SANE Asks Why District 1 is Catering to Tier 1 to Update all of the Neighborhood Plans

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. 

Sincerely,

Dawn


On Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 10:30 AM, Chrissy McCain (City Council) <Chrissy.McCain@sanantonio.gov> wrote:

Dawn,

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.

Best regards,

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

Dear...[Council Member]

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-trevinoNeighborhoods 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.

Sincerely,