The Hays Bridge in the city's Eastside.
The Hays Street Bridge is located just East of downtown San Antonio and was restored Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The City of San Antonio on Monday asked the Texas Supreme Court to dismiss a case against it by the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group that seeks to order the City to put all proceeds from a controversial East Side land sale into a fund for the bridge’s restoration.

The City asked the court to find the matter moot, saying it had already done what the group is asking it to do.

The appeal asked the court to instruct the City to put all proceeds from the sale of the lot at 803. N.Cherry into a fund for the historic bridge, City Attorney Andy Segovia told the Rivard Report on Monday, but the City did so in December 2014.

“The underlying controversy is gone,” Segovia said,” so the case should be dismissed.”

City Attorney Andy Segovia
City Attorney Andy Segovia Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The appeal is part of a 2012 lawsuit that challenges the City’s sale of land adjacent to the historic Hays Street Bridge to the owner of a beer company for $291,522. The 1.7-acre property was supposed to become a public park, the group says. The parcel has since been sold to a local developer, Mitch Meyer, who now plans to build a controversial multistory, mixed-use apartment complex there. As property values and investments rise in the near East Side, some residents are concerned that the apartments will contribute to gentrification of the area. There have been several protests at the property calling for the City to turn the land into a park.

The high court is set to hear oral arguments on the appeal on Thursday, Sept. 13. The court could choose to decide on the motion to dismiss before then or on that date.

A Bexar County district court jury agreed in 2014 that the City violated a memorandum of understanding when it sold the land, directing the City to compensate the restoration fund with the money it got from the sale. In 2017, an appeals court ruled that the City is immune to being sued for such a breach of contract, and the Restoration Group appealed to the Supreme Court in June 2017.

The Hays Street Restoration Group, which raised significant funds to turn the dilapidated bridge into a pedestrian and bike path, filed a motion in June to delay construction on the apartment complex, but that was denied by District Court Judge Laura Salinas.

The outcome of the case at the Supreme Court level would have no impact on the planned development, Segovia said. While reviewing the case for that hearing, he said, city attorneys found a case for dismissal.

There’s no mention of a park in the original memorandum of understanding between the group and the City, Segovia noted. The City never classified the land as a park.

It’s possible that the group could again sue in district court if it won its appeal, he said, but there’s a “99.9 percent chance it would be dismissed.”

The appeal making it to the Supreme Court was already a long shot, the group’s attorney Amy Kastely has said.

“All the odds were against us,” Kastely said in June when the court announced it would hear the case. “But we expected this.”

The 2014 jury already found that the land is not a park, Segovia said, that’s not what was appealed.

What was appealed was the city’s immunity to being compelled to a specific performance in response to a breach of contract.

Specific performance, such as directing a city to put funding in a certain fund, is fairly rare in breach-of-contract cases, Segovia said. More typically, it’s monetary damages. “While [City immunity] is an interesting question, it’s open for another case with an active controversy to resolve.”

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