The Austin City Council appears poised to buy, as early as next week, a second motel to convert into a homeless shelter.


An email from Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzales obtained by the American-Statesman showed that the city, in conjunction with the Ending Community Homeless Coalition, has found a second motel to purchase in addition to the Rodeway Inn that the council agreed to buy in November.


Gonzales indicated in the email that the city could authorize the purchase of a second motel as early as Monday. The motel’s location or name has not been released.


"Staff is currently negotiating terms with the owner, and if an agreement is reached, a consideration for acquisition will be placed on the December 9th agenda," Gonzales wrote.


The council was set to discuss the possible acquisition in closed session Tuesday and Thursday. The council typically does not comment on those closed-door sessions, and the city’s real estate office refuses to comment on ongoing negotiations to buy property.


That the city is now considering buying a second motel indicates the speed at which city officials wish to move to attack the homelessness issue that has dominated local politics for more than six months. It also indicates that the city’s staff are pursuing alternatives without formal direction from the City Council.


That appeared to vex some council members even as they gave their endorsement of the motel-to-shelter strategy to rapidly create housing for homeless individuals.


While not addressing the purchase of a second motel, Council Member Delia Garza indicated some frustration Tuesday with city staff’s apparent unilateral decision to throw out a council-approved deal to buy a building on Ben White Boulevard and instead purchase the Rodeway Inn on Interstate 35 near Oltorf Street.


"We have never as a council really discussed this or endorsed it," Garza said of the apparent new tack to make buying motels a central part of creating new homeless shelters. "Not to say we wouldn’t have."


Significant discussion preceded the council’s decision to buy a vacant building for a homeless shelter in South Austin, she said.


"We decided not to do (that)," Garza said. "And when I say ‘we,’ I don't know who the we is because there was a vote by this council to do that and then we were told, ‘Well, we're not going to do that after all.'"


It was not the first time the city’s staff ignored direction from the City Council related to homelessness.


In June, the council recommended city staffers find camping and parking locations for homeless individuals. City staffers ultimately refused, telling the council it had chucked that idea upon studying it.


"I think that you have to be doing a better job of communicating with the council on this," Mayor Steve Adler said during Tuesday’s work session. "And I know that this involves real estate matters and it's tricky. ... You can't nail everything on a property and then bring it to the council."