she supported Spelman’s revised version of “The Deep Clean” but asked to add a few things to the motion.

“In terms of the rewrite being extensively rewritten, we’ve had a lot of input from landscape architects that we’re leaving the sustainability as a focus on the wayside,” Morrison said. “I would like the rewrite to have a focus including green infrastructure and sustainable water management. I think with the extensive rewriting, you need to get some of these things in there.”

Leffingwell said while he understood Spelman’s amendments to “The Deep Clean,” it was not enough.

“I am persuaded by Spelman’s comments made yesterday at a public forum,” Leffingwell said. “He recounted a situation a number of years ago when there was an attempt to clean up the code, and, as they went through it, that people suggested to change this, modify that. And the end result is very little got done at the end of the day. And I think that’s what will happen with option 2. I still support that, so I’m going to vote no.”

Nathan Wilkes, Austin Transportation Department spokesman, talks about the Bicycle Master Plan at City Hall on Thursday.

Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

At their meeting Thursday in the newly renovated chambers in City Hall, the Austin City Council passed the Bicycle Master Plan and agreed to discuss the land development code rewrite at their next meeting.

The City Council unanimously passed the Bicycle Master Plan after hearing from three members of the public and amending the resolution. Nathan Wilkes, Austin Transportation Department spokesman, presented the plan as a reboot of the former 2009 Bicycle Master Plan.

“Bicycling is a way to connect people, and to create affordability and create a healthy Austin,” Wilkes said. “In the 2009 plan, it was, ‘What can Austin do to be better for bicycling?’ Now we’re saying, ‘What can bicycling do to meet [Austin’s] goals?’”

The three main points the master plan addresses include creating an infrastructure of protected bike lanes that people would feel comfortable using, connecting the network of lanes to make all of Austin accessible by bicycle, and changing the way people take short trips — 3 miles or under — from automobile to bicycle.

Wilkes stressed that the 2014 bicycle master plan is not the same as the 2009 master plan.

“I wanted to speak a little to the project level implementation process — how we get projects on the ground,” Wilkes said. “This is the master planning process. What’s in the 2009 plan is not going to be on the ground verbatim. It has to be tested by the public.”

According to Wilkes, the planning process of the current master plan started two years ago.

“We kicked this off in August 2012,” Wilkes said. “We started public outreach about a year after we kicked off. Those meetings continued until February 2014. We received a lot of positive feedback; we received 2,000 some comments in support.”

According to Wilkes, the bicycle plan and the urban trails plan are intertwined, and the success of one relies on the success of the other.

“This network is not just made up of protected lanes,” Wilkes said. “The urban trails are a key component of this network. Without those, it would be fragmented. The investment is a $151 million investment, including the investment in the urban trails.”

The City Council also opened the land development code rewrite, CodeNEXT, up for public hearing. Several members of the community testified about their preferences on how to approach rewriting Austin’s land development code. 

City staff and the hired consultant firm Opticos recommended “The Deep Clean” approach as the best way to approach rewriting the code. “The Deep Clean” would completely reformat and reorganize the code, while only implementing a “medium” extent content rewrite. Some citizen speakers were in favor of “The Complete Makeover” approach, which would consist of a more extensive rewrite and take longer than “The Deep Clean.”

A few speakers advised against the City Council making a decision at all. Zilker neighborhood resident David King used the tale of Goldilocks as an example of how simplistically the City Council sought to solve the code rewrite.

“I don’t think any of these proposed options reflect Austin’s values and culture,” King said. “I would ask that we take the time to build an Austin option — not a generic one, two, three. If you make a decision on the code alternatives, you are locking the next Council into that decision. What is the rush to make the decision now? There’s plenty of work to be done on the new project without making a decision now. It can wait until the new Council.”

Without City Council member Bill Spelman on the dais, the City Council stayed divided between the two approaches. They will discuss CodeNEXT again on Nov. 20.

Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council member and District 9 candidate, addresses supporters at her election night party.

Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

City Council members Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley will face each other again in a runoff election on Dec. 16 as neither received a majority of the vote in Tuesday's District 9 council race.

Tuesday’s election was the City’s first under the 10-ONE structure, which reformats the City Council from six citywide seats to 10 geographic districts. District 9 covers parts of the University, West Campus, North Campus, Hyde Park, downtown Austin and South Congress.

Receiving 49.1 percent of the vote, Tovo was just shy of avoiding a runoff with Riley, who captured 40.4 percent.

Before the results were finalized, Tovo said at her election night party that she was prepared to face Riley in a runoff.

“What we do know is that we ran a fabulous campaign — the results are terrific,” Tovo said. “We are in the lead, and its a great lead, and we’re still waiting for some boxes. If this is a runoff, we are going to need to roll up our sleeves. We are going to need to get back out there on the doors.”

Riley, who worked with student organizations in addressing city and West Campus issues over the past few months, thanked his staff for their hard work.

“I’m so grateful to everyone. It has been a long haul.” Riley said. “I’m not a young person anymore, but I still believe in the idea of change. This includes a walkable urban environment.”

At Tovo’s party, local realtor Myron Smith said he supports Tovo for her stance on neighborhood issues and first-term actions. 

“I support Kathie Tovo because she has been quite a supporter of neighborhoods, and she has never waived on that,” Smith said. “I am very hopeful and supportive of the things she brought to the table in her first term, so I hope that she would definitely be able to continue that.” 

Kelly Blanton, an urban and regional planning senior at Texas State University who lives in District 9, said she voted for Riley because he is a strong candidate for urbanism in the downtown area, and she wants to protect those principles. 

“He pioneered the City Council legislation for accessible dwelling units and has consistently been on the side of growth and positive development,” Blanton said. “Tovo hasn’t really done anything in the arena of urbanism.”

Erin McGann, a program supervisor for the Texas Department of Justice, finished third in voting with 11 percent.

Austin City Council member Chris Riley listens to plans for CodeNEXT at a City Council meeting Thursday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin City Council heard Thursday from consultants and the public about CodeNEXT, a plan to revitalize the current city land development code.

In June 2012, the Council adopted a 30-year comprehensive plan for the city known as Imagine Austin, which calls for a new land development code. The city has been working in tandem with Daniel Parolek, owner of Opticos Design, Inc. Parolek presented three approaches to cleaning up current city code, informally named “The Brisk Sweep,” “The Deep Clean” and “The Complete Makeover.”

The City Council staff and Parolek both recommended option two, “The Deep Clean,” as the most reasonable approach to revise city code. The only difference between approach two and approach three, “The Complete Makeover,” is the timeline.

“What we’re thinking is that approach two timeline would be extended,” Parolek said. “Because we focused all our attention on approach two, we’re not sure how long it would extend. Approach three would probably extend the timeline of approach two due to the steady dismantling and rebuilding of code that would be much broader and more extensive.”

Parolek estimated that “The Complete Makeover,” approach three, would take at least six more months than approach two.

Council member Chris Riley said he can see both approaches two and three succeeding in the City Council’s goals to revamp the land development code, but he supports the third option.

“‘The Deep Clean’ looks like it’s coming down to the geographic scope of our effort; it would focus on Airport Boulevard and downtown,” Riley said. “The complete overhaul would put new measures in place across much broader areas in the city. With ‘The Deep Clean,’ the hope is if we can demonstrate some effective new code provisions in those areas, we would eventually see those improvements spread to other areas of the city, but that would entail a much longer timeline than if we were to set out to overhaul the whole code in the initial effort.”

Council member Kathie Tovo said she supports option two after hearing from staff and from the public.

“The fact that the consultants and staff recommend [option two] is compelling to me,” Tovo said. “They made it very clear that it would be more expensive and take more time to take option three. Option two sounds like it makes the best sense and that it is a balanced and reasonable approach. It allows us to introduce new elements into the code, but it also preserves some of the environmental protections our existing code has.”

Riley said completely redoing the existing land development code is necessary to accommodate student housing needs.

“We have issues with a lack of affordable housing options today, and that especially impacts students who are often in a position of trying to find affordable housing in the central city,” Riley said. “If we are successful, then we should see a much greater supply of housing options that would meet students’ needs. Students have a lot at stake in how well we do at fixing our current code.”

Tovo said option two would address student housing needs just as well. According to Tovo, the city should focus on enforcing existing density bonus programs instead of rewriting the entire land development code to benefit those who need affordable housing.

“It’s going to clarify the code; it will make it easier to use whether it be affordable housing or market rate,” Tovo said. “Our best ability to impact affordable housing is to have strong density bonus programs to require developers to provide that on site.”

The City Council voted to keep public hearing sign-up open until their next meeting on Nov. 6, when they will revisit the issue.