The owner of a small hair salon has a big problem: the historic Mahncke Park home that it's located in is still officially considered a house.
At least six neighbors from the Mahncke Park Neighborhood Association attended the Zoning Commission meeting on Tuesday to speak against a zoning change that would allow for the small business to operate in Mahncke Park, less than a block away from the busy commercial corridor on Broadway.
The advisory commission voted 6-5 to hold off on making a recommendation on the matter because the owner, local hair stylist Andrew Guerra, had hired an attorney Tuesday morning – the same morning of the meeting – and he needed a chance to get up to speed.
Commission Chair William Shaw III, who also represents District 2, said it was a matter of "professional courtesy" to allow the attorney, Patrick Christensen, time to properly prepare. He hoped that Guerra would take the opportunity to meet with neighbors on the matter. The Mahncke Park residents at the meeting said Guerra had not reached out to the neighborhood association.
"I want an opportunity for dialogue,” Shaw said.
The high-end salon, which was by-appointment only, was operating for some time, as recently as last week. The owner, Andrew Guerra, has received at least one citation from the City's code enforcement for doing so and has upcoming hearings in municipal court, Christensen said.
The five commissioners that voted against the continuance agreed that the owner's actions seemed to purposefully defy the City code in part because the salon continued to operate.
"I'm troubled by rewarding that behavior,” Commissioner Paula McGee (D9) said.
The case will be heard for the last time by the Zoning Commission during its next meeting on Tuesday, April 12, before heading to City Council with the commission's recommendation. Council members could choose to follow or ignore the commission's recommendation.
"(Guerra) is a professional hair (stylist) who doesn't understand zoning," Christensen said, but the work that Guerra has done to the property should be considered as well. The 1939 home was purchased for about $250,000 and Christensen said Guerra had done about $100,000 worth of work on the interior and exterior.
"I feel strongly that this applicant knew that this property was not zoned (for commercial use)," said Commissioner Cecilia Garcia. "This sets the wrong tone in our community.”
Other commissioners agreed with Chairman Shaw and felt that more time wouldn't hurt.
"I don't see any bad faith in his actions," Commissioner Ricardo Briones (D5) said. "The best scenarios I’ve seen are when people have come together."
Christensen will be asking the 17 area residents that sent Guerra letters of support to come to the meeting later this month to express that support in person.
As San Antonio keeps growing, he added, this kind of zoning issue will become more frequent as density increases in the center city.
Projects like the Pearl Brewery complex have demonstrated the viability of mixed-use zoning and accompanying lifetyle, he said. Mahncke Park's proximity to Broadway makes it a prime target for blurring the lines between commercial and residential zones.
Top image: One of the neighbors' complaints against the home at 142 Perry Court becoming a hair salon is that the front yard has been turned into a parking lot. Photo by Iris Dimmick