June in South Texas means rain, tapering off toward the end of the month, graduation parties, and weddings.  I experienced all three phenomena in May.  One of my best graduate students has completed his Masters of Architecture and will be joining our firm.  He’s been working part time with us since he enrolled in our Master’s program and has a well-earned reputation for hard work, good humor, and an old fashioned southern gentleman’s sense of courtesy.  He came our way from near New Orleans.  If he was seeking lower humidity he was sadly mistaken, at least this year.

Thrillist.com “power ranked America’s most beautiful historic ’hoods,” and King William made #11:

“While the area was originally farmland owned by the Mission San Antonio de Valero (aka the Alamo) in the 1700s, this primarily residential neighborhood didn’t really take shape until the 1860s when German immigrants began to settle and build homes in the area.  By the late 1800s, it had evolved into the city’s most elegant district.  These days, you can stroll the banks of the San Antonio River and check out historic mansions like Villa Finale and the Steves Homestead Museum while admiring the neighborhood’s beautiful Greek revival, Victorian, and Italianate homes, many of which feature plaques out front offering historical info.”

www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/the-most-beautiful-historic-neighborhoods-in-america

May is a special month in any year, but this year it stands out as the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.  An act of Congress, the legislation provided the basis for the formation of historic preservation agencies in all 50 states, for the creation of local preservation ordinances based on newly written guidelines from the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, and for the identification and formation of local historic districts like King William. 

Last month I had to have my home tented and fumigated for the third time in 10 years to eradicate drywood termites.  Sad to say that one of my neighbors on Rische Street also went through this same process about a year ago.  I have to wonder if perhaps the termites on my side of the neighborhood are swarming from house to house before being discovered.  These unwanted house guests were eating my home and forced me to move out for 24 hours. 

My pest guy told me that drywood termites are often misdiagnosed as subterranean termites.  Drywood termites “swarm,” whereas subterranean termites crawl on the ground because they require moisture.  Drywood termites are sneaky, they can enter the house through infested furniture or through foundation or attic vents.  They often eat away for months or years at your dry, good, 100+ year old wood floor or rafters before they are discovered.  Termites cause billions of damage each year in Texas.  

About five years ago, my wife Anne and I installed solar panels on our 100-year-old King William home.  We went through HDRC review on this installation and got approval, as the panels were in the same plane as the roof and were on a side exposure minimally visible from the street.  They fulfill most of our daily energy needs and sometimes produce a little extra that we sell to CPS.  When we realized that we could also charge an electric car with our solar panels and stop buying fossil fuels, we were ecstatic.  

Sustainable.  Green.  Net zero.  EnergyStar.  LED.  These are the buzzwords of late.  Daily we are becoming more and more familiar with the lingo of our time, but most of us truly have no idea what any of these things mean, or how we as individuals can make our own little corner of the world work better for us, our wallets, our families, our homes and our communities.  How can each of us contribute, lessening our own carbon footprint and saving our hard-earned money? 

The good news is this: there are many ways that we can make our homes and businesses more sustainable and energy efficient, and many of them come with rebates and tax incentives attached to help ease the burden of investment.  

As historic property homeowners or renters, we are stewards of history and as such should try to maintain the architectural integrity and authenticity of the exterior of our houses for future generations.  There are several resources available that provide guidance to improving energy efficiency in historic houses.

First, the City of San Antonio Historic Design Guidelines has these suggestions: 

Insulate buildings using minimally invasive techniques to improve energy efficiency. Appropriate insulation techniques vary based on the type of construction and should be selected in consultation with a contractor specializing in historic home maintenance.  Moisture problems within the wall cavity should be addressed prior to adding any sort of insulation.  Blown in insulation may retain entering moisture, ultimately leading to rot and decay.

SAY Sí (San Antonio Youth, YES) has long been known as San Antonio’s premier out-of-school time creative youth development organization. Since its inception in 1994, its growing success rates have garnered national attention and recognition. But for the first time in its 21-year history – SAY Sí’s tuition-free programs will go global. 

On February 9, SAY Sí hosted a “Changemakers Press Conference” event to announce new program support from: The Santikos Charitable Foundation, COSA’s Department for Culture and Creative Development and Adobe’s new corporate responsibility initiative, Project 1324.

The most time consuming New Year’s resolution is the one I’ve made this year.  I’m finally going through the pyramid of boxes that have been entombed in my carriage house since I moved in ten years ago.  The move from Austin was more like the flight of an exiled government, there wasn’t time to burn all the documents so I dragged them all with me, unsorted, unread, and largely unknown.  I had to start my new job here on very little notice and was lucky to find a house that could shelter generations of family accumulations. 

In a case that was widely reported in local media, the City Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) narrowly allowed installation of 45 photovoltaic solar panels on a historic home at the corner of Mission and Eagleland.  32 of these panels will be on roof surfaces that are not easily seen from the public right-of-way, consistent with most installations approved by HDRC in King William and other historic districts.  Because the house is on a corner lot, however, 13 panels will be visible from Eagleland, and these panels have been a source of controversy.

For the record, we present statements by Mickey Conrad, architect and chair of the KWA Architectural Advisory Committee, and by former state representative Mike Villarreal, owner and resident of the house.  As this newsletter goes to press, we understand that the HDRC will discuss guidelines for solar installations in historic districts at their February 17 meeting.

Technology Enhances Our Neighborhood

My family recently applied for city authorization to install solar panels on the back and side of our home – a request opposed by the KWA management and Architectural Advisory Committee.  I would like to explain the situation from my family’s perspective.

In a case that was widely reported in local media, the City Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) narrowly allowed installation of 45 photovoltaic solar panels on a historic home at the corner of Mission and Eagleland.  32 of these panels will be on roof surfaces that are not easily seen from the public right-of-way, consistent with most installations approved by HDRC in King William and other historic districts.  Because the house is on a corner lot, however, 13 panels will be visible from Eagleland, and these panels have been a source of controversy.

For the record, we present statements by Mickey Conrad, architect and chair of the KWA Architectural Advisory Committee, and by former state representative Mike Villarreal, owner and resident of the house.  As this newsletter goes to press, we understand that the HDRC will discuss guidelines for solar installations in historic districts at their February 17 meeting.

Striving for a Balance of  Preservation and Sustainability

In the introduction to the City of San Antonio Historic Design Guidelines, Shannon Shae Miller, Historic Preservation Officer, provides good answers to the question “Why Preserve?”  Shannon cites the benefits of preservation on several levels including cultural, economic and environmental.  The Guidelines are plainly written and help anyone wanting answers to basic questions about preservation and how to go about it.  They can be accessed online at: sanantonio.gov/portals/0/Files/HistoricPreservation/1_UsingtheHistoricDesignGuidelines.pdf

In its end of the year issue, the San Antonio Current published its first-ever “People Issue” featuring 20 folks selected for doing captivating work in the Alamo City.

We are delighted that “The 20 Most Captivating People in San Antonio This Year” list includes three of our neighbors: Naomi Shihab Nye, poet and author, and Angela and Rick Martinez, owners and operators of Slab Cinema. 

For the full story and to see the wonderful photo portraits by Josh Huskins, go to sacurrent.com/sanantonio/the-people-issue/Content?oid=2494692

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently awarded the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) a nonpoint pollution source grant from federal Clean Water Act Section 319 funds administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The grant will allow SARA to inspire actions for healthy creeks and rivers by constructing stormwater treatment retrofits at its main office at 100 E. Guenther.

The new downtown HEB grocery store opened on December 2, 2015, at the corner of S. Flores St. and Caesar Chavez Blvd., with fanfare and speeches by Mayor Taylor, store officers and other dignitaries.  If you have not been there yet I encourage you to go.  At first, I was a Doubting Thomas because of its small size compared to other local stores.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  It is unique, and when you only need a few things it is nice to be able to walk to the grocery. 

Essential oils are most recognized for their stimulating and calming aromas.  However, what is less known is their ability to assist in natural immune support, mental clarity and emotional relief.  Much research has been established to support the efficacy of essential oils but still many people are not aware or educated about the potential of these plant-based oils when used safely and properly.

The Southtown area has many shops and restaurants that make it what seems to me anyway, like a small town within a big city.  The Urban Farm Stand, at 1423 S. Presa, between the King William and Lavaca neighborhoods, is one of those shops.  It is a year-round, indoor farmers market operated by Karen Haynes and Patti Hinkley.  It opened December 11, 2015.  As would be expected, the shop has a wide variety of organic and locally produced items.

Time to throw out the lingering pile of Christmas gift catalogs that have flooded the mailbox and formed a seismically challenged tower on the end of the kitchen counter.

Among the oddities ranging from Star Wars everything to portable wine chillers (home or office!), the most conspicuous item was a mistletoe drone.  A tiny quadcopter with a dangling sprig of romance-inducing parasite.  The catalog offered the happy opportunity to buy them by the half dozen to spark up that magic moment at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Imagine a squadron hovering in perfect, steady, semi-silent formation above your tipsy guests.

The King William Association (KWA) Charter was filed with the State of Texas in 1967. One of the purposes of the Association was to “foster and promote the cooperation and support of individuals, business groups, and governmental units in developing tourist attractions in the general area and in strengthening the economic and cultural life of the surrounding area.”

When I was hired to help organize the King William Fair in February 2008, Rose Kanusky was serving as the Fair Chair for the third year in a row.  She worked very hard in that capacity, and had come to see that the small, informal gathering that began as a low-key party among neighbors in 1968 had grown to become a large, highly-complex festival that could no longer be run by volunteers alone.  She and the King William Association Board of Directors had the vision to see that along with the growing popularity of the Fair had come such pressing issues as crowd safety, liability, environmental issues, technology and new city policies, all of which required professional organizational support, if the fair was to continue to thrive.

Since then, I’ve been blessed to have wonderful staff support from Cherise Bell, Monika Perez-Moad, Susan Rothman, Carol Jackson and Syeira Budd.  Together, we’ve worked hard to maintain the unique character and neighborhood charm of the Fair, while also instituting the policies and procedures envisioned by Rose to foster the growth, safety and success of the KWA’s primary fundraiser. 

Each year I select a theme for my newsletter articles.  In 2015 the theme was volunteers. This year I have chosen “Sustainability” because of: HDRC cases regarding xeriscape and solar panels; zoning cases and surrounding infill development projects which affect parking availability; and finally historic preservation.  

 “Conceptually, sustainable development emerged as a result of significant concerns about the unintended social, environmental, and economic consequences of rapid population growth, economic growth, and consumption of natural resources.”* One factor which has influenced the topic of sustainability is the built environment which in turn has created the Green Building Council, LEED certification, Energy STAR ratings, plus products such as solar panels, water saving toilets, respectively meant to reduce carbon emissions and, reduce water usage.

I like SAY Sí because when I walk in the door, I feel normal.”  “No one judges me at SAY Sí.”  I like being able to express myself using different mediums in art.”  “It’s so much fun, and I have made lasting friendships there.”  “I like the technical training.”  

These were quotes resonating from my morning carpool with my daughter, Laura, a 10th grader at the North East School of the Arts, and her classmate and neighborhood friend, Bygoe Zubiate, a 10th grader at the International School of the Americas.  Both girls have attended the SAY Sí art program since middle school and both girls are excited to continue their art training in the program.  They liken the program to their sport of choice.  And, just like any extracurricular, their dedication to the arts through SAY Sí is evident in their schedules.  As part of the curriculum, students must log at least eight hours per week, generally completed after school and on Saturdays.  It’s a demanding schedule on top of school work and other commitments, but talk to any SAY Sí student, and the first thing they will tell you is that, if they could, they would spend even more time there.