Houston City Council delays music event ordinance

One council member wants a legal explanation and a broader approach to safety concerns after 2021 Astroworld Festival tragedy at NRG Park

HOUSTONHouston City Council needed to approve a new ordinance to prevent tragedies at large-scale outdoor music events on private property Wednesday.

The ordinance comes more than one year since the Astroworld Festival, where 10 people lost their lives due to a crowd crush. Though city officials are emphasizing the new ordinance is not related to the tragic music festival.

Watch the KPRC 2 Investigates special “Astroworld: Countdown to Tragedy” at 6:30 p.m. in the KPRC 2+ livestream player below:

Mayor Sylvester Turner alluded to another event issue the city dealt with but didn’t have an ordnance to step in since it was not in the public sector.

“[There] was an event I believe last year if I’m not mistaken on private property that popped up, it was going to have large, large numbers. It was creating a nightmare for police and fire. And, it was very difficult in trying how to handle that situation because it really could have been bad And so, this ordinance is intended to be very narrowly tailored to deal with music events,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Instead of approving the measure that came out of an October meeting, one council member opted to tag or push the ordinance for another day.

“It appears we are going to be targeting groups of 500 or more who are engaged in a musical event on private property, and it is limited to that,” Council Member Mike Knox said. “I know that we have some concern of providing cost for security for larger events that we’re surprised by. You know people do events, and then they just have a problem. There is trash involved, and all kinds of cleanup issues, and I get the need for this.”

Council Member Knox pointed to car shows taking over parking lots as another opportunity to enforce the proposed city ordnance.

The ordinance currently focuses on outdoor music events with more than 500 people in attendance on private property.

It states an application needs the addresses, emails, and phone numbers of the events organizers, associates, and employees.

All applications need an “Event Medical Plan and Event Security Plan.” Those plans may include requirements for a Unified Command Center before taking place. If a plan folds, there may be a fine of up to $2,000 associated to the event organizers.

“This is a very important item that not only addresses a public safety concern and need but also addresses strain on current law enforcement resources that the city is having to pony up for in response to poorly planned events,” said Council Member Abbie Kamin.

Council Member Knox responded, “I’m going to be visiting with our city legal so that I can get comfortable with the fact that we are targeting this music industry as an issue when there are other things going on.”

The ordinance does not include gatherings at churches or schools.

So far, the city has yet to pass any major changes as a direct result of the deadly Astroworld Festival.

Instead, the city points to a new agreement Harris County Commissioners approved on Tuesday that allows for a stronger inter-partner relationship between the city and the county with large scale events on properties like NRG Park.

Following Wednesday’s council meeting, Mayor’s Office of Special Events Director Susan Christian spoke to KPRC 2 Investigates about the Interlocal Agreement.

“What I also love about the new ILA it takes the safety and security chiefs and puts them around the same table so that they are also approving those very important aspects of events,” Christian said.

However, Christian tells us an event cannot take place until the paperwork is properly completed, highlighting the importance authorization from the Houston Chief of Police.

She adds, “When we have all approvals that is when that even is complete, not until then. If we do not have the police chief’s signature or his designee its an approved event.”

Stay with KPRC2 Investigates as this story continues to develop.