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Opinions split on proposed Buena Vista Historic District designation

Voting underway, decision expected later next year

SAN ANTONIO – Part of what has been known as one of the city’s poorest areas is also one of its most historic. Later next year, San Antonio’s West Side could include the Buena Vista Historical District.

Voting is underway among its nearly 500 property owners, but unlike other elections, they can change their votes at anytime ahead of an expected decision later next year.

Until then, opinions differ over whether having a historical designation would be good for a community that’s already seeing developers buying up properties just west of downtown.

The Historic Westside Residents Association and others have voiced concern over demolitions of existing properties.

A city spokeswoman said a historical district designation could make that more difficult, involving approval by the Historic and Design Review Commission.

Some residents have also questioned whether they need to get permission for any exterior work to their homes visible from the street.

The spokeswoman said “90% of the requests are approved,” either administratively or appearing before the HDRC.

As for any break in city taxes, homeowners in new historic district automatically receive a 20% reduction without any required investment on their part, the spokeswoman said.

To qualify for the “substantial rehabilitation incentive,” the owner must invest 30% of the assessed value of their home, she said.

However, critics point out that large of an investment would be out of reach for many residents who live below the poverty line or who are on fixed incomes.

She said 51% of the 498 properties within the proposed district from Buena Vista to Zarzamora and from Cesar Chavez to Brazos would then begin the public hearing process.

The case will be heard by HDRC, the Zoning Commission and finally a decision by City Council.

Residents on both sides of the issue have said they’ll each continue trying to gain support or opposition to the proposal.

If 51% support is not reached, the spokeswoman said the application for the historic designation will expire June 2, 2021.

To see and hear what’s been said during public meetings so far, click here.

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