On Tuesday, the City’s Governance Committee listened to Councilman Roberto Treviño’s (D1) request to conduct a design competition to make City Hall’s main entrance handicap accessible, but ultimately rejected that request and redirected the issue by incorporating it into a more holistic assessment of maintenance, renovation, and building improvement needs at City Hall.
“Accessibility is inclusivity,” Treviño said. “We have an issue here and there are many solutions – what I am asking for is a creative solution. We need to be the kind of city that looks at innovation and design solutions.”
Treviño stressed that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Civil Rights law, and that although City Hall is wheelchair accessible, everyone should be able to pass through the same iconic entrance.
“There are times when we can be ‘technically correct,’ but we want to make sure that we are adhering to that spirit that was intended and there’s an issue here where we send certain groups of people to a different spot,” he said.
Councilmen Ron Nirenberg (D8) and Joe Krier (D9) agreed with Treviño about accessibility, saying that the proposal is not so much about a design competition, but about getting more options and bringing them to the table. Nirenberg added that Treviño’s proposal is also about restoring dignity and that rejecting the idea of a design competition could potentially close the door to innovative ideas.
“There are other issues happening in this building,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3). “People have talked about wanting a shower, complained about the WiFi reception in the basement, and security issues. I would rather do a thorough assessment of needs here at City Hall, focusing on deferred maintenance issues and including what it would look like to have accessibility in the front.”
Viagran said that design competitors cost too much money and usually delay projects. She suggested looking at the budget and City Hall’s needs “holistically” – without a focus on a design competition – and bringing suggestions back to the committee in order to move forward.
Treviño strongly disagreed with Viagran, and said that her motion would actually “delay things” more. He stressed that the proposal for access at the main entrance of City Hall should be prioritized today. On the subject of the design competition, Treviño said that many creative opportunities come out of such competitions and mentioned the new San Antonio River barge design and the Stinson tower as examples of successful results.
“There isn’t a single solution,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “We can incorporate multiple options.”
After everyone at the table voiced opinions and took sides, it was a clear that there would be no unanimous agreement for either side. Mayor Ivy Taylor agreed with the “holistic approach” and proceeded to ask about the motion.
“My inclination is to look at things holistically,” Taylor told Treviño. “I understand the issue, Councilman, but we are meeting the requirements right now for being accessible. Though we might want it to be from every angle, it makes sense to look at the bigger picture (and) focus on other building improvements.”
Ultimately, the majority of the committee agreed to work on a detailed report that talks about “multiple options” to improve City Hall, which may also include options for accessibility at the main entrance.
Top image: Wheelchair accessibility to City Hall can be found at the back of the building. Photo by Rocío Guenther.