The Denominator: A New Day for Ozone Levels, Tobacco Sales, and the Red Berry Estate

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Cigarettes for sale at Molina's San Antonio Country Store.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

In January City Council passed the Tobacco 21 ordinance, which raised the purchase age for all nicotine delivery systems from 18 to 21.

The Denominator is a weekly brief of significant numbers underlying our latest news stories.

New Goals for Ozone Levels

70 parts per billion is the Environmental Protection Agency’s ground-level ozone standard Bexar County must meet by 2021. New air quality regulations, aimed at lowering ozone levels from the county’s three-year average of 72 parts per billion, went into effect Monday.

Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides emitted from vehicle exhausts, power plants, or industrial sites interact with volatile organic compounds, heat, and sunlight. Ozone can irritate lungs or cause chronic conditions like asthma.

The new regulations would mainly affect large, industrial businesses adding new plants or expanding existing facilities. Most local companies would see no changes, though some may have to report additional information to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s environmental regulator.

Failure to meet the standard by 2021 would result in stricter scrutiny by the EPA and the TCEQ.

Fresh Fines for Selling Tobacco to Youth

$500 is the maximum penalty for vendors who sell tobacco products to minors within San Antonio’s city limits, according an ordinance that goes into effect Monday.

City Council in January passed the ordinance known as Tobacco 21, which raised the purchase age for all nicotine delivery systems, including e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, from 18 to 21.

Under the new law tobacco retailers must display City-issued signs that indicate the legal age of sale, provide updated training to employees, and check a customer’s identification if they look younger than 27.

San Antonio is the first city in Texas to pass such an ordinance, though about 350 cities and municipalities across the country have passed similar ordinances restricting tobacco sales to minors.

Red Berry Mansion to Get a Makeover

$61.8 million is the value of a public-private project slated to bring 330 mixed-income housing units, an extended trail system, and the redevelopment of the on-site mansion to Red Berry Estates, a historic and vacant property on the East Side.

A City board last week approved property tax discounts for the partnership that includes the City’s Housing Trust Public Facility Corporation, The RK Group, and development firms NRP Group and Casey Development, pending that half of the housing units will be priced for families who make 80 percent or less of the area median income.

The project is set to break ground in late October.

UTSA’s Enrollment Hits Record High

4.7 percent is the increase in student enrollment the University of Texas at San Antonio experienced over 2017. With more than 32,000 students enrolled this fall, the university has hit an all-time high in its 49-year history.

The record enrollment figures precede a strategic growth plan to add 10,000 students to UTSA’s downtown campus, currently in its first phase. When that phase comes to a close in Fall 2023, UTSA projects an overall enrollment of about 38,400 students, President Taylor Eighmy said.

The second phase of the plan has yet to been made public, but will address the university’s growth through the next decade.

Violent Crime Dips Amid Years of Volatility

10,760 is the number of violent crimes committed in San Antonio in 2017, according to data released last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The rate of violent crime dropped .5 percent to 523.9 incidents per 100,000 people from 526.4 incidents, according to the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report.

San Antonio’s violent crime rate has been volatile for the last two decades. Overall, violent crime rates in the city increased 8 percent since 1995, the earliest data reported by the FBI. The San Antonio Police Department reports that violent crimes have dropped 12 percent and property crime dropped 19 percent since September 2017.

SAPD officials attributed the drop in violent crime in 2017 from 2016 to the department’s efforts to proactively target criminals with efforts such as the Violent Crimes Task Force. The total number of property and violent crimes occurring in San Antonio in 2017 was 82,205, according to the FBI’s data.

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