San Antonio Is Not ‘Millennial City USA’

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Downtown visitors walk beside longtime storefronts on Flores Street. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Millennials stroll though San Antonio's downtown. Results of the 2020 census will offer the freshest look at population trends.

Local newspaper readers might have been surprised and delighted to read a report last week that San Antonio “had the second fastest-growing population of millennials among the nation’s top 100 metro areas from 2010 to 2015, bested only by Colorado Springs.”

The lengthy news feature, written by San Antonio Express-News reporter Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, attributed the 14.4 percent rate of growth in the local millennial population to the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

That statistic seemed eerily familiar to me, and with good reason. The Rivard Report cited the same statistic in June 2017,  nearly two years ago, in an article shared by  Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, which identified the growth largely in the city’s suburbs rather than its urban core, the focus of the Express-News article.

Glissette Santana, Kinder’s web and social media editor, cited a May 2017  Urban Land Institute report, “The 25 Suburbs Where Millennials are Moving.”

Journalism is driven by daily deadlines, and every publication I’ve ever worked at has inadvertently published recycled data. That’s as true at the Rivard Report as it is at the Express-News.

Less than one year after we republished the Kinder Institute article, Emily Royall, at the time the data director at the Rivard Report, came across the very same Brookings report cited by Stoeltje, which actually was published in January 2018. Royall, who now works as the smart city coordinator in the City of San Antonio’s Department of Innovation, published her own story soon after the report’s release.

Royall’s story cited an important statistic found in the Brookings report: Nearly 60% of San Antonio’s millennial population is Hispanic, much of it homegrown or drawn to the city from South Texas and the border. Like the overall adult population, the percentage of college-education millennials in the city is only about 30%, trailing other cities where millennial growth is tied more directly to smart job growth.

Both the Brookings and Urban Land Institute studies are based on the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey (ACS) for the five-year period from 2011-15. While the U.S. Census is conducted once every decade, and will next occur in 2020, the ACS is conducted annually. Its mid-decade findings are studied closely by demographers for significant trends.

So the numbers in play now already are dated. That’s not to say San Antonio is not attracting more and more college-educated millennials, both young people who left the city to attend university and are returning home, as well as newcomers. But the total numbers do not place us in the first rank of U.S. cities attracting highly educated workers returning or moving here to take smart jobs. Consider that Austin is home to the second-largest concentration of Apple, Google, and Facebook workers, trailing only the headquarter locations for those tech companies.

Austin’s incubator remains the University of Texas, one of the country’s great public urban universities. Among San Antonio’s many strengths is the fast-growing and fast-improving University of Texas at San Antonio. What leading city doesn’t have a strong urban university as part of its core?

The transformative plan launched under President Taylor Eighmy to expand UTSA’s Downtown Campus holds the potential to give the city exactly what it needs to effectively incubate the same kind of workforce: a Tier One university whose students will experience life in San Antonio’s urban core, with many wanting to find a good job and remain here after graduation. Too many UTSA undergraduates now reside for four years or more in San Antonio without spending significant time in the urban core and thus fail to develop a lasting attachment to the city.

The UTSA main campus on the city's Northside.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Students at the main UTSA campus on the far Northwest Side often don’t get to spend much time in the city’s urban core.

Elected officials and business leaders can help Eighmy and others by supporting his vision rather than resting on laurels and deceiving themselves and others into believing  we are “Millennial City USA.” Claiming that status is not unlike the popular sloganeering that “San Antonio is the nation’s seventh-largest U.S. city” or “San Antonio is the nation’s fastest-growing city.”

Thanks to the way city limits are drawn, we are those things. But if accuracy matters, San Antonio is better described as the 24th-largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA), while Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington is the nation’s fastest-growing MSA, according to a 2018 U.S. Census report.

Numbers and words can be fashioned to communicate messages that are true, in the chamber of commerce sense of the word, yet misleading, in the journalistic sense of the word. More importantly, cities whose leaders look in the mirror to admire a distorted image are only fooling themselves.

In the long run, San Antonio is better served by its leaders identifying its strengths and recognizing its weaknesses, and then acting to bolster the former and address the latter. That includes those of us who report on cities and urban trends.

71 thoughts on “San Antonio Is Not ‘Millennial City USA’

  1. Robert, thanks for pointing out some harsh truths here. The continual usage of the “7th largest city” slogan is really embarrassing for the city, and makes the leadership look like amateurs.

    I’m 28, and a so-called millennial. I was raised in San Antonio, left, came back, and am planning on leaving again. And I know countless people in the same situation. Just this week, in fact, two friends of mine here (aged 25 and 29, respectively) told me they were leaving to move to other cities (Austin and Atlanta). They both felt that San Antonio wasn’t offering them the quality of life they wanted as young, single people, and were relieved to find new jobs elsewhere. I have no doubt that some millennials are moving here, but most of the ones I know are, in fact, leaving. It’s even more discouraging when a lot of locals say “if you don’t like it, then leave!,” instead of taking a moment to ask themselves *why* so many young people don’t want to be here.

    For better or for worse, San Antonio is still seen as boring for a lot of us. Is it better than it was ten years ago? Of course. The urban core is improving a bit, the Pearl is incredible etc, but these are drops in the bucket compared to other large cities in the country where excitement is essentially around every corner. Companies know this as well—I get headhunted constantly by recruiters asking me “wouldn’t you rather live in city-x than San Antonio?”

    You bring up Austin. I don’t think you can really reduce its progress and appeal to the UT factor. Having a strong university close to the urban core helps, but all of my friends in the same age bracket that live in Austin moved there from out of state, having never attended UT. Austin is a place that young people across the country (and indeed abroad) dream about living in. Hell, I even know people who moved to Austin *without a job,* so enamored were they with the city. How many people are so impressed by San Antonio that they’d move here without a job?

    I don’t think the way the city markets itself helps. The leadership is constantly advertising San Antonio as a great place for families, a historical city, etc. That’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t sound like much fun if you’re young and single. Most of my friends want to feel like they’re living in the midst of a city that is alive, that’s breathing and giving off energy and moving forward, not obsessed with its past. People I talk to like the idea of visiting San Antonio as a tourist, but would never want to live here. The Alamo, the missions, the Riverwalk. Cool. You can see them in a weekend. Then what? Are you going to just… keep going back to the Alamo every weekend?

    While I wouldn’t pretend to speak for everyone in my age bracket in San Antonio, I know that a lot of my friends and colleagues here see things similarly. And while the city leadership can obfuscate and point to reports from three years ago, the reality is that every day young people in San Antonio are leaving. Because they don’t think the city has much to offer them. I’m one of them, and am weighing up job offers in a few different cities. I’ll probably leave at some point this year.

    I wish that instead of pretending San Antonio is farther along than it really is, the leaders in this town would acknowledge how far behind we are and try to address it. Hit restart. Do something big, create a paradigm shift. Because no one is fooled. And many of us are leaving. Possibly for good.

    • Alex, and all the others who have commented here:

      Thank you you for your thoughtful and articulate views on life in San Antonio. If any of you are ever moved to expand on those viewpoints, please consider submitting a commentary to the Rivard Report. We welcome the opportunity to publish the work of our readers. –RR

      • Somebody local needs to hire the young people who commented here. This has been a spirited and enlightening debate, and what talent in sizing up the situation and expressing it so well. My only advice is, if you want to live here, be the change you seek. There’s plenty of like-minded people who probably feel the same.

    • Alex:

      I moved here in 2002 to start a new chapter in my life. I am far from being considered a Millennial (Generation X), but decided that a small rural life in Alabama wasn’t for me. Consequently, I did not want to live in a super huge big city like Atlanta.

      I agree with most of your points. One, yes, San Antonio is a great tourist city. I did the tourist things before I decided to move here. I still find some things to do, and if there isn’t anything that attracts my interest here, then the Hill Country, Austin, the Coastal Bend and many other areas within Texas are available. I settled down and began a new life here and, so far, so good. Taxes are reasonable, good schools (disclosure: I work for Northside), and good people. However, I do agree with your observation that San Antonio does dwell too much on the past and, much as it tries, doesn’t really put much focus on its future. Yes, we are proud of the Battle of the Alamo, how Texas was founded, and many other historical events big and small that made the city and state great. But we really need more attention to the future and what it holds. Also, the Hispanic influence cannot be denied, but I for one would like to see other cultures highlighted. I miss the Deep South: fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread. And I was born in Wisconsin: cheese, beer and brats. San Antonio should rep more than just tacos and Tex-Mex.

      Your insight about there not being much for Millennials like yourself really hits the nail on the proverbial head. I remember Columbus, Georgia going through a similar crisis when I was your age back in the late 1980s: the “brain drain” and Columbus not being able to keep talent in the city. San Antonio mist offer more to keep its bright young adults here and get them interested in contributing locally. Yes, we do have a mostly middle-class working culture, and that’s great. But I see San Antonio stagnating and not really moving forward if we keep things status quo.

      Good ideas, Alex!

    • I moved from Austin to San Antonio, without a job and so did a few of my friends I was able to convince. Main reason? Housing affordability. If I had the income needed to live independently in Austin would I go back? Probably not. I really like San Antonio and where you and Robert have addressed it’s shortcomings, I see it’s potential. We are on the cusp of a lot of change. The river walk isn’t just a touristy trap anymore, Downtown San Antonio is cleaning up very well. The greatest issue I see is the wages here slump in comparison to the other Texas metros. It’s seeing improvements though.

    • I strongly agree with this. I work in public relations and social media, so I see a lot of the updates from millenials online, where their interests lie, what they think of the city, etc. The good news is they’re not unhappy. San Antonio is interesting and great for families. The bad news is it isn’t exciting and it isn’t a place to grow yourself. Too few business opportunities, too few affordable venues for entertainment, not enough social events geared towards millenials… hell, you can hardly find good Wifi without fighting for a table at Starbucks. Go to Austin and you can pay $20 a month to have access to a full office space shared with others, a kitchen to work from, creative surroundings… there’s a huge difference. I honestly think the tech industry is key to updating SA. There needs to be more tech businesses here so more of the city will cater to it which will attract more millenials. The more you have, the more businesses will come here to cater to those millenials, and thus the cycle continues. Maybe tax incentives for startups?

  2. 100% of what Alex said. I’m 35, single and also looking to leave.

    Also, it’s always fun to point out that percentage wise, yes, millennials are probably booming in San Antonio… when you have 10 and add 10 that’s 100% growth. When you have 200,000 like in Austin, adding 10 is nothing.

  3. It’s become a “retirement” community. Sun City on a large scale. That’s why we’re here. Houston is no place to retire. Great place to make a living but not to retire. I could have never had the opportunities in San Antonio that I had in Houston. One example is redevelopment of older neighborhoods in Houston that you don’t see in San Antonio. The best examples are West University, Braes Heights, the Heights and Now Sunny Side in Houston. It’s just not happening here. If it was there would be redevelopment of suburbs surrounding downtown. San Antonio is a large sleepy city with a tourist industry and military presence and not a lot more. We enjoy the city but realize what’s missing.

  4. It would be interesting to know what concrete things are lacking to those who feel they must leave SA?
    What would you consider the top 5 things SA needs to do to make our city a place where you would want to stay?

    • I left San Antonio to attend college in NYC and stayed there to work. Don’t plan on coming back but I would like to move to Austin in 5ish years. I’m 25.

      Top 5 things.
      1. Networking. The access I get to brilliant people and businesses is fantastic in nyc and Austin has high profile events like SXSW and USGP that bring in people from around the country and world. People are usually brought to San Antonio through some military connection.
      2. Meeting cool people. Kinda goes with 1, but I literally meet people around the country that want to move to Austin and I know the city will reflect that diversity in having a thriving arts and tech scene. The same drive doesnt exist for San Antonio and isn’t as diverse.
      3. Walkable city. I know you need a car in Austin, but you can be dropped downtown and have a playground of bars restaurants and parks.
      4. A major university. I’m considering moving to Austin to get a master’s at UT. Would not move to San Antonio to attend UTSA or trinity.
      5. Some sort of rail system. If they could just build a high speed rail between San antonio and Austin, I’d probably consider living in San antonio for cheaper real estate and closeness to family and commute to austin. I just stayed the week here and the traffic patterns in the city are so backwards. Why is I35 congested all the time? Even at 2 there was traffic. It’s silly, there isn’t a clear suburban to downtown commute pattern, and the housing development is this continuous “white flight” farther out into the suburbs, so much of the development is away from the urban core.

      With all this in mind, I love San antonio and the people in it. I think the human capital of the city is extremely underrated; everyone here is extremely resourceful are very hard workers. You can be working class here and have a comfortable life, buy house, raise a family, etc. Cant say the same about NYC.

      Maybe San Antonio doesnt need to be a San Francisco or NYC. But I do agree with the general sentiment that a brain drain is bad for San Antonio’s future in the long term.

      • Matthew, I agree with all but some things mentioned in the 5th point you made. I am born and raised in SA but have lived almost half of my adult life in both Austin and Houston before moving back to SA. The traffic is horrible in both those cities as well. In Austin, the traffic feels like it never ends until midnight hits while in Houston, it is constant until the after work rush ends.

    • – Invest in academia — from SA’s urban school districts to UTSA, we need to better grow what we have. The main reason companies won’t invest in SA is because the skilled workers simply do not exist here. I’d like the city to incentivize even more investment in a sustained academic and/or R&D presence, primarily focused downtown. If this city starts churning out world class workers, investment will come.

      – Continue redevelopment of the urban core — let’s invest where the population wants to live, and for the most part (especially young people) that place is near downtown. Issues with gentrification notwithstanding, I’d prefer to see more high density, mixed used development as well as an emphasis on more bike-able and walkable streets.

      – Focus development more on residents rather than tourists — the riverwalk and Alamo no doubt attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. But how many residents frequent either? While I believe the re-development of Alamo Plaza moves in the right direction, I’d like to see more of an emphasis on using greens paces near the river and river extension. Make spaces where people don’t have to have a beer in their hand to have fun. Make spaces where you can have a picnic, sit back, relax and enjoy the weather. Let’s create places that attract both tourists AND residents.

      – Invest in residents’ health — it’s not news SA is one of the more unhealthy cities in the US, and like many, I’m not quite sure how to remedy this. Whether it’s more community outreach, more exercise in school, more healthcare options for those unable to afford it, something needs to change. If the current trajectory isn’t altered, SA has little hope of becoming the dynamic, modern city we all want.

  5. Spot on Bob. When these types of deadline-driven, surface-level articles feed political campaign slogans and economic development pitch headlines and power point slides, we lose true situational awareness, along with the energy, creativity, planning, and determination needed to grow the type of future deserving of the moniker.

  6. Exactly what Alex stated. I’m 33 and moved to Dallas to work with the City of Dallas. I’m married and have kids, San Antonio compared to Dallas has a lot more to offer families, but job opportunities are not existent. It’s been so easy to get a job here in Dallas, after one year with the City of Dallas, I was recruited by Dallas ISD. Walking around downtown Dallas there are so many young professionals working for large corporations. Dallas does not have an urban university to attract them, they are here for job opportunities and the vibrancy of the city. My wife, kids, and I just got back from vacationing in SA. We were happy that our kids enjoyed their time, but we quickly realized how boring SA was after 10. Walking around the pearl everything was closed by 9, even though it was packed. It was the same bars, same scene that has always been there.

    • Interesting. I just spent 4 days staying in Uptown and I was astonished by the lack of pedestrians in that “hip” area. Everyone drives their car to go a few blocks. I didn’t see a single person in 4 days ride a bicycle around there. I did see scooters though.

      And the Pearl isn’t downtown San Antonio. We all know downtown SA and the Riverwalk doesn’t close down at 9. It’s just getting started. Same scene and same bars that has always been there? That’s impossible, since lower Broadway and the Pearl is full of fresh development. Southtown is full of new restaurants, bars, breweries, galleries, and coffee shops that weren’t there a few years ago.

    • I agree with much of what Bob wrote but if you have trouble finding bars in SA – at age 33, no less, when you’re not forced to frequent the cheap college bars – you are doing something wrong. Our city is missing a lot but the bar and restaurant scene is not something it is lacking. If you can’t find new places to visit, the problem lies with you. Nobody needs to stay going to Chacho’s and the same low-end bars that were popular 10 years ago.

      • I would disagree on the restaurant scene. After 9pm during the week, it is hard to find many options for good food at a nice establishment. Many restaurants that are open past 9pm let you know that the kitchen is closed and they are basically functioning as a bar at that point. And I sure would love some nice restaurant options after last call rather than fast food and Mi Tierra.

  7. Born and raised here. Will die here. I am 62 years old. And I agree with all the comments above and with the article written. I really don’t know where SA is headed but I don’t think we will or can compete with Austin or any other major city. We are a 2nd or 3rd tier city and I think we will remain so for a long, long time.

    • A. F. your comment above is what I have seen since moving to retire here 3 years ago. It is an attitude of “if you don’t like it, leave”. EXACTLY what Alex mentioned in his very astute comment. I am constantly amazed at the small town attitude that in my mind, holds SA back. I did work for the first few years since moving here. I found the salary range was half of what a young professional in Houston would make. Admittedly the cost of housing is less in SA. That is why I chose to retire here. SA is a very creative artsy small city. I would love to see it be all that it can be. I see that there are many people who are doing their best to bring young talent to SA, I applaud them (Rackspace, Geekdom, etc.). A change will come and I am grateful to see it happen.

  8. Forgive me for sounding so insulting but I gotta take the kids gloves off. The mayor, Red McCombs, Henry Cisneros and all the other clowns in this city have done nothing to improve the city’s trajectory. All they have ever had is rhetoric. McCombs made a major donation to UT’s Business School. Hey Red how about UTSA? Cisneros, well I have no respect for him and I am Hispanic. The mayor, well he’s just a politician who loves to talk. This is just to vent on the fact that our economic and political leaders are nothing more than talkers and not doers. Our only hope may be UTSA’s president.

    • I think you’re right. Unfortunately, I think that we will only ever have “all talk” mayors because of the system we have. Our city manager carries most of the actual power, and we have to re-elect our mayor every 2 years.

      With that said, change must somehow come from the management level, which is inherently difficult. The personality required of an administrator is much different than that of a visionary leader.

  9. Alex, I totally agree with your reply. Robert, thank you for showing the city has been playing a numbers game to make itself look good to the locals. City officials are cowering to the mega car dealerships and downtown hotels, all while pushing cheap labor to national call centers.
    The white flight is no longer just to the suburbs. Many cities like Boerne, Fredericksburg, and La Vernia are all seeing huge increases in population due to problems with infrastructure and the city’s constant increase in spending on neighborhood services to appease a specific voting block. Those services are draining the city budget.
    Unless the city has figured out how to build a hotel on top of the UTSA downtown campus I don’t think we will ever see the growth required for our downtown campus.
    Neighborhood leaders are pulling San Antonio down and holding us back. Just look at how our school districts on the southside are destroying their own neighborhoods.

  10. I’m 46 and have just wrapped up a business after 8 years in San Antonio. I’ve got a Masters and can’t seem to find a decent paying job. I have interviewed for jobs I’m qualified for (I’ll pick on the City of San Antonio here). Apparently, my credentials have been put in front of hiring managers countless times but I have never received a call. When I talk to others who have influential positions in San Antonio, they tell me (as if I didn’t know) that SA is a most incestuous city when it comes to hiring. So you have tons of unqualified people holding management and senior level jobs who know or are related to people in a company. I think if a millennial or whoever is looking for a certain quality of life, they’re aren’t shooting for entry level jobs. There are many good candidates in SA, it’s an absolute shame that they have to be pushed to Austin (btw talk abt ridiculous traffic all day-makes 35 look like a farm road). Companies need to get rid of politics that go with hiring and hire a decent recruiter that can actually go out and look for qualified talent. That’s a mentality that has turned into a workforce epidemic that we definitely need to rid ourselves of.

    • Yes, experience the same process with the city of SA. I moved here from Dallas and I’m 31. The job scene is a way diffrent. Even the job I have now is not very conventional. Many of the people I work with don’t even have degrees. It was a bit of a culture shock how diffrent this place is. As far as the city with jobs it gets to the managers and they don’t hire. Honestly this type of practice isn’t uncommon. A lot of companies promote from within.

    • I had the exact same issues with COSA. I’m 33 and was born and raised in SA and came back after grad school to try to work with COSA. It was very hard to even get an interview in order to move up and I was already working with COSA at the time. I felt like I was kind of stuck in a dead end job and easily found a job out of state. It’s sad, I wanted to spend my career with COSA.

  11. I’ve lived here 8 years and will likely relocate. I think another thing that isn’t talked about much is there really is a lack of diversity for those outside of the Hispanic community here. And particularly with the African American community in my case. And close by you have affluent communities of African Americans in Dallas and Houston, people with great jobs and thriving businesses. To be a major city without an affluent African American community is probably a fraction of the problem as well. Most African Americans I know that move here feel there’s not much here for them.

    • If we are being fair, I’d argue that Austin and Dallas have a similar lack of diversity for black millennials. Houston exceeds all these cities. San Antonio is sorely lacking in that area but we should also be honest and not pretend that all other Texas cities have fixed that problem and SA hasn’t. Dallas and Austin are quite segregated as well, perhaps highlighting how difficult that problem is to fix even for bigger cities that have otherwise developed much more.

    • I agree with you Milah but this city will hardly change on the diversity front if people like you choose to leave instead of plant roots and help be part of the change they want to see happen. We are not only majority Hispanic due to history but because a larger part of our new residents are also Hispanic. We need to find a way for other races/ethnicities to make similar moves here.

    • I noticed that in Dallas and north Dallas. A lot of minorities are typically concentrated in the southern parts of the city. I lived in the northern part and noticed it started changing. The thing is a lot of affluent African Americans moving in aren’t from TX or the area.

    • Good points Milah. My family moved here 4 years ago for my husband’s job. We are Gen X but feel exactly like you mentioned. When I first got down here I wasn’t having any luck finding a job even though I’ve work in I.T. for years. I ended up getting a remote job based in Dallas. My husband’s job has ended and we are moving to Houston this summer.

  12. Thanks, Bob for presenting the numbers and where they came from. Statistics and comparisons help tell the story of our growth. My family has been here for over 280 years as the city has grown through many challenges.

    Why do we want to compete to attract people to come here? The city has planned well over the decades and our traffic is not Austin. Judge Wolff and Mayor Nirenberg did the right thing when they eschewed the whole Amazon HQ2 debacle.

    Our history is what keeps San Antonio special and culturally significant and we don’t need to put on airs to entertain any generation. We have a real culture here; San Antonio is the birthplace of culturally significant music and food.

    We shouldn’t care about how fast we grow in relation to everyone else, we should just plan for and manage that inevitable growth.

    • Oscar, while I agree with most of what you said, the problem is that if we don’t care about the future growth of the city, we could end up just being a big, poor city. Think of Detroit, which was one of the greatest U.S. cities during a time of great growth in the whole country. It is still dealing with the affects of being bankrupt and deserted. We shouldn’t be trying to lure new residents to migrate but should focus on better opportunities for those here. But that effort is exactly what does bring in new residents. If we don’t bring in higher paying jobs, the educated will leave. Our tax base will decrease and that leads to the city not being able to raise enough revenue to pay for city services which then causes more people to leave. If the people leave then big businesses will also leave and small businesses will have to close down.

      • Detroit is a bad example as their current predicament has a lot to do the race riots, the rise of suburbs and white flight, and with having been a single industry city.

        Also, this article doesn’t provide any empirical evidence that millennials are leaving the city, only that the data used by Express-News is four years old. There’s a huge difference between San Antonio being “first rank of U.S. cities” at anything and San Antonio being on the decline. All evidence suggests San Antonio is growing.

        • Tony,
          But growing in what? Population? That’s not necessarily a good thing. Especially if income, jobs and job opportunities are also not growing. SA might not have race riots but we are frequently mentioned nationally and by local race/ethnic leaders that we are a very segregated city. We have 3 major industries in the city: tourism, military and medical. But any big city has medical because their residents must have health care. So we only have 2 major industries here then. And again, the geographical segregation …it is our original white flight but now we have towns such as Boerne, Helotes, Selma, Bulverde, Cibolo and many other surrounding towns growing at a rapid rate as white flight takes place. Of course Detroit isn’t the perfect example, no city is. But there are still lessons to be learned and a growing population doesn’t equate to good if other key factors also don’t grow and they currently are not.

    • This comment is a perfect example of the institutional racism that has kept San Antonio in a state of economic segregation, poverty, and and inadequate education that affects the majority of the city’s (Hispanic) population.

      Exonomic power resides with the business, Anglo community. Voting and civil rights reform have created a class of Hispanic leaders. This gives an impression of progress while the unequal economic infrastructure remains the same.

      . Gentrification and massive breaks for downtown developers continues this disparity. Unfortunately, this city public policy is depriving San Antonio’s struggling neighborhoods of reinvestment, rehabilitation and development. Make no mistake, there is a direct correlation betweeen San Antonio’s current economic development model and the continued struggle of poverty and inequality.

      If San Antonio is to truely progress, these economy and racial disparities must be addressed. This will provide opportunities for all and make San Antonio and a top U.S. city with a great quality of life.

  13. This was my favorite Rivard Report article ever! It hits right to the heart of the matter of what I feel is this city’s biggest obstacle to true progress. The city continues to tout are rise as one of the biggest cities in the country but forgets that the other big, great cities of this country that we pass on that list only get passed because of our ability to annex land/residents while other cities are landlocked by the surrounding suburban towns. That’s why statistics that matter should reflect the metro area. A few years ago we were singing praises about our tech growth and presence at SxSW and this year I’m reading articles about how El Paso is doing better in that regard than us. We say we’ve arrived because we tried to start a big music festival such as Lollapalooza only for it to turn into a day at Fiesta Texas with featured music artists instead. We awe over a new downtown building by Frost that is dwarfed in size and aesthetics to the one Frost built in Austin.

    We always seem to be bragging about the next great step this city is about to make but that step isn’t putting us ahead, it only keeps us from getting further behind. The leaders of this city continue to dream big but implement small.

  14. I’ll bite. I agree with most of what Alex said. But speaking as a mother I will add that there just isn’t much to do here in San Antonio for families. We’ve spoken to other families with young children to see what they do for fun here in San Antonio. Same answer: nothing. We are considering a move to DFW and have looked into family friendly activities in the DFW area. They have so many activities that I could see my family participating in.

    San Antonio needs to support small businesses outside the bar/Tex-Mex food scene. Go to DFW, Austin, and Houston. Seek out the cool businesses that would be attractive to families or single people. Convince them to open up a store location in San Antonio. That is what makes cities attractive.

    • Maria, I have five children and we go out 3-4 times a week together. There is plenty to do in San Antonio, much of it free or at little cost. What activities are you wanting to do? What part of the city are you in? There are a couple family blogs with lists of interesting family activities and kid friendly restaurants.

      • Maria,
        I have to completely agree with Tony on this one! I have two different sets of family in DFW. One never seems to find anything to do with their kids and the other family seems to always be doing something with them. The busy ones actively look for things to do. Same goes for my family here. The busy ones actively look for things to do. In fact, my coworkers are always talking about the things around town they do with their kids and it makes me wonder how they find the time to fit it all in. I have many neighbors who also say there is nothing to do but they are also the people who rarely even come out of their house. Not going to find much if you’re locked up inside. Also, many things in the DFW area can actually be up to an hour and a half drive just cuz DFW is so big. Are you willing to make those type of drives? If so then you need to make those type of drives from your house (that means leaving the SA city limits) right now to find fun things to do in SA. If you live near central SA and making the drive to Garden Ridge to see the caverns is too far, then most things in DFW will also be too far for you.

    • Ha Maria! I recommend getting on the Lavaca and friends newsletter (email), even if you don’t live in Lavaca/Southtown. They do all the homework for you. There are dozens of events (mostly free) for kids each day of the week. Here’s snippet of this week’s events.
      St. Patrick’s Day Festival & Parade: “St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated on the River Walk since 1968… This tradition continues today. Green Bud Light will be sold at the Arneson River Theatre along with Irish and other ethnic foods. Festival entertainment includes a family-friendly interactive activity called Passport to Ireland. Other festival activities include face-painting, henna artistry, caricatures, a photo booth, Irish novelty items for sale… plus a bunch of hilarious activities in between the musical entertainment…” (read more and see a schedule of performances at the Arneson River Theatre).

      When: Saturday, March 16 (noon – midnight); Sunday, March 17 (noon – 8pm); parade is on Sunday, March 17 (4 – 5pm)
      Where: La Villita, The Arneson River Theatre, The River Walk
      Dyeing if the River Walk Green: “Each year since 1968 the River Walk is magically transformed into the River Shannon with eco-friendly green dye. This year it is brought to you by Maddogs… A bagpiper plays on the barge as the river is transformed. Free viewing available along the entire 2 1/2 mile downtown portion of the River Walk. The color is instantly apparent and intensifies with water movement by the boats. The second-day application creates an even richer color. It’s a great time to sit outdoors on a patio and enjoy a pint, or two…” Click here for information.

      When: Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17 (noon)
      Where: The SA River Walk, starting at Mad Dogs, 123 Losoya
      Shamrock the Tower: “Follow the rainbow to the base of the Tower for a family-friendly Saint Patty’s Day event. Guests can enjoy a bounce house, live music, a chance to meet the Tower’s mascot Tori, fun zone, and more.” Click here for information on this free event.

      When: Sunday, March 17 (2 – 7pm)
      Where: Tower of the Americas in Hemisfair Park
      Los San Patricios: “Kick-off St. Patricks Day with an ‘Irish FolkPunkRock’ free concert celebrating both Irish and Mexican-American cultures. Los San Patricios are playing an outdoor concert… Beverages will be available for purchase, so come grab a pint and join the midday San Patricios fun! About Los San Patricios: San Antonio based musician, Mike Ryan, brings his unique St. Patrick’s Day celebration to The Tobin Center. His band, Mike Ryan Coyotes, transforms into an ‘Irish FolkPunkRock’ band celebrating the Irish and Mexican-American roots of Mike and band mates…” (read more about this free event).

      When: Sunday, March 17 (noon – 3pm)
      Where: Steps of the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, Tobin Center, 100 Auditorium Circle

      Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat: “Not a word has been touched or added to Dr. Seuss’ classic, ensuring that anyone who’s read the story will find themselves transported into the world they’ve always imagined. From the moment his tall, red-and-white-striped hat appears around the door, Sally and her brother know that The Cat in the Hat is the funniest, most mischievous cat that they have ever met…” (read more and purchase tickets). $15+.

      When: Thursday, March 14 (6:30pm); Friday, March 15 (6:30pm); Saturday, March 16 (2pm & 6:30pm)
      Where: Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, 226 N St. Mary’s
      Family Night: “Villa Finale invites families for a free, self-guided tour of the Edward Steves Homestead while they participate in activities designed to teach children about life during the Victorian era! Kids will learn the art of silhouette-making, practice proper table setting, brush up on their penmanship, and more! All supplies will be provided. Kids and their parents can also enjoy complimentary lemonade.” Click here for information on this free event.

      When: Thursday, March 14 (6 – 8pm)
      Where: Edward Steves Homestead, 509 King William
      Spring Break: Kids are Culture: “During Spring Break 2019, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures will open the buildings of the Back 40 outdoor learning area. Each day features one of the 1800s Frontier-era buildings, plus the barn and one-room schoolhouse. Children and families will be able to explore the role of children on the Frontier as they participate in chores, games and other activities…” (read more and see a description of each day’s events). Continues through March 15.

      When: Thursday, March 14 & Friday, March 15 (10am)
      Where: Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E César E Chávez
      Family Funday: Pizza: “Turn your home kitchen into your family’s favorite pizzeria after just one hour with us! In this class, we’ll explore many pizza crusts and creative toppings for each season, and each person in the family, so that you can eat pizza all year long! No matter what kind of pizza you like, you’ll leave knowing plenty of new ways to make one of the world’s favorite foods: PIZZA! Fun for ages 4+. All children must be accompanied by at least one adult. All adults must be accompanied by at least one child.” Click here for information and to register. $30 for one adult and one child; $15 additional guest.

      When: Thursday, March 14 (11am – 12:15pm)
      Where: Culinary Institute of America, 312 Pearl Pkwy

      Miss Anastasia’s Wild and Wacky Pre-Weekend Twiglet Story Time on Friday, March 15 at The Twig Book Shop

      Super Fun Saturday on Saturday, March 16 in Hemisfair

      Big Blue Blocks on Saturday, March 16; Monday, March 18 in Hemisfair

      Story Time and Book Garden on Tuesday, March 19 in Hemisfair

      And this is only the downtown area. Get busy!

    • Maria, I Googled the top 20 things for families to do in DFW.
      1. Perot Nature and Science Museum
      SA equivalent (SAE) – The Witte Museum
      2. Ripley’s Believe It or Not (Grand Prarie, an hour from downtown Dallas in the day)
      SAE – Ripley’s Believe It or Not (downtown SA)
      3. Dallas Children’s Theatre
      SAE – The Magik Theatre
      4. Six Flag’s over Texas
      SAE – Fiesta Texas (which is a Six Flag’s park)
      5. Dallas Zoo
      SAE – San Antonio Zoo
      6. International Bowling Museum
      SAE – you got us there Dallas
      7. Grapevine Vintage Railroad
      SAE – unfortunately, we only have mini trains at Brackenridge Park, Landa Park and Morgan’s wonderland
      8. Frontier’s of Flight Museum
      Texas Air Museum at Stinson Airport (that’s in the city limits)
      9. iT’z Family Food and Fun
      SAE – EVO Entertainment, Main Event, Casa Blanca Theatre, Dave & Busters
      10. Bahama Beach
      SAE – Splashtown, Sea World’s Aquatica, Fiesta Texas’s water park, Schlitterbahn
      11. SpeedZone Dallas
      SAE – K1 Speed, Andretti’s (that’s just for indoors, many outdoors options as well)
      12. The Dallas Aquarium
      SAE – The San Antonio Aquarium, relatively new so room for growth
      13. Dallas Arboretum
      SAE – San Antonio Botanical Gardens
      14. iFly Dallas
      SAE – iFly San Antonio
      15. Dallas Museum of Art
      SAE – SA Museum of Art
      16. Heard Wildlife Sanctuary (McKinney, Tx, hour from downtown dallas)
      SAE – Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch (Garden Ridge, 45 minutes from downtown SA)
      17. Jumpstreet Dallas
      SAE – House of Air, Urban Air, Altitude Trampoline Park
      18. Dallas St. Patrick’s Day Parade
      SAE – Fiesta Flambeau parade, Battle of Flowers parade, SA Rodeo parade, St. Patrick’s Day river parade, Texas Cavaliers river parade, Christmas river parade
      19. Dallas Children’s Museum
      SAE – The DoSeum
      20. TopGolf Dallas
      SAE – TopGolf San Antonio

  15. Thank you for this article and for clarifying these numbers. My partner and I moved here from NYC looking for new opportunities, a more relaxed lifestyle and affordability. We’ve lived in a lot of places, big and small. San Antonio provided many benefits but it also became clear to us that San Antonio is a small town, not a city, and lacks what many cities in the “top 10 largest cities list” have to offer such as opportunities, events, sophistication, ambition and people in urban areas.

    1. Jobs opportunities for different fields is a major lacking component here.
    2. The stray dog and cat problem here is comparable to third-world countries, and unlike anything I’ve seen in any city in the United States.
    3. The ambition of this city is lacking compared to cities with comparable population sizes such as Austin, Portland, Minneapolis, and Denver, with most the affluent and education population living outside downtown. If we’re talking about the strip-mall filled part of San Antonio (where suburbs have been annexed into San Antonio proper) then yes we may be the seventh largest city. However, none of these areas have a city feel and should not be considered part of the city of San Antonio, in my opinion. So if you want an urban environment, you must live downtown where the population is less affluent and far less education. Some condos near the Pearl are going for $450K and yet, there is no gym, grocery store or even a convenient store nearby. I know this is changing but it’s at a snail’s pace.
    4. The slogan “keep San Antonio lame” goes beyond just words here. Mediocrity seems to be the name of the game, with a few exceptions to the rule. There are some great restaurants but only a handful or two, in my opinion.
    5. The River Walk is for tourists and tourists only. Why the city wouldn’t open up restaurants on the River Walk loop that locals would want to go to is beyond me. It’s unfortunate that there is a Ripley’s Believe it Or Not across from a historic site (The Alamo).
    6. San Antonio loves to promote the same restaurant and small business owners over and over. “Insular” would be a word I’d use to describe the mentality here.
    7. San Antonio has a love affair with chain restaurants, and fitness establishments, especially CrossFit.
    8. Forget about finding a great farmers market here.
    9. You want to find a bagel spot downtown? Forget about that too.
    10. Fitness facilities lack enormously here in quantity and diversity.
    11. Healthy restaurant options do exist but don’t compared to cities like Denver, Portland, Atlanta and the rest. You can exhaust them very easily here.
    12. San Antonio has a serious obesity problem and yet continues to open unhealthy restaurants and appears proud of these establishments because it’s part of the culture. But then again, so is obesity.

    Yes, San Antonio may have some cool things to offer for some and people can move here and find what they need but for us it has come to an end.

    If you’re looking for a quiet town to raise a family, and don’t mind having your kids attend private school or moving to what feels like a suburb to be near good schools, then San Antonio May be appealing.

    But whatever you do – don’t look to San Antonio as a place where millennials are flocking to, or where opportunity awaits. The only thing waiting will be you as it is often said by locals that I’ve met here that San Antonio is about 20 years behind, and they seem quite alright with that.

    • I agree but you should never assume that a city means urban. You obviously didn’t know Austin 15 years ago when it was barely coming out of it’s slumber (but perfect example of how a city can grow). Also, it is still VERY suburban. Yeah, the downtown scene is extremely vibrant but a large chunk of people who live in Austin proper will not dare go near downtown. Denver and Portland were also very suburban in all my visits to those cities. Cities outside of the NE are just not walkable so I guess except for Chicago, cities do not exist in your eyes west of the Mississippi.

    • As a 30 something that moved to SA 5 years ago from Austin, I agree with all of your points. We had the opportunity to move back to Austin a few years ago and decided to stay in San Antonio because of the cost of living and how family friendly the city is versus Austin. We love all of the activities the city offers for our young kids (SeaWorld, Morgans Wonderland, Witte, SA Zoo) and the many festivals that help cities like Austin, New Orleans, and Nashville exciting. I think San Antonio is essentially growing because Texas overall is really appealing nationally and San Antonio is the best value. When we decided to stay in SA and put down roots, I essentially knew this meant finding a virtual job as there are few high paying opportunities here and even fewer opportunities for growth. I quickly found that over half of our friends here also work from home for companies outside of SA. To keep these folks as the cost of living in San Antonio rises, the city has to address the lack of masters-level job opportunities that are dwarfed by Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

  16. While it is nice to see a positive article even if embellished as we saw in the Express News, it is always troubling to see that we go to great pains to criticize our city. Not only criticize but bash as we see in some of these responses. We are hiring young people who really enjoy what we have going. Yes they like downtown and the progress. Do we have a ways to go? Yes, but my view is we are making progress. Not sure what constant bashing does to make the problem better.

    Hopefully we can work to together to improve. I am all in.

    • Randy, you are right…we are making progress and this is a great city to live in for those who enjoy the pace of life we provide. If you’re a big city person who enjoys fast paced, you really have no foot to stand on to bash this city. That person did a horrible job of researching the city before moving here and only has themselves to blame. I think the bashing isn’t at the city itself so much as the officials and leaders of this city who try to make grandiose statements about our city that just aren’t true. They take statistics and warp them to make the city think we are further than we actually are which leads to complacency.

      This example is what makes me mad. Let’s give some fake data. We had 1 tech worker a decade ago but now we have 10. Our tech sector has grown 10 times bigger. City B had 1000 tech workers and now has 2000 so they’ve only grown twice as big. Our city leaders will then say we are the fastest growing tech sector which is statistically true but 10 workers pales in comparison to 2000. But our city leaders twist the data to make residents think we are now major players in tech. If they were transparent and truthful about such information, I wouldn’t be so mad about where we place in the grand scheme of things.

  17. I’m a millennial, 27 years old. I’ve traveled to Spain, Finland, Germany, Mexico, Russia, and more. San Antonio rocks! With the debt our generation carries, we are blessed to still have a city that (for now) one can afford to live in. The Riverwalk is cool to stroll with your stud muffin by your side and the Alamo has free admission. There are a lot of tiny parks to go for walks. Transportation is a work in progress. There are healthy options for eating with cooking at home being the best choice. Yeah, there’s a ton of taquerias and tire shops. But it’s called entrepreneurship, humble people creating opportunities instead of complaining about not having entitlements. Our generation gets a bad rap and sometimes rightly so. We have a ton of people uneducated and undereducated. It’s a result of many things over many generations. Things improve at a steady and perhaps slow pace but it’s coming along. We need to remember we coexist with them instead of resenting their presence and the presence of their culture. Those humble people and many humble, uneducated people built this town and much of the groundwork for this country. I personally wouldn’t recommend moving anywhere without a job lined up but to each their own. So relax, check out some taquerias, talk to the waitresses, order a flan or tres leches. You never know, the love of your life could be just around the corner. Viva San Antonio!

  18. I love San Antonio, but I do agree with a lot of points made by the people here. My primary reason for staying is because my family is here, and I like being around them. Otherwise? I am not sure what this city has to offer for me. I graduated last year with my masters in public health & applied to many city jobs. I had a few interviews and no bites. I felt pretty upset because I feel like I’m local ‘talent’ (so to speak) that wants to stay and build San Antonio up, but I never even had the chance with any city jobs. I had plenty of experience to bring to the table ranging from having done research since my BA to 10 years of customer service experience. So I wasn’t just coming in with a degree. People told me to look to Austin. I knew someone who had did an internship with the city, graduated with the same degree as me, & had to move to Atlanta to find work. She also loves the city, but we lost her, too. It’s a chronic issue, imo. And I’m still here because the PEOPLE I love are here, not really because it’s the city.

  19. There is so much to do here in SA. When you find that network of friends it will all happen… Also, Join a church and volunteer. Visit the sick, the elderly, soup kitchens…etc.

    I do have family and friends that live in Dallas. It seems all they do is go brunching, restaurants, bars/clubs, parties, etc….rinse repeat for the following weekend.
    That can get costly. I have to say living in SA my savings has grown and plan on retiring here.

  20. Good article Robert. Great at allowing commentators to treat our beloved city as a punching bag. Maybe your next article can be a counter to this one.

    We will continue working on creating a great and unique city. There are millennial’s that will look to others and follow what they have created – and subsequently follow those cities. San Antonio creates a great opportunity for millennial’s to be looked at. We need Millennial’s to realize they are the future and they can work to help create what they feel San Antonio may be lacking.

  21. I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in Dallas, Austin and Washington DC. And I still find San Antonio a wonderful place to live. So much of what we feel about our environment , e.g., the city we live in, is a projection of our own state of mind.

  22. After living for 8 years in Austin, and most recently 7 years in Brooklyn, I’m enjoying being back in SA. It’s a nice change of pace (don’t get me wrong I loved both of those places…) Sure there aren’t 100,000’s of young single people to meet, or a really hot *anything* scene or industry, but those really “cool” cities come with a few problems. You want a 1-br condo? $600k. Want to try that celebrity chef place? There’s a 2-month wait. My Bloody Valentine is playing their first show in Brooklyn after 20 years? Sold out in 5 minutes. In NYC there are tons of jobs, but there’s always somebody younger, smarter, faster, more knowledgeable, with a better pedigree who’s willing to do your job for less $$.

    I definitely agree with the article, we should be honest about ourselves as a city, but SA has a lot of potential, and a lot going for it already. We have a rich cultural history, and we’re investing in our creeks and parks. This place is alot cooler than when I left about 18 years ago. I think of San Antonio as a slow burn; it’s always been a modestly successful city with a moderate growth rate. So, while it may not ever be the hot place to be (it’s not always a good thing!), it will always be a decent place to be. And if enough people who want to make a difference decide to stick around SA, we can all make it better.

    • YES I agree, I live in Austin and I personally am sick of the rat race. Moved here thinking it was going to be awesome and it some aspects its way better from where I came from, but honestly I am sick of applying to job after job getting rejected because 100 are applying for the same thing. I am moving to San Antonio in June and I am excited to find my place again.

  23. Even your darling Austin was just a sleepy college town when I lived there for college in the late 70s-early 80s. Back then, the main employers in Austin were the state and the university. There’s no reason why SA can’t have the same kind of transformation that Austin has undergone, but it won’t happen overnight. The seeds are being planted for SA to transform in the coming decades. As a native of SA, I marvel at how far SA has come already. Sure, we have a long way to go, but we will get there. And I hope that when we get there, we will have had to foresight to avoid the kind of problems that Austin now faces with uncontrolled growth that far exceeds its roads and other infrastructure.

    • I agree, I moved from Jacksonville Florida to Austin and I am planning on moving to San Antonio because while Austin is nice, so many people are moving here there are little opportunities for jobs, I have my masters and 6 years of relevant experience and I got a job through a temp agency and have yet to secure a better paying job. I am 33 and while I enjoy night life and such I want to find a place I can afford to rent a house and get a job where 100 people aren’t also applying. Austin is nice but I think its a bit over rated in my opinion, I don’t want to struggle to survive.

  24. I’m gonna go out on a limb and disagree that San Antonio has nothing to offer people of this age group. I moved here in 2009 and I don’t anticipate leaving. And I REALLY REALLY REALLY hated living here at first. Over the years, I’ve seen a massive shift in the city. I’m really happy with all of the development that has happened and I look forward to seeing that development continue. What bothers me most is seeing much of the “entertainment” activities concentrated in to one location of town. I would like to see that expand beyond our city center. Granted, I’d also really like our public transit system to be a helluva lot better so that there’s better access to the events that are seemingly concentrated to downtown. We could do a better job of taking some of the large popularized events and bring them to our underserved communities.

    To echo what I’ve seen repeated in numerous comments, part of the issue of not seeing the change that we want in the city is because too many people are unwilling to volunteer their time beyond their 8-5 to encourage those changes. Part of building the community we want to be a part of, the kind of community that attracts other people to want to be a part of it too is helping build it. There are plenty of opportunities for us to voice our opinions, go to public meetings, volunteer with local non-profit organizations, but I more often than not see people of my age group (this so-called label millennial) not attending these events. And so older age demographics attend and voice their opinions. To a certain degree we can’t complain about changes not happening if we aren’t ensuring that our voices are being heard by the people that need to hear them most. And we can’t complain if we aren’t making sure to get out, participate, and help influence change.

    It’s not just a matter of staying. It’s a matter of staying and being a part of pushing the needle forward.

  25. Most of the responses focused on themselves and their thoughts about SA. However, I think a good lesson to learn is that the SAEN published false news (I’ll avoid the loaded ‘fake news’ moniker). What responsibility does the author have to write what is accurate and true? What responsibility does the SAEN have to ensure it publishes what is accurate and true? We should understand that either because of tight deadlines, unknowledgeable/ignorant writers, understaffed editors, and/or personal agendas, much of what we read can be misleading, inaccurate, or outright false. We should always be skeptical of what is published and never presume that what the media publish is true.

  26. Rivard called out the Express-News and Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje for lazy and inaccurate journalism.

    Did they ever respond, or defend their story, or agree with Bob and admit the story was garbage? Or did they say nothing?

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