Naked City

Too Many Cooks at Saltillo?

Plaza Saltillo
Plaza Saltillo (Photo By John Anderson)

Tomorrow (Friday) is the deadline to apply for a slot on the nine-member Community Advisory Group that will be created by the city and Capital Metro to provide input to the consultants charged with developing the 11-acre Saltillo District, just east of I-35 between Fourth and Fifth streets. Cap Metro's board of directors will choose five members, and the city, four. Four at-large members will be required to have skills in either neighborhood or community involvement, finance or real estate finance, urban design, or development.

While slots on the CAG have been advertised to the general public, don't expect a panel of fresh faces. According to Saltillo project co-manager Sam Archer of Cap Metro, staff will recommend keeping on board the CAG representatives of the same five groups that helped develop the request for proposal for the Saltillo District Redevelopment Master Plan. Those groups included the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team, PODER, Con Ganas, the business community (represented by La Prensa Publisher Cathy Vasquez-Revilla), and El Concilio. The public, Archer says, will be able to participate in the Saltillo redevelopment effort at planning meetings and design charettes; a kickoff open house is planned for early September.

In keeping the same five groups closely involved in the planning process, the staff's goal, Archer says, is to maintain continuity on the CAG, which will also serve as a liaison between the city/Cap Metro partnership and consultants and the community. Yet representatives of two of the original five groups didn't complete the process, and one of them -- El Concilio leader Gavino Fernandez Jr. -- is currently in the Travis Co. Jail, charged with drug possession and aggravated assault stemming from a May 22 incident at his home. Though El Concilio's membership appears limited to Fernandez and a handful of his political allies, Cap Metro has decided to keep a slot open for the group -- without making the same allotment for other stakeholders, most notably the Holly Neighborhood Planning Team (which Fernandez had chaired). The decision also may be a missed opportunity-in-the-making for moving beyond the political patronage and acrimony that has hindered past redevelopment efforts.

The staff's recommendation has already riled key El Concilio opponents in the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood, including Lori Renteria and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, both of whom have applied for CAG slots. "Why's El Concilio being courted so heavily?" asks Rodriguez. Renteria doesn't object to the RFP Selection Committee members continuing to serve, she says, "but they need to apply and compete with the rest of us and let the [Cap Metro] board and council select representatives."

CAG applicants ultimately will be chosen by Cap Metro's seven-member board of directors. Also waiting for the board's approval: the top contender for the Saltillo contract, Roma Design Group of San Francisco. Roma is expected to receive the contract, worth between $100,000 and $250,000, at the end of this month.

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