The KWA Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC) is comprised of association residents – including licensed architects – who volunteer their time to evaluate cases that are presented to the City of San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC), for discussion and recommendation. Any property owner who desires to make changes to the exterior of their property, or to their site (front, side or back yard), must make application to the HDRC. This application process is handled through the City’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP). Once the OHP staff reviews the case (project request), they make a staff recommendation, and then forward the King William neighborhood cases (and others that have an impact on the neighborhood) to the AAC, so that our neighborhood can weigh in and provide commentary to the HDRC as part of the public input process.
Although most of the cases that are reviewed include additions, renovations, requests to change out windows (which are not often approved), fence installations, landscaping and site improvements (walkways, driveways, etc.), new roofing, and material replacements, more recently, there have been many cases that include requests to install solar panels, understandably due to the CPS rebates that are being offered. As the KWA committee that is...
charged with evaluating the architectural and design integrity of the historic district, through the use of the City of San Antonio Historic Design Guidelines ( www.sanantonio.gov/historic/Resources/HistoricDistrictGuidelines.aspx ), the AAC evaluates each case individually, using criteria that will preserve the integrity of the neighborhood.
Solar panels that are visible from the public right-of- way, and it has been determined that they are not an appropriate addition to roofs that are visible from the right-of-way, whether or not a home will be deemed appropriate to accept solar panels, will, for the most part, depend on the shape/slope of the roof, and the orientation of the roofs. In most cases, if the desired location of the solar panels (due to an efficiency evaluation) faces the public street, or is visible from the public street, the panels will be unlikely to get support from the AAC. Generally, if panels are located in the rear yard, or if a roof surface is hidden from the view from the public right-of-way, the AAC will provide support to the HDRC for approval.
The decisions of the AAC may be perceived to be inconsistent; however, each decision is based on individual facts that are pertinent to the case, and the orientation of each face of a roof.
If a resident or business owner would like to explore the rebate that CPS is offering for solar panel installations, they should contact either CPS or Build San Antonio Green (BSAG), a liaison for CPS and installers. Their websites (buildsagreen.org/solar-101 and buildsagreen.org/greensupplier/ renewable-energy) offer a wealth of information to assist homeowners and business owners in their quest to provide a more efficient way of addressing solar panels. Their information does not address structures located in historic districts.
If solar panels are deemed inappropriate for a specific home application, there are alternatives for becoming more efficient and reducing energy costs, such as solar window films and other products or processes.
It is important that a home or business owner be “armed” with as much information as possible on installations/installers, efficient roof locations and costs, as the process can appear daunting. In addition to the BSAG resources, another consumer-minded resource to assist with installations includes Jason Pittman from Solar Smarty Pants (solarsmartypants. com). There are also resources listed in Section Two of the City’s Historic Design Guidelines: Guidelines for Exterior Maintenance & Alterations.
Regardless of application intent, the KWA Executive Director, who is also an architectural historian, and staff are a big resource for the neighborhood. Please contact the office before you begin on your next rehabilitation! - Christine Viña KWA AAC Member