The road to Mayor Julian Castro’s “Decade of Downtown” has been littered with incentives. Parking subsidies, tax breaks, SAWS impact-fee waivers, Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZ), and other city-funded goodies have driven the recent boom in development in the center city, and helped keep downtown commercial spaces at least mostly occupied (though the current 25-percent vacancy rate is still on the high side).
Less attention has been focused on the powerful set of disincentives that still lurk in the lifeless recesses of the central business district. These roadblocks to a vibrant downtown — some regulatory, some market-driven — demand a mix of deregulation and smart new regulation before San Antonio’s core can spring back to life.
I’ve written in the past about the food-truck ban (now partially lifted with a comically bureaucratic “pilot program”), overly restrictive zoning ordinances, historic-preservation overreach, and the land-value distortion driven by the hotel market.