When San Antonio City Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) listened to a report from the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force earlier this year he was struck by the group’s assertion that the first $25,000 of the cost of a house here comes from regulations.

He asked City staff for a fact check, and that report said the number was actually less than $15,000.

Regardless of the number, Pelaez realized that every regulation put in place affecting development in the city by all levels of government adds building costs for developers that are then passed on to buyers.

As Pelaez dug deeper and did more homework, he discovered the federal government as well as state and other city governments have rules in place that require new regulations be analyzed through the lens of the economic impact they will have if put into practice. San Antonio does not currently analyze proposed regulations in the same fashion and Pelaez thinks the City ought to consider it.

“That’s one of our duties is not to forget that every single one of our initiatives does have a cost attached and a burden,” Pelaez said.

Pelaez filed a council consideration request asking City Council to examine the City’s development regulations and their impact on development. The request was dated Aug. 14 but was discussed for the first time Wednesday during a governance committee meeting.

In his request, Pelaez said since the last Unified Development Code amendment review in 2015, several groups outside the purview of the Development Services Department have been formed for different purposes related to development.

Each of those groups is either in the process or already has made recommendations regarding regulations on new construction of homes and commercial projects in San Antonio.

Those groups includes the San Antonio Housing Commission to Protect & Preserve Dynamic & Diverse Neighborhoods, SA Tomorrow and the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force.

Pelaez is asking council to review the Unified Development Code review process, “taking into account all bodies that make development regulation recommendations and to determine the feasibility that each UDC amendment must include an economic impact analysis.”

Director of the DSD Michael Shannon.
Development Services Director Michael Shannon. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The committee unanimously supported the request and directed Development Services Director Michael Shannon to begin identifying appropriate groups to have representation in discussing the issue. Mayor Ron Nirenberg said analyzing the issue could have some lasting positive effects on the city.

“What I hear him saying is he would like a cost-benefit analysis and stakeholder input on future regulations and changes to the UDC, which is a natural form and function of good business,” Nirenberg said. “We want to make sure that as we develop new policy, that we understand the positive and the negative and consequences to any of those decisions because they’re critical.”

Shannon said groups likely to be invited to participate include the development community, school districts, the military community, relevant city departments, neighborhood associations, and others.

Shannon said once the group of stakeholders is formed and a consensus is developed, the group will likely forward its recommendations to the comprehensive planning committee. Any changes passed there would require a vote of the full council. Shannon said it could take 3-9 months to complete the process, maybe longer.

“I think as we change our codes for a lot of good reasons, no matter if it’s every five years or throughout those years, it’s important to understand how those codes can effect the bottom line, the cost to the community, the cost to developers, the cost to the homeowner or business owner who is going to buy or build that building,” Shannon said. “So I think it’s more about having the information through the process so we can make good, informed decisions moving forward.”

Kyle Ringo is a freelance journalist based in San Antonio. He has covered business, college athletics, the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball for numerous publications and websites.