City Council Delays Land Use Vote, Adopts Fire and Electrical Codes

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Aerial photo of suburban growth on San Antonio's far Westside.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

An aerial photo shows suburban growth on San Antonio's far Westside.

City Council unanimously voted Thursday to wait until August to consider amending the City’s land use categories as part of the implementation of the SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan.

The Council did, however, approve adopting the latest series of national and international building, fire, and electrical codes.

According to Council members Roberto Treviño (D1) and Rebecca Viagran (D3), many constituents in their respective districts are still not fully aware of the proposed land use changes and of how those revisions would affect their neighborhood plans.

Treviño and Viagran both serve on the Comprehensive Plan Committee. Viagran said Thursday that residents in several District 3 neighborhoods want more time to study the proposed land use changes.

Treviño echoed Viagran’s sentiment, adding that there appeared to be some conflicts between proposed Unified Development Code (UDC) revisions and neighborhood plans. Treviño recently had been stressing the importance of keeping older, urban core neighborhoods in the loop regarding the implementation of SA Tomorrow.

“We need a more robust discussion that includes neighborhoods and all interested stakeholders,” Treviño said.

“This is an important process. I hope that we can try to create a strategy to make sure that everybody feels comfortable. There [are] too many people not feeling comfortable with what we’re doing.”

Thursday’s Council vote also called for the Council’s Comprehensive Plan Committee to take another look at the proposals. The Committee is next scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. July 18 at the Municipal Plaza Building.

The entire document of draft revisions can be viewed here.

Collectively, the new and revamped categories are designed to reflect and cover the wider variety of development that is already happening or that the City hopes to spark in different parts of town through SA Tomorrow.

Existing descriptions for the categories of high-density residential, office, mixed-use, business/office park, and public/institutional are proposed for deletion from the UDC.

City officials previously have said the new and revised land use categories also could help streamline planning and zoning, which would benefit platting and rezoning applicants as well as the City commissions that those applicants would face.

While land use was tabled, the Council did approve the adoption of the 2018 issuance of the International Code Council’s building-related and fire codes, and of the 2017 National Electric Code.

Terry Burns, executive committee chair of the Alamo Sierra Club, applauded the City’s efforts to adopt many of the newest codes, but voiced concern the ICC’s building code only makes solar-ready residential construction optional, not required.

Burns said many other communities around Texas and throughout the nation are already requiring new residential construction to be able to accommodate solar power features. He encouraged San Antonio to make it a requirement in its code.

Burns added this is important in the larger effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The City last year adopted the Paris climate change agreement. President Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the accord by November 2020.

“This is a terrible missed opportunity, which I urge you to correct,” Burns said. “Thousands of housing units have already been constructed since 2015 without include solar-ready features. We urge you to require that these be included.

“We must find ways to overcome the affordability issues that solar requirement might raise so we can expand solar infrastructure.”

8 thoughts on “City Council Delays Land Use Vote, Adopts Fire and Electrical Codes

  1. Anyone who tells you the urban core neighborhoods aren’t being kept “in the loop” about these plans is lying to you. This is a stall tactic by the same half-dozen folks who continue to spread misinformation about what these plans will mean for neighborhoods. It’s too bad Trevino is getting caught up in their nonsense.

  2. Perhaps they could be renamed to reflect fiscal sustainability and transportation mode options.

    Rename Residential Estate to Auto-Dependent Subsidized. The city commissioned a report that found this type of development consumes more in city services than revenues it generates to support those services. It also is a very auto-dependent land use, where residents will use a motorized vehicle for every trip. It makes no sense for the city to mandate this land use, or prevent a landowner from more fully developing properties in these areas.

    Rename Urban Low Density Residential to Reduced Subsidy Auto-Dependent. A density of 7-18 residential units per acre can be fiscally sustainable and even walkable. However, with residential only uses, there is no place to walk to, so every trip to school, work or play will be by auto. The residents will obviously want convenient (fast) auto trips, which will then create noise and safety problems in the neighborhood. That will be countered with a hierarchical street network, lots of parking, and wide streets with large set-backs. That’s the suburbs. With all of that infrastructure (streets, drainage, pipes, electrical), this land use still consumes more than the revenue it generates to pay for the services it requires.

    Rename Neighborhood Commercial to Strip Center Auto-Dependent. Unless Neighborhood Commercial is integrated into Reduced Subsidy Auto-Dependent, then it will be the mess that is built along arterials and collectors. People with mode choice will not want to walk or bike there, and transit stops will create safety problems for transit riders trying to cross the urban highways where the strip centers are dropped. If it is integrated into neighborhoods, then isn’t it Neighborhood Mixed Use?

    Rename Neighborhood Mixed Use to Subsidizing Walkable. This goes on the assumption low-density means the same as low-density in Reduced Subsidy Auto-Dependent, or 7-18 units per acre. Walkability starts around 10 residential units per acre, so this land use would encourage, and support, mode choices that include transit, cycling and walking. Nice work.

    Rename Regional Mixed Use to Subsidizing Walking Preferred Auto-Discouraged. Now, this name is on the assumption the public right of way looks more like downtown than the Regional Center at 1604 and I-10W. Downtown is subsiding, 1604/I-10W is subsidized. Downtown is walkable preferred, auto-discouraged, 1604/I-10W is Auto-practically-required, Walking-will-get-you-killed-but-we-call-it-walkable-because-you-walk-from-the-parking-lot-to-that-building-way-over-there. I’ll presume we are smart enough at this point not to build another 1604/I-10W.

    Rename Business/innovation Mixed Use to Subsidizing Walkable Preferred With More Uses. This is an even better land use than Subsidizing Walkable. Nice work.

    Rename Parks/Open Space to Parks/Open Space but be Careful of Abuse. Parks and open space are certainly important, but excessive use leads to low-density, auto-dependent sprawl. We have a bad habit of abusing these types of land use to in effect develop Auto-Dependent Subsidized while minimizing our private investment. If a person can buy a quarter acre lot, then zone a nice fat buffer around them as open space, or a park, or something that then doesn’t become other commercial, residential, or industrial development, then they in effect have a nice, fat estate lot with a lot less expense.

      • Zoning, created in the Jim Crow era, certainly played a part in attempts to keep segregation. Now individual property rights have become the tool of Council attempts to get out the vote, often ignoring individual rights and even State law on zoning.

        • Zoning, created in the Jim Crow era, certainly played a part in attempts to keep segregation. Now individual property rights have become the tool of Council attempts to get out the vote, often ignoring individual rights and even State law on zoning.

  3. Zoning, created in the Jim Crow era, certainly played a part in attempts to keep segregation. Now individual property rights have become the tool of Council attempts to get out the vote, often ignoring individual rights and even State law on zoning.

  4. It is sad how zoning and building codes have become so convoluted and contrary to constitutionally mandated individual liberty and freedom, values not even considered by many law makers any more. In my home I can have a home occupation. I can have employees come to my house, cook(s) to operate my gas stove, maid(s), butler(s), yard maintenance people, but cannot have a secretary to answer my phone of my home occupation. However, If I am lucky enough to have a “voluntary” neighborhood association, not so hostile, to allow me to make my home a commercial property which I can have a live work, I can have all the domestic help above, but must have a sprinkler system in my living quarters to protect me from my Secretary! Also sad that while the State demands HOA’s to adhere to protections for homeowner’s in Texas Property Code 209, San Antonio allows the “alleged” voluntary associations to be nothing more than corrupt oligarchies that have no rules and change the rules they do have in a moments notice in order to fit their desires. Not all NOA’s bother with participating, but the City caters to those that do, almost 100% of the time. The city claims it is because they are “only advisory” but even the zoning commission is only advisory too!

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