About 50 neighbors, local business owners and public officials gathered at Guadalupe Plaza on the West Side for the third city-hosted community plática, where they discussed ways to activate the public space while maintaining safety.
"Hemisfair is more comparable to this (plaza); apply the same amount of security here," Grace Rose Gonzales said to her circle of eight, which agreed with her observation. "Our city government panders to tourism."
Gonzales added that the plaza should be an open space, and she would like to see a flow of people from one side of the block to the other—from El Paso to Guadalupe street.
The series of meetings, which formally began in late August, are in response to community concern about a chain-link fence that was erected in August 2016 by the Avenida Guadalupe Association, the nonprofit group that leases the public space from the city. The association put up the fence to try to clamp down on drug activity.
Since the pushback, the city has opened up the plaza 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. In October, it began screening movies there. The next one is "Corpse Bride," 8 p.m. at the plaza, 1327 Guadalupe St.
But those are temporary measures as the city and the AIA San Antonio Latinos in Architecture Committee craft a conceptual plan for the plaza that will be released on Dec. 4—a culmination of the ideas the neighborhood has generated over the past three meetings.
At last night's meeting, a history of plazas was given, which was followed by Latinos in Architecture members discussing other plaza designs that could help influence improvements to Guadalupe Plaza. The audience then broke out into groups to explore ways to activate the space, and resolve the issue of the fence.
A few people observed the meeting had fewer attendees than the 100 who gave input at the last gathering in September. Some groups began talking about ideas right away, others started off by reviewing what a plaza is supposed to be, and worked their way to discussing how to activate the space.
Isaac Alvarez Cardenas, 62, a longtime resident said some level of security would be nice to see if it remained open, but he also wouldn’t mind a simpler solution.
"If (the plaza) was active all the time, you wouldn't need security," Cardenas said.
Some community members said everyone should know about the plaza, even tourists.
"No place on the West Side is mentioned in visiting San Antonio," historian Antonia Castaneda, 76, said about visitsanantonio.com and its tourist destination listings.
There was a consensus that having vendors out every day would be a good way to activate the space, as well as daily activities such as yoga and Zumba classes.
A constant criticism of the Avenida Guadalupe Association and its jobs managing the plaza was voiced, saying that new management, or having someone who is culturally competent, would be a better fit.
"People should leave their politics at home," Avenida Guadalupe Association Executive Director Gabriel Velasquez said in response to the management comments. "Avenida Guadalupe developed it, we’re not part of the problem."
Everyone in attendance agreed the plaza is a beautiful space and that activating it would solve many issues, including the ones the fence addresses.
During the meeting, Veronica Garcia, Interim Assistant Director for the Center City Development and Operations department, said the city has $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds that could be used for more shade or lighting, to improve the sound system, or other upgrades.
Frustrations linger on Guadalupe Plaza fence