Gentrification Task Force Schedules Three Public Input Meetings

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The Mayor's Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods meets in the Media Briefing Room at City Hall. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The Mayor's Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods meets in the Media Briefing Room at City Hall. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Feb. 19 and has been updated with upcoming meeting information.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods, commonly known as the Gentrification Task Force to many, has had 11 meetings over the last six months. Task force members told a City Council committee Tuesday afternoon they are ready to share the fruits of their labor with the public and receive feedback that will be incorporated into the task force’s final report.

———- Updated on Thursday, March 12 ———-

The City announced details for the first three community input meetings that will be held by the task force. Two town hall meetings, which will include question and answer sessions, and one open house, which will provide an opportunity for citizens to have one-on-one conversations with members of the task force, will present the recommendations presented on Feb. 18 (see story below for details) to the public.

Date Time Location Address Format
Wednesday, March 18 6 p.m. Tafolla Middle School 1303 W. Cesar Chavez Blvd. (Westside) Town  Hall Meeting
Thursday, March 19 6 p.m. Ella Austin Community Center 1023 N. Pine St. (Eastside) Town Hall Meeting
Thursday, March 26 6 p.m. Central Library 600 Soledad St. (Central) Open House

———-

The City will host three meetings during March, possibly more, depending on demand. The hope is to draw hundreds of residents to contribute to the conversation with task force members.

The task force has been pouring over local demographic data, research on peer city policies, and local/state law while discussing what the City of San Antonio can do to combat future, abrupt displacement of low-income residents due to changing, or gentrifying, neighborhoods. Initiated by Mayor Juilán Castro after strong community uproar about the Mission Trails Mobile Home Community evictions announced last year, the task force is now headed by Mayor Ivy Taylor.

The task force’s framework recommendations include smaller issues like changing the way neighbors are notified of rezoning cases (the small, yellow signs that are placed on property lines don’t do much to tell renters that their home may disappear as a result of a zoning change), to huge initiatives like establishing a multi-million dollar low-income housing bond for 2017.

QoL_Dynamic and Diverse task force policy goals

The task force had a quick deadline imposed on them from Mayor Taylor early on in the process, which many task force members took issue with as hurrying the process. The ambitious goal is to present task force recommendations to full Council at the March 18 B Session. She has said that she would like at least some initial policies that “we could build on in the future,” presented to Council on schedule.

“I am very interested and committed to this (task force),” Taylor said during a November meeting, long before she announced her intentions to seek a full term as mayor this week. “If we extend this, for the next person (mayor), it may not be a priority … I may not be here.”

Rod Radle, gentrification task force member and long-time community organizer, addresses the City Council Quality of Life Committee. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Rod Radle, gentrification task force member and long-time community organizer, addresses the City Council Quality of Life Committee. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

It’s unlikely that deadline will be achieved, said Rod Radle, task force member and long-time community organizer, after his presentation to the City Council Quality of Life Committee.

“If we’re truly interested in getting community input that can be incorporated into a document, we need to take the time to get it,” he said. “Having a deadline has been good for us … but you can’t rush this part. You can’t squeeze that public input (into a timeline) just to have public input. You need quality.”

Citizens signed up to speak during the meeting also expressed doubt in the proposed timeline, asking for the City to allow for plenty of bi-lingual notice before each meeting and to make sure the locations are geographically spread out.

“From new eyes on the process, it’s abundantly clear that the entire city of San Antonio is waiting for us to solve this issue of displacement,” said Councilmember Ron Nirenberg (D8), indicating that he’d like to see results in a timely manner, but wants to ensure that a fair process is followed. “What’s also clear is that we all have the same mission … we want our city to rise and with it all of our residents.”

Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Shirley Gonzales (D5), and Alan Warrick II (D2) agreed.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to setting a deadline (back) another month,” Gonzales said. The gentrification issue “requires sensitivity and flexibility.”

The preliminary short-term recommendations of the task force include (again, these may be modified, added to, or subtracted from after citizen input):

  • Create a commission to track implementation of task force recommendations
  • Produce an annual report on neighborhood change
  • Amend the zoning change notification process
  • Designate the City Housing Counseling Program and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio as primary resources for residents
  • Develop a relocation assistance policy
  • Plan and host a housing summit

The preliminary long-term recommendations of the task force include:

  • Explore an inclusionary housing policy for City-incentivised residential development
  • Pursue an affordable and workforce housing bond program in 2017
  • Develop a policy for creation and rehabilitation of alternative housing typologies
  • Explore the development of a community land trust or similar organization
  • Explore the creation of a neighborhood empowerment zone
  • Explore dedicated funding source(s) for affordable housing

Read more about the task force’s meetings and discussions around the recommendations here.

QoL_Dynamic and Diverse task force members

*Featured/top image: The Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods meets in the Media Briefing Room at City Hall. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Related Stories:

Task Force May Recommend Affordable Housing Bond

2014: The Year of Gentrification Debate

Save Miguel’s Home: The Human Face of Gentrification

Mayor Taylor Takes Helm of Gentrification Task Force

Task Force: Raise the People, Not the Rent

13 thoughts on “Gentrification Task Force Schedules Three Public Input Meetings

  1. When residents can no longer afford to live in their homes because property taxes are too high, the answer is an obvious one. Whether council will adddress it remains to be seen.

    • I’m with Morgan on this one. The City has already spent to bring in gentrification expert Richard Campanella nearly 20 months ago to suggest workable policy ideas for San Antonio (http://therivardreport.com/gentrification-angriest-issue-urban-america/) – which included providing substantial property tax relief for long-term resident families (10 plus years – not just for the elderly) and the City working to ensure a high quality public infrastructure (sidewalks, public transit, etc) for all residents – an Amsterdam model of housing where low income earners live within the same streetscapes as / indistinguishable from ‘premier’ housing, with shared access to good and well-connected public amenities.

      Currently in San Antonio, areas where low income earners live (concentrated within the 410 loop) appear neglected by the City – and any physical improvements in these neighborhoods (including basic maintenance of private property) can spike property taxes and/or trigger fears about ‘gentrification’ – or no longer being able to afford or otherwise live in one’s established home, including housing long ago paid for.

      If the City wants to confront ‘gentrification’ it needs to address property tax relief for long-term resident families – particularly within the 410 loop and when properties change hands within families (from elderly owner to relative). There’s also a need for the City to develop incentives for and aid directly with distributed higher density development in these neighborhoods (renovating and filling empty structures and supporting alley flat development) – to truly diversify and spread the benefits of an expanded ‘downtown’ housing market and other public spending.

      As Task Force member Christine Drennon has suggested to the Express-News, long-term homeowners within the 410 loop currently carry the property tax burden for the publicly-supported high-end housing development downtown that is enriching a few developers but not addressing the city’s workforce housing needs (http://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/Booming-river-development-replacing-blight-6038196.php#/0). Meanwhile, the City keeps meeting, deliberating and paying lip-service to concerns about housing affordability, long-term resident displacement and ‘quality-of-life’ when it could have spent the time and resources making concrete improvements.

      • Sorry y’all – it has only been roughly 8 months since Campanella was in town to present – not 20 (just feels like it).

  2. It’s impossible to stop displacement and change, and it is not desirable in the long run. As neighborhoods deteriorate, housing become cheaper and property values correspondingly go down. Poorer and poorer people move into the neighborhood replacing the wealthier people who moved out. Without gentrification those neighborhoods would continue to deteriorate until they eventually become unlivable. Gentrification is the opposite effect. Outsiders start to appreciate the advantages of the neighborhood (convenient location and either houses that can be upgraded to be nice or torn down to built nice homes) and want to move into them. But that raises property values of everyone nearby making the neighborhood no longer one that the poorer people who moved into it can afford it. They start looking for another deteriorating neighborhood that they can afford. And the whole process starts all over again elsewhere. I may not sound like it, but I vote liberal. I also grew up poor and know what it is like to move from one house to another cheaper house year after year. I think the best plan the city can make is to try to provide moving assistance (not necessarily money, but maybe physical moving assistance and maybe the help monetarily for any deposit needed–homeowners would have the money from the sale of their homes to cover a down payment for a new one) to those who have to leave a neighborhood because they can no longer afford the cost of staying in it.

  3. The entire idea that mixed use housing will fix everything is silly. Human beings are designed to want to be around people like them and sadly that also means where they live. So the concept of mixed use housing is flawed from the start. No one wants to admit it though because mixed use is the housing version of everyone getting a trophy at school.

    • Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I strongly prefer living in an income with lots of socioeconomic diversity. The whole notion of living with people of similar status is a post-war myth perpetrated by real estate developers in order to sell their cookie-cutter suburbs. Why people found the concept of living in a neighborhood with people just like them in houses just like theirs remains a mystery to me. How boring…

  4. The following link: http://www.civiccourt.org/blog/
    includes a helpful primer on San Antonio’s neighborhood formation. One that involves racism, and other exclusionary policies.

    Displacement is a social injustice that is mostly perpetrated on the communities of color that are economically pushed to the edge. The deeper issues of education and equity and inclusion must be addressed for the entire community to move forward.
    This priveleged talk of things are like this and they will never change and that people are simply like they are so let’s give in is not moving SA forward, but maybe back into the 1950s.
    I’d rather live in mixed socio-economic and racially diverse neighborhoods anyday.

  5. I think we need to addess the topic immediately,

    Local native san Antonian for since day 1… and architect
    San Antonio is a place that is dominated by the minorities and

    I think gentrifying our local downtown neighbor hoods is going to jeopardize our culture transforming the large areas of culture to pockets of culture similar to Austin.

    STOP MAKING SAN ANTONIO GENERIC!!!

    I hate to see local structures coming down for buildings that capture the same aesthetic of Houston and Dallas

    STOP MAKING SAN ANTONIO GENERIC!!!!

  6. Glad that this issue is at least being recognized in SA on the municipal level. I agree with Rod Radle’s stance, time is necessary to comprehend this longstanding challenge. I’d like to attend and hear people contributing their experiences as well as learn more about the policies that are being considered. I think many people see gentrification as simply a natural cycle and therefore an inevitable part of society and urban growth. This change is argued to be good and progressive, but seldom is changing this status quo mentality seen as a worthwhile cause. This is possibly due to the fact that many layers of historical inequality (housing and education for instance) cause and effect scenarios would only naturally surface.

    Approaching this on a basic level of a family being forced to relocate because their rent increased from development(s) is callous and denies all of their reasons to live in that neighborhood in preference of newcomers’. By ignoring this phenomenon, we increase generations of gentrification cycles; families that are constantly displaced eventually will quit investing their resources into the neighborhood they move to in anticipation of being forced out again. Thus, dilapidated housing, slower city services, less economic development, and less social bonds. All of which are factors that contribute to less than ideal resources and targets for criminal hot spots.
    It is a cycle, not an inconvenience.

    Here is a link from the CDC regarding health effects of gentrification:
    http://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/gentrification.htm
    Looking forward to the meetings!

  7. It seems to me that these meetings have not been advertised enough. There ought to be more, and more spread out. I know I am a slow thinker. This means I like to go to a meeting. Then think about it, maybe research stuff, before I have something to say.

    Another suggestion would be to have local meetings about these issues, say held by a councilperson with their own districts. No doubt each district has its issues. Then these can later be reconciled? Perhaps?

    However, one thing is for sure; this is an important issue that must be thoughtfully addressed. San Antonio has serious disparity that is unhealthy to our city. While we do need to keep improving our city together, we cannot do it aggressively, the way it has been don in the past. By this I mean that “somehow” when a neighborhood get fixed up it is magical populated by white people. Everyone needs a healthy community. And changes should be made is concert with each community. The goal of making our city a healthier, stronger city must be one that includes everyone, not one that tries to hide or plaster over issues and continues the ongoing neglect of the needier portions of the city.

    For example, we need more mixed income and mixed race communities, we need to have fairer property tax laws that encourage rather than discourage this diversity. The city and state need to better invest in community, especially schools and infrastructure. Rather than move people about, we need to focus on making each and every neighborhood vibrant and healthy. Because every resident of this city deserves that, without exception.

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