Sunday, June 23, 2024

San Antonio Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sees final draft of updated Complete Streets policy

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SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee received a briefing on final updates to the city’s Complete Streets policy earlier this week.

The model is an approach to planning, designing and building streets that enables safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit users. Implementation of the Complete Streets format is expected to influence other safety measures across the city, such as the Vision Zero and Bike Network plans.

Before San Antonio Transportation Department director Catherine Hernandez briefed the committee, several community organizers offered their support for updates to the policy during public comment.

Addressing equity in the policy

Joey Pawlik, executive director of ActivateSA and lead organizer of the Complete Streets Coalition, argued in support of an updated policy.

“We appreciate the professionalism and the dedication of the city’s transportation department, which has been unmatched throughout this process,” Pawlik said. “This initiative is more than just a policy update; it’s a commitment to a safer, more inclusive and vibrant San Antonio.

“The policy presented today includes deliberate efforts to consider the needs of people with disabilities and older adults,” said Lori Day, advancement program director with disABILITYsa.

The policy’s methodology recognizes that the model is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution; rather, its design and implementation must be “context-sensitive.”

“The policy is about looking at infrastructure through a lens of making our streets safer and more accessible, and that accommodates the needs for more modes of travel,” Hernandez said.

Improving the 2011 plan

The city adopted its previous Complete Streets policy in 2011. As the transportation department and partners have worked to update the existing policy, several needs have been gauged, including performance measures and a focus on prioritizing equity — the former was not part of the 2011 plan.

A stakeholder committee comprised of several city departments and community organizations worked to format a proposed 10 sections to the updated policy.

Hernandez described some of the measures the team used for outreach, including an online survey, social media and the SASpeakUp Complete Streets page.

Hernandez clarified the two phases of the Complete Streets policy. Phase 1 focuses on updating the plan and aims for completion in summer 2024. Phase 2 will cover the actual implementation of the policy, which is expected to start in fall 2024, the presentation said.

Phase 2 work will create a technical review task force to oversee internal operations while ensuring the project’s checklist is met, Hernandez said.

You can read the updated Complete Streets draft below:

Hearing from the committee

Hernandez fielded questions from the committee, which began with District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda echoing a “long pastime” sentiment when referring to a need for an updated policy.

“A lot can change in 13 years; a lot in this city can change from six months to a year, so our transportation policies should keep up with the changes,” Cabello Havrda said. “It’s especially true when we’re talking about all of the rapid growth in our city.”

Cabello Havrda pressed on the issue of San Antonio’s growth, to which Hernandez described two components the policy would consider.

The first comes from the city’s public works department.

“As public works (do) their infrastructure projects, they look at (the policy) through a lens to determine what are those components of Complete Streets that need to be added to infrastructure projects,” Hernandez said.

The second measure comes from the private development side. This component follows the rules, codes and standards in the unified development code, Hernandez said.

Cabello Havrda asked the team about the process for deciding “which street comes first.”

Hernandez said that Phase 2 would focus on the selection process.

“In Phase 2, we’ll look at what is that criteria and develop it with the stakeholder and that technical review task force,” she said.

The method and criteria process will work under a lens of equity and public input, Hernandez said.

District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez highlighted landscaping as an aspect of Complete Streets that he said is often missing from his district.

“Sometimes, that’s the piece that’s missing, and all we do is add concrete barriers,” he said. “(The) concrete on top of concrete sort of exacerbates the urban heat island effect.”

McKee-Rodriguez expressed the hope that equity would apply to the quantity and quality of the work.

“We want to get the most out of every single project, and I think that’s going to be very important,” he said.

District 7 Councilwoman Marina Alderete Gavito asked if the Complete Streets team learned anything from a 2020 pilot initiative along Cincinnati Avenue near St. Mary’s University, which gave pedestrians and bicyclists a dedicated space on the street.

“A lot of what we heard is actually going to be incorporated in both this policy update as well as our Bike Network plan,” Hernandez said.

After the briefing, the committee motioned to refer the policy to the city council’s A session on Aug. 1 after receiving approval from the planning commission, the next step for the draft. Phase 2 implementation is expected to begin later this year.

The department’s briefing can be viewed below:

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