Understand: What does the Historic and Design Review Commission do?

Commission aims to preserve San Antonio’s history

San Antonio – Homeowners and developers who want to make changes to structures or who want to build structures in historic districts must go through the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission, or the HDRC.

Last month, the HDRC was responsible for approving the first phase of the Alamo Plaza redesign. This is just one of hundreds of cases the HDRC hears every year.

“It is not just about historic buildings; it also includes design review in, like, in the river - along the San Antonio River. They also look at everything like city projects, like a new terminal at the airport or new libraries or fire stations,” said Shanon Miller, director of the city’s Office of Historic Preservation, or the OHP.

Miller said San Antonio has over 30 historic districts and the commission’s major focus is preserving that history.

“What’s most common is, you know, someone that owns a historic building like there, they live in a historic district and they decide that they want to build a garage or make an addition to their house or something like that. Those types of things have to go through the commission for a recommendation,” Miller said.

When a person submits an application to the OHP, the staff then reviews it. If it’s approved, it moves forward to the HDRC. After the commissioners review it, they make a recommendation and it goes back to OHP staff.

Not all cases have to go before the HDRC. They can also be approved by the OHP.

There are 11 commissioners that sit on the HDRC and they are appointed by the city council. They meet twice a month and they don’t get paid since they are volunteers.

The HDRC reviewed 688 cases in 2017. In 2018, 686 cases were looked at. Last year, the HDRC reviewed 749 cases.

Miller said the reason for so many cases could be a result of a strong economy and people working on their homes.

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