More than 50 members of the Southside community filled a conference room at Stinson Municipal Airport to consider changes pertaining to proposed amendments to land use in the Mission World Heritage area. World Heritage Office Director Colleen Swain and Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) were on hand to present the proposed changes and listen to input from the community.

The plans concern zoning and development around the Spanish-colonial Missions and provide more individualized plans for the Lone Star neighborhood, the South Central community to the west of Mission San José, the Stinson Airport vicinity, and the Heritage South sector surrounding Mission Espada.

The general themes that run through the project are opening up the neighborhoods around the Missions and making them more pedestrian accessible, which includes creating pedestrian links from schools, businesses, and residential areas to the San Antonio River. It discourages high density residential development in close proximity to the Missions, but encourages diverse commercial development opportunities. There’s also an emphasis on scaling back the proliferation of tire shops and other auto related businesses in the area.

World Heritage Area Future Land Use Plan Amendments.
World Heritage Area Future Land Use Plan Amendments.

The Lone Star Neighborhood Plan calls for consideration for vacant rail lines to be converted into biking and hiking trails and for urban agriculture opportunities to be explored. The plan also seeks to preserve the single-family residential area adjacent to Brackenridge High School and industrial use at Pioneer Flour Mills.

The South Central Community Plan directs the City to purchase land for park or a cultural/museum sites in the area south of Mission San José or along Roosevelt Avenue. It also encourages market rate multi-family developments, but not in close proximity to the Missions.

The Stinson Airport Vicinity Plan calls for the installation of pedestrian and bicycle links between the Espada aqueduct, the San Antonio River, and Mission San Juan. It encourages the development of low to mid-rise apartments along Roosevelt Avenue as well as the transition of industrial properties on South Presa Street to mixed use development.

The Heritage South Sector Plan suggests the expansion of green space, natural buffers, and parks along floodplains and acequias. The plan continues to allow large lot single-family and agricultural uses of land near Mission Espada and directs the City to consider opportunities for shuttle buses, refreshments, gift shops, and and small businesses near Loop 410 and in proximity to Mission Espada.

To view the full list of proposed land use changes to these areas, click here.

Viagran opened the meeting by saying that the purpose of the meetings was to hear the community stance’s on how to safeguard the communities that live and work around the Missions.

“This is also to consider opportunities that have, more often than not, overlooked the Southside,” Viagran added. “Remember, this plan is dynamic. And it may change as a result of community input.”

World Heritage Director Colleen Swain explains part of the Mission World Heritage land use amendments. Photo by James McCandless
World Heritage Director Colleen Swain explains part of the Mission World Heritage land use amendments. Photo by James McCandless

Introducing the amendments and fielding community questions, Swain said that community input for the land use plan was an important part of the process and that extensive input has been received since February.

“We’ve had an open house process for a while now,” Swain said. “It’s given us a great opportunity to hear from property owners in the (Mission) buffer zone” on how development could potentially affect their property.

Members of the community were given maps of the plans and enlarged posters of each plan’s details were posted in the room where City employees were stationed and poised to answer questions.

After the presentation, the floor was opened to community input. Most of the concerns centered around preserving the community that already exists around the Missions and making sure they were affordable.

Denise Ojeda, a member of the City of San Antonio’s Board of Adjustment, said that the future of the Missions is dependent on how locals can access them, and not just tourists.

“I think it would be wonderful if we would consider extending the Mission Protection Overlay District,” Ojeda said. “That can provide people with a consistent experience of what (Southside) San Antonio really looks like.”

After the meeting, community members were able to submit comment cards and ask City officials about the details of the changes to the land use plan.

Community member Kevin Sekula, who has lived on the Southside for 58 years, told the Rivard Report that development needs to happen around the Missions, but developers can’t expect to push forward without hearing the community.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran listens to the concerns of Southside resident Kevin Sekula. Photo by James McCandless.
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran listens to the concerns of Southside resident Kevin Sekula. Photo by James McCandless.

“I would like to see gentrification come into the neighborhood because we need a better tax base, but I don’t want to see the Southside overrun by (developers),” Sekula said. “We need to meet them in person. Obviously they didn’t show up to the meeting.”

Although developers were invited, none were present at the meeting.

Laura Zuniga, another community member, said that her greatest concern is maintaining the integrity and the character of the area.

“Don’t put condominiums along Roosevelt (Avenue) and Mission Road. Try to keep it as appealing and open as possible,” she said. “Try to keep it as authentic as possible.”

This was the first of two community input meetings, with the second planned for Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Mission Branch Library.

Related Stories:

Alliance Cautions Against World Heritage ‘Theme Park’

Council Stresses Preservation of ‘Authenticity’ in World Heritage Work Plan

World Heritage Work Plan Continues to Take Shape with Community Feedback

Swain Chosen as World Heritage Director

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James McCandless

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.