Community Tells City #ThisViewMatters for Viewshed Protection

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Participants use hearts to indicate which views they feel are most important to protect.

Jeffrey Sullivan / Rivard Report

Participants use hearts to indicate which views they feel are most important to protect.

About 50 residents admired, examined, and commented on iconic views from around San Antonio Monday night in an effort to identify those that should be preserved through new viewshed protections.

Views of the Hays Street Bridge, Emily Morgan Hotel, public art, Kress Building, and 40 others were considered.

The City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation organized the meeting as a part of its effort to determine which, if any, landmarks should be considered by City Council for viewshed protection. There are currently five Viewshed Protection Districts, one for the Alamo and four more for the other Spanish-colonial missions.

City staff will compile and present public response gathered at the meeting and through the hashtag #thisviewmatters on social media to Council’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee in March. They’re encouraging the public to view the images for the next two weeks at the San Antonio chapter of the American Institute of Architects at 1344 S Flores St. Additional avenues for input can be found on the City’s website here.

City Council members William ‘Cruz’ Shaw (D2) and Ana Sandoval (D7) submitted a council consideration request in November asking for a study of landmarks, places, and cultural markers of importance to be considered, including Woodlawn Lake Park, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Hays Street Bridge, other landmark bridges, Comanche Lookout Park, and the Japanese Tea Garden.

Some of the viewshed images shared Monday night were suggested by City staff, and others were found by the tag #thisviewmatters, a crowdsourcing initiative started by the Office of Historic Preservation.

After City staff gave a presentation about viewshed protection, several participants expressed concern over views of and from the Hays Street Bridge.

The City’s Historic and Design Review Commission recently rejected plans for a multi-story apartment development on a lot adjacent to the bridge. Though the viewshed was a concern raised before the vote, commissioners seemed most concerned about the building’s design and proximity to the bridge.

Several community members said they were worried that the viewshed ordinance, if any, would not be codified in time to save such views from eclipse.

“We’ve made so many mistakes, and even when there’s spaces that are dedicated as landmarks, they’re still being demolished or erased,” said Jessica Gonzales, a participant at the meeting Monday night. Gonzales said she previously archived digital images for the San Antonio Conversation Society, and saw images of views that have since been hidden or demolished.

“Some people aren’t giving the credit and the power to spaces as holding cultural importance, historic importance,” Gonzales said. “I just wanted to come and be part of that conversation.”

Others were sympathetic to the effort to protect views, but worried that it may impede progress.

“We came because we got chips in the pot,” said Tom Weaver, chairman of Roddis Lumber & Veneer Co. The company’s building is adjacent to the Hays Street Bridge, and he’s worried that viewshed protections might lower its property value.

“If the viewshed prohibits economic development … then you lose out on tax revenue,” Weaver said. “Development for the city is better.”

Participants used paper hearts, provided by City staff, to mark views special to them during the meeting. Some simply placed their hearts on the edge of the printed photos, others also left short, handwritten notes about the views they appreciated the most. Images related to the Hays St. Bridge received the most hearts, followed by Woodlawn Lake Park, Tower Life building, and Mission Marque Plaza.

The City will host more public meetings before the Council’s committee meeting in March, staff said.

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