During a recent tour of district 6, Councilman Ray Lopez stopped by several homes where volunteers were helping Rebuilding Together San Antonio, a local non-profit. Disabled and impoverished residents qualify for the work because they can’t do it themselves, and the organization attempts to work on 10 houses each year.
“I think we all recognize that there is a lot of work to be done in this community,” Lopez said to them.
But he’s not looking at the situation in a negative light. Lopez said among the street repairs, need for updated lighting or speed bumps, he has been working with organizations like the Westside Development Corporation.
A summit looked at the business needs of the area, and with discretionary spending in mind, Lopez said he hopes to attract businesses and banks that will give the West Side a try. However, he is realistic and knows the businesses want proof they can survive.
“Everybody wants the really neat stuff, but you’re not going to get a Neiman Marcus over here,” Lopez began. “But could we get a Starbucks, get a Barnes and Noble? Sure, if we can tell them there’s discretionary income and there’s good enough of a market, they will.”
But deep in the neighborhood, the sound of scraping, painting, restoring, raking and planting is like music to Lopez’s ears as he talks to the homeowners receiving the volunteer work to their properties.
Neighborhood watch association member Bonnie Weed said she notices the difference being made.
“Crime has gone down because of the involvement,” said Weed.
“It’s really multiple approaches to try to get new homes with young families,” said Lopez about reviving the school districts as well.
Now that Pre-K 4 SA has passed, Lopez also has some ideas for the model centers to be located in his district. Vacant buildings now used for Girl Scout headquarters could be a good fit.
“Doing mentoring programs and outreach programs, that’s the kind of stuff, the human investment, the human capital investment, that we’ve got to make in the community,” Lopez said.
It’s a complicated and time consuming process, but overall, Lopez said the bottom line is pretty simple: create new investments, bring neighborhoods back and build connections.
"You could build streets all day long, you could put in drainage all day long, but if you don’t do that kind of stuff, it’s just not going to flourish,” said Lopez.