GOALS FOR THE COMING YEAR
The Lavaca Neighborhood Association (LNA) has elected new officers and board members, and they’ve been meeting to set out their goals for the coming year.
We spoke with the new president, Melissa Stendahl, about those goals.
“The Board has worked on shaping these over the past month,” Melissa told us, “and there are five key areas on which we want to focus.”
Improvement of communications between the association and residents
Traffic and safety
Coordination of city’s various development projects
Renewed membership and fundraising drives
Consideration of an expanded historic district
Melissa told us a bit more about each of those topics.
There's a lot of development going on in Lavaca, especially in the northeast corner, and it's raising concerns about traffic. This is one of the apartment buildings being built along Labor Street at César Chávez.
Coordination of city’s development projects
There is a lot of development going on in Lavaca, and a substantial amount of it is happening in the northeast corner, around Labor Street and César Chávez. Most of it is driven by three big entities.
SAHA is building several new apartment buildings
SAISD is working to renovate and repurpose the old Burnet school building
The city’s Parks department is considering changes to Labor Street Park
For some time, each of those organizations has communicated independently with the neighborhood on its own plans and progress. The board would like to see better coordination among those entities, including community meetings where all three would report to the neighborhood together, so that they would hear each other and would hear and jointly respond to neighborhood concerns.
The recent meeting mentioned earlier in this article is an example of what the board would like to see. That meeting, held at the Burnet building on April 12, was very well attended.
“For once,” Melissa pointed out, “all three of these organizations were hearing the same concerns about traffic, and maybe we’ll get some progress as a result. That’s what we’d like to see more of.”
Renewed membership and fundraising drives
The LNA is dependent on its membership, both for volunteer work and for its limited finances, and it doesn’t have the level of involvement that it needs.
“We’re aiming for a fundraising event in October,” Melissa said. “We’ve started planning for it, but we’re in early stages right now.”
“We also plan to approach local businesses,” she added. “We want them to know about the association and what we can do to support them. And we’d like them to become members.”
Consideration of expanded historic district
Not all of Lavaca is part of the historic district. Later this year, the board would like to discuss the benefits of historic designation with residents in the non-included areas. “We want to see if they’d be interested and supportive of an effort to get that designation,” Melissa says.
Labor Street Park has a children's playground, a basketball court, outdoor workout equipment, a ball diamond, and picnic areas. Some changes in the park are under consideration due to SAHA's development plans.
Improved communication is a major focus, Melissa said. The board wants to see that the association reaches people through all possible channels, including non-electronic channels.
She pointed to electronic channels that are already in place, such as the LNA website, the weekly email newsletter, and the association’s Facebook page, but she emphasized the need for non-electronic communications, too.
“I don’t feel that people should have to have any specific social media account or email subscription in order to hear about the most important things, like association meeting times, or public input meetings for things like the Burnett campus, Victoria Commons, Labor Street Park renovation, and things like that.”
So the board wants to get paper flyers out where people can find them — at local businesses, for example — and they want to re-introduce signs posted on stakes throughout the neighborhood to announce upcoming meetings.
“We’ve already started posting flyers at convenience stores and apartment buildings,” Melissa said, “and we’ll update those regularly.”
She told us that the board also plans to improve and update its electronic communications. They have two specific things in mind: First, they have begun work to update the LNA website, and, second, the association is talking to LNF Weekly about better communicating with residents through its pages.
Traffic and safety
Traffic is a major concern in the neighborhood.
“There’s new housing and new businesses going into places off South Presa and St. Mary’s,” Melissa pointed out, “and then there’s all the development going on near Labor Street Park. That’s bound to increase traffic.”
The board has several specific projects planned related to traffic and safety, but their most important goal is to get a comprehensive traffic study done for the neighborhood.
At a recent community meeting to hear reports on development from the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA), the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), and the city’s Parks department, several neighbors raised traffic concerns. At least one resident pointed out that there was no coordination regarding traffic among those three organizations.
Hearing those concerns, District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo told attendees that he would work with those organizations to get a traffic study funded, and, if they didn’t put up the funds, he committed to using his own discretionary funds to get the study done.
The board plans to stay involved and push to make sure this study happens.
Other traffic and safety projects on the board’s agenda include:
Exploring parking programs for the streets most affected by development on South Presa
Advocating for improvements to the Labor Street / César Chávez intersection
Advocating for improved walkability and bikeability in the neighborhood, including crosswalks, bike lanes, and lane visibility
Working with local bars on programs to optimize safe nighttime driving
Working on community safety, including increased police patrols and communication with residents about mechanisms for getting non-emergency support
For more information about Lavaca's various boundaries and historic areas, see Darryl Ohlenbusch's article, Lavaca 101, in the list of related articles at the bottom of this page.
Melissa wants to get more neighbors involved in the association’s work. She sees it as a good way for people to connect with the neighborhood.
First and foremost, she says that the association “is here to help neighbors have a voice and get things done. So I encourage people to reach out if they have concerns, complaints, suggestions, and ideas, because the LNA can help, or may even already have information on that topic.”
Melissa herself has lived in Lavaca for about three years. After moving frequently with the Air Force, she says that this is where she, her husband, and their child want to stay.
“I think that this area is so great, so enticing, and I’m so happy to be here,” she says. “I’ve lived in a lot of suburban neighborhoods, and they really didn’t do anything for me. But this is different. I’m tired of moving, and now that I’m settled, I feel like I can contribute.”
Melissa initially got involved with the neighborhood association because of her concerns about traffic.
“I live on one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood,” Melissa told us, and the traffic concerned her. She connected with the LNA’s traffic sub-committee and started helping out by collecting traffic feedback from her neighbors. That led to further involvement, first with neighborhood efforts on the proposed 7-11 and then with the LNA’s stop sign project.
And that involvement led to her decision to volunteer to stand for election as an officer.
“My experience is an example of how the neighborhood association can help people with their concerns,” she said. “What I want is for people to feel like the LNA provides information and opportunities for input for everyone — not just members — and for people to be aware of the benefits of membership and their options for involvement.”
Melissa urges other neighbors to take her path — find something in the neighborhood that you want to change or affect, and then work through the association to make it happen. She encourages neighbors to contact someone on the board about getting involved. Here are the new officers and board members:
Melissa Stendahl, President (email@example.com)
Sarah Sorensen, Vice President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kat Doucette, Secretary (email@example.com)
Nataly Jennings, Treasurer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, President Emeritus
Amy Young, Communications Director (email@example.com)
Nick Melde, Planning Director
Vik Gudi, Membership Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marcy Newman, Transportation & Public Safety Director
Darryl Ohlenbusch, Zoning & Historic Preservation Director
Alma Gonzalez, Events & Fundraising Director
Billy Lambert, Southtown Business Owner
Jim Johnson, Board Member At-large
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.