HEADS UP! Monte Vista and the T.S.L.U.
Transportation-Supportive Land Use
“No one really gets MV. Either it is somehow reviled for being rich people’s homes or celebrated for its beauty and charm. But the truth is, MV is a complex urban space.” Cynthia Spielman
There are plenty of opinions on a “Transportation-Supportive Land Use” (T.S.L.U.) draft that is making its way toward adoption by the City. It advocates for rapid transit and, importantly to Monte Vista, housing density and affordability to support same. This affects zoning, which affects neighborhoods. Bear with me.
City Planners sometimes talk about “exclusionary zoning.” The thought seems to be that the city can create “inclusiveness for all incomes within all neighborhoods”.
People sometimes are critical of Monte Vista, saying that it is too expensive: ‘Many of us can’t afford to buy many of the houses here’. So what? Does that mean that the expensive houses should be in some way deconstructed by the City? Who decides how much house you may have?
Cary Moon, city planner and mayor of Seattle, has said: "single-family zoning is a socio-economic exclusionary tool, just as redlining was a racial exclusionary tool.” In San Antonio, similar opinions have been voiced. But in Monte Vista, south of East Mulberry, there are some single-family homes whose owners want to keep them single-family. Almost all these residents are very pleased with the chance to rezone from MF-33. These home-owners thought they just wanted to keep their neighborhood recognizable. They might have been dismayed to be told that they were using a tool to “inflate housing costs, increase homelessness, and exacerbate racial and economic segregation.” Should the City force these people to rent out rooms? How many? To whom? At what price? Who decides?
Another city-planning theme that I have heard mentioned lately is that cities must increase density and walkability in their neighborhoods.
So, density and Monte Vista. This is an historic district, unique and arguably valuable to the city. People seem to want to live here for a variety of reasons, some of which probably have to do with space. Should historic districts be made to attain a density goal that didn’t exist when they were built? Should there be no historic districts?
About three years ago, I completed a parcel-by-parcel walking tour of my part of Monte Vista. I started with Huisache between San Pedro and McCullough and went south to French Place ditto (where I wore out). I found well over twice as many apartments, some purpose-built, many in former single-family homes, many above garages, as single-family stand-alone homes. The apartments do not look at all pricy. We also have churches, schools, care facilities, office buildings, restaurants, and retail, all of which provide employment opportunities. I haven’t done a walking tour, but I know there are many apartments near Hildebrand Avenue as well. So, are we dense enough? Who decides?
Walkability and Monte Vista. Monte Vista was built as a streetcar suburb. It is already walkable, as it was laid out in a grid with sidewalks beginning in the 1890’s. Close to public transportation? Much of Monte Vista is within three blocks of San Pedro, North Main, Woodlawn, McCullough or North St. Mary’s. For Monte Vista’s first decades, residents were generally dependent on the streetcars of the San Antonio Traction Company to get to town.
My point of view is that people pay taxes and should generally be left to enjoy their remaining income as they legally please: houses, cars, tithes, savings, private schools, shopping at Neiman’s or at Big Lots. All those things could be said to increase homelessness in a way, simply by not dedicating the money to shelter. Why emphasize single-family houses?
And so back to the T.S.L.U. I’m for rapid transit, certainly. I see the need for city planning Also broccoli. But I do wonder: what sort of rapid transit, and what kind of city planning? How much density? Where? What effect will it have on nearby areas? Plans strictly from City staff, or collaborative? Intrusive or respectful? San Antonio must plan for good public transportation, and this needs to be done carefully. We need to consider carefully the what, where, when and how. Let’s ask questions and insist on getting answers. The MVHA Board is monitoring this, and we surely could use some help. If you are interested, please call the office at 210-737-8212 and leave a message for Paula. You do NOT have to be on the Board.