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.
|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.
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.”
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.
*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.