June 2016

Thursday, June 2, was a very difficult night for our neighborhood association. The BHANA board held a special meeting, along with ZUD (our Zoning and Urban Design Committee) and members of the community, to discuss an appeal we filed with the City of San Antonio. This appeal specifically addressed a City interpretation of a section of our Commercial Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) standards, in regard to the planned development of a Stripes Convenience Store and Gas Station on Fredericksburg Road at Woodlawn (where site preparation is already underway). The $600 required to file this appeal was raised through community contributions. The special meeting was called to discuss the fact that, on the very same day the appeal was filed, we received a message from the developer that if we proceeded, we would be sued. That our energy, time and money could be tied up in litigation for a long time unless we immediately dropped our appeal. Let me explain it this way: we, as ordinary citizens, filed an appeal as part of the lawful process that the City has in place and encourages us to use. We were threatened in a very serious way in an attempt to keep us from following this process. Our councilman’s office tried to negotiate, but it was too little, too late. BHANA has been trying for years to come together with the developer of this property (whom we first reached out to in 2012) and the City Council office to negotiate; no one but BHANA seemed to be willing. Now, instead of being protected or supported, we were asked to negotiate. But these negotiations hinged on our dropping the appeal. When people say our city is run by power and money, I guess this is what it looks like. When I was a teacher, and I witnessed one student bullying another, I didn’t solve the problem by making the victim negotiate with the bully to appease him. I made the bully stop. It was hard to back down, because filing an appeal was well within our rights. But make no mistake: we were bullied out of our right to appeal. These are stressful times for our downtown neighborhoods. The threat to the neighborhood plans we have adopted is real. Our NCD and Midtown Plans, developed in partnership with the City, are the closest we could get to communitybased plans. The NCD was developed during the fiscal year of 2004–05 and approved by the City Council in December of 2005. In developing it, we held open meetings not only in our schools, churches and local restaurants, but also in living rooms in all parts of Beacon Hill. These meetings were held in Spanish as well as English. This process went well above and beyond the City’s own requirements. While each of these elements on its own doesn’t seem important, honoring our community-based plans is important. In my opinion, these plans are worth fighting for. It is frustrating that we seem to be struggling against the very forces in the City that helped facilitate and encourage the development of these plans in the first place. So, I ask myself: why should we continue? What is the point? I already know the answer: we are the point. This is our community. This is our neighborhood. I am proud to live here. We have a neighborhood worth working for. I am still an idealist who believes in hope. My hope now is that you agree and come join us at our next neighborhood meeting on June 13th.