Early every year, the Lavaca Neighborhood Association (LNA) ‘takes stock’. It looks at its accomplishments for the prior year and sets goals for the new year. I recently spoke with LNA President Melissa Stendahl about where things stand. Midway through her two-year term, Melissa is proud of what the Association has accomplished in 2022.
LNA 2022 Accomplishments
A neighborhood-wide traffic study
The LNA campaigned for and successfully received a City proposal for a neighborhood-wide traffic study.This is a long overdue measure towards implementing solutions to chronic and worsening traffic issues.
LNA made a presentation to the City's Public Works Department in September, detailing the issues that Lavaca residents raised over the months prior. Those issues included pedestrian and cyclist safety and accessibility, key intersection issues, and unchecked stretches of road. It further painted the bigger picture of notable quality of life deficits that are falling behind as development continues.
The LNA is continuing to work with the City and the traffic engineer to ensure that feedback from Lavaca is properly captured by the study. Of key importance is monitoring the study efforts to ensure that it incorporates all major development projects in and around the neighborhood that are planned or anticipated for the next 20 years.
Development projects around the Labor Street Park area
Early last year, the LNA was concerned about the non-coordination among organizations involved in the various development projects around the Labor Street Park area.
In April of 2022, it successfully got all of the major players in the same room for a public town-hall meeting hosted by District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo, and attended by SAISD for the Burnet Campus reopening, Public Works for the Labor St. Park bond improvements, and Opportunity Homes (formerly SAHA) for the apartment development projects.
These development projects are in extremely close proximity to one another, and the LNA recognizes that it’s important that everybody understands the overlapping effects of the projects. Bringing the players together has improved the LNA’s ability to advocate for the neighborhood’s needs and preferences, and it has increased a recognition for transparency, and communication among the players.
Ammendments to the Unified Development Code (UDC)
LNA is a member of the Tier One Neighborhood Coalition (T1NC), whose members represent over fifty neighborhoods in San Antonio. T1NC promotes broad-based citizen participation in public policy issues affecting the city.
As part of the T1NC, the LNA participated in developing recommendations for amendments to the UDC (Unified Development Code). Nine out of the thirteen recommendations that T1NC made were passed, and they went into effect on January 1st.
Three of the amendments in particular could have a significant impact on our neighborhood:
There are new restrictions on how close a gas station can be built to residences.
There are new policies on short-term rentals density in a neighborhood.
The city has a mail notification process that informs neighbors of upcoming events (for example, development projects) that might effect traffic and parking on its streets. That mail notification program has been improved to be more inclusive so that more affected households will be notified.
You can read more about the T1NC here, and more about UDC amendments here.
Improved communication with Lavaca Residents
One of the LNA’s goals for 2022 was to improve its communication and engagement with the residents of Lavaca, and it made some significant strides in doing so.
It now has a business card and it has begun having a presence at First Fridays. Its First Friday table is located outside La Segunda near the corner of Claudia and S. St. Mary’s Streets. That table is manned by LNA board members who are available to greet neighbors, disseminate important information and resources, and recruit new membership.
It has implemented a program with local convenience stores and apartment complexes to post flyers with information about the neighborhood and about upcoming LNA and community meetings.
It has updated its website to include important resources information on the home page, making that information more accessible to visitors to the site.
The VIA Area Rapid Transit Corridor project
The LNA became a consulting party for VIA's Area Rapid Transit Corridor project. As such, it provides input for the plans for new bus stops and bus routing along S. St. Mary's Street, the section of the ART path that goes through Lavaca. The process is still in the early stages, and consulting thus far has been focused on protecting historic resources along the corridor.
Neighborhood Community Garden
Since April, the LNA has been working with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to reach a resolution for the neighborhood’s Community Garden, located on S Presa St. across from the Ace Mart Restaurant Supply Store. In recent years, upkeep of the garden has declined and it has fallen into disrepair.
Although the LNA has received excellent offers for garden management from several neighbors, the current City rules do not allow for individuals to sign the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) for the Garden.
The alternative is for the City to redesignate it as a pocket park. The LNA is monitoring the status of this initiative so that the space gets the beautification and maintenance it deserves. The LNA has requested that Parks and Recreation host a community meeting for input.
The LNA has worked with the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) to ensure that it is aware of Lavaca’s top safety concerns and its need for increased support as the density of the neighborhood grows. LNA connected SAPD with the apartment management offices at HemisView and Refugio Place to address property theft concerns. LNA has also requested that a system be implemented for notifying residents of active events.
Condo construction project
The condo construction project on S Presa St south of Carolina Street has created significant inconveniences and problems for nearby residences and businesses. There have been road closures, problems with sidewalk and driveway access, illegal dumping, and utility service outages caused by the construction. The LNA became a primary contact for neighbors for reporting problems and the LNA is working with neighbors and other involved parties to address these issues.
Sidewalk and road repairs
The LNA submitted a comprehensive list of needed sidewalk and road repairs to the City of San Antonio. It is currently advocating for funding for the repairs, working to see that the worst problems are fixed sooner rather than later.
The LNA assisted several residents with property cases, writing letters on their behalf in support for getting work approved by the Office of Historic Preservation or Board of Adjustments.
Parking and trash collection management
The LNA is working with District 1 to assess options for improving the management of parking and trash collection in areas affected by events at Hemisfair and the Alamodome.
LNA 2023 Goals and Priorities
Every year when the LNA takes stock, it not only looks at the prior year, but it sets goals and top priorities for the new year. As Melissa explains, its work is never done. While some accomplishments (like the recommendations for UDC amendments) have a clear end, most are ongoing tasks that will continue, sometimes for years (like monitoring the traffic study and the neighborhood development projects).
Its key goals for 2023 are:
Now that the city has submitted a proposal for a Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), the LNA is working to see that the TIA is funded and scheduled. And it will continue its efforts to ensure that the needs and preferences of Lavaca residents and businesses are incorporated into that work. It will also continue to report and advocate for immediate traffic management measures for non-vehicular safety and visibility.
It will continue to work with the City and the Department of Parks and Recreation to see that the community garden is converted into a pocket park that is beautified and properly maintained.
It will continue its efforts and implement new strategies for increasing its membership. By expanding its social media presence and doing an annual mailer, its efforts are aimed at reaching more residents, especially the elderly, young new residents, and residents who are renting.
It plans to host at least one community event/fundraiser and to participate in at least two additional city or neighborhood hosted events.
It is committed to working more closely with and increasing membership of neighborhood businesses. It plans to re-energize the LNA relationship with businesses, help them with their neighborhood concerns and issues, and get local business involvement in the traffic calming and pedestrian safety efforts.
It plans to restart the Block Captains program so that all residents have a nearby neighbor who will facilitate communication between residents and the LNA. The goal is for every block (or street) to have a captain who will canvas the street, when necessary, to distribute important information or to solicit feedback through surveys on important issues.
It plans to submit a proposal to the residents to expand the boundaries of the Lavaca Historic District. This would broaden design and development protections offered by a Historic District designation to additional areas in Lavaca, should those residents desire so. You can read more about Historic District designations here.
It will continue its efforts to work with city departments in support of safety, trash management and parking enforcement efforts. Those efforts are focussed on improved trash collection in north Lavaca after Hemisfair and Alamodome events; better parking enforcement hours that include evenings and weekends; and continual conversations with SAPD Chief McManus' office and the area precinct about safety concerns and adequate prevention and response as development continues in and around Lavaca.
In my conversation with Melissa I asked her what the LNA and serving as president has meant to her. She told me the following:
"It's been an honor to serve the neighborhood in this capacity, and I look forward to another busy year. We have worked hard to foster positive relationships with City offices (Public Works, Parks, SAPD), and I believe we have their ear(s) at this time. Our Councilman and his staff are also extremely supportive and responsive. This has all been accomplished by being persistent, professional, inclusive, and solution-oriented.
"We have momentum to move forward with some major milestones this year. It means so much to me to be able to participate in this. LNA will continue on with its mission statement in mind: to enhance the livability of our neighborhood by working to create a beautiful, safe, and healthy environment."
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.
Development projects in the Labor Street Park area