A Sense of Priorities

Posted in Buildings & People, Live Music, Music, Music Manager, Music Office, Neighborhoods, News Report, Outdoor Music, Outdoor Music Venue Permit, The Code on November 15th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

I haven’t posted on this website much lately. Too much to do, and too little time in which to get it done.

That’s why, when you face certain facts, healthwise, it sharpens your sense of priorities, to the point where one instinctively narrows in on the pertinent facts. (More on the health stuff later, too, as “things” are narrowed down)

In my case, the priorities tend to fall along the line of, “after caring for, as best I can, to show my love and concern for my family and friends, is to do the right thing for my community”. That community is Austin, my main base, for 35 years. Specifically, my community is the Austin Music Community.

To that end, in this post, and those that will follow, I don’t want to accuse people of being Nazis, not even as being, necessarily, ”evil” people … I just want to set the record straight with facts, as I know them, with a bit of opinion, and intuitive reasoning, thrown in. So, bear with me while I attempt to “Keep My Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’ “, and my knife blades sharp, in doing the right thing, to the best of my ability.

The subject that I must focus on is The Austin Music Office, and will be my attempt to expose a current and ongoing campaign to discredit the Music Office’s good work. The campaign that I’m referring to is being conducted, in part, and in my opinion, by Stratus Properties, with CEO Beau Armstrong at the lead.

This is the man who helped bring pesticides and fertilizer, from the Source Point at his company’s Barton Creek Country Club, directly to the outflow of Barton Springs Pool. That, after Mr. Armstrong having to take over duties of the former Stratus CEO, Jim Bob Moffett, when Jim Bob was exposed as owning the company, Freeport Macmoran, that possessed the mineral rights to the largest gold mines in the world, and was the worst kind of polluter, perhaps the world’s worst polluter, of traditional indigenous peoples and lands.

Basically, Status has blown it, on a number of fronts, regarding decision on the specifications for their building materials, and it is causing problems that they are trying to hide, in there current campaign against both long-time, Downtown, Outdoor Music Venues, and the Music Office.

The sound issues are only part of the problems that Mr. Armstrong faces;

W Hotel to Close after More Glass Falls:

The  focus of this series, however, will be on the campaign Mr. Armstrong is currently, in my opinion, waging, and directing, at long-time Downtown venues, and the Music Office Staff, which is, by my account, the best thing to happen to Austin Music, in the past 3 decades.

This is one of best, and most accurate reports I’ve seen. Excellent reporting, by KXAN’s staff and Reporter Jarred Wise:

More to follow.

Kris Bailey for Austin City Council

Posted in City Council, Code Compliance, Live Music, Music, Neighborhoods, Outdoor Music, Outdoor Music Venue Permit, Sound Permit, The Code on April 5th, 2011 by Gary Etie – 1 Comment

Would somebody, please, just get this guy elected. Please?

Endorsement: “The Teapot Party was started to help people like Kris Bailey get elected. We endorse him in his run for Austin City Council. Good Luck Kris. - Willie Nelson

Kris Bailey: “Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. We need to keep it that way! As a council member, I will support our local music venues, we need an environment in which they can easily do business. We don’t need more restrictions for the industry that we are famous for. Sometimes the City Council doing less would actually accomplish more.

More specifically, this means I don’t think we should be passing out tickets to bar owners, and the permit process to have a show should be simplified. If somebody applies for a permit for a show, they should not have to fight the city for it, they should just get it.”


Sound Ordinances and Permits: “Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World,”  we need to be friendly and understanding towards the people that make it this way!  Our bar owners and music venue owners are constantly running into a brick wall with the city over being allowed to operate.  Some bar managers have been cited multiple times in a single night over trivial issues.  The music community needs an advocate on the City Council and Kris Bailey will do just that.”

Clarification: “To the people talking about voting for Toby Ryan for Austin City Council I want to make it clear, you can vote for us both, I’m not running against Toby, we are running for different seats!”

Bigger Picture

Posted in City Council, Music, Neighborhoods, Outdoor Music Venue Permit, Sound Permit on January 15th, 2011 by Gary Etie – 3 Comments

Noise & Sound Ordinance Changes Are Imminent:

There is no mention, at this time, on the City of Austin website (See City Council Draft Agenda for Jan 27th) but if you are interested or involved, bookmark that link, and help me keep an eye out for the addition of an Item that is going to have a significant impact on the Austin Music Community. Note: “Draft agendas are subject to change without notice”.

On Jan 27th, or soon thereafter, the Council is going to propose significant changes to the Noise and Sound Ordinance.

Whether they intend to amend the existing ordinances, or create a completely new  sets of rules and regulations to guide the City of Austin in reviewing, approving, and hearing appeals, for Outdoor Music Venue and Sound Permits, and enforcing the ordinance, I don’t know. Several interested parties appear to be heavily involved in the discussion and formation of these changes. The Music Commission voted on recommendations on Nov. 1, 2010. As far as I can tell, this year, thing are much less transparent, and will only see the light of day when added to the Agenda.

One big question is, will the Council reinstate the expired, multi-day Sound Permit, as, again, we are stuck with the existing 1 day Sound Permit, or the year-long Outdoor Music Venue Permit, as the only 2 options for an outdoor music event, and that won’t cut it, especially during SxSW.

Listen, in the video below (32:00 ), to the discussion at Thursday night’s Council hearing, when Council Member Sheryl Cole asked about Lustre Pearl’s ability to have an outdoor event during SxSW.

The listen, closely (35:10) to what Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez says about discussions that are going on, referring to the revival of last year’s first-ever,  multi-day, 96 Hour Sound Permit.

I suspect that several well run organizations have gotten their PR campaigns and lobbying tools in order, and may get actual consideration of some of the backward looking suggestions that are being presented to Council. At the moment, it does not feel like this is going to turn out well, for the music community, and the creative class in our town, unless something is done to counter the forces that desperately needed protection of their dominant position, or real estate investments.

Vanity forces me to watch my 3 minutes (at 6:15) but it’s painful, and you may just want to skip it. I was contacted by Lustre Pearl only 3 days before the Council’s hearing of the Appeal, which left little time to prepare, and by postponing the hearing until 10:30 PM, the people who had donated their time to me had to go to work, and I was limited to 3 minutes. My halting attempt to edit 12 minutes down to 3, on the fly, are apparent.

The vote and the public discussion were all choreographed ahead of time (watch Council Member Martinez closely), so it was all for naught, anyway, for me and about 30 other people who gave up the 8 hours from their day, and their jobs, because the hearing got postponed from it’s originally scheduled 4 PM slot in the Council Agenda (another nice little trick, since entertainment and music business people have to go to work, at night, and can’t stick around to speak and/or show support at 10:30 at night!). My plea to Council, to follow the law, and adhere to the rules and regulations in the Code, was in vain.

As the Lustre Pearl hearing concluded, as the rest of the crowd exited the Council Chamber, I just stood and looked, incredulously, at Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, as the last item on the Agenda was taken up by Council. The Mayor Pro Tem decided to come down from the dais, walk up to me, and  tell me that I had “copped an attitude”.

And you know, he’s right. The way that Permit appeal was handled, in my opinion, was a shame. Neighborhood organizations are specifically barred from the appeal of approved Outdoor Music Venue Permits, in the CBD. It is specifically spelled out in the Code, as part of the Noise and Sound Ordinance that was passed only 2 years ago.

Instead, the letter of the law, and the spirit of the Code was circumvented. The economy was trotted out and blamed for things not working out as the Council had planned, when they zoned the area CBD, at the request of, and by a vote of, the Rainey area residents themselves. Misinformation, fear mongering and overt overstatements of safety concerns were invoked by neighborhood organizations reps, in order to try to salvage their apparently unwise real estate investments.

So I reckon I do have an attitude, and now, a deep distrust, to go with it. I thought we, as a City, as a music community, were better than that.

Reckon me this … what’s the use of rules, if the same people who are entrusted to pass the rules don’t follow the rules, themselves, when it’s politically inconvenient?

Source: Council Meeting Info Center | Austin City Connection The Official Web site of the City of Austin

Disingenuous Politickin’

Posted in Neighborhoods, Outdoor Music on December 27th, 2010 by Gary Etie – Comments Off

In the recent letter sent to the Mayor and City Council, from the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA) (Download PDF) many of the recommendations are obvious, over-the-top attempts to shoot for the moon, and (mixing metaphors) hope some of the pasta sticks to the wall.

Either that, or the demands are the result of misinformation, and as a result, a flawed understanding of the science of sound, its application in the regulatory environment, and where the City of Austin currently stands, in its conscientious pursuit of an ordinance and policy that is supportive of the Austin Music Community.

In spirit, the letter’s content, while claiming support, excitement, and commitment to helping the music community, represents, disingenuously, exactly the opposite stance.

This should be considered unacceptable, by any organization that expects to be given serious consideration, as the discussion takes place.

The Letter:
Tuesday, December 7 , 2010

Dear Honorable Mayor Leffingwell and City Council Members,

DANA is a strong supporter of live music and our culturally significant entertainment districts, but it is important to note that today there are two established downtown entertainment districts with clear boundaries (East 6 St. and the Warehouse District).

The City has long established goals of making downtown Austin a thriving residential community. As the number of residents downtown has grown, issues associated with amplified sound have continued to increase. The number of venues seeking Outdoor Music Venue (OMV) permits in non- entertainment district areas of downtown Austin has reached a critical point, eroding the quality life for many downtown residents, negatively impacting residential tax base, and limiting future high rise development adjacent to OMVs.

For example, in the Rainey Street neighborhood there are 850 high-rise homes valued at over $250 million of residential property tax base. In the neighborhoods surrounding W. 6 Street area there are 816 homes valued at over $150 million of residential property tax base. Additionally, there are thousands of residential multi-family or condominium high-rise units planned throughout non- entertainment district downtown neighborhoods which could create hundreds of millions of dollars of property tax base. It is with this in mind that we propose the following changes to the outdoor music venue ordinance:

1. Enforcement should be officer-initiated and not complaint-driven as it is today.

2. Apartment dwellers and condo owners should have same rights as single family residents to appeal OMV permits.

3. Home Owner Associations (HOA)s and Neighbor Associations (NA)s downtown should also have the right to appeal OMVs just as HOAs and NAs outside of downtown.

4. Amplified sound should be measured at the source not at the property line where elevated decks make accurate measurement problematic.

5. Outside speakers should be pointed towards the center of the space.

6. Nowhere in an outdoor venue should the decibel level ever exceed 75 decibels for all frequencies.

7. Amplified sound measurement should consider not only average but also peak values.

8. Cutoff times and peak decibel levels should be made public by a sticker visibly located on an outside surface of the establishment.

9. OMV permits should not be granted administratively. They should be subject to a public hearing.

10. Any appeal should be heard no more than 60 days from the date of the filing of the appeal.

11. Include significant penalties for non-compliance and withdrawal of the permit on a third violation. Cut off times are a critical area of this enforcement.

12. Simplify and organize sound regulations. Sound related regulations are covered in several different chapters of the Code of Ordinances and it makes it unnecessarily challenging to determine which rules apply.

OMVs, unless operated with the neighborhood in mind, can fundamentally alter a neighborhood. DANA believes the sound ordinance requires the above modifications to protect the non-entertainment downtown neighborhoods and allow them to be treated like any other Austin community.

Nightclubs, restaurants, bars and other music venues are an important part of downtown and that is why DANA is excited and committed to work with outdoor venue owners to create a dynamic relationship that includes live entertainment and the continued success of the residential growth in the downtown area.

If you have any questions or comments on the information in this letter, please let us know.

Jamie Lagarde