On Monday night the people spoke!! While most speakers were limited to 1 minute, the message was loud and clear: restore and rewild Zilker Park, save Barton Springs, and send would-be construction dollars to benefit other Austin parks that have been neglected for too long.
If you were there, thank you!!! If not, the video of the meeting is posted here.
And the Parks Board did hear us. Claims from the for-profit and nonprofit operators that do business in Zilker Park that the public engagement process was extensive and honest was thoroughly debunked by Parks Board member and attorney Sarah Faust and by many of the speakers. Because of your actions, the Parks Board voted 6-2 to recommend the removal of the Zilker Park umbrella management organization from the Vision Plan! They agreed with all of us that an umbrella management organization would reduce transparency and accountability by putting the park in the hands of corporate donors and their whims at the expense of everyday park people.
While these for-profit and nonprofit park concessioners do much good work – renting boats, producing programs and events, and providing other services – many of them free to the general public – they showed their true colors last night. In doing so, they made it abundantly clear they should never be trusted with operating in Zilker Park behind the curtain of a “single point of contact” private, umbrella park manager.
These groups, led by the Austin Parks Foundation, which receives $8 million per year from ACL/Live Nation – money that should be going to the City—along with the Trail of Lights Foundation, the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy, Zilker Theater Productions, and others are joined together as the “Zilker Collective.” Their representatives proclaimed how wonderful the public engagement process for the plan really was.
Indeed, it was truly great . . . for them. They enjoyed 5 or more private meetings with the City’s consultant and got everything they wanted to support their money-making ventures. Parking garages, new venues for year around money making, a bridge over Lady Bird Lake so ACL/LiveNation can expand their mega-event to park land north of the lake. What a great process!!
And guess what? There is zero evidence from the “extensive” public engagement that the public has even the slightest interest in transforming Zilker Park with the $200 million-plus of “improvements” baked into the draft plan. Indeed, the consultants haven’t bothered to compile or even consider the public input, much of it distorted by “push poll” questions about building expensive entertainment facilities rather than restoring and protecting the park and Barton Springs.
We give special thanks to Parks Board Chair Laura Cottam-Sajbel for making the motion and to Board member Sarah Faust for bringing the truth about the sham public process into the light.
The revised draft plan is now available here. The draft will be considered by other boards and commissions in the weeks and months ahead going to the city council.
Interested in learning more?? Join us this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. outside the back gate of Barton Springs (off of Azie Morton) for a walking tour of the eastern part of Zilker Park. We’ll have maps and other information on the draft plan. And urge friends and family to sign up for these email news alerts to stay informed and stay connected.
The future of the Texas Hill Country’s most iconic bird, the Golden-cheeked Warbler, is currently being assessed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Before the holidays, SOS, Travis Audubon, Bexar Audubon, Lone Star Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and other Texas groups sent a letter urging Fish and Wildlife to resist a push by the Texas General Land Office and private anti-environment groups to remove the Warbler from the federal endangered species list.
Since the Warbler’s entire nesting range traces much of the Texas Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer watershed, the best science and common sense tell us that the Warbler and the Hill Country as we know it are more endangered than ever. Westward sprawl from the I-35 urban corridor and the resulting habitat loss and land fragmentation is expanding. Increased pumping of surface and groundwater reduces spring and stream flows critical to birds, other wildlife, and people. A rapidly changing climate adds a major threat of increasing habitat loss from droughts and fire, both in the Hill Country and in the Warbler’s wintering grounds in southern Mexico and Central America.
Yet the Texas GLO and its “develop everywhere” allies point to deeply flawed studies that overestimate the warbler’s population size. The science that Fish and Wildlife must consider, and that was set out in our joint letter, is clear that the Golden-cheeked Warbler should remain on the federal list of species at risk of near-term extinction. SOS along with its partners at Earthjustice are working hard on multiple fronts to ensure that the Golden-cheeked Warbler stays protected. We are also working with a long list of Texas organizations pushing for more local and state funding for permanent land protection – funding that would match private land protection efforts and federal funds in support of the national and international 30 x 30 movement to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s lands by 2030.
Stay tuned and thank you for your generous support for this work.
Please join us this Monday night at 6:00 p.m, January 23rd, at City Hall for the Austin Parks Board’s meeting, public hearing and possible initial action on the draft Zilker Park Vision Plan. There is free parking under city hall, accessed on the southbound Guadalupe St. side of city hall. (Get your parking pass stamped at the meeting.) If you’ve never attended a Parks Board (or other city) meeting, this is a great one to start with. Sign up to speak when you arrive.
This simple, side-by-side comparison of the neighborhood/environmental group supported Rewild Zilker plan versus the City consultant’s draft Zilker Commercial, Development, and Parking Plan supported by park concessioners and wanna-be concessioners lays out the key differences in these competing plans for the future of Zilker Park. You can also read more, including the FAQs, on the RewildZilker.org website.
We will have a handout at the meeting as well. If you cannot attend, you can email one or more of the Parks Board members at their official Board email addresses here. You can also live stream the meeting on the City’s ATXN public meeting channel.
If you love Barton Springs and Zilker Park we need your participation in the process over the coming weeks and months, starting this coming Monday.
Here's our end of year letter
The Future of Zilker Park
The future of Zilker Park will be determined by the new Austin City Council, led by the new Mayor Elect Kirk Watson, next year. Right now, however, the City is taking public comment on the draft Zilker Park Vision Plan through January 8, 2023. Please read up on the plan and the environment and neighbors alternative Rewild Zilker plan at this new RewildZilker.org website. Also check out this helpful flyer below, especially the side-by-side comparison of what we want versus what the commercial operators in Zilker Park want for the park, operating under the misleading name of Zilker Park Collective. To be clear who the City's consultants were working for, the draft plan gives the Zilker Park (commerce) Collective everything they asked for.
Job Posting for SOS Staff Attorney
Save Our Springs Alliance
Preferred Start Date: As soon as possible (negotiable)
Practice Areas: Water, endangered species, land protection, and historic and cultural preservation under federal, state, and local laws. Policy and legislative advocacy on land, water, wildlife, and climate issues.
Description: Save Our Springs Alliance seeks a motivated and dedicated public interest environmental protection advocate to join its teams as a Staff Attorney. Save Our Springs is a small nonprofit using education, advocacy, and litigation to protect the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem, which includes all of the largest springs in Texas, the major water supply for the Austin-to-San Antonio corridor, and dozens of threatened and endangered species that live here and nowhere else in the world. Since 1992, Save Our Springs has combined science, economics, and citizen action with legal expertise to protect our Texas Hill Country home. The attorney would work under Executive Director and attorney Bill Bunch. We work hard, we have fun, and we go swimming. The swimming is optional but recommended.
To Apply: Send a résumé, cover letter, law school transcript (for lawyers practicing five years or less), writing sample (preferably a legal brief or memorandum), and a list of references to email@example.com Please put “Staff Attorney Applicant” in the subject line.
We intend to fill this position as soon as possible. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled.
Date Posted: November 2, 2022.
Victoria Rose firstname.lastname@example.org
512-477-2320, ext. 6
4701 West Gate Blvd., D-401 Austin, TX 78745
Statesman PUD Reset Again for Nov. 3
Thursday, October 13th, City Council again postponed action on the Statesman PUD mega-development on Lady Bird Lake zoning case to Thursday, November 3rd. Please mark your calendar and plan to join us for an afternoon and evening of citizen action at City Hall.
The Austin Council is finally getting the word that there are serious problems with the proposal to upzone the 18-acre former newspaper site from a maximum of 660,000 sq. feet to 3.6 million sq. feet of six downtown-scale towers for office, condos, hotel and commercial.
Council heard an earful from citizens from across Austin opposed to the dozens of variances and tens of millions of taxpayer subsidies baked into the complicated, 50 pages of ordinance text, exhibits, and incorporated staff memos. Thank you to everyone who spoke to council and/or called or emailed your objections to the PUD plan. Watch and listen here to the great public comment and here for the subsequent city council discussion. (Public comment on the Statesman PUD is intermittent with testimony on other issues but most speakers are addressing the PUD.)
To be clear, SOS and most others do not oppose the major increase in urban density for the site. We object to the gutting of standard city ordinances in favor of a special deal for the billionaire owner developers. These gutted standards protect Lady Bird Lake, require dedication of park land and park fees (because of the increased demand for parks from the 1400 residential units plus commercial) and that the park be actual public park owned and managed for the public benefit and not as a private outdoor commercial area.
These standard ordinances that would be set aside also require payment of other standard fees to help taxpayers cover the added burdens to our streets, utilities, and permitting costs caused by the project. They also require developers to dedicate a small portion of their development to affordable housing and pay for their own parking and internal streets. Yet the Statesman PUD owners are demanding that us taxpayers cover these standard costs for them.
If approved, the Statesman PUD would set a dangerous precedent that threatens all of Lady Bird Lake, all of our parks, and all of our ordinances that make developers pay for their share of the costs of growth.
It’s hard to overstate the scale and number of attacks on City standards – and on common sense, decency, and the English language—loaded throughout the complicated draft ordinance. Read below our working list of the worst problems with the ordinance. And please stay engaged and plan to join us at City Hall on Thursday November 3rd.
LIST OF PROBLEMS WITH THE PROPOSED STATESMAN PUD*
*(this remains incomplete because of many remaining questions, complexity, the many thousands of pages of backup that have yet to be fully considered (e.g. 1500 page TIA, and other reasons.
*As a starting point, please see attached the existing Statesman PUD ordinance which is limited to no more than 660,000 square feet and only newspaper use. Thus, this is clearly a “new project” that is not grandfathered and must be judged against current code for a similar project under standard zoning categories (e.g, commercial, MF, mixed use, etc)
**Given above, all problems set out below establish, together and individually, items of “inferiority”
***This list works off of Version 5 of the draft ordinance, which was posted after our Monday meeting and has a date of 10/10/2022 – I had to try 3 times before my computer would download it because of the size of the file. Can’t print the exhibits large enough to read much of the text on them.
SUMMARY – MOST IMPORTANT
1. Guts the Town Lake Overlay ordinance, wholesale – starting p. 15, Part 15, B3 thru B18
So many and with so little information, still not clear on the full effect or meaning of these “modifications” some of which are sweeping exemptions
A. B11 – reduces shoreline primary setback from 150 feet to 90 feet (without disclosing the full reduction), but this is actually greater reduction because the definition of “shoreline” does not track the shoreline and the change is “as shown on Exhibit C” and there is no information on where the “90 feet” is actually less than 90 feet, or how much less in what locations
B. B8 – Doubles the allowable impervious cover (IC) in the secondary setback without saying it is a doubling (a 50 foot wide strip that starts at the edge of the primary setback) from 30% to 60% (but actually more because the definition of IC is amended elsewhere to not count things)
C. B1, B3, B6 and B7 all modify list of uses allowed along the shore or further inside the development, and the list now allows Tesla dealership (and rental, hence the need for car storage of 4000 spaces); some might be ok, but many are not
D. B2 – allows undefined amphitheatre and with only ad ministrative approval (Suttle told us they don’t want or need amphitheatre so this could be removed)
E. B10 and C3 allow loading docks without screening from public view, including from Congress and Barton Springs Road (ugly!!)(this also illustrates how some of these “gems” are loaded in different places in the ordinance and if you remove one but not the other we still get screwed)
F. B15 and C2 allow exemptions from multiple sections of code (design standards, etc) in wholesale fashion. ???
G. B16, B17 and B18 allow dock extending 70 feet into the lake while code and Parks Board say limit should be 35 feet (concern about width, placement, and uses of dock as well); B17 allows other shore construction protections to be waived for the pier and unspecified “park elements and dimensions.” ???
H. Gutting of Town Lake protections continues in Part 15G. 1 thru 4, where critical water quality zone and other water quality regulations are set aside and also in allowing CWQZ to be considered “dedicated park land” with a raft of allowable uses.
2. Huge taxpayer subsidies are baked into and hidden deeply within the ordinance and clearly contemplated to further include TIRZ funding – ALL subsidies should be removed and a blanket statement inserted saying all fees are required, without exception, waiver, “build and deduct,” or other means, and with no commitment of other public funds, from a TIRZ or other means.
A. Part 11, H, p.12, bottom, provides that the recommendations of the staff’s December 13, 2021 memo controls over any other part of the ordinance and that it may be amended by staff in the future. Buried in a footnote “*” under the chart on the last page of that memo it states:
“*The ROW land value for Barton Springs Extension on the applicant’s land will be credited towards the SIF max for this development.
**Developer’s cost may be paid directly by the developer, with the South Central Waterfront TIRZ/TIF (when passed) or other public funding mechanism approved by the City. However, if any public funding is used, those construction costs will not be credited as a SIF offset.”
This memo that overrides all other parts of the PUD ordinance and that can be amended in the future without limitation is not even posted as an exhibit to the ordinance like all other parts (that we know of so far). It is buried beginning at page 64 of 127 of the PDF of the Staff Report No. 2, which is in turn document number 27 out of 30 posted to the backup for Oct. 13, Item 69. The referenced “developer costs” include all of the streets shown on the chart on the same page of the TIA Dec. 13 memo.
This ROW land under the BS Road Extension is, in turn, the largest part of what the EPS memo claims is the “shortfall” in the developer’s ability to pay. That memo, at p. 23, Table 19 shows the estimated value of this ROW land buyback as between $12.5 million and $74.4 million.
Sadly, the actual EPS memo that shows these embarrassing details has been scrubbed and substituted in the Council backup with this shameful 4 page substitute. That summary counts the “ROW” as “agreed upon” benefits that the developer is so generously providing, when of course internal roads are standard costs that every developer pays or else they have no project. At least EPS was willing to “credit” Suttle/Rudy/Cox with the lower $12.5 million “benefit” they are providing if only we waive their SIF fees so we pay for it.
The next footnote there under the chart, shows that the Developer is demanding a larger road than necessary or than staff requires and then demanding that we pay for it with SIF credits and/or TIRZ or “other public funding.” Here is that next footnote:
“***The applicant has proposed to construct additional mitigation/capacity (i.e., a four-lane cross section instead of a three-lane cross section) on the Barton Springs Road Extension than what was justified by the TIA analysis or required by City Staff. The improvement shown in the above table includes the additional lane the applicant will be constructing.”
This statement in the memo conflicts directly with what Richard Suttle told Bill Bunch – which was that the developer didn’t need the bigger road, would just build a smaller driveway and avoid the public funding, but that staff was demanding the larger Barton Springs Road extension.
B. Private parking is not a “public benefit” –There should be no public funding for private parking, private streets, etc required by code or “demanded” by the applicant. Rusthoven’s opening statement to Council and Boards and Commissions was what a great deal this Statesman PUD is for the public because the parking would be “underground” without a “wall” of parking garage marring the views.The real EPS memo estimates the “added” cost of “Underground Parking,” at Table d16, p. 21, at $70.9 million. The memo says the developer considers this “a community benefit” because it is not required and will preserve public viewsheds.
However, (a) the draft ordinance does not require “underground” parking, only “that 95 peercent of the required number of parking spaces for the development . . . within a below grade structure(s),“ (b) below grade” is not defined and almost certainly means the much higher level of the Congress Ave. bridge and not the actual ground level as the term suggests, (c) they are proposing to build more parking than is “required,” so we have no idea how much parking will actually be “above grade,” however those terms are butchered by the applicant and staff.
The whole premise of the EPS memo and the TIRZ that this is a “blighted” area and the developers can’t afford to build standard parking, streets, sidewalks, or pay standard transportation SIF fees, affordable housing and park dedication fees, etc, and still scratch out a profit is a fraud and anyone with even the slightest inkling knows it is a fraud.
A zoning case, whether PUD or otherwise, should never mix in paying the developer a dime or waiving fees, etc. This is legislation and policy making, not cutting deals.
Finally, the idea that the developer won’t build most of the parking under the towers and screen it from public/private view is similarly absurd. Building separate parking would chew up impervious cover and land they don’t have. Ugly, unscreened parking would make this private, ultra-luxury development for the ultra-rich far less marketable.
C. Park land dedication fee credits should be removed. Part 10 B, at p. 9, says the “parkland fee in lieu” “if paid” “may be used to build park amenities within the Statesman PUD.” “Park amenities” are not defined and could be almost anything. It is clear that they don’t have to be in the park land, but can be “park amenities” anywhere within the PUD property. Since it says “if paid,” its clear the developer can build stuff they think is a “park amenity” and then deduct from the fee owed. This provision also says both the “Parkland development Fee” and the fee in lieu can be used for these undefined “amenities”, which would primarily benefit the private developer and not serve the public park priorities of a less developed park rather than an outdoor commercial district. In short, all public subsidies, including this very sneaky park subsidy involving millions of dollars.
3. Park provisions decimate forever the SCWF call for a “minimum of 9.6 acres” on the Stateman PUD site, grossly overstates the actual park being dedicated, butchers the English language to define as “public” and “park” and “land” many things that are clearly not “public” not “park” and not “land.”
This is shameful Orwellian speak that should never, ever be tolerated. It turns lies into “truth” destroys the credibility of council and staff, and tears at the most essential common bond that holds us together as a community and society – a common language.
View New Statesman PUD Power Point Here
Please Help Stop the Statesman PUD and Protect Lady Bird Lake, Our Lakefront Parks, and Our Tax Dollars
One of the most important votes in decades for our parks, Lady Bird Lake, and our tax dollars is set for this Thursday at the Austin City Council. We need your help to tell the City Council “No Special Deals for Billionaire Developers” looking to shred our Lady Bird Lake, water quality, and park land protection rules.
The owners of the old 19-acre Austin American Statesman property, located on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, next to the Congress Ave bat bridge, are asking for literally dozens of variances and waivers to standard city ordinances while also demanding tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies to build their private streets and parking garages. (It’s really true; we are not kidding.)
Please join with us to tell Mayor Adler and the City Council to vote “NO” unless the special “PUD” (planned unit development) ordinance does the following:
1. Protects 9.2 acres of public park land along the Lady Bird Lake shoreline;
2. Maintains full access to the Hike & Bike trail;
3. Complies with the Waterfront Overlay setbacks and development regulations; and
4. Removes all public subsidies to the billionaire developer.
Without your voice and hundreds of others, the City Council will approve this terrible deal on behalf of the wealthiest developers and landowners in Texas. We will be stuck with it forever!! And then every other developer will demand the same variances and giveaways.
Here’s what you can do today:
Action Alert 🚨 : Sign Up to Oppose Lady Bird Lake Developer GiveawaysWe need your help! Please sign up to speak to the Austin City Council in opposition to Items 131 and 132 on this Thursday's July 28th agenda: https://cityofaustin.formstack.com/forms/austin_city_council_speaker_signup
You must sign up to speak at the link BEFORE NOON tomorrow, Wednesday, July 27th.
With tens of millions of general fund dollars and several acres of lake front park land on the line, we need all hands on deck. As you may be aware, the owners of the Statesman Property (305 S. Congress Ave) plan on building five high-rise towers up to 525 feet tall, along the south shoreline of Lady Bird Lake.
To do this, the developer has asked the Austin City Council to grant it a special zoning ordinance, in conflict with the City’s long-range planning efforts for the area. Normally, these special zoning ordinances known as “Planned Unit Developments (PUDs)” require the developer to achieve a “superior” project than what would be developed under existing city code, such as providing enhanced community benefits.
But, this developer wants US (the taxpayers) to shoulder this burden. This proposed PUD does not meet minimum standards for parkland dedication, right-of-way dedication, or the affordable housing requirements under the applicable ordinance.
The developer wants the City Council to shift these costs onto taxpayers and city future budgets, via a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which earmarks general fund dollars to be spent in this small area of Downtown Austin and with waivers to required fees.
Enough is enough! Downtown has had enough. The City Council needs to require all the park land called for by the South Central Waterfront Plan and preserve city funds to invest in parks, libraries, and affordable housing across the entire city.
Please, help us tell the City Council prioritize park land, our general fund dollars and Lady Bird Lake for the needs of all Austin residents. Please sign up to speak and call in in Thursday to speak at the council hearing remotely (or attend in person).
We wrote a few weeks back on one of the very worst Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning cases since the infamous Barton Creek PUD of 1990. The so-called “Statesman PUD” is back on the city council agenda for next Thursday, July 28, Items 131 and 132.
The Statesman PUD tract is 19 acres on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, on the east side of the Congress Ave bat bridge. If approved as proposed it would include 1300 units of ultra-luxury condos, 1 hotel, 1.5 million square feet of office, and 150,000 sq. ft. of retail in a set of towers reaching up to 525 feet in the air. In effect, downtown would jump across the lake, with more development of a similar kind to follow along Barton Springs Road and Riverside.
Neighbors, environmentalists, park advocates, and fiscal conservatives are not really opposing the massive increase in density. Rather the owners—some of the richest people in the world—are demanding tens of millions of taxpayer subsidies for the project. They also want to cheat us out of park land that would, under standard city rules, be required to be dedicated to the public. To compound the outrage, they want to retain management control of the too-little-park-land they are dedicating while cutting off existing public access to the lake along the Congress Ave. sidewalk.
With your help and action by Councilmember Kathie Tovo the matter was delayed in June because there was no draft ordinance and a giant haystack of staff backup documents contained almost none of the needles of important details stitching this “welfare for the ultra-rich” scheme together.
Its back now on next Thursday’s agenda and we need your help again to have it delayed and then denied in its current form.
Please take a few minutes to send an email to City Council to insist that it be (a) postponed again until all of the public’s questions are answered,(b) all of the taxpayer subsidies are removed, and (c) all of the park land dedication normally required is granted to the public without the private developers’ retaining control and limiting access to this “public” park land.
Please also share this with friends, neighbors and family who might join in to fix this mess. Stay tuned and we will provide the link to speak at the meeting, in person or remotely, starting on Monday.
Here are the email addresses for the Mayor and council.
Say NO to "Statesman PUD"
Last week we asked you to email Austin’s Mayor and city council to remove a proposed extension of SH 45 SW that would have connected the south end of Mopac to I35 that was slipped into the draft city mobility plan. Many of you did. Council Member Kathie Tovo moved, and CM Ann Kitchen seconded, to remove the road from the City’s plan. The motion passed unanimously, minus CM Renteria’s abstention.
Thank you to all who wrote, to CMs Tovo and Kitchen, and to all of the council for taking prompt action to keep I35 interregional truck and car traffic off of Mopac and the Edwards Aquifer.
Now we need your help again!
One of the very worst Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning cases since the infamous Barton Creek PUD of 1990 is on this Thursday’s city council agenda. With PUD zoning, the applicant and City Council can throw out the City Code and write special rules for the specific project. It’s the worst kind of “let’s make a deal” that hides under the idea that a proposed PUD must be “superior” to development that actually complies with City code. Almost every time the proposal is inferior to standard compliance.
Please take a few minutes to read our letter to council (below) on the “Statesman PUD,” which covers the old Austin American-Statesman property on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake and next to the Congress Avenue bat bridge. Then email the Mayor and Council and tell them to vote “NO” or postpone the Statesman PUD until a date at least two weeks after the draft PUD ordinance is posted to the public.
Also, please consider telling them NO subsidies of any kind; NO water quality variances; and full dedication of park land required by city ordinances (and “land” that is under the surface of Lady Bird Lake is not actually “land” and does not count).
The only way a PUD won’t be a massive giveaway of both taxpayer dollars and standard city rules protecting water quality of the lake and dedicating required park land is if the PUD ordinance states explicitly there will be (a) no City subsidies of any kind (e.g. fee waivers or credits, tax refunds, etc.), (b) no water quality variances, and (c) all 9 acres of required park land on the lake are dedicated to the public and public management to mitigate the increased park land demand of building over 1300 units of ultra-luxury high rise condos, 1.5 million square feet of office, a hotel and 150,000 sq. ft. of commercial, with towers reaching up to 525 feet.
Here are the email addresses for the mayor and council.
32 YEARS OF CITIZEN ACTION! AND NOW THIS . . .
Thirty-two years ago today, on June 7th, 1990, over 700 people packed City Hall to oppose the 5,000-acre Barton Creek PUD development. Mayor Lee Cooke heard everyone who wanted to speak. Speakers spoke all night long, and at 6:30 the next morning the Council voted 7-to-zero to deny project.
That all night “Barton Creek Uprising” triggered the Save Our Springs movement, which led to voter approval of the SOS ordinance two years later, on August 8th, 1992.
Watch highlights from the Barton Creek Uprising here. Sing a few rounds of Barton Springs Eternal with Bill Oliver and friends here. Beat the record heat with a swim in the Springs today!! The pool is open until 9:50 p.m. Celebrate 32 years of citizen action to Save Our Springs!!
Eternal Springs require eternal vigilance. We need a little vigilance today!!. This Thursday City Staff want the City Council to sneak through approval of an extension of SH 45 SW that would link South Mopac to Interstate 35. This road link is buried in the details of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, Item 52 on the council agenda. If built, this SH 45 SW extension would instantly convert Mopac from a local commuter highway into an alternative to Interstate 35 interregional and interstate car and truck traffic.
Please take just 2 minutes to read our letter to City Council below and then email the Mayor and City Council (especially your own council member) and tell them to remove this roadway from the City transportation plan. This is a simple thing to do and should not be controversial. Here are the email addresses:
Thank you for taking action, once again, to keep Barton Springs clean and flowing!!
Save Our Springs Alliance does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.
These positions will be considered for part-time, contract, or full-time.
Please submit your resume for the following positions to: email@example.com
Job Title: Administrative Assistant & Database Manager
Database Management: Responsible for directing or performing all activities related to maintaining a successful database environment. Includes: data entry of membership addresses and financial information; cleaning up old data; creating thank you letters and lists through the system; making sure our crm system its related applications operate functionally and efficiently. Requires experience with Salsa CRM, Engage or other similar system.
Administrative Assistant: In charge of phone system; light bookkeeping; ordering supplies; managing work room; filing; and other office responsibilities. In addition, assist with SOS and Barton Springs University events.
Job Title: Marketing Coordinator
Save our Springs is in search of a Marketing Coordinator to support the planning, tracking and execution of brand marketing initiatives. Reporting to the Executive Director and Managing Director, the coordinator will play a key role in communicating the Save our Springs brand, increasing membership and expanding outreach initiatives.
For over 30 years, Save our Springs has served as Austin’s water watchdog, providing education, advocacy and legal support in order to protect the Central Texas watershed. This mid to entry level role is well suited for a marketing professional with member building skills, a passion for environmental causes and an eagerness to help a small nonprofit expand marketing efforts.
The Marketing Coordinator can work remotely and/or at the SOS office.
Major Job Functions
Roy Creek Featured
KXAN recently published a wonderful 5-part TV news series on the wonders of Roy Creek and the threats posed by “Mirasol Springs,” a developer proposal that would surround the small Roy Creek canyon. The creek emerges from springs and tumbles down a steep canyon to enter the Pedernales River very near Hamilton Pool Preserve. We remain hopeful that the Mirasol Springs developers will withdraw their plans in favor creating a nature preserve that would protect Roy Creek and its unique freshwater ecosystem.
Last year SOS filed a petition to list the Pedernales River Springs salamander as endangered in significant part in response to the threats posed to the species by the Mirasol project. The small aquatic salamanders are found in the Roy Creek springs and a few others nearby. Your generous support makes it possible for us to bring the very best of science, law, and citizen advocacy to protect the unique and vulnerable waters and wildlife of the Texas Hill Country.
Viole(nt) Crown Tumbles
Last week the developers of the “Violet Crown Amphitheatre” and mega-project proposed for 71 acres above Barton Creek near the SH 71 W/Southwest Parkway intersection withdrew their request for the extension of City of Austin water and sewer service to serve the project. The withdrawal followed shortly upon a unanimous vote of the Austin Environmental Commission recommending against the extension requests. That vote, in turn, came in response to an aggressive campaign by a coalition of conversation groups, including SOS, against the project.
The project may not be completely dead, but it is in big trouble; the sponsors are not likely to find alternatives for water and sewer service for such a massive project. Many thanks to everyone who helped us fend off this scheme. It was one of the worst we have seen in many years. We’ll let you know if it resurfaces.
Hays County Members Call to Action
HAYS COUNTY RESIDENTS-- CALL TO ACTION-- FIGHT THE FM 150 EXTENSION THAT THREATENS ONION CREEK! Please take two minutes to contact your county commissioner using this simple online form letter linked HERE.
RSVP at info@ SOSAlliance.org
Make your donation for tickets here:
Check Yes under the Legends of South Austin question on the donate page.
Please go to this link right now and register for the February 15th, 6:00 p.m. Virtual Meeting #4 on the Zilker Park Vision Plan. Even if you have not kept up, this is the perfect time to catch up and hear firsthand the City’s park consultants proposed scenarios for the future of our flagship park. Please also invite friends and family. This is a critical meeting in the park plan process. If you haven’t already, check out the Rewilding Zilker Park proposal, which is now endorsed by SOS, the Austin Group of the Sierra Club, and six South Austin neighborhood associations.
If you like it, please urge the park planners to make Rewilding Zilker Park, with at least seventy acres of underutilized, treeless Zilker fields reforested as the green, people-and-climate-friendly foundation of Zilker Park’s future. You can do that at the Feb. 15 meeting and in an updated survey that will run in the weeks following the meeting.
Water News: Don't Drink It!!
Water, water everywhere, . . .: With Saturday night’s boil water notice, and now 3 days without safe water, Austin Water Utility customers are shown, yet again, how mismanaged our City water and wastewater utility really is. AWU Director Greg Meszaros was scarcely qualified when he was first hired in 2007. He then proceeded to sell a bare minimum majority of the Austin City Council on building the Billion Dollar Mistake on the Lake, aka Water Treatment Plant No. 4, a plant we didn’t need and that won’t do what it was claimed to do; it cannot make water, nor make it rain, nor fill in when our other water treatment plants have problems.
How did Meszaros sell the Council and gullible local media on such a huge project? With an argument that we needed a third treatment plant to provide “redundancy” and “resilience,” that having only two water plants was too risky in light of the rise of terrorism and the growth of the city.
SOS did our research on these claims and rated them “Pants on Fire!”
Plenty of other large cities operate safely on two plants, or even one. An SOS public information request to AWU found that, in fact, the Utility’s own internal risk analysis identified power outages and the need for reliable back-up power as the top threat. Having only two plants was not even mentioned among the threats identified.
And, lo and behold, in the years following the completion of WTP No. 4, we have seen multiple water supply outages for large parts of the City: from a “turbidity” problem when a flood hit the Llano River Basin – that somehow didn’t disrupt water delivery at other cities drawing from the Highland Lakes; when chemical fire retardants sprayed by the AFD somehow got into the water system in South Austin; and then, last year, during Winter Storm Uri, when the power went out AWU couldn’t figure out how to turn on the backup water supply for the Ullrich treatment plant. In none of these instances did WTP4 help; and AWU failed to do the one thing its own analysis told it to do: keep the power on!!
Now we have a treatment upset at Ullrich and the Utility waits 12 hours to issue a boiled water notice. Meszaros admits it was “operator error” but will not give details. Like a true failed leader, he will likely blame his underlings again for the most recent chain-of-errors rather than take responsibility and resign (or retire).
Along the way Meszaros fought tooth and toenail against the City Council-appointed Austin Water Forward Task Force members’ recommendations for water conservation, water reuse, and more distributed, local, and small-scale “net zero” water solutions for Austin. He even declared he did not “have to listen” to the Task Force, storming out of a key meeting when he didn’t like the commonsense solutions offered by the Task Force to meet our future water needs.
And that’s just a short list of the problems at the Austin Water Utility. If City Manager Cronk won’t fire Meszaros, or demand his resignation, then the City Council needs to fire Cronk and hire a City Manager who will make it clear that we need, first and foremost, basic integrity and competence from all our city departments. And that competence and integrity must start at the top.
Barton Springs University
In September, we had to cancel for the second year, BSU Day at Barton Springs due to Covid-19. The BSU team has continued growing our Educational Programming throughout 2021. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department leadership has allowed us to expand our educational programs at Barton Springs, on the creek, and in other Austin parks. This will include desperately needed kid camps during the summer months. We have also worked on producing new video and classroom materials, including a class about “the weirdest fish in Austin”, the American River eel. Barton Springs University is now a year-round series of educational events, snorkeling eco-tours, and summer camps, highlighted by a full day of outdoor learning at Barton Springs Pool in September. Visit BartonSpringsUniversity.org for more information.
Protecting Our Public Parks from Overdevelopment and Privatization
SOS has taken a leading role in advocating for keeping our City of Austin parks open to the public for connection with nature and outdoor recreation, and for managing and restoring our park lands and habitats. Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake in particular have been targeted for excessive development and commercialization. SOS commissioned the Rewilding Zilker Park plan, prepared by restoration ecologist and park planner Elizabeth McGreevy. You can view the plan here. We are now working with Zilker, Barton Hills, Bouldin Creek and other neighborhood associations to advocate for a greener, healthier, more accessible, and more climate-protective future for Zilker Park in the context of the City’s ongoing Zilker Park Vision Plan. Working with SOS members, lifeguards, and swimmers, we kept the City from selling alcohol at the new Barton Springs concession stand/cafe. We also kept the proposed new Dougherty Arts Center from being located in the middle of Butler Shores and on top of the hike and bike trail (which would have converted this natural part of the trail into an urban setting).
Keeping Wastewater out of Central Texas Streams
SOS, along with a coalition of landowners and local environmental organizations, successfully fought off a permit to discharge partially treated sewage into Long Branch, a tributary of Barton Creek. After hearing significant community concern, developer Stephen Cleveland voluntarily withdrew his permit application.
San Marcos River
SOS attorneys represented the San Marcos River Foundation and Texas Rivers Protection Association in two cases where developers sought to discharge wastewater into the San Marcos River. SOS successfully negotiated settlements in these two cases; committing the permittees in each case to reuse 75% of their wastewater for irrigation and other purposes; and treat any water that is discharged to the highest standards.
SOS attorneys are currently representing landowners in challenging a permit to discharge nearly half a million gallons a day into a tributary of Cibolo Creek in Kendall County.
SOS is still defending Onion Creek from the City of Dripping Springs’ application to discharge wastewater into this pristine recharge source for the Edwards Aquifer. After our October 2020 victory in Travis County District Court, TCEQ and Dripping Springs filed an appeal, which is still pending. Oral argument will be heard in 2022.
SOS continues to work with local residents and city officials to help shape the future of wastewater in the City of Blanco. Blanco had originally sought a permit to discharge nearly 2 million gallons of wastewater a day into the Blanco River. But that permit application has been put on hold while Blanco evaluates its options, including land irrigation and beneficial reuse, to dispose of wastewater.
All Texas Rivers & Streams
SOS joined 20 other Texas organizations in asking the United States Environmental Protection Agency to take away the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) authority to administer the Clean Water Act. As the district court found in the Dripping Springs decision, TCEQ has failed to correctly apply the Clean Water Act and acknowledge the science documenting the harm that wastewater discharges inflict on pristine Hill Country creeks. The petition to EPA also documents statewide impacts from TCEQ’s failure to prevent water pollution.
In April, SOS attorney Kelly Davis presented a talk entitled, “Beyond Yuck: Wastewater Discharges in the Hill Country and Beyond,” on a national platform as part of the Baylor University Aquatic Science Series. The talk was viewed by classrooms across the country and is accessible at https://nepris.com/app/videos/beyond-yuck-human-waste-clean-water-central-texas-beyond-83563
Protecting Vulnerable Environmental Features from Highway Impacts
SOS attorneys represented Save Barton Creek Association and other environmental and neighborhood groups in a suit brought under the National Environmental Policy Act to challenge the Oak Hill Parkway, a 12 to 16-lane mega-highway to be built at US 290 and SH 71. SOS argued on behalf of SBCA that traffic could be alleviated without building such a Although SOS secured a short reprieve for the trees, the district court ultimately sided with the Texas Department of Transportation.
Working with community activists, SOS was successful in keeping a concrete batch plant (to generate the massive amounts of concrete needed for the Oak Hill “Parkway”) off of the former Austin Community College Pinnacle campus in Southwest Austin.
SOS attorneys are still engaged in a lawsuit brought under the Endangered Species Act that challenges TxDOT’s determination that the Oak Hill Parkway project will not harm the federally endangered Barton Springs salamander and Austin blind salamander.
SOS attorneys rallied community members and submitted comments on the Hays County Transportation Plan and the Dripping Springs Transportation Plan. Both plans included proposed new roads that would slice through untouched Hill Country landscape, inviting more traffic and development while causing runoff pollution. SOS has joined with Dripping Springs residents to oppose several of the roads in the county and city plans, including most notably the proposed expansion and extension of FM 150.
Through coalition-building and commenting, SOS is working to defeat or scale back the resurrected proposal to build a double-decker toll road over Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, and Austin High School known. We defeated the MoPac South toll road project in 2015, and with your help we can do it again.
Ensuring Responsible Development
In 2020, SOS, along with Kyle residents, sued the City of Kyle for approving a development agreement for a huge development on the banks of the Blanco River. The City resisted the suit and initially won in having the suit dismissed, but on a Motion to Reconsider, the district court reversed its decision. The City promptly appealed, and oral argument on jurisdictional issues will be held in 2022. Chief among SOS’s arguments is that the City cannot bargain or give away zoning and development authority to private developers.
Shaping Water-Related Legislation
During the 2021 legislative session, SOS worked hard to support HB 4146, the “Pristine Streams Bill,” which would have prohibited domestic wastewater discharges into the clearest and cleanest rivers and creeks throughout Texas. The bill passed the House and although it never made it to the Senate floor for a vote, this is the furthest such a bill has ever made it in the Legislature. SOS continues to work with the No Dumping Sewage coalition to oppose new wastewater permits and work towards a holistic, proactive solution.
Protecting Endangered Species
SOS joined with local scientists to petition the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list the Pedernales River springs salamander as endangered. This action was prompted when developers last summer announced a large project on the Pedernales River, just across from the spectacular Hamilton Pool Preserve.
SOS is working with a coalition of environmentalists and landowners to scale back a proposed Violet Crown Amphitheater, a 20,000-seat venue and entertainment district on the banks of Barton Creek. The site is surrounded by preserve land that is home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.
Safeguarding San Antonians’ Petition Rights
When the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) attempted to prohibit any citizen-petitions related to SAWS’ management, SOS attorneys blocked the maneuver in court, ensuring that citizens could continue to initiate ordinances to implement much-needed reform of SAWS.
Please help us continue our work in 2022 by making a year end donation to SOS.
We had enormous fun at Barton Springs on New Year's Day. (click on Read Full Article link below to access the photo links). The Polar Bear swimmers were out in force and with such warm weather folks were happy to hang around and enjoy the day. We do have some t-shirts left over. If you would like one or more, please make a donation to SOS here for $23 each shirt and we will mail them to you asap. You can put the sizes etc. in the comments section on the donate page. We will also open our office for pick ups. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time. You can view the photos on our facebook page here or on the photographer's website here.
Initial comments of the Save Our Springs Alliance on CTRMA’s “Virtual Meeting” for the restart of its proposed Mopac South project
Extend the comment period at least 30 days. The comment period fell entirely over the holidays. CTRMA’s MopacSouth.com website for the project says in bold at the very top “Latest News 08/08/2017”, which of course tells the reader that nothing is going on worthy of attention. Much of the remaining information on the site is also confusing. Extending the comment period and correcting the misinformation will help ensure robust and full public input.
Prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). As proposed, the project would add 16 to 32 lane-miles of impervious cover within the Recharge Zone for the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. The project will have substantial adverse impacts on Barton Springs, the Edwards Aquifer, Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, the Hike and Bike Trail, Austin High School, the Barton Creek greenbelt, and the endangered Barton Springs and Austin blind salamanders. Given the size of the project and ecological sensitivity of the area, the project will have unavoidable and significant environmental impacts. Preparing an Environmental Assessment in pursuit of a “finding of no significant impact” demonstrates bad faith for the entire environmental review process.
Do not build a double-decker bridge over MoPac, Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake, and Austin High School. Avoid taking any park land or encroaching on Austin High School property.
Fully evaluate a “no build” or “very limited build” alternative that improves traffic flow using the existing pavement, including dedicating an existing inside lane to rush hour “high occupancy vehicles” (HOVs) and public transit, utilizing ramp metering, and updating traffic modelling that recognizes a post-covid world where tele-commuting, flexible work schedules and other technological and societal changes have largely eliminated the necessity of spending more than half of a billion dollars trying to accommodate previously predicted “single occupancy vehicle peak hour demand” increases.
Update the traffic modeling data and give the public another opportunity to give input before selecting a “preferred alternative.” The Open House materials indicate that the traffic data uses the 2009 model that supported the long-range 2035 CAMPO regional plan. The materials further state that it will be updated to 2045 data at a later point (presumably after the initial public comment period has ended). CTRMA should update MoPac information with current data and a functional traffic model—and allow public comment on that analysis. The 2035 model, now more than 10 years old, was problematic then and virtually useless now.
Updated traffic modeling should include COVID traffic counts and the best current information on projecting traffic flows, recognizing that improved transportation technology will greatly increase efficient use of the existing pavement. The giant leap forward in telecommuting means a different world in the future. Neither the 2035 Model nor the 2045 model has any conception of this new world. Both also ignore the “induced demand” problem that has shown, time after time, that expanding roadways in urbanizing areas fails to reduce congestion to any significant degree.
Analyze real alternatives to added toll lanes. The six “alternatives” offered are all variations on one concept—adding toll lanes to MoPac South. Analyze a range of alternatives that make better use of existing pavement and take into account changing traffic patterns. Specifically, analyze an alternative that involves converting inside existing lanes to rush hour HOV lanes with little or no additional pavement as an option in the analysis—and pursue in the interim as a test solution for very little money.
Do not ignore the challenge of getting Mopac traffic from the off and on ramps at Cesar Chavez all the way into and out of downtown.
Analyze the climate change impacts of building more capacity for single-occupancy vehicles, as well as climate change impacts of increased concrete.
Buy mitigation land to offset increases in impervious cover from the project and from induced impervious cover from secondary development.
TAKE ACTION NOW!!
The comment deadline for the initial comment period is this Friday, January 7th. (Of course, CTRMA was so respectful of public comment that it played the standard trick of setting the public comment period to run over the holidays.) Please take a look at the above comments and then please write your own official comments here or email MoPacSouth@ctrma.org, using ours for guidance. Most importantly, please ask that the comment period be extended for at least 30 days following the publication of current relevant traffic data and analysis.
This resurrected really-bad-idea is being pushed forward with traffic data and analysis that is more than 10 years old. If built, it would convert Mopac from a local commuter highway into a western alternative for I-35 (think I-35 West). Its construction and operation pose a major threat to Barton Springs, Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake Park, the Butler Hike & Bike Trail, Austin High School, and the Barton Creek greenbelt. We fought it off once and with your help we can do it again.
Job Posting - Staff Attorney
Organization: Save Our Springs Alliance
Location: Austin, Texas
Preferred Start Date : As soon as possible (negotiable)
Practice Areas: Water, endangered species, land protection, and historic and cultural preservation under federal, state, and local laws. Policy and legislative advocacy on land, water, wildlife, and climate issues.
Description: Save Our Springs Alliance seeks a motivated and dedicated public interest environmental protection advocate to join its teams as a Staff Attorney. Save Our Springs is a small nonprofit using education, advocacy, and litigation to protect the Edwards Aquifer Ecosystem, which includes all of the largest springs in Texas, the major water supply for the Austin-to-San Antonio corridor, and dozens of threatened and endangered species that live here and nowhere else in the world. Since 1992, Save Our Springs has combined science, economics, and citizen action with legal expertise to protect our Texas Hill Country home. The attorney would work under Executive Director and attorney Bill Bunch.
Responsibilities include: • Managing a project load with a variety of litigation and non-litigation advocacy projects. Typically, an attorney’s docket will include projects for which he or she has primarily responsibility as well as cases on which he or she works in a supporting role with other attorneys. • Participating in all aspects of litigation in state and federal court, including factual investigation, legal research, discovery, briefing, witness preparation, and oral advocacy. • Submitting comments orally and in writing to federal, state, and local governmental agencies. • Attending and speaking at various meetings and hearings of governmental entities, including the Texas Legislature. • Participating in coalition building on interdisciplinary policy issues; collaborating with other organizations on strategies and work product. • Drafting FOIA and Texas Public Information Act requests. • Aiding in the selection and supervision of legal interns. • Supporting various outreach events throughout the year.
Qualifications: • J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school. • Membership in the Texas bar or willingness to waive in or sit for the Texas Bar Exam. • Demonstrated interest in and commitment to environmental protection and/or public-interest law. • Excellent research and writing skills. • Ability to work independently and in a small, collegial environment. • A strong work ethic, sense of initiative, and creativity. Salary is commensurate with experience, on the non-profit scale. To Apply: Send a résumé, cover letter, law school transcript (for lawyers practicing five years or less), writing sample (preferably a legal brief or memorandum), and a list of references to email@example.com. Please put “Staff Attorney Applicant” in the subject line. We intend to fill this position as soon as possible. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled.
Contact Information: Kelly Davis firstname.lastname@example.org 512-477-2320, ext. 6 4701 West Gate Blvd., D-401 Austin, TX 78745
Jump in to 2022 at the Polar Bear Splash!
Jump in on January 1, 2022! The Polar Bear Splash is a go!! We are excited to report that we will once again embrace this New Years Day tradition in '22 after having to miss the fun in '21 due to COVID. Save Our Springs will be set up at the front gate area from 8am - 4pm selling our commemorative t-shirts and providing hot coffee and donuts as long as they last! If you would like to volunteer at the SOS tent please email us at email@example.com. Hope to see you there!