President’s Summer Message
The Importance of Protecting Residential Zoning
When I was in architecture school, I took a course in city planning. I learned about zoning, and the idea that it must be flexible to allow cities to grow and change.
When we bought our house in 2002, I brought with me that mindset, and did not understand the strong objection in the neighborhood to zoning changes away from residential use. I even wrote a letter in favor of a neighbor’s zoning change request! As time went on, however, I began to understand that the value of our property was really dependent on zoning stability in our block and on our street. And when I finally understood that little fact, as you can imagine, I changed my tune and how!
I came to see that in a mixed-use urban neighborhood, it is always possible to make a strong case to “upzone” a particular property from residential to office or commercial use. But each time that happens, the remaining residential zoning becomes less secure, and the immediate neighborhood suffers a small setback in the quality of life. One less neighbor, one less family there at night, one less individual homeowner to care. In other words, one less domino standing.
In recognition of this problem, the MVHA board of directors has adopted the following resolution:
MVHA supports the preservation of single-family, residential zoning in order to protect and maintain the historic fabric of the neighborhood and to foster the values of a residential neighborhood.
MVHA opposes any proposed rezoning of residential properties located within the historic district. Loss of residential, single-family zoning in the past has resulted in the deterioration of properties due to institutional or commercial use and has often let to demolition of the historic homes. Any further loss of single-family houses and landscaping in Monte Vista would negatively impact the residential integrity of the historic neighborhood.
I am glad that the board adopted this resolution. It formalizes our position, and will help strengthen our case when we have to appear before the City of San Antonio Planning Commission to oppose a zoning change request.
It is important to Monte Vista, but it is bigger than just one neighborhood. It is really a city-wide concern for all of our inner-city neighborhoods. In these days of urban sprawl and the many problems that attend, more than ever we should be thinking of ways to promote our inner-city neighborhoods. How better to do that than to make a new commitment to preserving residential zoning where it exists, and assuring potential homeowners that their investments will not be threatened by careless zoning policies? I believe that no better proof exists than the Monte Vista Historic District itself. Why is our neighborhood fundamentally intact, and still a fine place to live, when so many other urban neighborhoods have been so decimated? Because, for over forty years, the MVHA has fought innumerable small battles to protect residential zoning wherever it exists.
I hope there will come a day when the City of San Antonio Planning Department and Planning Commission awaken to this truth, and adopt a new policy to protect residential zoning in our inner-city neighborhoods.