City halts huts for Google fiber; mayoral candidates weigh-in

Mayor, challengers weigh-in on location choices

SAN ANTONIO – Nearly all of the Google fiber hut locations, approved by City Council last summer, are temporarily on hold as the city responds to growing complaints and concerns from residents.

Now the three declared candidates hoping to be San Antonio’s next mayor – Mayor Ivy Taylor, District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Manuel Medina – are chiming in on the decision.

“It was brought before council as a map with pretty general locations,” Nirenberg said. “Anytime the public is left out of the decision making process and anytime we have a lot of promise in technology or any other innovation in the city of San Antonio and it comes to a grinding halt, it does make people wonder what leadership is doing and I think they're justified in asking those questions.”

The 17 sites include three residential properties owned by the city and six city parks. The approval came with little notice for input from residents and the sites weren’t announced before the approval.

“There was no community input from the beginning and the worst part is, the community complained and no one paid attention to them,” Medina, former chair of the Bexar County Democratic party, said. “No one listened to them until the huts were actually built.”

Taylor said they received the site locations from the city’s IT staffers who worked with Google on ideal locations. She visited one of the three residential sites where one of the huts was supposed to go.

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“When you hear the word hut, you think of something small in scale but we found out they're actually very large structures so I think that impacted our assessment of whether these sites were appropriate,” she said.

Last month, the Historic Design and Review Commission asked Google for more details for huts that were constructed at two city parks.

Taylor doesn’t expect the city’s decision to have a long-term effect on the project.

“We certainly are committed to continue to work with them,” she said. “We want to have high speed fiber available all throughout San Antonio. We just need to ensure we have optimal locations so we'll just keep working closely with them to make sure that happens.”

An email sent Wednesday by City Manager Sheryl Sculley to Taylor said city staff not only recommend halting work on all of the sites, but also to find new locations for seven of the remaining 15. Those include three residential properties owned by the city and four city parks.

An update on fiber projects are on the City Council’s “B” session for Wednesday but there’s nothing on the agenda about site relocation.