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Here’s how San Antonio ranks among the country’s greenest cities

green thumbs up

Considering San Antonio’s size and growing population, we’re getting the green light when it comes to the city’s impact on the environment, especially when compared with other Texas metros.

Alamo City lands at No. 46 among the 100 largest U.S. cities in a new WalletHub ranking of the country’s greenest places.

To determine the cities promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 28 key green indicators. Those factors include greenhouse gas emissions per capita, number of smart energy policies and initiatives, and green job opportunities.

Among Texas cities, San Antonio fared well, nabbing the third-highest ranking in Texas, coming in behind only Austin and Garland. Houston is the lowest-ranked city in Texas on the list.

Here is a sampling of San Antonio’s green successes and what can use work, with No. 1 being best, No. 50 being average, and No. 100 being worst:

  • Environment score, which includes metrics like the air-quality index, greenhouse emissions, and water quality: 67.
  • Transportation score, which includes the share of commuters who drive alone, bike and walk scores, and alternative-fuel stations per capita: 64.
  • Energy sources score, which includes a city’s share of electricity from renewable sources and the number of smart-energy policies and initiatives: 32.
  • Overall score: 47.97.

Here is where other Texas cities landed on the greenest cities list:

Austin, No. 26.
Garland, No. 44.
Laredo, No. 68.
El Paso, No. 69.
Irving, No. 74.
Plano, No. 79.
Lubbock, No. 83.
Arlington, No. 85.
Dallas, No. 89.
Corpus Christi, No. 90.
Houston, No. 93.

San Diego tops the WalletHub list.

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100-mile trail connecting San Antonio to Austin could spring $55 million in benefits

Lay of the Land

A proposed 100-mile network of trails from the Alamo to the Capitol could generate more than $55 million in annual economic, health, and other benefits, according to a recent report released by the Great Springs Project. The project envisions trails traversing protected lands and the Edwards Aquifer to link four iconic Texas springs: Barton, San Marcos, Comal, and San Antonio Springs.

Though final trail routes remain to be determined by a Trails Plan, scheduled for completion by December of this year, the report uses a best estimate of those routes based on the springs, existing trails, and local trail plans.

“This report is one of the first steps in the trails plan,” says Emma Lindrose-Siegel, Great Springs Project chief development officer. “Part of it was being able to articulate why this work is valuable, to point to the benefits of the trail itself and the goal of conserving 50,000 acres of land.”

The analysis estimated the number of bicycle and pedestrian trips on the trail system, the corresponding reduction in vehicle trips and vehicle-miles traveled, potential benefits that would accrue once the entire trail system is constructed, and ecosystem services associated with land conservation along the trail corridor.

“Trails make us healthier, and access to outdoors is a reason people want to live here,” Lindrose-Siegel says. “We wanted to quantify that for the community and our stakeholders.”

Estimated economic benefits total $23.3 million, including estimated spending on goods, services, and lodging from non-local visitors to the trail. Transportation benefits of $11.4 million include fewer vehicle miles traveled and associated reduction in congestion, collision, roadway maintenance costs, and vehicle emissions. Estimated health benefits, $1.8 million, factor in increased physical activity and the resulting decrease in healthcare costs. Ecosystem services benefits total an estimated $19.2 million. These include improved water quality, stormwater management, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration.

Preserving 50,000 acres of undeveloped land and reducing emissions as a result of fewer car trips (replaced with biking or walking trips) produce the carbon sequestration benefits. An estimated 5,500 walkers and runners and 4,800 cyclists are expected to use the trail each day.

Lindrose-Siegel cites growing crowds on existing area trails, along with the number of people projected to use the Great Springs routes, as evidence of the need for the project.

“We anticipate people traveling to the trail for recreation, or going the whole Alamo-to-the-Capitol distance. There will be people who, say, live in Kyle and want to go to San Marcos and not get on I-35,” she says. “We anticipate a lot of bikers and trail users will be people using it for transportation.”

On comparable trails, 33 percent of trail users are not from the area. If that holds here, it represents an estimated 1.1 million non-local users per year — who will spend money on food, entertainment, bicycle rental, lodging, and the like. Additional economic benefits could include jobs related to trail construction and maintenance.

All the projections are based on usage estimates and survey results from similar trail systems in Texas and throughout the Southeastern United States, extrapolated through the use of various multipliers from national studies and quantified in terms of monetary value where appropriate.

The report also highlights the use of the natural infrastructure of conserved land to reduce catastrophic flood damage and save millions of dollars per year. Texas anticipates $31.5 billion in statewide flood mitigation costs during the next 10 years.

“That’s an important part of the report, highlighting the role of strategic land conservation in reducing catastrophic flood damage,” Lindrose-Siegel adds. “Sometimes it can be hard to see why an investment in trails is worthwhile, but as this report shows, it has so many benefits. Being able to quantify and articulate that in a way that people can relate to really helps build support for this project, which is going to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives for decades to come.”

The report was produced with guidance from Alta Planning + Design and the National Park Service.

Courtesy of SAMA

3 San Antonio neighborhood spots transform into murals this summer

COMMUNITY CRAFT

Three local artists will be painting the town red — and blue and green and yellow — this summer, as part of a citywide community mural project spearheaded by the San Antonio Museum of Art. And in true community spirit, it’s San Antonio residents who get to vote on which artworks will leave a lasting impression.

SAMA has chosen three San Antonio artists to create neighborhood murals at businesses on the East Side, West Side, and SAMA’s campus that celebrate the vibrance and community of the Alamo City. The artists will start creating their works in July, with the completed murals expected to be unveiled August 15.

The community mural project — supported by a SAMA grant from the nonprofit Art Bridges Foundation and a joint effort between SAMA, the San Anto Cultural Arts, and the San Antonio African American Community Archive & Museum — aims to connect San Antonio’s culturally diverse neighborhoods and their traditions through a creative framework, honoring the importance of community through art.

And throughout the month of June, locals can share their thoughts about the themes, people, and historic events they’d like to see depicted in each mural. Then, from June 26-July 10, the local community can vote on one of three themes designed by each artist to create for each mural location. Voting will take place on SAMA’s website and in person at the museum.

“Murals have always been a powerful tool to educate and commemorate local histories,” says Yohanna Tesfai, public programs manager for SAMA. “By asking for community input and having residents of San Antonio be a part of the mural selection process, we are emphasizing that art is for all and that art can be enjoyed anywhere. Communal relationships are the foundation of any society, so we must continue to build and grow with the people of San Antonio. We hope that the selected businesses continue to be an anchor in their community, and that these murals shine a light on how San Antonio is a beautiful, culturally rich city.”

The mural project was inspired by the painting Bronzeville at Night by Archibald John Motley Jr., which is currently on loan to SAMA and depicts an urban Chicago neighborhood in the 1940s. In the spirit of that painting, the local artists will create murals that uniquely represent the characteristics and vitality of each San Antonio neighborhood.

The chosen artists for the mural project and their mural locations follow.

  • Sandra Gonzalez. Mural location: Tony G’s on the East Side, created in partnership with graphic designer Malachy McKinney
    Sandra Gonzalez is an active muralist in South Texas and an art educator at Roosevelt High School in San Antonio. She often involves neighborhood groups, organizations, and the general public in most of her large-scale mural projects. She organizes community painting days, when anyone and everyone is welcome to help with mural creation, and she enjoys depicting images that speak of memories, family, emotions, and history. Her personal paintings reflect a colorful Mexican American culture and include portraits, native plants, and Mexican textiles.
  • Victor Zarazua. Mural location: Wicho’s Mexican Deli on the West Side
    As a practitioner of the graffiti art subculture, Victor Zarazua started painting at the age of 10. During high school, he discovered SACA and Say Si, two local programs that enabled him to delve further into the arts and the “lowbrow” art movement. Later, he would curate large public art festivals. His passion is creating and producing large works, and his work has grown to include stained glass, abstract, and post-graffiti influences. He is also the mural coordinator for San Anto Cultural Arts.
  • Suzy González. Mural location: San Antonio Museum of Art Campus
    Suzy González is an artist, curator, zine creator, educator, and organizer who has had solo exhibits at a variety of galleries and attended residencies in Texas, the U.S., and beyond. She is the co-publisher of the Yes, Ma’am zine, co-organizes the San Anto Zine Fest, and is half of the collective Dos Mestizx, who recently curated “XicanX: New Visions” in New York and Texas. She has created public art with the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Street Art Initiative, Centro San Antonio, and the City of San Marcos, and is currently working on a project with the City of Pasadena.

Artist Sandra Gonzales will create the East Side mural at Tony G's.

Courtesy of SAMA
Artist Sandra Gonzales will create the East Side mural at Tony G's.
Courtesy of GGN.

City unveils timeline for grand downtown San Antonio park

GREENER PASTURES

A groundbreaking Hemisfair park project finally has a date for its anticipated groundbreaking.

Construction on Civic Park, dubbed “the grandest of Hemisfair’s park series” and part of the three-park plan for the urban park district, will begin this fall. The City of San Antonio will accept contractor proposals for first-phase construction on its website starting February 15 and construction will begin after the San Antonio City Council, which reviewed the plan February 10, approves a contractor.

Civic Park is to be completed in two phases — the first involving 5 acres of the 9-acre park and accounting for a $28 million price tag — and all construction is scheduled to be completed by April 2023. The multiple-phase plan for the park was developed by the Hemisfair team, along with the City’s Public Works Department and park designer GGN.

“This is a huge step toward the long-anticipated groundbreaking of Hemisfair’s Civic Park,” says Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar. “Parks have proven to be essential infrastructure in the pandemic as people turn to the safety, open spaces and fresh air of the outdoors. We look forward to reviewing the proposals from contractors who want to have a significant role in delivering a world-class park to San Antonio.”

The first phase of the Civic Park project was funded mostly through a city bond program, with the park originally expected to open in 2022, but pandemic challenges pushed back that timeline. Fewer details, including funding sources, are available about phase two of the project, which is estimated to cost $20 million.

Hemisfair recently received a $1 million donation from the Mays Family Foundation for the creation of the Peggy Mays Garden, which encompasses an area between the planned Civic Park and Yanaguana Garden, which opened in 2015 as the first of Hemisfair’s three planned public parks.

The third, Tower Park, is slated for construction in 2023 pending funding, according to Hemisfair. Though there are conceptual designs for Tower Park, more info about the timeline of that portion of the project isn’t yet available.

Rendering courtesy of Mark Odom Studio

New $65 million mixed-use development will rise near Hemisfair

Urban living

An Austin developer has gotten the go-ahead for an eight-story apartment and retail project in downtown San Antonio that’ll be sandwiched between the River Walk and Hemisfair.

On February 5, the San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission gave the green light to the $65 million project. The development will be at 410 E. Nueva St., bounded by East Nueva, South St. Mary’s and South Presa streets.

With the commission’s stamp of approval, Weal Development LLC now can seek building permits from the city, says Dennis McDaniel, head of the Austin-based firm. Construction is scheduled to start in late April, he says. Completion is set for March 2022.

The nearly 410,000-square-foot project, called St. John’s Square, will feature 252 apartments, along with ground-floor shops and a parking garage for residents, customers, and downtown visitors.

More than one-fifth of the apartments will be set aside for low- to middle-income renters, with the rest being leased at regular market rates. Sizes of the studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments will range from 510 square feet to 1,395 square feet.

The retail component of the development will encompass 8,000 to 10,000 square feet, McDaniel says.

St. John’s Square is being built on a 1.3-acre site (now a parking lot) that Weal Development will lease for 99 years from St. John’s Lutheran Church, which is at 502 E. Nueva St. A one-story brick building that currently houses a law firm will remain next to the mixed-use project. The St. John’s Square site is across from the La Villita Historic Arts Village.

Austin-based Mark Odom Studio Inc. is the project’s architect; the contractor for St. John’s Square is San Antonio-based Cadence McShane Construction Co.

Mark Odom says St. John’s Square will be a catalyst for filling the void in “missing middle housing” in San Antonio’s urban core. The “missing middle housing” concept applies to multifamily or clustered residences that are situated in walkable urban environments and are compatible with neighboring single-family homes.

“Creating an elevated experience for the future tenants has been at the forefront of every decision during the [design] process,” Odom says.

This isn’t Weal Development’s first project in San Antonio. The company completed Steel House Lofts, located at 1401 S. Flores St., in 2012.

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Where to see the once-in-recorded-history green comet approaching San Antonio

Seeing green

The world is buzzing with news of an approaching astronomical body, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), more often referred to in the news and social media as "the green comet." Its most recent appearance was 50,000 years ago — compared to the about 200,000 years since modern humans emerged.

"While the pictures of it have been impressive, its visual appearance differs greatly," explains Joe Wheelock, public program specialist at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin. "Currently you might glimpse it with the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch of light[,] but you would need to be away from city lights. Binoculars or a telescope would improve the view, and you might even glimpse a faint tail."

As tempting as it is — and as much fodder as its made on social media — this experience will not be easy for most Texans to photograph and share. "The pictures that have been posted on various websites were taken by experienced astrophotographers and in most cases cameras designed for astrophotography," Wheelock warns.

Some logistics to note when planning a viewing:

  • The comet will be closest to Earth (thus, likely the most visible) on February 1.
  • Wheelan says placement will also be good in late January and early February, and it will be best viewed after midnight. Since the new moon was on January 21, every day the moon will compete with it a little more.
  • The McDonald Observatory posts daily stargazing tips, so viewers will have a few chances at seeing something special, even if the comment doesn't work out.
  • Getting out of San Antn is the best bet against light pollution.

Those who are willing to make a trip out of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity should consider their best chances at out running the city lights. The closest popular option to San Antonio proper is McAllister Park, which sometimes hosts stargazing events. For a more structured approach, the Curtis Vaughan Jr. Observatory at the University of Texas at San Antonio hosts first Friday stargazing nights after sunset. The McDonald Observatory, although it is an entity of the University of Texas at Austin, is in Fort Davis, about 400 miles from San Antonio.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) maintains records of some of the world's least light-polluted skies and works to protect them, ensuring that these places stay available for reliable stargazing retreats. There are four IDA-certified Dark Sky Parks in Texas: Enchanted Rock (90 miles from San Antonio), South Llano River (120 miles), Copper Breaks (370 miles), and Big Bend Ranch (490 miles).

In addition to the certified parks, there is a smaller group of Dark Sky Sanctuaries, which are especially dark and carefully protected. There are two in Texas: Devil's River State Natural Area (170 miles) and Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (390 miles).

For more in-depth reading on the comet's trajectory and context, Wheelan suggests an article in Sky & TelescopeSky & Telescope.

San Antonio suburb among the richest places in Texas for 2023, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio suburb cashes in among the richest places in Texas for 2023. Alamo Heights has been renamed the third richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study.

2. San Antonio home sales slowed in December 2022, report finds. San Antonio sold 36,477 homes all year, a 10 percent decrease from 2021.

3. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and more music-centered events made our roundup of the best things to do in Alamo City this weekend.

4. San Antonio Home & Garden Show returns with HGTV star. Ati Williams will headline the San Antonio Spring Home & Garden Show, which takes place February 24-26.

5. H-E-B opens first location in growing San Antonio suburb. The state-of-the-art facility offers 110,000 square feet of floor space, providing everything from cat food to charcuterie.


Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights

OONCE OONCE OONCE

Though Full Goods Diner has barely been open for half a year, it has already become a San Antonio staple for working weekday lunches and lingering Sunday Fundays. Now the Pearl eatery is looking to be a hot spot after dark.

Via release, the popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series, Full Goods at Night. Starting on February 2, Full Goods Diner will open select evenings throughout the month.

The Full Goods at Night series will feature popular local San Antonio DJs, including El West Side Sound, Hector Gallego, DJ Plata, Steven Lee Moya, and Cami Gee. Guests can enjoy live sets while indulging in a specially curated food and drink offerings.

The menu will include some of Full Goods Diner's best—selling items, such as French toast sticks, barbacoa waffle fries, and jumbo cheesy tots. Libations like the Attaboy Negroni, Royal Bermuda Daiquiri, Pink G&T, and more will fuel the festivities.

In addition to enjoying moonlight brunch, guests can relish some prime people-watching. And, of course, the restaurant is just a hop from other nightlife destinations like Pink Hill, 3 Star Bar, and Summer Camp Bar, making it the perfect party starter.

The series runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from February 2-25, 6-10 pm. The complete DJ schedule is listed below.

February 2 — El West Side Sound·
February 3 — Hector Gallego
February 4— DJ Plata
February 9 — El West Side Sound
February 10 — Steven Lee Moya
February 11 — Cami Gee
February 16 — El West Side Sound
February 17 — Steven Lee Moya
February 18 — Hector Gallego
February 23 — El West Side Sound
February 24— Steven Lee Moya
February 25 — DJ Plata