News Briefs

Progress continues on the Aztec Theater

The Aztec Theater was a sight when it opened in 1926. The theater’s interior featured a tribute to the ancient cultures of Mexico and their cultural icons, from a visage of Aztec warrior Cuautemoc above the entryway to a fire screen on the stage that depicts the meeting of Aztec Emporer Moctecuzoma and the Spanish invader, Hernan Cortez, in 1519.

The refurbished giant chandelier hangs in the main lobby of the Aztec Theater (Photos by Mark Greenberg)

In 1988, this elaborately decorated component of San Antonio’s theater district was saved from demolition by the Conservation Society. Aztec on the River bought the property 10 years later, and restoration work on the theater was coordinated by hotelier Rick Drury, who obtained $60 million in empowerment zone bonds to return the Aztec Theater to its former glory, remodel the Alamo Bank building, and construct a pathway to turn the River Walk into a navigable loop.

Megan Stendebach of Euro Management, the managing agent for Aztec on the River, recently led a tour of the renovations that have occurred over the past year, and announced the theater would open in February 2006.

The theater has been restored to its original state, including a façade on the front of the building that was discovered after renovations began, and it will feature attractions, including an entryway from the River Walk along Crockett Street.

“Everything you see was hand-painted,” Stendebach said last week as she showed off the theater’s lobby with its new coats of paint. A sunburst over the stage and other artwork near the stage are hand-painted with 23-karat gold leaf. Stendebach noted such features as free special effects every 90 minutes, 475 seats on the balcony, and a a 45-by-60-foot iWERKS Extreme Screen, a competitor of IMAX.

Old movies will be featured during an introductory session, with music provided by a restored Mighty Wurlitzer organ that is currently on display in the Drury Inn across the street from the theater.

Stendebach says her firm will occupy some of the offices in the four-story building, and leases are available. For more information about the Aztec Theater’s reawakening, visit

Michael Cary

City aims boot at front, side yard parkers

San Antonio City Council last week warded off what has threatened to become a pandemic in neighborhoods, by tightening restrictions on front and side parking of boats, RVs and trailers in residential areas.

Acting Code Compliance Director Liz García told an astonished City Council last week that of 13,583 front/side yard parking reports to her department in 2004 a whopping 76 percent received citations. She cited a need to update the code to align it with Uniform Development Code and to clarify portions that address this pressing issue.

“This amendment will provide surface requirements, a parking area must be contiguous with the parking area driveway,” García explained to the council.

It’s time to crank up the Georgie Boy Swinger RV, or hitch up the boat trailer with the Bassmaster, and move them off-site to a storage facility: The City now prohibits front yard and side parking for boats, non-motorized campers, and trailers. Rules for parking RVs are also to be clarified, although they’ve been banned from yard parking for six years.

“We meant to include boats, trailers, and any vehicles (in the six-year-old ban), and any vehicles that should not be parked on front lawns; we now have problems enforcing the law,” says District 10 Councilman Chip Haass.

“I heard very loudly (from residents in a single subdivision, concerning one neighbor) about code violations,” Haass explained. “People have their homes as a top investment. It hurts property values in neighboring areas. The City has repeat offenders, and this is the only way to break them of their bad behavior.”

District 7 Councilwoman Elena Guajardo said local boat and RV groups should be warned about the new code enforcement, and she suggested warning local boat and RV dealerships about the new rules. “We’re going to be serious, tell the boat dealers.”

“This is a city-wide issue, and it will go a long way toward unifying the neighborhoods,” Haass said. “This is something we can unite behind. Code enforcement has got to be on top of the list.”

The fine for violating the front/side parking rules for boats, RV/campers and trailers is a $200 fine for each day of the violation. The City could also go after a violator for not complying with zoning requirements, which carries a fine of up to $2,000.

Michael Cary

City computer allegedly among illegal e-waste

A Gateway computer reportedly marked with a City of San Antonio identification tag has been found among e-waste that allegedly had been illegally dumped in Nigeria.

Eighty-eight computers from the City of Houston, a hospital in Wisconsin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, several state agencies, and British and German companies were among those that had been dumped.

Once City property, this Gateway computer was found among illegally discarded electronic waste in Nigeria, according to a watchdog group.

Basel Action Network, a watchdog organization that monitors toxic trade including electronic waste, investigated the dump, and its findings were released by Texas Campaign for the Environment.

According to BAN, obsolete computers, televisions, mobile phones, and other used electronic equipment are export from the U.S. and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria for reuse and repair. According to BAN, experts in Lagos complain that of the 500 40-foot containers that arrive in the city eaach month, as much as three-quarters of it is irreparable and cannot be resold. This e-waste is reportedly dumped and/or burned near in empty neighborhood lots, roadsides, and swamps.

Computers often contain poisonous flame retardants, lead and mercury and the toxic leachate, materials, and smoke from the waste can be hazardous to human health and the environment.

Hugh Miller of the City’s Information Technology Department says the Purchasing Department salvages computers by cleaning the hard drives and selling them to the highest bidding e-waste companies. Some bidding is done on-line.

The Current sent Janie Cantu of the Purchasing Department the computer’s asset tag number to determine which company bought the computer. Canut has not returned a phone call or an email requesting the information.

Miller says he plans to change the salvaging process so that the computer vendor will be responsible for taking back old computers. “I don’t want to be in the salvage business,” he says.

Lisa Sorg