ALAMO HEIGHTS — In existence for a decade, the Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association wants to hear from more residents about keeping the city true to its motto as a place of “beauty and charm.”

On a recent Saturday afternoon, members gathered at Local Coffee, 5903 Broadway, as part of an ongoing initiative to invite new residents to come say hello and remind longtime neighbors the nonprofit political organization is still around and advocating for them.

It was formed in 2007 to combat what members saw as a rising tide of “McMansions” and other threats to the city’s residential character.

“We found that a lot of people in Alamo Heights didn’t even know the neighborhood association existed,” said AHNA Vice President Debra Nason, the day’s host. “We first wanted to start hearing from people about what are (their) concerns, what can (the association) do for you, that perhaps we haven’t thought of.”

President Julian Hall encourages people to attend the get-togethers and check for updates at www.facebook.com/Alamo-Heights-Neighborhood-Assn-AHNA-279692178875859/.

“We’re an organization that is for representing the residential point of view. And we won’t know what that point of view is if we’re not hearing from folks.”

During the Saturday gathering, attendees sipped beverages while their discussion ranged from the rapid pace of home demolitions to bureaucratic hurdles homeowners face while seeking to improve their properties, a $40 million residential and retail complex planned at Broadway and Austin Highway and the challenge of motivating more neighbors to get involved in local politics.

Resident Nancy Lovell, who recently joined AHNA, expressed concern over long-range plans to narrow Broadway and discussed demolitions and replacement structures in Alamo Heights.

“These builders are coming in and they’re buying the homes that, unfortunately, young people can’t afford to live in because the prices are so high, and the builders tear them down and build homes that are not congruent with the style of the neighborhood,” she said.

Former Alamo Heights mayoral candidate Sarah Reveley, who currently is not a member, also attended the coffee. In a subsequent interview, she expressed her frustration over the lack of civic engagement in Alamo Heights.

“Our town is filled with leaders in the community of San Antonio, and there are all kinds of organizations and things going on in San Antonio,” Reveley said. “But there is nothing, absolutely nothing in Alamo Heights as a community.”

Hall, who was elected several months ago, said in the phone interview many residents are sometimes just too busy to become engaged in local issues, but the association can act as a bridge.

“There’s an opportunity … to try and give the large number of residents who are busy, who have got children, who have got busy, full-time jobs that are outside of the vicinity of Alamo Heights, a chance to be able to know what’s going on,” Hall said. “To have things a little bit more well organized for them to get that window on what’s happening, in a friendly environment.”

That could mean inviting city officials to more informal settings to give residents an opportunity to ask questions and learn how government functions — something AHNA has done in the past, its leaders said.

Since its founding, AHNA has played a strong role in local politics, members said. Last year, leaders said the group mobilized enough support to delay the installation of wireless water meters in Alamo Heights, also known as smart meters, due to research suggesting utility bills could rise.

“We got engaged with the city in a very cooperative and meaningful way, and we were able to talk it through and demonstrate to the city that there were some things that weren’t necessarily fully thought through,” Hall said. “And when we had that dialogue and presented information and organized things, I think it did change it. I think we had a role in postponing — maybe indefinitely postponing — the introduction of smart meters.”

However, other political struggles were not so easily won.

Last summer, City Council unanimously approved plans for a four-story development at Broadway and Austin Highway with 5,100 square feet of retail space and a 150-unit apartment complex. This comes after years of AHNA’s vocal opposition to a large development on that site, with many members saying the project will change the face of the neighborhood, among other concerns.

“Certainly, the large development that’s being planned at Austin Highway and Broadway is an example of where the community wasn’t really plugged in enough,” said Hall, who lives near the site and originally became involved with the association because of the issue.

One factor that has diminished the association’s visibility in recent years, said Nason, was the loss of the Alamo Heights Advocate, the association’s full-color monthly newsletter, which at one time went to every household in Alamo Heights.

According to press reports, in 2013, the Advocate ceased publication due to a dispute with its publisher, Neighborhood News Inc.

Nonetheless, the organization has maintained a constant presence. Former President John Joseph, now AHNA’s founder emeritus, said he estimates current membership to be around 100 people. Joining costs $20 for individuals and $30 per couple, and is restricted to Alamo Heights residents.

Joseph said levels tend to fluctuate with the political climate.

“When there’s no frying pan on the front burner, then the membership tends to fall off, and then it comes back,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s just kind of a cyclical thing, depending on whether people are concerned about a particularly egregious issue or not.”

The association’s leaders said they are contemplating bringing back the Advocate on a quarterly basis, while also using online platforms to provide information in a more timely way.

One comment on “Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association wants to hear from more residents

  • Great & comprehensive article on AHNA. Please keep AHNA is the spotlight in future publications, as they help steer the City of Alamo Heights in the right direction.

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