If the City of San Antonio wants to implement a $42 million improvement project for Broadway Street, it will first need to update a nearly 10-year-old zoning plan for the area surrounding lower Broadway, city officials have determined.

Previously, City officials have said that no further action or vote is required by City Council in order for the voter-approved Broadway project to start. The need for a zoning change to execute the project opens the possibility of a full Council discussion and vote on whether bike lanes should be installed on the lower mile of the 3-mile project, a discussion bike-lane advocates on Council and in the community have long sought.

“[The need for a zoning change] gets at what we’ve been trying to say all along … this discussion of having connected bike lanes on Broadway is not new,” Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said Friday. 

City engineers and consultants say there’s not enough room to safely add protected bike lanes on the lower, mile-long section of Broadway, where the City expects commercial growth. The current plan prioritizes wider sidewalks and a vehicle parking and service lane. Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Gonzales, and cycling advocates say the car-centric design ignores the broader vision for a multimodal city and that voters approved the “complete street” project with the understanding that bike lanes would be included.

Amid the wrangling over whether bike lanes should be included on lower Broadway, officials in the Planning Department discovered provisions of the 2010 River North Zoning plan, which includes a transportation design plan that calls for accommodations for “bus routes, pedestrian, bicyclists, as well as passenger cars.” 

A cross-section diagram in the transportation design plan shows a 5-foot bike lane suggested for lower Broadway from 3rd Street to Jones Avenue with one vehicle lane going each way, a center turning lane, and a parking lane.

Zoning does not typically impact street design, but it applies to Broadway and Avenue B because of the River North Zoning plan’s transportation plan. In order for the current Broadway street plan to go forward, the River North Zoning plan needs to be amended to reflect the planned redevelopment for those streets.

“The update will ensure that the zoning is consistent with the master plans subsequently approved by the City Council and will provide a more accurate picture of Broadway today,” Assistant City Manager Rod Sanchez told the Rivard Report via email.

Neither the 2011 Bike Master Plan nor the 2012 Downtown Transporation Study recommended bike lanes on Lower Broadway, Sanchez said.

There are also discrepancies in the River North Zoning Plan. The street diagram shows an 80-foot right-of-way, but lower Broadway actually narrows to 78 and 72 feet. The diagram for Avenue B shows two-way vehicular lanes, parking lanes, and sidewalk. Avenue B is currently a one-way street with a curb-protected bike lane.

The zoning change will be considered first by the Zoning Commission, which will make a recommendation ahead of a City Council vote. No meeting has been scheduled yet because the zoning change request has not yet been submitted by City staff.

The need for a zoning change was discovered by Planning Department staff while doing its due diligence for separate bike lane projects on Avenue B and North Alamo Street,  Sanchez said. The Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) board approved a $6 million for the projects in September.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org