The City’s Historic Design and Review Commission tabled a vote on a design for the first phase of Alamo Plaza’s redevelopment, citing a pending lawsuit between the state and local governments and a local indigenous group. 

Commissioners voted 8-3 Tuesday to wait to hear a briefing about the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation’s legal fight against Alamo Trust, the Texas General Land Office, and the City. Tap Pilam is seeking for the site to be considered as an official cemetery and to be formally recognized as descendants of Native Americans who lived at the former Spanish colonial mission before it played a key role in the Texas Revolution. 

“It’s, to me, a matter of making sure we’re on the right side of history,” said District 3 appointee and Avenida Guadalupe Association director Gabriel Velasquez, at the meeting. “Hopefully, our legal team can give us some confidence that we’re not moving a stone when we’re not meant to move a stone.”

The vote came after City staff told HDRC members that the Tap Pilam lawsuit would not interfere with the landscaping around the Cenotaph’s new position outside the Menger Hotel, approximately 500 feet south of where it currently sits.

“The lawsuit has nothing to do with the landscaping, the hardscaping – what is before you on the agenda,” Assistant City Attorney Susan Guinn told the commission, adding that her office would brief the commission on the lawsuit underway in federal court in Texas’ Western District.

All HDRC members except mayoral appointee Paola Fernandez, District 7 appointee Anne-Marie Grube (D7), and District 9 appointee Jeffrey Fetzer (D9) voted to postpone the issue. 

Their vote followed more than three hours of impassioned testimony from around 40 opponents of moving the Cenotaph, the 1936 monument to the Texas revolutionaries who died defending the former mission during the historic battle in 1836. Those who spoke out included members of This Is Texas Freedom Force, the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, and state Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg).

“The only folks that have spoken in favor of this thing are the folks that are making money off it,” San Antonio resident and Tea Party commentator George Rodriguez told HDRC members.

Rodriguez was referring to contractors working on the project for the City and Alamo Trust, the site’s nonprofit manager. The Cenotaph’s relocation is part of the first phase of a $450 million redevelopment of the historic site and plaza. 

The outcry over the Cenotaph’s relocation continues more than a year after the HDRC approved moving the Cenotaph in October 2018. That was part of a joint vote with the HDRC and City’s Planning Commission a little more than a week before City Council gave its go-ahead to the entire Alamo plan. The HDRC meeting’s agenda listed Wednesday’s vote as about the “positioning of the Cenotaph within the proposed plaza.”

Attendees hold up signs in protest of the relocation of the Cenotaph.

However, most in the crowd treated the meeting as if the HDRC was deciding on moving the monument for the first time. Some commissioners also seemed unsure what exactly the agenda language meant, though others pointed to the votes last year. 

“For good or bad, the decision to move it has already been made,” Fetzer said.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.