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Limiting the size of SXSW

Limiting the size of SXSW story image

By Bettie Cross, KEYE-TV

Bigger is almost always better in Texas except when it comes to this year's SXSW.

"That was a lot of people out there," said Commander William Manno with the Austin Police Department.

He's referring to SXSW 2013. That's when record crowds converged on Downtown Austin during the second weekend of the two week festival.

"There were more people downtown, 6th Street, 5th, 7th, Congress than I've seen in 29 years. When the crowd is that big you can't get emergency vehicles through," said Commander Manno. "We're looking at ways we can manage that density better this year."

On Thursday, the City of Austin said it won't take any more applications for SXSW events. It's reached the maximum number of permitted events that can be held from March 7-16. The City of Austin will no longer accept Temporary Use Permits, Temporary Event Sound Permits, Temporary Change of Use Permits and Occupant Loads for Austin events planned around this time.

As of Feb. 6, 2014 the City of Austin had received applications for 107 Temporary Use Permits, 71 Temporary Change of Use Permits, and 106 Temporary Sound Permits.

In 2013 the City of Austin approved 98 Temporary Use Permits, 45 Temporary Change of Use Permits, and 97 Temporary Sound Permits.

"We've already denied several," said Manno.

Emergency responders say one month away from the March 7 start of the festival they've hit the maximum number of temporary events they can safely inspect and manage.

"Taking on applications and approving any more above what we did last year I think we're taking a big risk because of not being able to get the fire apparatus and emergency vehicles to where they need to go," said Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief David Brietzke.

"Some of my inspectors were working 16 hours a day for the last three days trying to get by all the events to do the final inspections for approval and that puts a real strain on my staff," said Brietzke.

In Downtown Austin 190 bars and clubs are expected to be at capacity. Add in around 150 temporary events and when it comes to safety, the city says South by may have reached critical mass.

This year the city has also introduced a comprehensive application to ensure temporary events meet internationally-adopted safety standards.

Limiting the size of SXSW
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