Another Side Deal...
An apartment complex next to the Hays Street Bridge was given approval Friday, March 23, 2018 — with a list of conditions — by City Manager Sheryl Sculley. The decision came as a shock to the East Side residents.
East Side residents have been fighting the project because we argue it would tower over the iconic bridge and nearby historic homes.
Earlier this month, the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission rejected the project on a 5-3 vote. That vote marked its second failure before the HDRC. The commission also voted it down in December after another contentious, hours long meeting.
After the news broke, protesters gathered on Monday, March 26, 2018 and stated, "San Antonio is a Historic City and with now this out of state investors want to redo the city's skylines by knocking down building instead of renovating." "These backroom deals have got to stop," said Graciela Sanchez, director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. "And they stop with the Hays Street Bridge."
THE BEAUTIFUL HAYS STREET BRIDGE
In a memo last week to developer Mitch Meyer, Sculley said the city supports a “viable project” that is “respectful of the historic Hays Street Bridge and that addresses design concerns” raised by residents and the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission. The HDRC had twice denied approval of the project — once in December and again on March 9, after the panel was presented a revised design plan.
“At the moment, it seems like a city without a heart,” Mario Salas, former Councilman of District 2 told more than 50 people at a demonstration and vigil on the bridge.
The Cherry Street land, donated to the city by beer distributor BudCo, was sold in 2012 to Alamo Beer for a brewery. But the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group sued the city, which it claimed had agreed the land would be used for a park. Alamo Beer owner Eugene Simor built the brewery on the south side of the bridge and deeded the land to Meyer. The restoration group has asked the Texas Supreme Court to review a 4th Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the city over use of the land.
Instead, the City Manager found the reason to push forward quickly overturning the will of the people. The City Manager's power is not as an elected official, she is the POWER. City Council members have not responded to what the community calls "abuse of power."
Darryl Steadman, son of engineer Douglas Steadman, who worked for decades to save the bridge, said his father had told him just before he died on Feb. 12, that “those crooks” stole the land.
“I don’t know what else to call it except corrupt,” the younger Steadman, speaking of the latest development in the contentious saga, told the group Monday.
In the latest case, Sculley and the city’s historic preservation and planning staff have required 11 stipulations, including design changes to provide a “publicly accessible view” of the 1880s wrought iron, 353-foot bridge. Sculley also has asked Meyer to meet with the architectural review committee of the historic Dignowity Hill neighborhood. Other conditions include screening of mechanical building components from public view and alternations to spacing and height, to preserve sight lines to and from the bridge.
Sculley is making the case that it is the need for housing that is the priority. But housing for who? This is her bold vision to re-gentrify the East Side at the entry point and create the growth that she envisions.
One person said, "This is a prime example of abuse of authority, East Side residents rejected this project and this idiot [Sculley] authorizes it so why even ask? This is to much and how much of a pay off is she getting out of this project? Or who is getting the pay off? This woman needs to go regardless of what City Council has to say.
But the legal fight comes late for residents such as Celeste Orta, who returned to the nearby neighborhood in 2014 after graduating from college. When she moved in with her 89-year-old grandmother a few blocks from the Hays Street Bridge, she discovered rising property values had already displaced many of her neighbors.
"I wondered what happened to the strong black and brown community I left," said Orta, whose family has lived in the East Side neighborhood for more than 100 years. "Now I'm worried I won't be able to stay here on a teacher's salary."
Attendees said the five-story structure proposed by developer Mitch Meyer would block residents' views of the bridge, once the primary connection between downtown and the predominantly African-American East Side. They also worry the 147-unit structure would hasten gentrification of surrounding neighborhoods.
"Does the richest City Manager in the land really care about what Black and Brown people can afford?" said Nora Williams
The crowd at the protest — many holding signs that read "Culture over gentrification" and "Puente para la gente" — booed when Sanchez and other speakers mentioned the city's lengthy track record of coddling developers. Civil Rights leader Nettie Hinton spoke to their hearts and stated "Do not let the city run over us on this issue. This is about our future!"