This story has been updated.

With a unanimous vote, San Antonio City Council placed a $1.2 billion municipal bond package on the May 7 ballot on Thursday.

San Antonio voters will see six different bond propositions on their ballots, for parks ($272 million), streets ($472 million), drainage ($170 million), affordable housing ($150 million), public safety facilities ($78 million) and library and cultural facilities ($58 million).

“There’s a lot of talk about the federal infrastructure bill, this is our [local] infrastructure bill,” City Manager Erik Walsh told reporters ahead of the council meeting.

Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) was not present for the meeting because he was tending to a family matter out of town, a spokesperson said.

Some of the larger, more expensive of the 183 projects include $18 million for Hemisfair’s Civic Park, a new $19 million police substation in District 3, more than $17 million for Animal Care Services facilities, fire station renovations in District 1 and District 5 ($12.5 million each) and several street and drainage projects with price tags over $10 million.

More than 61% ($742 million) of proposed bond funding is slated for district-level projects, Walsh said, noting that City Council last year indicated a need for bond funding to more directly impact neighborhoods.

Proposed 2022 bond program funding by proposition.
Proposed 2022 bond program funding by proposition. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

For the first time, bond money could be used to fund a linear greenway trail network that was previously funded through a 1/8 cent sales tax. If the parks proposition is approved, more than $103 million could be used to build 21 planned miles of new trails.

Beyond some minor tweaks made for some council district projects, the project lists and affordable housing spending guide proposed on Thursday remain largely the same as what was presented to council in January, Walsh said. “Nothing major and nothing out of line with the committee discussions.”

Summary of bond project adjustments Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

The bond projects and housing spending guide were reviewed and recommended by five bond committees over eight weeks. More than 160 residents served on those committees.

Since those recommendations were made, about $20.5 million worth of changes were made to the final bond package, including restoring $3.8 million to public art and decreases to some street and drainage projects to fund others.

No further changes were made by council to the bond propositions on Thursday.

Walsh highlighted other elements of the proposed bond package, including:

  • 53% of funding is dedicated to street and drainage infrastructure projects;
  • $15.7 million dedicated to public art;
  • improvements to a third of the city’s parks, plus the creation of nine new park properties;
  • $68 million in renovations and $65 million in new construction for city-owned facilities (including three new public safety facilities); and
  • $269.4 million leveraged in funding from federal, state, Bexar County and other sources.

Under Walsh’s proposal, public art funding in the parks and drainage categories that was reduced by committees would be restored by using $3.8 million federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to complete other bridge improvement projects. That ARPA spending plan was approved last week.

Housing automatically does not include art funding because there is not a traditional project list.

The housing bond, the first of its kind in San Antonio, includes $45 million for home rehabilitation and preservation, prioritizing homes at risk for demolition; $40 million for rental housing acquisition, rehabilitation, or preservation; $35 million for production of rental units; $25 million to provide permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals; and $5 million to produce single-family homes.

Unlike the other bond categories, the housing bond does not have project list. The money will be used to fund existing programs and projects that seek bond funding in the future which adhere to the following parameters:

  • Homeownership rehabilitation and preservation for households making up to 50% AMI while prioritizing 30% AMI;
  • rental housing acquisition, rehabilitation and preservation for public and income-based households making up to 30% AMI;
  • permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness to facilitate a “housing first” approach;
  • rental housing production and acquisition to prioritize public and income-based housing for households making up to 50% AMI while prioritizing 30% AMI; and
  • homeownership production for households making up to 80% AMI while prioritizing those making 60% AMI and below.

New housing construction projects that receive bond funding must complete a displacement impact assessment as part of the application process, and priority will be given to projects with the least displacement impact.

The city included $20 million for housing in its 2017 bond, but that money could be used only to purchase property and facilitate private sector development. A charter amendment approved by voters in May permits the city to pay a developer or a housing provider directly to produce affordable housing, as well as pay for repairs and other financial tools.

“The 2022 bond program is an opportunity to invest in ourselves and our neighbors in a more equitable manner,” said Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4). “Expanding our understanding of public investments further exemplifies our commitment to helping one of the fundamental needs of our residents: affordable housing.”

There was little discussion Tuesday regarding the controversial $5 million earmarked for the renovation of Sunken Garden Theater in Brackenridge Park.

If the project’s funding plan is not ultimately approved by the council, Assistant City Manager Rod Sanchez, “we have the flexibility” to allocate that $5 million to other improvements to the park.

If the propositions are approved by voters, City Council members will appoint residents to a citizen bond oversight committee in May to monitor the progress of parks, streets, drainage and facilities projects, while the Housing Commission and council committees will oversee implementation of the affordable housing bond. Ultimately, however, council will vote on contracts to carry out the work.

Until then, the city will distribute explanatory bond program brochures to the community, Walsh said. “From the [ city ] staff perspective, our responsibility is to lay out the facts of the bond program; … a lot of what you’ll probably see are the key messages that we built into
this [ presentation ].

During the 2017 bond process, local business leaders and elected officials established One SA, a political action committee dedicated to promoting the bond. That $850 million bond package received more than 67% for each proposition.

A spokesperson for Mayor Ron Nirenberg confirmed that a new PAC, Build SA, will soon launch a campaign to pass the 2022 bond.

An updated list of bond projects and materials from previous bond-related meetings will be available online here.

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