The San Antonio City Council approved a land use and zoning change Thursday for a 4-acre site along the planned route of VIA’s Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) system.
Located near the Shearer Hills and Ridgeview neighborhoods, half a mile from VIA’s existing North Star Transit Center, the property is slated for a mixed residential and retail development.
The land use amendment and rezoning, requested by a local developer, comes amid the council’s recent focus on transit-oriented developments and making it easier for such projects to be built.
At 7159 San Pedro Ave., the site of a former Southwestern Bell building, rezoning allows the developer to build up to 350 dwelling units and space for commercial uses. The land use goes from “community commercial” to “mixed use” in the North Central Community Plan.
A site plan submitted by attorneys for developer Rajeev Puri of AD Acquisitions shows that Puri wants to put up two eight-story residential buildings with street-level retail, a storage building and a six-story parking garage.
The developer and attorneys with the firm Brown & McDonald did not respond to a request for more information.
A transit-oriented development (TOD) is one that is compact and walkable, offers a mix of residential and commercial spaces and is centered around transit systems.
In October, Councilman Marc Whyte (D10) and Councilwomen Sukh Kaur (D1) and Teri Castillo (D5) asked the city to create a plan for VIA’s two slated ART lines that would enable developments that match that description.
Their goal is to reduce barriers to creating mixed-use housing developments along the ART corridors, offering incentives for residential density, reducing setbacks, landscape buffers and minimum parking requirements and helping offset the cost of infrastructure.
The program the council members proposed in a formal Council Consideration Request would be unique to the ART lines, which are the north-south Green Line and the east-west Silver Line.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg has set up a technical working group within the city’s Housing Commission, so that the recommended TOD goals, aligned with the city’s greater housing goals, can be translated into zoning code.
During a recent meeting of the council’s governance committee, Assistant City Manager Rod Sanchez said TOD goals are already written into the city’s Unified Development Code and have been since 2001.
“However, I could probably count on a couple of fingers a time that it’s actually been used by anybody,” he said. “So it is timely that we do relook at this initiative to see what we can do to incentivize folks to do some of these developments, especially in light of what VIA is doing with the ART programs.”
In March, the council is scheduled to discuss updating the SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan, a framework adopted in 2016 to guide growth and development in the city. City Manager Erik Walsh said TOD concepts will be “wrapped” into that discussion.
Dave Shorr has lived in Shearer Hills for 18 years, moving from Houston for his job at Valero. He is dubious about the ART plans and how it will fit on San Pedro, but his experience with Houston traffic has made him a mass transit fan.
“I’m very much in favor of the city or somebody creating other ways for people to get around that don’t involve cars,” Shorr said.
But his house is a block away from the proposed development, and he opposed the rezoning because he’s worried it will push more traffic into the neighborhood.
“I would be wholeheartedly supporting a project like this if it was, for example, happening on the other side of San Pedro,” where there’s a big shopping center, Shorr said.
Guy Rubio, whose house is adjacent to the rezoned property, is also against the project due to his concerns about the building height and traffic flow in the neighborhood.
But the ART seems like a great idea, he said: “That’s a straight shot downtown so it seems like it would alleviate a lot of the traffic.”
In November, the developer met with neighborhood representatives to present his plans, said Jennifer Neal, president of the Shearer Hills and Ridgeview Neighborhood Association, which voted to support the rezoning. But traffic concerns were a part of that discussion, she said.
“San Pedro is already kind of bonkers and we know where the VIA Green Line goes, that’s going to change things as well,” Neal said. “It will now be right-turn only out of all of our neighborhood streets so that will be an interesting adjustment.”
But Neal is hopeful that the ART will drive more projects like Puri’s, who also developed the Art House in Southtown, to the area, she said.
“There are a bunch of us who are kind of worn out on having vape shops and … at least three gun stores in our section of the neighborhood … and a bunch of tire shops,” she said. “So for there to be something like this new residential mixed-use space, it’s like, ‘Oh, good, there’s something different, something nicer, something of a higher quality joining our neighborhood.’”