Legalities preceded dramatics, however, on Monday as State District Judge David Canales heard lawyers for both sides debate the inclusion of a city official in a lawsuit filed against the City of San Antonio by the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group and Eastside resident Beatrice Valadez.
Even before jury selection, attorney Shawn Fitzpatrick, representing San Antonio City Clerk Leticia Vacek requested she be dropped from the lawsuit or that the trial be postponed until she received proper notice.
The lawsuit stems from a 2012 City Council decision to sell publicly-owned land around the Hays Street Bridge, a parcel along North Cherry Street between Hays and Burnett Streets. The land will serve has a site of the new microbrewery and a section of the bridge will be used as outdoor seating. The sale was met with approval from the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association and District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor. Construction of the Alamo Beer brewery began in December 2013.
Though Alamo Beer President Eugene Simor’s intent was to build on the north side of the bridge to avoid interfering with the view of downtown San Antonio from the Eastside bridge, the delay caused by the lawsuit has led him to change plans and now build on the south side of the bridge along Burnet Street.
Opponents of the project, led by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, say the land should become a public park, and argue that the City of San Antonio is in breach of a contract made with the land’s previous owners intent to see the property become public park space. In the interim between the Restoration Group’s filing of lawsuit and the trial date, they have held several protests.
When Berkley and Vincent Dawson, principals of the local Anheuser-Busch franchise and the property’s previous owners, donated the land to the city in 2007, they expressed their preferences if the property be designated park space, but they did not restrict the land’s use in any way, and an October 4, 2007 City Council agenda item read that the property could have been used for a number of projects, from a farmer’s market to economic development.
The Restoration Group filed suit after Vacek rejected their 2,800-signature petition, replying that since the land was never actually used for a park or restricted to that use, the sale wouldn’t need to go to a vote.
Attorney Amy Kastely, representing the plaintiffs, said Vacek acted without legal authority by refusing to put the matter to a general election, The lawsuit specifically named Vacek and City Manager Sheryl Sculley as defendants. Sculley was previously dropped from the case by District Judge Barbara Nellemore.
Fitzpatrick said Vacek had no authority over what she was being sued over, and did not get a “fair and adequate notice of trial.” Fitzpatrick requested a continuation of the pre-trial phase in order for Vacek to receive legal notice.
Kastely said Vacek was named in place of Sculley because she has an authority over elections, and argued that Fitzpatrick’s motion for a continuance was a way to postpone the trial and keep the plaintiffs from having a day in court.
“She has no interest at risk in this case,” Kastely said. “She is named in her official capacity only, and will not be affected in any way as an individual.”
Fitzpatrick said Vacek was still entitled to constitutional notice, regardless of capacity.
Canales granted Fitzpatrick’s request for continuation, which would have delayed the trial to January, prompting Kastely to agree to drop Vacek as a defendant. In dropping Vacek, the trial continued with jury selection Monday afternoon.
The trial will proceed Tuesday morning with opening arguments at 9:30 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge David Canales on the second floor of the Bexar County Courthouse.
*Featured/top image: The historic Hays Street Bridge at sunset. Photo by Juan Garcia.