Five years ago, thousands of San Antonians from all walks of life came together over a period of six months to set a renewed and exciting vision for this city’s future. For the first time in decades, citizens from every corner of the city were setting the agenda – and it was a big one. The vision they crafted together was a layered answer to a simple but serious question: What would the best version of the San Antonio of tomorrow look and feel like if there were no barriers in our way?
San Antonians took the question very seriously and didn’t take the easy road towards answering it. Some people projected ahead and envisioned a city that provides great educational opportunities to every child at every level; and no matter what part of town they call home. Many saw a city vigorously encouraging and supporting entrepreneurialism and operating as a powerful center of innovation. And others dreamt of a city so vibrant that it is among the most irresistible American cities to both the world’s young and “young-at-heart”. That effort, and the melding of those ideas into a cohesive vision was the genesis of what is known today as SA2020.
Eleven focus areas were established as San Antonio’s priorities through the end of the decade: Arts and Culture, Transportation, Education, Neighborhoods and Growth Management, Health and Fitness, Economic Competitiveness, Downtown, Civic Engagement, Natural Resources and Environmental Stewardship, Family Well Being, and Community Safety.
The goals we set for ourselves in these areas were bold. For example, San Antonians wanted a city with: citizens that are among the healthiest of all Americans, a transportation system that is a model of efficiency, neighborhoods that are known for their cohesiveness and uniqueness, and a reputation as a world leader in arts and culture.
The vision setting took an unprecedented amount of effort and involvement from citizens and we should be very proud of that. We have made some very good progress since then in many of our goal areas including: increasing our high school graduation rates, decreasing the obesity rate in adults, increasing our water and energy conservation, and growth in targeted industry sectors like IT/cyber security, healthcare/biosciences, and transportation manufacturing.
We now have a very strong vision of where we want to be as a city, and excellent momentum in many areas. However, we have also learned some new things along the way that remind us that we must remain very focused on making our vision a reality. For example, we now know that by the year 2040, San Antonio is projected to grow by at least 1 million people - almost doubling our population. These future San Antonians will be accompanied by as many as 500,000 new jobs and 500,000 new housing units. How we plan for and manage that explosive growth will be the difference between the future being the picture we painted, or something unappealingly different.
We have more work to do together and its time for San Antonians to plug in again. That is where SATomorrow, the new effort to develop San Antonio’s first modern Comprehensive Plan comes in. You can find loads of information on the website linked here. This will be a big step towards planning for more of the important physical elements of our city that contribute to our vision. The City of San Antonio’s Planning Department is leading this effort and will include three core components:
- The Comprehensive Plan, which will address land use, infrastructure, and urban design; and drive municipal policy, public investments, and resource allocations to both accommodate our projected growth and improve the quality of life among today's San Antonians.
- The Multi-Modal Transportation Plan is a plan for all modes of transportation, including cars, mass transit, bicycles and pedestrians. The Transportation Plan will communicate the city's transportation strategy and will help ensure that transportation related investments best support the community's vision
- The Sustainability Plan will be grounded in the three pillars of sustainability - social, economic and environmental; and will address issues related to San Antonio's air quality, built environment, economy, energy, food, health, natural resources, solid waste, transportation, and water.
As with SA2020, citizen engagement and more importantly, citizen direction and ownership are essential. Yes, this is more "planning", but in the end I believe it will ensure that our leaders of today and tomorrow are much smarter and accountable to the citizens in the "doing".
Please begin plugging yourself into SATomorrow alongside your neighbors at the Kick-Off Event on Saturday, April 11th at the Alamo Convocation Center from 10am - 3pm. Drop by at any time with your family. Here is a link for more details. This is a major effort to bridge the gap between our vision and reality, and it will absolutely not work without YOU.
Disclosure: I am serving as a volunteer Tri-Chair for this effort alongside District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Dr. Afamia Elnekat with the UTSA Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute.