San Antonio’s Development Problems

From the Washington Post:

Visitors entering Rebecca Flores’s San Antonio home pass a sepia-toned photo of her large Tejano family on the Texas farmland they worked before they moved into the city. It’s a reminder of what they left behind and how far they’ve come in a land where their roots go back more than 300 years.

The home’s deep-blue walls pay tribute to a family whose ancestors were among the first Canary Islanders to settle this colonial outpost and who, in 1959, pooled savings from their minimum wage incomes to buy the house. Flores, 79, wants to keep the home in her family, but she and many of her mostly Mexican American neighbors say they are being priced out of their homes due to skyrocketing property taxes and a hot housing market that has developers pressuring them to sell in the rapidly gentrifying city.

Records show the value of her property has more than doubled in recent years and were it not for exemptions, her taxes would be as high as a mortgage. She has been bombarded by offers from investors eager to cash in, and the names of property owners on her block have changed from Villaseñores and Herrera to those of corporations.

San Antonio’s impending housing crisis threatens to displace the longtime residents who helped give the city its distinctive culture and character. It’s a crisis facing cities across America where housing is in short supply, affordable housing is even scarcer and investors are sweeping into high-demand markets with big cash offers that are pricing many Americans out of the market altogether

‘Why can’t poor people have nice things?’

Ten years ago,a multibillion-dollar push by the city to incentivize development in San Antonio’s urban core yielded explosive investment along its enchanting riverway — a realization of former mayor Julián Castro’s “Decade of Downtown” campaign.

The leveraging of taxpayer dollars for private development was wildly successful — and critics say, destructive — in the city’s economically segregated inner-core neighborhoods, which have its oldest housing stock and most vulnerable residents. Redevelopment brought luxury housing,high-end shopping districts, tourist attractions and made downtown a hot destination. But it also triggered soaring property values, intensified code enforcement action — which made it easier for older buildings to be demolished for redevelopment and, residents say, gentrification that has made the historically Black east side unrecognizable.

El Paso got rid of it’s historically black neighborhoods fifty some years ago, when they put I-10 right through the middle of the city. But now they’re targeting Segundo and what the City calls “Uptown”, the neighborhood north of DWTN.

They’re always comparing El Paso to other cities, and then our City manages to copy the worst features of those cities they compare us with.

Read the whole article at WashingtonPost.com.

4 comments

  1. I remember the late Jake Brisbane telling me when he moved here – this was like 1997/99 -that El Paso reminded him of San Antonio before its big expansion. This was at a party at Cohen Stadium for a Diablos game that Jan Sumrall invited my then wife and I to attend. Brisbane was saying this, I think, as a recognition of El Paso’s potential to be a kind of San Antonio on the border, something that never happened.

    Back then, Juarez still had City Market, Chihuahua Charley’s, the bull fights and, of course, the Marisol. Something to induce the I-10 traffic to pull over in El Paso for an afternoon. I wonder if there is any other city in the country that has so agonized about what its future design should be. How many studies and DTEP plans, too. There were at least two on my shelf at the HFC and the current one was in progress, the one we are operating from now. Remember Glass-Beach? “It’s All Good”?

    I wish there was a Theory-of-Everything ( a TOE) that you could reference and would give you a model by which to design the city. Then you would have a checklist for trolleys, stadiums, arenas and how much they might or might not contribute to the city’s unfolding and at which stage of development. Something that would tell you what the organizing principle should be for a city at its current stage of development to move it to the next stage.

    Right after I left city employment in 2013 I attended a conference in London of the Urban Systems Collaborative, a loose-knit group I had affiliated with for a few years. The conference theme was QoL, of all things and after much discussion we settled on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a good model for urban QoL. Maslow’s Pyramid tells us that we have to meet our needs on a spectrum from the basic upward, otherwise we live in a deficit situation. It’s like some poor kid in Darfur who gets up in the morning and is worried about whether he’ll be alive that evening. Until his needs for security and food are met, he is in no position to plan a future at Harvard.

    In the city, this means that we usually don’t build an opera house until we have good roads to it with water and sewer. The city has to meet its needs from the bottom up rather than the top down, which explains why so many of us are concerned with the condition of El Paso’s streets while the CC goes off on a debt-fueled vanity project binge. We have different opinions about where El Paso sits on the Pyramid and the city’s leadership is coming at it from the top down, driven by the donor-investor elite, rather than from the bottom up. Those people think and live at the top of the Pyramid, and are not conversant with those at the bottom and their needs. Not that that should drive everything. You have to have a vision for what you want to be from where you are now.

    I have more questions than answers and do not want to be too critical of those who actually have to make these decisions and have put their necks out to do so. Otherwise I’m just an armchair quarterback.

    Do any of you know this woman who has filed for District#1 council, to replace Rep. Svarzbein who has termed out? Where does she fall on the Maslow Pyramid in terms of her positions? Do you think Dr. Bonart will run again? If I were a candidate my priorities would be transparency, fiscal responsibility, environmental protection, food and water security. Somebody else can worry about DTEP.

    1. I heard Peter was running her around to introduce her to the community, including potential campaign donors with businesses in District 8.

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