In 2000, a diverse group of community members, working together as the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group, began collaborating with the City of San Antonio to restore the Hays Street Bridge, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places. As part of their work on the restoration project, the Group entered into a contract with the City in 2002. According to the terms of this contract, the Group would raise almost $200,000 in local funds, which would be matched with the federal funding required to restore the bridge. This contract also required the city to use the funding solely for the restoration project, which would include facilities for public access to the site and historical education.
In the context of this contractual agreement, the Restoration Group solicited and received the land near the bridge, for the purpose of developing it as a park that would allow community and educational use of the restored bridge as a historic landmark. This land was given to the Restoration Group pursuant to the Group’s contract with the city, as part of the restoration project. As the Restoration Group was moving toward this phase of the project, the City began negotiating with a private developer to give the land away, without the consent of the Group. In fact, the Restoration Group was not informed of the City’s plans after the City had already entered into an agreement with the developer.
In 2012 members of the Restoration Group and community supporters filed lawsuit at the county courthouse over two significant violations of trust. The first and most immediate is the breach of contract that took place when the City betrayed the community’s interests in its decision to move forward with the Alamo brewery project. The second, related betrayal is the City’s violation of public trust and public lands in ignoring the signatures of 2800 registered voters calling for a public vote on the land sale, as required by state law. This law represents a long standing recognition that park land – whether designated, used, or understood as such – belongs to the people, not to municipal government that holds public land in trust for them. For this reason, the state of Texas treats public lands as deserving of special protection from exactly the kind of privatization schemes we see in the Alamo Beer case.
Through this lawsuit, we hope to open a wider campaign of community education on who “economic development” is for, why it historically has benefited a privileged few at the expense of many, and what a true strategy of community-based development and cultural preservation might look like. In the wider context of the City’s current efforts to seek exception to these legal protections for park land in the case of Hemisphere redevelopment plans – especially related to the ethics violation involved in these plans – it is important to insist that the city honor its obligation to public space and public process.
The Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group opposes:
• the City of San Antonio selling the land north of the bridge to any developer
• allowing commercial use of any part of the Bridge
• connecting temporary or permanent attachments to the Bridge
• brewery higher than any of existing buildings
• brewery closer than 50 ft to the bridge
• moving the land from Assets Management to Parks and Rec rolls
• honoring the restoration process in place by realizing the land use vision proposed and developed as a collaboration between the Restoration Group and COSA
• continuing to push and seek funding for completing this vision (linear railroad history park)
• public investment for public amenities