Texas Supreme Court Rules Against City of San Antonio on Hays Street Bridge Development

click to enlarge The Hays Street Bridge was once the primary connection between downtown and the predominantly African-American East Side. - SIGGI RAGNAR
Siggi Ragnar
The Hays Street Bridge was once the primary connection between downtown and the predominantly African-American East Side.
The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against the city of San Antonio in a lengthy, often-bitter dispute over what can be developed adjacent to the historic Hays Street Bridge.

The state's high court today ruled that the city is not immune to claims it committed a breach of contract when it sold a lot next to the historic bridge to a developer with plans to build a five-story apartment building. The Hays Street Restoration Group, which spearheaded redevelopment of the bridge, sued the city in 2012, arguing that the deal was illegal because the land was originally slated for public use.

For many, the dispute over development at the Hays Street Bridge — once the primary connection between downtown and the predominantly African-American East Side — came to symbolize developers' inside track at city hall and the changing face of inner-city neighborhoods.

Former City Manager Sheryl Sculley last summer overrode the recommendation of the city's Historic and Design Review Commission and approved the apartment project. Residents argued that the development would destroy their view of the bridge and hasten gentrification. Construction still hasn't begun at the site.

Amy Kastley, the attorney representing the Hays Street Restoration Group, characterized the city's continued legal wrangling as a waste of taxpayer money in support of an insider deal. She added that the dispute could be settled by allowing the land to be developed into a park-like space with an educational center and public restrooms.

“This has always been within the power of the city council and the mayor, to do the right thing here,” Kastley said. “I’m shocked and astounded that they have continued to support this deal that has no merit.”

In a brief news release, the city said the Supreme Court had issued a "narrow and technical ruling" which "does not impact current or future development in the area." A 2014 judgment determined that the property was never “owned, held or claimed as a park.”

Kastley, however, disputed the notion that the Supreme Court decision leaves the city to do whatever it wants with the land.

"They're just wrong," she said. "I want to remind you that they've been wrong in every single public statement about this case."

As the 2012 lawsuit played out, San Antonio lost its case in a state district court but subsequently received a favorable ruling from the 4th Court of Appeals. As a result of today's Supreme Court decision, the case will return the appeals court.

Kastley said that court could render a decision later this year, but more likely in 2020.

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