Check it out...a few members of SANE were recently interviewed by the SA Express News!
District 1 office asked the city to put together a task force to review inner-city infill zoning designation regulations and design because IDZ zoning "stresses" inner-city neighborhoods.
IDZ zoning was introduced to help inner-city areas compete with areas on the fringe of our city that are less expensive for developers to build on, but cost the city much more to service and reduces green space beyond 1604. IDZ is directed at buildings and sites that are vacant and underutilized (not sites with existing homes).
The main issue that is concerning to SANE is that some vocal residents and the task force are calling for parking requirements with IDZ - the current standards do not require parking. This has trade offs - the biggest one being housing unit costs and number of housing units that a developer can build. Parking is expensive and reduces the number of housing units being built. It also has the potential to have a negative effect on people biking and walking, if parking is done as a large surface parking lot, and reduces the likelihood of rapid transit being effective.
They also made some changes to mixed use zoning - most of them not a concern except for one. They are requiring any mixed use building on a corridor that comes within 20ft of a single family home on an adjacent street to be limited in height to that single family home. This would greatly restrict any development on corridors such as Fredericksburg Rd and Flores.
To provide comments on the proposed IDZ changes, contact Logan Sparrow, Principal Planner
210.207.8691; more info on the IDZ changes can be found here: www.sanantonio.gov/DSD/Resources/Codes#233872882-infill-development-zone-idz
A great article recently came out in Strong Towns discussing the three major problems with parking requirements in cities - 1. they reduce the financial productivity and prosperity of a city, 2. they hinder small business owners, homeowners, developers and renters [We would add that it adds costs to housing], and 3. they fill our cities with empty, useless space [contributing to sprawl]
The full article:
SANE members have concerns with how District 1 and the SA Tomorrow planning team is handling the neighborhood plans with the sub area/regional plans. You can read our correspondence with Chrissy McCain of District 1 below, and our letter to City Council and the Mayor below below that. We feel that a few squeaky wheels are steering this process, which is unjust and inequitable. We'd like to see a fair, equitable, and open planning process for good outcomes.
Hi, Chrissy -
Thank you for your response.
There are 55 adopted neighborhood plans for San Antonio. So you are saying that for all neighborhoods that don't have a plan to update, the city will meet with them to create a new chapter to include in the sub area plans? There are 334 Registered Neighborhood Assoc/HOAs and 914 Neighborhoods/Subdivisions in San Antonio - where is the city going to get the resources to meet with over 800 neighborhoods in SA so they all can have special chapters in these regional and community subarea plans? Who will pay for this? Why?
Most importantly, back when the city talked to neighborhoods about doing neighborhood plans, the neighborhood associations had to apply to the planning department to show they had sufficient resources to warrant the city's resources to create a neighborhood plan. This is a huge inequity, as lower income neighborhoods obviously didn't have the resources to warrant the city's time.
Updating the neighborhood plans, spending extra time to meet with all of the original people who worked on the neighborhood plans (they are already involved in the SA Tomorrow process), and incorporating neighborhood plans and neighborhood chapters into the sub area plans encourage communities to be out for themselves, self reinforcing the cycle of parochialism. This is a huge equity issue where the neighborhood plans will continue to keep neighborhoods with more resources competing and winning for resources from the city.
Additionally, most metro cities do not do neighborhood plans. They may focus on a corridor or a corner in a neighborhood within a larger plan, but they don't specifically plan to a single neighborhood. Neighborhood plans are resources heavy, lead to zero comprehensiveness in planning, and create inequalities in resources provided to neighborhoods (this is apparent with the Westside that doesn't have neighborhood plans).
SANE does not understand the logic in continuing these inequities and poor planning practices. We will continue to bring up these points with other council members and city management.
On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 10:30 AM, Chrissy McCain (City Council) <Chrissy.McCain@sanantonio.gov> wrote:
We wanted to write and let you know that we have received your letter to the councilman regarding his comments and position on the planning process. We did have some additional information we wanted to provide for you, as we reviewed your comments.
First we want to reassure you that the planning process will still include a new land use map for each area as they are reviewed. We agree with your assessment that many of them are out of date or unclear and do not transfer well across neighborhood boundaries. This will be part of the work of the larger planning teams, and was not something we were looking to change. All community members will have opportunity to give input on the maps.
The quote you had included about our requesting neighborhood representation on these larger planning teams is the existing representation you noted. There were some instances where this did not happen, and we wanted to be sure that was not the case moving forward.
Your second point about areas where neighborhood plans do not currently exist was addressed by the councilman last Thursday as well. These areas will have a new chapter, using the template which the planning department has designed for that purpose. They will be brought up to the level of other areas, rather than taking away from others. Yes, this is a process which takes time and resources which fall within the parameters of the contract which was approved by Council. This is the Planning department’s plan, and we support them.
We agree with you that there are other voices and stakeholders in addition to neighborhood associations. This was prevalent in our discussions with the planning department, and our requests for more and further outreach throughout the process. Increased community input does not mean others must be excluded. The councilman would like all stakeholders and community members to have a voice, including neighborhood associations and others. It does not have to be one or the other.
We appreciate your input and dedication to the community and planning process. Please feel free to contact us anytime with thoughts or suggestions.
Chrissy Q McCain, MS, MBM
Director of Land Use and Neighborhood Planning
Office of City Councilman Roberto C. Treviño, District 1
Ph: (210) 207-0900 | 1310 Vance Jackson | San Antonio, Texas – 78201
“Leaders are not born, nor can they be taught. Leaders are shaped through experience and circumstance because they care and want something better; not only for themselves, but for those around them.” ― from the book Call Us College Ready
San Antonio Neighborhoods for Everyone (SANE) is concerned about the SA Tomorrow planning process, and the recent focus on Tier 1 neighborhood coalition and outdated neighborhood plans.
Most of our concerns are referencing a NowCast SA article and decisions made by District 1 and the planning department,http://nowcastsa.com/blogs/neighborhoods-are-back-city-master-plan-says-councilman-roberto-trevino, Neighborhoods are back in the city’s master plan, says Councilman Trevnio.
SANE has spent considerable time reviewing many of the neighborhood plans, and has several concerns related to the plans’ content and related to the process of updating them. Majority of the plans are 20 to 30 years old and not aware of the reality of population growth or the market forces at play with the development of the city. The plans are done in isolation with each other so there isn’t any comprehensiveness about the plans, leading to a lack of comprehensive planning in the City. Most of the plans call for the downzone of duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes back to single family residences, which is exclusionary and leads to displacement of renters. They have very vague land use plans, and certainly do not connect land use to transit, walkability, or neighborhood connectivity. Finally, they discuss many topics that are not related to planning, such as stray dogs and park programming.
Why is SA Tomorrow saving and updating these plans considering the issues identified above? This will continue to promote inequities and segregation in our city, as well as keep us from being a progressive urban city. We would like to see comprehensive planning that considers population growth, the environment and climate change, land use connection to transit and walkability, integration of diverse groups of people in all neighborhoods, diverse housing choices and the promotion of inclusionary land use and zoning practices form the 21st Century.
Trevino states in the article: “This process matters, and how we get there is as important as what we get.” Yes, the process does matter, but typically the only voices heard in this process are Tier 1 and neighborhood associations, which are not representative of the whole. Below are concerning details on how the planning department and District 1 plans to keep the neighborhood plans within the new SA Tomorrow plans:
- Neighborhood Association representatives will be included in the larger planning team for large-area discussions and planning.
Aren’t they already represented on the planning committees? Why do they need further representation?
- Areas with existing Neighborhood Plans will meet with the planning department staff to review and update their neighborhood plan.
Our concerns about the plans are stated above.
- The Neighborhood Plans will be fully included as chapters in the Comprehensive Plan for each Area.
What about communities that don’t have neighborhood plans (most of the Westside and Eastside)?
- The Neighborhood Plan updating process will include discussions with previous planning teams, the current neighborhood association and residents of the neighborhood community.
Neighborhood associations are not representative of all voices. There are other voices to be heard and that will be impacted more by the decision-making in the planning process –> renters, youth, millennials, lower income households, and vulnerable community members. A true public participation plan involves these more impacted and vulnerable groups greater than Tier 1 and neighborhood associations and listens to all voices, not just the ones that vote.
- For areas without an existing Neighborhood Plan, a new document will be created using this same process.
Isn’t this a very costly process and require a lot of resources? This would require many additional planning processes in addition to the sub area plans. Who will pay for this? Will this lead to a decrease in funds for other vital programs, such as those that promote affordable housing and sidewalks? Why are we spending all of these extra funds and using all of these resources just because a small handful of people have demanded the neighborhood plans be updated and included?
- For those neighborhoods whose existing plans are not available in digital form, a new digital document will be created, keeping the neighborhood plan and updating where the neighborhood would like updates or revisions.
Again, isn’t this very costly and require a lot of resources? Who is going to pay for this?
- There will be one large land use map for the whole Area, (such as Midtown) which will be created through a long public process where fluidity along boundaries can be ensured and discussed with each neighborhood during their subplan discussions.
What is the point then of updating all of the neighborhood plans? This is contradictory to updating the current neighborhood plans.
- The larger Area plan document will also include bigger picture discussions such as infrastructure and transit, which cross many neighborhood boundaries.
Again, then what is the point of having to update all of the neighborhood plans? This is contradictory to updating the current neighborhood plans.
Please also consider SANE’s voice and other residents’ voices in this matter. Not everyone wants to see the outdated neighborhood plans continue their existence. Consider more comprehensive planning that could increase neighborhood integration and reduce auto dependency.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Kenneth Jackson states: "In actuality zoning was a device to keep poor people and obnoxious industries out of affluent areas. And in time, it also became a cudgel used by suburban areas to whack the central city. Advocates of land-use restrictions in overwhelming proportion were residents of the fringe. They sought through minimum lot and set-back requirements to insure that only members of acceptable social classes could settle in their privileged sanctuaries. Southern cities even used zoning to enforce racial segregation. And in suburbs everywhere, North and South, zoning was used by the people who already lived within the arbitrary boundaries of a community as a method of keeping everyone else out. Apartments, factories and “blight,” euphemisms for black and people of limited means, were rigidly excluded.
This is why SANE supports getting rid of single family (SF) zoning requirements, minimum lot sizes, and reduce restrictions on setbacks. We support allowing anyone on a single family lot to build or convert up to four units. SF zoning, minimum lot sizes, and setbacks were originally implemented to exclude and discriminate and there isn’t any use for them now.
What exactly has Tier 1 done? (see email from Tier 1 below)
Currently the first round of sub area plans for the SA Tomorrow planning process are taking place to assist in planning for the future with 1 million more people. Despite this, they’ve kept their 20-30 year old neighborhood plans alive (Monte Vista’s plan is 30 years old!). Plans that have very general land use plans that do not correlate with any zoning policy, and do not connect land use to transit, walkability, or neighborhood connectivity. They kept alive neighborhood plans that work in isolation from each other – there isn’t any comprehensiveness about the plans. Most of the plans call for the downzone of duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes back to single family residences – so tier 1 is cheering to keep exclusionary zoning practices alive. Many of the plans get way off topic of issues related to planning…i.e. discussing policies on stray dogs and park programming, these are not appropriate for community plans. None of the neighborhood plans are aware of the reality of population growth or aware of the market forces at play with development of the city.
SANE is not sure why they are celebrating. These neighborhood plans should be washed away with new plans that consider population growth, land use connection to transit and walkability, housing affordability, integration of diverse groups of people in all neighborhoods, diverse housing choices, and promotion of inclusionary land use and zoning practices from the 21st Century.
WE DID IT!!!
We’ve done it together!
Because of our voices that insisted on the inclusion of our neighborhood plans into the SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan it has happened. After all of our hard work and commitment, our plans will be intact as promised. This is a moment to be proud of! Congratulations Tier One Neighborhoods for speaking out!
Councilman Roberto Trevino deserves our thanks in insisting that our voices be heard by the City and that our neighborhoods be protected. Please send him a thanks and perhaps copy your own councilperson. I am attaching the addresses below.
It is important to remember that this "change" in process is really only a reflection of promises that were made all along to neighborhoods and all that neighborhoods were asking for - respect for the work that was done on the neighborhood plans by residents of those neighborhoods and consistent with the language in the original ordinances that neighborhood plans would be periodically reviewed and updated.
This change will actually improve the process of the sub-area planning as most of the neighborhood plans already provide the information that the Planning Dept has said it is seeking through the planning process while greatly improving the relationship between neighborhoods and the Planning Dept.
We would encourage neighborhoods to prepare for their role now that they are being given the opportunity to review and update their plans. We’ve attached some suggestions on how neighborhoods can best prepare.
Congratulations Tier One!
LIST OF COUNCIL MEMBERS BOTH INDIVIDUAL AND DISTRICT OFFICE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
"Given that we know single-family zoning is a root cause of two major crises - affordability and climate - its staying power says a lot about human nature." Dan Bertolet of Sightline
Did you know that most San Antonio neighborhood plans done almost two decades ago call for the conversion of duplexes, triplexes and four plexes in neighborhoods back to SF homes? This promotes segregation, displacement, and sprawl, is exclusionary and is bad for the environment.
Anyone that has taken economics 101 knows that when you increase the supply of some good that the price of that good will fall. But many fail to see this connection with housing.
Over the last year, we have seen the supply increase in Boston, Washington DC, and Seattle reduce the rents in these cities. Well, this is recently true in Portland, OR, as well..
The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (Oregon.gov) writes:
"The continued supply of new apartments is beginning to result in a rising vacancy rate, and the flattening of rents. In fact 7 of the 20 submarkets covered in the report saw rents decline. For renters and the overall economy, this is a welcome respite from the affordability problems in the past decade."
"A renewed integration agenda would mean building public housing in low poverty areas, eliminating exclusionary zoning laws, and yes, accepting gentrification (a recent U.C.L.A. study finds that gentrification is increasing diversity in District of Columbia public schools). Then schools could be integrated through the back door by using socioeconomic status as a factor in student assignment."
San Antonio has a long way to go with integration of neighborhoods. Exclusionary zoning, in the form of single family zoning, is prevalent in higher opportunity and higher income neighborhoods, reducing the ability for multi-family housing, which is where most younger, lower income families get started. When neighborhoods are faced with an affordable, multi-family development, they often come out in strong opposition. This was apparent with a recently proposed mixed-income development in Highland Park. One resident stated "a “mixed-income” project will move poverty into the area...[it is an] effort to help the neighborhood is just political correctness...the project will bring more property and violent crime to the neighborhood while decreasing quality of life and property values." This is a common sentiment in many San Antonio neighborhoods, and one that is rather discriminatory and promotes the income segregation that we see. Highland Park is seeing rising property and home values, which makes it the perfect location to build more affordable units, reducing the risk of displacement for lower income residents.
Full Story Here: Opposition to Development or Opposition to Developers?
"Their findings complicate simple stories of NIMBYism, often emphasizing the negative externalities of new housing. When residents oppose new housing because they believe it will congest their streets, they are acting in their own self-interest: working to prevent their own loss. When residents oppose new development because a developer might earn a large profit, they are opposing someone else’s gain. This action suggests a separate dimension of NIMBYism, centered less on risk aversion and more on enforcing community norms of fairness. The power of these norms, furthermore, might help explain the popularity of regulations like linkage fees, exactions or inclusionary zoning ordinances. These policies are increasingly common, but estimates of their efficacy are at best mixed. These programs impose certain costs on developers, but deliver uncertain benefits to their intended targets. If residents derive satisfaction from seeing developers punished, however, the persistence of these programs in the face of ambiguous evidence about their efficacy becomes less mysterious."
Peter French (@pfrench99), a local San Antonio housing developer that focuses on increasing middle housing in inner urban areas of the city, recently pointed out the suburbanization of poverty when considering Housing plus Transportation costs, H + T index. When you combine the costs of housing and transportation as a percentage of income, San Antonio is less affordable than other large cities, such as San Francisco and Washington DC. With the average household spending close to 50% of their income on housing and transportation.
Housing is considered affordable if it doesn’t exceed 30% of a household’s income. CNT adds that transportation plus housing should consume no more than 45% of a household income. The average Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for households in San Antonio is about 20,200, compared to 10,300 in San Francisco, and 12,300 in Washington DC.
From the fact sheets provided by CNT related to access to jobs, transit performance score and compact neighborhoods, San Antonio scores quite low compared to other large cities. Scoring an average of 5 out of 10. (Washington DC scores an average of 9 out of 10)
We already know that the walkability of a city can influence public health outcomes. This is another study showing the scientific connection between walkable places and improved health outcomes.
San Antonio has a long way to go before it is walkable, and there seems to be lacking knowledge among policy makers, city staff and council on how to create walkable built environments. It takes much more than just sidewalks and crosswalks. We need density, proximity of amenities, less priority on cars, reduced traffic speeds, road diets, and much more!
This article is relevant for San Antonio as the IDZ Task Force and Council will soon make a decision on whether or not to require parking with IDZ zoning. Parking waivers incentivize more housing units, better infill development, and more walkable places. Reduced parkign requirements also make units more affordable.
Back in mid-2015, Minneapolis changed its zoning code to allow residential projects near transit to be built with less off-street parking. Before the change, housing projects outside of downtown and the University district required one parking space for each housing unit. After the change, projects near transit with 50 or fewer units had their parking requirement reduced to zero, and projects with more than 50 units had it cut in half to one parking space for every two units.
The results over the years - as the parking spaces were reduced, the number of housing units built increased. Housing developments with more parking (surface or underground) were more pricey than housing developments with reduced parking.
The article highlights how low-density zoning reinforces long-standing housing segregation and exacerbates displacement and income inequality, and hampers economic growth.
After the Fair Housing Act did away with redlining and deed restrictions, cities began implementing low-density zoning to ensure certain families could not afford or have access to their communities. Red lining was replaced by land use regulations mandating single-family homes, minimum setbacks, minimum lot sizes, and parking requirements. Low density zoning was created for the purpose of exclusion. This is apparent in San Antonio where much of our higher opportunity neighborhoods are zoned single family and exclude and segregate.
"SB 827 [introduced in California] would help people of all income levels to be able live near transit. It promotes racial justice by preempting low-density “snob” zoning in wealthy suburbs with strong transit access.
It would also help ease the disproportionate burden for building currently on low-income POC communities by encouraging multi-unit construction in low-density wealthy white neighborhoods. Zoning for density makes building new homes in place of single-family homes more cost-effective replacing existing apartments."
A recent San Antonio Biz Journal highlights the 2017 year of real estate for San Antonio after the real estate community gathered to assess how 2017 went and 2018 outlooks.
Based on data and research, speakers prominent in the housing community and economy brought up the shortage of housing inventory and under supply and how it is negatively impacting home prices. Experts expressed that San Antonio needs more housing, particularly apartments. Single family homes built have risen steeply but they haven't been able to keep up with growth and the supply of housing necessary for all groups of people. Most housing expansion has occurred in San Antonio's far west side (past 410).
The article also highlights that income growth has not kept up with housing prices, so housing is becoming less affordable.
This is not news to Yes in My Back Yard Advocates or the National Association of Realtors - both groups know there is a housing under supply crisis nationally. The biggest surge of housing has been single-family homes, mostly because zoning regulations in huge swaths of cities outlaw multi-family housing (exclusionary zoning through single family zoning regulations). We cannot build our way out of the crisis with single-family housing. Many people cannot afford or are not ready for home ownership. Many young people or new families do not want to be tied down to a home.
We need to build way more apartments in inner urban areas and more middle housing (duplexes, townhomes, triplexes to six plexes) throughout neighborhoods. This is how we will solve the housing shortage and stabilize home values so they do not rise so quickly and disproportionately, ultimately leading to more displacement and segregation. To incorporate fair housing values and inclusiveness, we also need to do away with single-family zoning, if the market warrants it, it will still be built! We need to not allow NIMBY's to oppose and prevent new new multi-family housing from being built. Homeowners cannot be allowed to dictate everything that happens in a neighborhood or city.
This article provides a great explanation on why developers can not just "eat the costs" of inclusionary zoning, if there are no incentives provided. Neighborhoods and residents believe that developers are greedy and making so much money on housing. But the reality is there is a risk-reward ratio for housing developers where the risk becomes much greater with mandated inclusionary zoning. If done correctly, inclusionary zoning can help integrate neighborhoods by class and race and improve the ability for lower income households to live in high opportunity neighborhoods (this helps them prosper and build wealth). If the policy is put together poorly, inclusionary zoning can inflate home/rent prices because developers will build fewer housing units due to costs and risk. SANE hopes Mayor Ron Nirenberg's housing task force gets this policy recommendation right.
An important question is who does get to speak for the community as a whole and decide what does and doesn't go into a neighborhood? Currently in San Antonio (and most other cities), homeowners, middle to upper middle class older adults, and people with time to attend meetings dictate decisions on what is and isn't allowed in a neighborhood. If we are planning and making decisions for the future and future residents, shouldn't we be engaging younger people? Shouldn't we be engaging renters that have just as much stake in the future of their community? Shouldn't we be engaging lower income residents that often don't have access to neighborhoods with rich amenities?
The section of the article on housing is brilliant (half way through article).
"for homeowners there is no such thing as a housing crisis; Because when property values go up, so does their net worth. They have every reason to block new construction. And they do that by weaponizing environmental regulations and historical preservation rules. They force buildings to be shorter so they don’t cast shadows. They demand two parking spaces for every single unit. They complain that a new apartment building will destroy “neighborhood character” when the structure it’s replacing is… a parking garage. (True story.)"
"All this extra hassle means construction takes longer and costs more. Which means that the only way most developers can make a profit is to build luxury condos. So that’s why cities are so unaffordable. The entire system is structured to produce expensive housing when we desperately need the opposite."
By Vicki Been, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Katherine O’Regan
NYU Furman Center, NYU Wagner School and NYU School of Law
The arguments skeptics advance in opposing increases in the supply of housing are inconsistent with the evidence, and if successful in defeating most proposals for additional housing, are likely to result in significant harms. They do, however, underscore the need for some governmental intervention in housing markets to require or incentivize a balanced approach to new development.
A considerable body of research shows that additions to supply are critical to moderate price increases, allow workers to move to areas with growing job opportunities, and help subsidy dollars serve more low- income families.
Broader effects of limiting housing supply, including market rate housing:
1. Restricting supply imposes environmental and other costs related to auto mobile dependence - sprawl, auto dependence, poor air quality, increase greenhouse gas emissions
2. Restricting supply exacerbates income and racial/ethnic segregation - there is evidence that shows a connection between land use restrictions and segregation.
3. Restricting supply reduces economic productivity and increase inequality -
Supply restrictions that prevent people or businesses from locating in the neighborhood they prefer can result in lower productivity and deadweight losses; there is strong evidence that businesses thrive and workers are more productive when tehy are located in large, dense cities with lots of diverse economic activity. Constraints on housing supply in a city inihibit the growth and diversity that is essential to productivity.
Further, to the extent that land use regulations restrict the supply of housing and raise prices, they make it more difficult for workers to move to the cities with more productive businesses.
Density is a critical tool to reduce energy usage and combat climate change. Urbanists and environmentalists should be working together on development of cities and density. The study also highlights why one cannot be and environmentalist and anti-density at the same time - they are contrary to each other.
"Density gets you slightly more reduction in building energy use than efficiency does, if you do it right.
If you do both, you get the best result:
For the high urban density and advanced efficiency scenario combination, the annual building energy use for heating and cooling first plateaus around 2030 and then decreases after 2040, settling just below 45 [exajoules] in 2050."
Montreal is a great example of how cities can have low to mid density throughout all neighborhoods to increase affordability for everyone. The city is the second most populated in Canada yet all neighborhoods remain diverse by race and income. San Antonio could learn from Montreal with policy on housing and development.
"Montreal is a city of low-rise apartment buildings. They're much cheaper to build than high-rise apartments. You can build it fast, and you can build it cheap."
Montreal is now the second-most densely populated large city in Canada. And average monthly rent last year in the city of Montreal was $658 U.S., according to the latest Canadian census data."