The surge of residential and commercial growth inside Loop 410 has spurred local leaders to look at revamping urban-core zoning to keep pace with development and to guide future growth.
Those measures, mainly in North Central, range from an effort to correct improperly zoned properties to a revision of housing/redevelopment incentives.
In March, the city began a process affecting thousands of what officials say are incorrectly zoned residential, commercial and industrial lots in neighborhoods such as the Monte Vista Historic District, River Road, Dellview, Beacon Hill and Alta Vista.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño filed two council consideration requests in the fall of 2017 and 2018, seeking to correct zoning he said has negatively affected communities across the central city.
“The rezoning process will have immeasurable positive impact on District 1,” Treviño said in a news release.
According to officials, after the city adopted its existing zoning code in 2001, resulting conversions left large swaths of property with overly zoned parcels.
Single-family residential lots were zoned as multifamily, commercial or industrial and vice versa.
Wrongfully zoned parcels, the city said, prevent homeowners and businesses from expanding or doing significant improvements. In some cases, incorrectly zoned lots meant higher property taxes.
Tony Garcia, a member of the Monte Vista Historical Association board, expressed gratitude to Treviño and the city for the corrective actions.
“Also, this rezoning initiative aligns with the planning and land-use recommendations that residents help develop for the SA Tomorrow (comprehensive) plan,” Garcia said in a news release.
The rezoning process began in the spring of 2017 when the City Council approved a project that included corrections to several properties on the near West Side.
The rezoning has ramped up, affecting the northern part of Monte Vista and the eastern portion of Dellview beginning in April.
Corrective zoning is one of the things the city is doing to enhance neighborhood redevelopment and improvements in and around downtown.
At the start of 2019, the city introduced a revamped incentive policy for building new downtown-area housing. The city has also implemented a new fee-waiver policy, which replaces the Inner City Reinvestment Infill Policy.
Both programs are designed to prioritize affordable housing in response to public criticism that some newer housing developments are considered out of the price range of many residents.
The Center City Housing Incentive Policy does apply to new developments in regional centers classified by the SA Tomorrow plan, and along transportation corridors identified in VIA Metropolitan Transit’s 2040 plan.
The fee-waiver program also stresses financial assistance and smoother sailing around regulations for homeowners, small businesses, and minority- and woman-owned businesses.
Treviño said he supported the revised incentive policies because they focus on new large-scale development inside downtown, and on lower-scale new development in communities surrounding the central business district. He added the revamped incentives also apply to existing older structures.
“Furthermore, the reality is that the cost of developing in the downtown area is significantly higher for a number of reasons,” Treviño said. “Without tangible incentives to contribute to projects in that area, many of the historic buildings in our downtown will continue to become vacant as the city instead sees urban sprawl to the open spaces on the perimeter of our city.”
Another goal of the policy revamp was for the city to set aside money to further entice developers toward affordable housing.
“We will now have funding dedicated to affordable housing, which beyond relieving pressure from the general fund will provide an avenue to begin addressing some of the recommendations from the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force,” District 9 Councilman John Courage said in a press statement.
Discussions about revising developer incentives have accompanied talks among city leaders and neighborhood groups regarding displacement, and how best to minimize it.
Organizations — especially in older, inner-city communities around San Antonio — say redevelopment prompts property value increases, which tends to price many older residents out of their neighborhood.
A city-commissioned study performed by the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders showed property values in downtown-area neighborhoods appreciated faster than other neighborhoods around town.
City staff in March agreed to fast-track a study designed to result in a displacement-prevention plan. The council in March approved creating a fund to immediately help displaced residents and those at risk of eviction or being priced out of their home.
“San Antonio is experiencing exponential growth, but we have to take steps to ensure that growth doesn’t come at the expense of our vulnerable residents,” District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said.