The Council members who brought last week's controversial down-zoning initiatives to City Hall said it was an unfortunate coincidence that their cases hit the dais the same day. The back-to-back agenda items spurred San Antonio's real-estate and development professionals to turn out in force, and during their turns at the podium, they lambasted the tactic as a violation of property rights, and warned Council that it would run off investors.
But the issues are, after all, very different in the details. In District 3, the property that's the subject of the down-zoning request has been a golf course for almost 50 years – the proposed re-zoning would be consistent with its actual use, if not with the owner's desire to halve the course and add housing. The District 9 request, on the other hand, would affect 19 undeveloped acres mid-sale, and zoned correctly for the proposed project – a 180,000 square-foot Walmart Superstore, complete with nursery and tire shop.
Yet what the two requests have in common is more important than their differences: In both cases, Council members are using the threat of down-zoning to bring a reluctant party to the bargaining table. If the development community has a reason to be worried, it's not that they might not get to build what they want, but that they will spend many more evenings at public meetings. And cut a lot more deals.