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Austin looks at options to improve 6th Street safety, including lighting, possible reopening to traffic

The resolution tells the city manager to look at options to create wider walkways between businesses and eliminate the space where people gather during weekends.
Credit: John Gusky

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council passed a resolution to make Sixth Street safer at night.

Introduced on Wednesday, Item 175 would "approve a resolution relating to comprehensive strategies and immediate and longer-term actions to create a safer Sixth Street environment for all." The item was approved as amended on Thursday.

One of the first things the City will look at is better lighting where people congregate once bars close. 

"Because unfortunately in those crowds, especially as bars let out, fights break out, and increasingly those have been very violent fights," said Councilmember Kathie Tovo, who proposed the resolution.

The item focuses heavily on options such as café seating, water barriers and other “pop-up” efforts to create wider walkways between businesses and eliminate the space where people gather during weekend closures. The Council also plans on using the street for other purposes, including possibly opening up the street to traffic on weekend nights.

The resolution directs the city manager – through the interdepartmental team – to take the following actions and report to Council on the results by Oct. 30:

  • Initiate a nightlife management plan
  • Analyze Sixth Street weekend closures and develop a list of measures that would need to be met for Sixth Street to be reopened and propose a corresponding timeline
  • Engage with property owners to discuss land use regulations along Sixth Street to determine whether changes might foster more diverse uses along this historic corridor

In the resolution, the Council explained that complex factors have led to escalating incidents of gun violence and illegal acts on Sixth Street, so policy solutions to address this issue must be multi-faceted.

"At this point, we want to do everything we can to make Sixth Street as safe as possible, so in my book, all those strategies should be on the table for review and analysis," said Tovo.

As for business owners on Sixth Street, some are happy to see the possible changes. Shannon Sedwick, the owner of Esther's Follies, is one of them.

"It's always 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., so that is the time period they need to think about," she said. "I wouldn't say right now is more dangerous than it ever has been, but it's that the City is thinking about us, that's great."

The resolution also directs the city manager to work with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) on additional strategies to curb underage drinking and limit the presence of underage Austinites on Sixth Street.

This comes after multiple juvenile subjects were involved in a mass shooting in the area earlier this summer.

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