Editor’s Note: Ybanez is a member of Mission San José Neighborhood Association, writing in response to a recent commentary by Rebecca Viagran published by the San Antonio Express-News.
The communities around the Missions believe that preservation and economic growth can coexist. What we do not believe is that high density development directly next to the Missions is the right thing to do. Our petition, protests, and media coverage pressed District 3 Councilwoman Viagran to oppose the multifamily proposal across from Mission San José’s visitor center. Unfortunately, it did not stop the multifamily, mixed-use development on the Archdiocese’s property and former St. John Seminary directly next to Mission Concepción and the land directly behind Mission Concepción. Our concern about the effect of the designation is that the type of development that the city wants to promote encroaches on the authenticity of the Missions and on the same neighborhoods that are part of the living culture of the World Heritage Designation.
There is no “de facto moratorium” plaguing District 3, as the council woman wrote in her recent commentary in the Express-News. For the past 12 years or more various businesses and development have been constructed including Mission Plaza on Roosevelt and Military Drive; Brooks City Base and City Base on SE Military; shopping centers on Goliad; Pre-K For SA school on South New Braunfels; apartments complexes including some on VFW Boulevard, Mission Road, South New Braunfels, Brook City Base, Loop 410, SE Military Drive, and near Highway 37 and Interstate 281; subdivisions including some on South Presa, Roosevelt Avenue, Military Drive, Southcross Street; a golf course on Military Drive, hotels, the Methodist Hospital in Brook City Base; Mission Library; Mission Reach; Toyota’s manufacturing plant; Palo Alto College; and Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
Development has happened and will continue to happen in the Southside because there is room and a desire by developers and the city to build in the Southside – but not right next to our Missions.
The proposals for development that are of concern to the Mission communities are those that are directly next to the Missions like the development in the archdiocese’s property and the land behind it. Both are directly next to Mission Concepción and were approved by City Council. Many believe that the vacant land directly next to the Missions should be made into parks – cultural, recreational, gardens. Parkland will protect the newly designated World Heritage sites with open land, open sky, and access to river; they will preserve the land that was once indigenous lands and contain buried ancestors of the Mission descendants. The parks would honor the descendants who for years have requested that the city recognize their contributions to our Missions. The parks would promote an authentic experience for the tourists who visit our Missions. Lastly, parks next to the Missions would nurture the promised profit to all the businesses around the Missions because of the increase visits to the Missions by locals and tourists.
We believe that the Missions have one story and should be judged as one World Heritage site. We have been in dialogue with our city leaders. We hope that they are listening to us.
*Top image: Terry A. Ybanez (second from right) stands with friends and neighbors during a recent show of protest to development near San Antonio’s Spanish colonial Missions. Courtesy photo.