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San Antonio City Council Approves Closure Of Main Avenue For Downtown H-E-B

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
Residents near Main Avenue protested the partial closure of the street and demonstrated with signs in their yards.

A marathon city council meeting Thursday yielded a myriad of actions that San Antonio City leaders took on various issues.

Likely the biggest item of the day was the vote on the closure of a block of Main Avenue so that HEB can expand its headquarters at the Arsenal, and construct a downtown grocery store and gas station.

Charlotte Luongo and many others expressed to the council their longtime opposition of the project.

"This whole process is suspect and demonstrates a lack of democracy and respect to the citizens of San Antonio," Luongo said.

Mayor Julián Castro sympathized with those upset, but said the project is good for the city.

"If somebody proposed closing part of East Sunshine near where I lived, I can tell you that frankly I wouldn't like it much either," Castro said. "I have to think about the best interest of San Antonio, and I believe that on balance, that it is in the best interest of all San Antonians for us to be very supportive of what is an excellent development and opportunity-creating project."

HEB spokesperson Dya Campos said it will take eight months for street improvements to be added, like bike and pedestrians paths, before the street can be closed, and another eight months after that to build the store. While it's easy to blame the grocery giant for being a bully, the fact is, she siad, HEB corporate literally knows their neighbors, the residents, by name.

"We are really now going to move forward and strive to make our neighbors proud of what we're going to develop," Campos said.

Sex offenders prohibited from entering parks

Also at council, one woman made a plea for the members to vote against Councilman Carlton Soules' "Park Safety Zones," prohibiting registered sex offenders from entering parks.

She felt restrictions should be left to probation and parole officers on a case-by-case basis and that her husband already completed his probation for something that happened a long time ago.

"This ordinance is kind of just throwing all of the people required to register in one big bowl and saying we're determining all of you all are at risk, when that's not necessarily the case," she said.

The ordinance passed but there are exemptions that Soules said don't have to be there by law. But he did say he thinks they are compassionate considerations.

One exemption is if a person was a minor when the offense occurred. Another is that if a sex offender lives within the restricted zone already, they are exempted. And once someone is dropped off the registry, it's void.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley said it's just one more tool for police to use to make parks safer for families. The ordinance takes effect on March 1.

Sculley gets pay raise, new city attorney appointed

Asked how she justifies her new $375,000 salary for 2014 and $400,000 income for 2015, Sculley said the city is a complex organization that needs careful guidance.

"It takes an outstanding team -- I certainly don't do it alone," she said. "We've been able to assemble a very outstanding talent base and together, we're providing the very highest quality public service and advice to the mayor and council on the execution of their policies."

The new contract is for two years, a while she's staying put, City Attorney Michael Bernard is leaving.

The council said their formal goodbyes and voted to approve Castro's chief of staff, Robbie Greenblum, to the city attorney spot.

It wasn't apparent if he was nervous or emotional, but he got the chance to speak to the council before he starts his new role, which may be at times publicly contentious as evidenced by the recent adoption of the non-discrimination ordinance that Bernard had to present and defend.

"First of all, I guess it's pretty apparent that I'm going to have some pretty big shoes to fill," Greenblum said. "Michael [Bernard] and I have spent many hours together talking about legal issues and working through them, and that will be a great help to me in terms of not only your legal analysis, but also how you worked with the client, the city of San Antonio, the mayor, the city council members, city manager."

Greenblum has served as Castro's chief of staff since 2009.