SANE letter to Council and Mayor on Rezone CCR

Council

PO Box 839966

San Antonio, TX 78283

RE: District 1 Council Consideration Request from September 28, 2017. Request for large area rezoning of properties

Dear Council:

Rezoning can improve San Antonians’ quality of life if it leads to inclusiveness for all incomes within all neighborhoods and more density to support rapid transit and walkability. There needs to be a clear rezoning process guided by distinct goals and intended outcomes.  

However, the rationale and goals provided in the September 28th CCR for initiating rezoning are vague and different from those provided in recent District one community meetings. There are opportunities to improve the City’s zoning map throughout San Antonio, including the ones you have chosen, however the goals laid out for the CCR are not focused enough to lead to successful outcomes. 

Downzoning properties zoned as multifamily (MF-33/RM-4) to single family zoning in neighborhoods where there is a mix of single family and multifamily dwellings is one of the stated goals proposed at District one community meetings and in neighborhood newsletters. The CCR omitted that goal, hopefully due to Council and staff realizing the probable long-term negative impacts of downzoning on diversity, housing affordability and choice, and equity. Just as redlining was a racial exclusionary tool, single-family zoning is a socioeconomic exclusionary tool; as a City, we should not be going backwards with policy and decision-making that lead to further segregation and exclusion. 

We have heard the District one office state that preserving existing low-cost homes, the so called ‘naturally occurring affordable housing’, is a prescription to affordability. However, this prescription is destined to fail because it doesn’t treat the underlying disease: a shortage of housing.

Below are District one’s vague suggestions for the rezones for District one neighborhoods and our response:

1.  & 3. Areas of Monte Vista, Beacon Hill, and Alta Vista. The CCR does not state the goals of the rezone for this area. With communication Council staff has had with the community and community newsletters, it is assumed that downzoning of multi-family zoning to single-family zoning is likely. This seems to be a reactionary response from a couple of proposed or completed multi-family developments in these areas that a vocal minority of residents/homeowners opposed. Downzoning would be detrimental to our City, and lead to less equity and access to opportunity for all, as these are neighborhoods that have seen steeply rising single-family home prices from a high demand of those that want to live there and a low supply of housing. Currently on Zillow, the lowest priced single-family home in Monte Vista is $350K, but most homes range from $500K to $2.9 Million. How will downzoning multi-family zoned properties to single-family zoned properties help with affordability and access to these neighborhoods?

There are substantial opportunities to upzone single-family zoned parcels that currently have multifamily use within these neighborhoods. We recommend upzoning these parcels so the City does not lose the multi-family uses to single-family homes. 

2. Areas in the Northern portion of River Rd. The CCR does not state the rezone goals for this area. If it is to change the general industrial to commercial, we suggest considering changing it from general industrial to mixed-use zoning with limited parking to support walkability, transit, and housing affordability. Currently, the commercial and general industrial zoning borders multi-family zoning, so mixed-use may be appropriate here. If the goal is to downzone multi-family to single-family, we are opposed to this.

4. Portion of the West End Hope in Action area. This area is a part of the SA Tomorrow subplan, Westside Neighborhood Plan. The Westside subplan will make land use recommendations for the planning area, and they have a thorough public participation process that includes an advisory committee, focus groups, interviews, and several community meetings. It seems more appropriate for any zoning changes to come after the Westside Neighborhood Plan is complete, so the zoning changes can reflect the land use recommendations in the plan.  

Again, the CCR does not state the rezone goal for this area, but it is our understanding that the goal is to change industrial zoning to commercial zoning. We recommend you carefully consider existing industrial (in the vicinity of I-10) zoning’s role in maintaining opportunity to living wage jobs that don’t require an advanced degree. Also consider rezoning industrial zoning on Zarzamora to mixed-use instead of commercial to support walkability, housing affordability, and transit, as the Zarzmaora corridor is slated for rapid transit and the VIA Primo bus line.

The City needs to consider the design of the neighborhood as a compact unit or village inside of the greater city, which is the original, historic design that these neighborhoods contemplated. The older neighborhoods favored mixed-use and middle housing (4-plexes to 8-plexes). A vocal minority wants to radically reshape the land use pattern, not us. Make them defend the suburbanization of these neighborhoods.
Some of the issues raised in this letter respond to District one Council office statements about the intentions for rezoning that were not included in the CCR.  We look forward to actively participating in a rezoning process that has clearly stated goals, no predetermined outcomes, and an underlying value for inclusiveness and equity. We hope the process also engages a diverse set of demographics and includes renters.

Sincerely,

18 Members of San Antonio Neighborhoods for Everyone (SANE)