Mayor Taylor Takes Helm of Gentrification Task Force

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
Mayor Ivy Taylor leads the Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Mayor Ivy Taylor leads the Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods met at City Hall Monday afternoon to discuss the definition of gentrification and explore methods used by other cities to prevent displacement of lower-income populations in “up-and-coming” neighborhoods.

“We can agree at the table here (what gentrification means),” said Mayor Ivy Taylor. “But (citizens) have different definitions. I hear people use the word gentrification and to them it’s evil … and some people use gentrification to refer to positive neighborhood change.”

But members of the task force, which includes City Council members, City staff, and citizens, at least agreed that gentrification often means involuntary displacement, and that’s what they’d like to see mitigated.

The task force initiated by former Mayor Julián Castro before he joined the Obama Cabinet was led by former District 1 Councilmember Diego Bernal before he stepped down from City Council earlier this month. It is now headed by Mayor Taylor.

Eastside community activist Nettie Hinton suggested that the timeline for results set by Castro – to have policies ready for review by the Quality of Life Subcommittee in February and then by City Council during a B Session in March – is too soon.

“The changes that have happened are so severe,” Hinton said, referring to the recent departures on City Council and the committee. “I no longer believe that (timeline) is appropriate.”

Interim Assistant Director of Planning and Community Development Michael Taylor (right) presents policy data to the  Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods including former Councilmember María Berriozába (center) and Nettie Hinton (left). Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Interim Assistant Director of Planning and Community Development Michael Taylor (right) presents policy data to the Mayor’s Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods including former Councilmember María Berriozába (center) and Nettie Hinton (left). Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Taylor, however, remained steadfast in her goal to get something – 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. “If we extend this, for the next person, it may not be a priority … I may not be here.”

Taylor has not yet announced whether she will run for mayor in May. Two other candidates, state Rep. Mike Villarreal and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, are in the race.

“There needs to be a longer conversation about these issues, but I don’t think this (task force) can resolve that right now. We need to provide some solid recommendations,” she said. “Let’s get something on paper, let’s get something to council and then we can add to it … I would be open to ways of further institutionalizing this conversation – maybe a new (semi-permanent) committee or subcommittee.”

City staff from the Department of Planning and Community Development presented a summary of strategies implemented in other cities to the task force. Most came from Austin’s task force and City Council and other cities in Texas as the more aggressive (or progressive) policies are in states with very different housing, property, and tax laws.

“There are a lot of California cities, for instance, that have been working with gentrification issues for decades and decades and they have some state laws that allow for more things,” said Michael Taylor, assistant director of planning and community development, after the meeting. “(California) has a ‘fair share’ requirement. The state has decided what the affordable housing need is and each community has to provide their fair share. They also allow things like inclusionary zoning, linkage fees (essentially residential impact fees) – additional regulatory things that we can’t impose.”

The task force and City staff are looking at those as well, he said, but are focusing on what Texas cities are doing and what programs the City already has in place that may need modification in light of the gentrification issue.

Taylor’s presentation included four categories for strategies that track gentrification, produce additional workforce housing, retain workforce housing, and build resident assets.

For more details, download the presentation made to the task force here.

The task force seemed to agree that tracking changing demographics like income, property values, and lot vacancies will help predict which neighborhoods will experience change in the future. Another point of agreement: implementing a policy to protect lower-income renters will be a priority.

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.

A large portion of the population at risk are not homeowners, said former Councilmember María Berriozábal. “56.8% of the Hispanic population are renters … and our Hispanic population is large.”

Berriozábal suggested that fellow task force members read the “Rise of the Renter Nation” report released by Homes for All campaign. The report’s five pillars – affordability, accessibility, sustainability/health/quality, long-term stability and protection from displacement, and community control – could be applied in San Antonio, she said.

San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside Executive Director Jackie Gorman pointed to the possibility of using the next city bond initiative to help fund affordable housing projects and programs, which she said had been done in Austin.

“If we’re looking ahead to 2017, we’d need to start that process now,” Gorman said.

“I’m open-minded to bonds,” Mayor Taylor said. “But the market makes the case … I don’t know if we have that data to support it.”

San Antonio enjoys a much lower cost of living than Austin.

Rod Radle, community activist and former executive director of the nonprofit San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation, suggested starting with a senior housing bond – an easier tax for the public to vote for – as Austin did.

SAGE Executive Director Jackie Gorman (right) and fellow task force member Rod Radle (center) discuss the possibility of setting up a City bond for affordable housing. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

SAGE Executive Director Jackie Gorman (right) and fellow task force member Rod Radle (center) discuss the possibility of setting up a City bond for affordable housing. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

City staff also briefed the task force on the Inner City Reinvestment Infill Policy (ICRIP), which incentivizes inner city housing projects within its boundary with tax breaks and fee waivers.

Mayor Taylor decided to hold most discussion and comment on both presentations until the next task force meeting, scheduled for Dec. 11.

*Featured/top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor leads the Task Force on Preserving Dynamic and Diverse Neighborhoods. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Related Stories:

Task Force: Raise the People, Not the Rent

San Antonio Focuses on Annexation Strategy

Don’t Call it the Gentrification Task Force

Urban Housing Stock Concern of Gentrification Panel

Gentrification “Angriest Issue in Urban America”

3 thoughts on “Mayor Taylor Takes Helm of Gentrification Task Force

  1. It looks like we’re on the right track for this issue.

    My question is does ICRIP do enough to incentivize all of the vacant two and three story buildings from being turned into housing? I have heard from visitors who state that the downtown is a virtual desert during the week, which I totally agree with. We need to turn this around and have a vibrant downtown all days of the week. This will encourage more visitors to return, rather them be disappointed with a lifeless downtown that only attracts families on the weekends.

  2. No neighborhood is going to change if the economic circumstances in that neighborhood don’t change. The East Side will not become a “middle class” neighborhood, a “revived, lively neighborhood,” etc., without some new blood and new money. And, unfortunately, the undeveloped/abandoned areas are either too small (mostly individual lots/houses) or too far away (swaths of industrial buildings) from the developed ones for the neighborhood to be changed just by trying to channel development to them.

    In addition, you have the problem that housing sales are a private matter in which change will happen whether the city wants it or not if the owner of the property gets a good enough offer. No city has ever been successful at stopping gentrification of well located neighborhoods when interest in moving there developed among people with more money. The group would be better off trying to make sure that good, alternative, reasonably priced housing is available nearby or in other areas of the city as renters get pushed out by owners selling their properties and as owners leave because they couldn’t resist the good offers they have gotten.

    Yes, the East Side will retain many of its present residents (those who are most economically stable) and will be better off for their staying there to provide the excitement of diversity. But the city will not be able to keep EVERYONE there who is already there AND have the neighborhood become more lively and attractive. The committee even faces the possibility of ruining opportunities for improvement in the neighborhood if they fight too hard to keep everyone there who is there now (with the limited development space available).

  3. In the field of city planning, the word gentrification means that the wealthy (however you might define wealth) are allowed to move to a location where they could not be before. This, upon consideration, means that they are safe and integrated in the area. What would the “well to do” need in order to settle in an area? That is the question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *