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The Source: French & Michigan Zoning Controversy Continues in Beacon Hill

Ryan Loyd
TPR News

A Beacon Hill zoning case has prompted calls of gentrification, racism, bullying, and pornography. What is going on in the case of French & Michigan?

A vocal few want the art space gone, and have reportedly been pressuring the owners, the neighborhood; even the local parish priest says he has been harassed. 

Owned by Billy Lambert and Celeste Wackenhut, the multi-faceted gallery sits at the corner of French Place and Michigan Avenue. A small cadre of Beacon Hill residents have worked to prevent the gallery from opening by opposing its re-zoning.  Opponents have said they are worried about neighborhood gentrification and the availability of parking.

Years ago the location was zoned for commercial businesses, hosting another gallery and before that Elmer's garage. It has since been zoned into a residential area, and Lambert and Wackenhut have lived there using the first floor as a gallery, which is a shadow of their original plan. The Beacon Hill Neighborhood Association did vote to support the zoning change, but the future is still uncertain and now rests with the  zoning commission.

In an open letter to District 1 Council Member Diego Bernal Wackenhut scolded the downtown councilman for staying out of the fray.

"To tell citizens that they must put up with harassment for choosing a certain side of a topic encourages not only less engagement from the general public, but the act of bullying as well." -Wackenhut's Letter to Council Member Diego Bernal

The couple entered mediation with opponents and are unable to comment on the ongoing case.


  • Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News columnist
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive