KWA Newsletter Articles

Spring is here and we can plant anything that likes warm weather.

If it has been three months or more since you last fertilized your lawn and flowerbeds, now is the time.  Use a good slow release organic fertilizer.  Do not look for them at the big box stores because they do not normally carry them.  Organic fertilizers do not have to be watered in immediately after application if you want to wait for the next rain shower.

Read more: Out in the Garden: May 2016

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. 

Read more: City Lights: May 2016

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.  

Read more: Unwanted House Guests

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.  

Read more: Driving Sunlight: A Bright Future

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.  

Read more: Green Options

The King William Association is a registered neighborhood association with the City of San Antonio.  This means the Association receives notifications regarding zoning requests within our boundaries and can make comment reading the zoning change.  I have often been asked why some places need to rezone and others do not.  Below is an interview with Catherine Hernandez, COSA Zoning Manager.

Cherise Bell: What does “change of use” mean?

Catherine Hernandez: A “use” is defined as the legal enjoyment of property for a specific purpose.  A “change of use” is an action to make the use of the property different from its previous use.  

Read more: Interview with COSA Zoning Manager

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.

Read more: Sustainability Resources

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.

Read more: SAY Sí Goes Global

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. 

Read more: City Lights: March 2016

Want to work on your house but do not know how to get started?  

COSA’s Office of Historic Preservation has a brochure titled “I want to work on my historic building or my property within a local historic district.  What do I do?”  You can obtain a copy from the King William Association office or online at www.sanantonio.gov/portals/0/Files/HistoricPreservation/App_process-9-2010.pdf 

Basically, if you are doing a project on your house you must get a permit.  Since we live in a historic district, before you get a permit you must have a “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the Office of Historic Preservation.  The brochure explains the difference between an “Administrative Certificate” and the “Historic and Design Review” process. 

Read more: OHP Building Projects Guidelines Available

As a young child full of excitement and wonder about the natural world, I recall watching a tiny spider painstakingly weave its large, intricate web.  I also remember watching with glee when a fly unwittingly flew into its trap as the spider rushed to devour it.  The delicate, artistic web that this little engineer of the natural world builds and the clever hunting tactics it applies to capture prey all happen with such magical precision. 

Read more: The Black and Yellow Garden Spider

We have had a fairly mild winter, but if you are like me you are looking forward to spring and warm weather.  But when is that?

Because of newsletter deadlines I happened to have started composing this on Ground Hog Day.  That got me started thinking about theories and tales of when spring starts and the danger of frost is past.  Here are a few.  I hope you find them somewhat informative and maybe even amusing.

Ground Hog Day is February 2.  I do not know how it got started, but up in Pennsylvania a ground hog named Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow and if he sees his shadow that means six more weeks of winter.  This year he did not see his shadow, so based on this “theory” we will have an early spring.  But Phil lives in Pennsylvania.  So what does that mean for us in South Texas?  We will have to wait and see.

Read more: Out in the Garden: March 2016

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.

Read more: Historic Preservation and Solar Energy Part 2

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

Read more: Historic Preservation and Solar Energy Part 1

One of the pleasures of being president is working with so many dedicated volunteers.  Certainly one of the hardest working KWA committees is the Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC) chaired by Mickey Conrad.  This committee’s task is to review and comment on every case that comes to the City’s Historic Design Review Committee (HDRC) from King William.  The AAC also reviews some cases that are adjacent to King William that may impact our neighborhood in some way.  The hard task of the AAC is to insure that the proper guidelines for exterior modification of our historic homes are followed.  This often involves the applicants meeting with the AAC before appearing at the HDRC so that issues and concerns can be discussed.  Often the applicant is unaware of the guidelines they need to follow, or what kinds of modifications are not acceptable.  All of this is to help preserve the historic integrity of our neighborhood.  

Read more: President's Column: March 2016

Subcategories

Monthly column from KWA president.

Tips and resources for historic home and building preservation.

Learn the history of some of the neighborhood's historic structures.

General history and anecdotes about the King William Area.