Executive committee members of a nonprofit that works to improve the economically distressed neighborhoods of San Antonio’s West Side considered a proposal Monday for the agency to establish a public improvement district (PID).
The proposal by the Westside Development Corporation to create the district, and a funding mechanism for improvements on the West Side, would have to be approved by its board, area business owners, and City Council.
“In looking at all the needs that there are on the West Side and considering our mission and goal [and] looking at the different tools that are available to affect the changes that are needed in an inclusive and sensitive way to the population that we serve, this is one of the tools that we’re looking at,” said Ramiro Gonzales, CEO of the Westside Development Corporation (WDC).
State law allows a city or county to create a public improvement district and tax certain properties within the designated area to pay for improvements, which can include landscaping and parks, art and lighting installation, libraries and sidewalks, affordable housing development, and promotion and administration in support of the district.
There are two active PIDs within San Antonio, and others outside the city limits. In 1999, the City of San Antonio created the Downtown PID to provide clean, safe, and welcoming services within a 1-square-mile area of the center city. In 2018, the City approved the San Antonio Tourism PID, which assesses a fee for overnight hotel stays to provide marketing and promotion services that benefit the hotels within the district.
Bexar County has designated 11 special districts, including the Westside 211 Public Improvement District, established in 2007 in an area surrounding U.S. Highways 211 and 90 in the far west part of the county.
The West Side PID would provide funding for some of the activity that already fits within the WDC mission, Gonzales said. It would encompass the 15-square-mile service area of the agency, which spans an area bordered by Cincinnati Avenue, Fredericksburg Road, Acme Road, and Highway 90.
Only commercial property owners in the district would be assessed the fee, he said, estimating there are about 2,400 such owners in the area. But he did not explain how the fee would be calculated. In the Downtown PID, commercial properties are assessed based on the valuation on the property as determined by the Bexar Appraisal District.
“Nothing is certain,” Gonzales told the San Antonio Report. “Today’s discussion was to assess general support from the committee to take to the full board for discussion, to keep exploring, and to develop further recommendations as we learn more.”
The rules governing a PID would allow the WDC board to determine how the funds are used. But at least half of the board must be composed of property owners paying into the PID, which means the current board makeup would need to change, Gonzales said.
One board member questioned the timing of the plan, suggesting property owners might not have an “appetite” for it given the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We would need to do more outreach to see, because the ones we’ve talked to obviously have a closer relationship with the WDC,” Gonzales said. “But once you get further into the community [and] have that discussion, that may change. And so it’s really a matter of just doing some outreach and connecting with people and helping to really educate on the value of it.”
Gonzales said he has met with a City attorney about the process, and further discussion about the proposal is on the agenda for WDC’s board of directors meeting on Thursday.
If a PID service plan is approved by the board, the organization would need to collect at least 1,200 signatures on a petition to bring the issue to the City for public hearings and council approval. The process could go fast, Gonzales said.
“We could, from a timeframe standpoint, get all of this done within the calendar year 2021 so that we can actually start the PID in 2021 and start delivery of services toward the last half of 2022,” he said.