Photo Credit and Photo Copyright

The photographs of San Antonio and Dignowity Hill used within this blog are the property of Juan A Garcia East Light Images. All rights are reserved to the owner. Copy and use of these pictures is forbidden without written permission. Contact Juan at for permission.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Day of the Year

Last day of the year! Boy, it seems that not too long ago were starting 2010! Despite all the gloominess dealing with the recovering economy things were generally good for the neighborhood in 2010. I feel that things are slowly turning around as more and more folks are beginning to notice the unique character of Dignowity Hill. A few months ago a man on a bicycle stopped to talk to me as he was riding through our neighborhood. He wasn't a resident of Dignowity but loved the area so much he told me he had "neighborhood envy"! He was hoping to buy a house in the neighborhood sometime soon. That's good to hear so my wish for 2011 is that we can continue to move things in the right direction. Perception is reality and we all need to work on changing the perception of the Eastside. We need to push for fixing our sidewalks, improving the street lighting, we need to continually work on pushing out elements that contribute to negative or inaccurate perceptions. There's still plenty to do to as we continue to revitalize the neighborhood and it's going to take everyone of us to make a difference.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas 2010

The Christmas season is about what better way to celebrate than to have our porch lit up and shining brightly!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Job!!

The Rock and Roll Marathon and 1/2 Marathon took place over the weekend. The race route came through part of western edge of our neighborhood. Over 30,000 runners/walkers signed up for the event including one our daughters. She ran the half marathon and finished in 2:05 hrs....Good Job, Jen!

The STAR project finished up this weekend. Close to 150 University of Texas at San Antonio students swarmed through the neighborhood to finish working on the 13 houses....Good Job, UTSA students!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

STAR in Dignowity Hill

About 150 students from, the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Architecture showed up bright and early on Saturday morning in Dignowity Park to participate in the first annual Students Together Achieving Revitalization (STAR) project. The project's aim is to introduce the students to historic preservation and aid in the on going revitalization of Dignowity Hill. Kudos to the city's Office of Historic Preservation, Mr Victor Salas a local contractor who provided expertise and tools to get the job done and Sue Anne Pemberton, professor of architecture at UTSA, for coordinating the students from UTSA!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Day After

As the saying goes, "the people have spoken".....and the political landscape at the national level has once again shifted. We'll have to wait and see what this really means. The big question is can this new group of political leaders learn to govern without having political ideology get in the way. The landscape may have changed but the challenges and problems remain: the economy has not fully recovered, unemployment is still high, the housing market is still struggling, millions of people still do not have adequate health care, immigration reform is still needed, our public education system is in dire need of get the picture. It makes me wonder if this new congress will make any headway.

In the meantime, life in our corner of the world goes on....... school guard Bob still waves at me every morning on my way to work, neighbors and friends stop by to chat, my fall veggie garden is doing well, the weather is getting cooler and over the next two weekends about 300 students from the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Architecture will be doing a service project in the neighborhood. Maybe those things don't mean much the day after a big election but they are significant reminders that the important things in life don't need to be earth shattering events!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dia de Los Muertos

Dia de Los Muertos
City Cemeteries on the Eastside

Mid Term Madness

Today is election day. Finally, the loud noise that comes with elections will get down to a more tolerable level. I'll be so glad when the tiresome incivility and irrational rhetoric is put away till the next election! Change seems to be the dominant theme every election yet I'm not sure if things really do change as the only real change that seems to be occurring is changing out our representatives every election! The one thing that remains constant is the right to vote. So get up, get out and Vote!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Graffiti, Art and Respect

Graffiti or tagging has been around for a long time. It's everywhere.....and I have to admit that some of the graffiti pieces I see on buildings and other public places can almost be considered works of art. I marvel at some of the mural like works of composition, color and lines that appear out of no where….but the problem I have with these works of art is that they deface a perfectly fine wall or structure.....and were done without respect for the property or the property owner. When the Hays Street Bridge was re-opened a few months ago it was tagged the night before the official ribbon cutting.
I suppose we all have a need for creative outbursts from time to time and perhaps that’s what our graffiti artists and taggers experience when they feel moved to express themselves. On the other hand…respect for property is a big deal for me and I would assume most folks feel the same way as I do. So to those graffiti artists and taggers that may actually read this blog......before you graffiti a wall in our neighborhoods…. stop, show respect and be creative in another way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lots of Stuff Happening

October always seems to get folks more active and interested in getting things done. The weather finally cools down and I know for myself I tend to feel more energized. Maybe it helped that we we spent 10 days in September driving along the rugged Oregon coast! That trip was just incredible and it helped put things into perspective. But its always good to come home, especially if you live in Dignowity Hill!
At our October neighborhood association meeting it was exciting to see the large number of folks that attended the meeting and who are interested in the many things that are happening in the neighborhood. Here are some of the things that are happening in the coming months:
  • In early November the San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation together with the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Architecture will be doing a service project in the neighborhood. The project will involve over 200 student volunteers from UTSA to do minor repairs and painting on some of the houses in the neighborhood.
  • At the October association meeting the director of Parks and Recreation made a commitment to work with the association to open up the Lockwood Park community building for neighborhood use. The building is a landmark in the park and has not been used for a number of years.
  • At the association meeting we approved the statement purpose for our 501c3 application. This a great step forward in getting to a non-profit status for the association.
  • The city will be doing a survey of our neighborhood sidewalks in the coming months. This is great news and is the first step in getting our sidewalks repaired!
  • The Dignowity Hill Community Garden is flourishing and thriving under the watchful stewardship of some great volunteers.
  • Restoration activity on some of the old houses in the neighborhood is ongoing and it's good see some of these old houses coming back to life!
  • Maybe it's the cool weather but I have seen folks in the neighborhood tending their yards and sprucing things up....the neighborhood is looking good!
I'm sometimes taken aback by the many good things that have happen since we moved into Dignowity Hill in 2007 and we still have many challenges ahead of us...but I would not live anywhere else at this time in my life!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dignowity Farmer's Market

I went to the organizing meeting for the Dignowity Hill Farmer's Market last Sunday. I was impressed with the turnout and also pleased to see friends from Government Hill. What a great idea and what a great way to bring neighbors and friends together. With the Dignowity community garden a success I have no doubt that this venture will also be successful.

For anyone interested in being a part a farmer's market in Dignowity Hill, then join us on August 15th at the Dignowity Center on the corner of Nolan and Pine at 3pm for the next meeting of the Dignowity Hill Farmer's Market Steering and Planning Committee. I posted a Face Book link to the Farmer's Market in the "Links to Explore" section of the blog.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Can We Keep this Going?

This past Saturday we had a gathering of Dignowity Hill residents and city officials at the Carver Center to celebrate the completion of the ACTION (Advocacy to Combat Threats Impacting Our Neighborhoods) program in our neighborhood. The city's Neighborhood and Housing Dept organized the ACTION program as part of the Eastside revitalization initiatives to improve and address quality of life issues. Dignowity was chosen as the pilot neighborhood. It was a relatively successful program which brought together code compliance, animal services and waste management services to the neighborhood in a concentrated focus. One statistic that really struck me was that in 4 months almost 9 tons of trash and brush were picked up in the neighborhood. So far since the beginning of the year when the quality of life initiative for the Eastside was started in February over 180 tons of trash and brush have been pick up. That's pretty impressive but when compared to 2009 when only 6 tons of brush/trash were picked up in all of District 2, I have to wonder what happened in 2009!

Well, I don't want to dwell on the past, obviously not much was being done. So moving forward can this effort be sustained? The only way we can happen is by residents proactively in engaging code compliance and other services and by city departments being actively responsive to our needs. Otherwise, we will surely slip back to old habits.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All Lit Up

The Hays Street Bridge is now lit up. The city finally figured out who is going to pay for the light bill....thank goodness!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hays Street Bridge In the Dark

Took a walk over to the Hays Street Bridge Saturday evening expecting to see it all lit up. Not sure what's going here but the bridge is in the dark. The lights were all out. I hope the city or who ever is responsible for turning on the lights will do so soon. Or did someone forget to pay the light bill? In spite of the lack of lighting on the bridge it was still worth the walk from our house. The view of the moon rising over Dignowity Hill was awesome!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Good Stuff on the Eastside

The Hays Street Bridge opened up again after 28 years of being closed. Kudos to the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group for their vision and tireless efforts to save the old lady.

A couple of articles appeared in the newspaper this week regarding the impressive progress the police department has made in lowering and preventing crime in District 2. Problem oriented policing seems to be making a considerable dent with the bad guys in our neighborhoods and businesses. This is truly encouraging as public safety is a key piece in sustaining revitalization.

I recently attended a meeting of business owners of the New Braunfels Street corridor. The biggest topic of discussion was the gate closure at New Braunfels and Grayson streets. The gate has been closed since 9-11 and has adversely impacted many of the businesses along this stretch of New Braunfels street. Not sure if the gate will re-open anytime soon but I was encouraged by the willingness of the business owners to work together for a common cause.

In the meantime we need to explore creative ideas to bring traffic to that corridor. At the last Ft Sam Houston Avisory Board a proposal surfaced that VIA should look at developing a trolley loop route from Walters street through New Braunfels street to bring much needed customers down to New Braunfels street. I like that idea and it could be an effective and creative way to partly address a continuing frustrating situation.

We still have a lot of work in front of us but it feels like the momentum is starting to swing around for the Eastside.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Nights and Basketball

One of the the nice things of living in Dignowity Hill is having two great parks- Dignowity and Lockwood- located right in the middle of the neighborhood. The parks are adjacent to each other and overlook downtown. The view of the city in the evening from the parks is spectacular. Lockwood Park has an outdoor basket ball court and if you happen to pass by on a warm summer night chances are good that you'll find a night basketball game going on.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Business Realities

The other morning we had breakfast at Tommy's Cafe with Norma Witherspoon. Norma owns and operates Nick's Beauty Supply on the corner of New Braunfels and Burnet Streets. She wanted to talk about the New Braunfels street business corridor. The area she is concerned about runs from the Ft. Sam Houston gate to Houston street. Her and other small business owners along this stretch of New Braunfels street feel they may be missing on the economic development promised by the BRAC and the Eastside re-investment initiatives being promoted by the city. The gate closure at the New Braunfels street entrance to Ft Sam and the opening of Walters Street as the main entrance to the post were two reasons for the concern.

There is no question that the gate closure has had the greatest impact on businesses just outside the gate since there is no direct traffic coming in or out of the post. It's unlikely that the military will open the gate any time soon. One compromise would be to open the gate as an exit only but so far the military is not listening to community and neighborhood concerns. Further south from the gate on New Braunfels and past the interstate there is a healthy infrastructure of small businesses already in place. At the intersection of Houston and New Braunfels streets there are several anchor businesses that appear to be thriving, although a major upgrade is sorely needed to the HEB grocery store at that corner. As for Walters Street, its still too early to determine if the corridor will eventually develop into a viable business gateway. Walters street past the interstate is mostly residential and it will take some deep pockets to develop the area with new businesses.

Norma is a long time Eastside business owner and over the years she's heard many promises for economic development and seen little change. On the other hand, the way I see it the New Braunfels street corridor stands a good chance of further development if the small business owners are willing to organize themselves into a common voice and are willing to work together to bring the right kind of attention and resources. Timing is every thing in life and I think that the time is ripe for business growth along this stretch of the Eastside.....but the reality is that these business owners and the community cannot stand around and wait for it to happen.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Catching Up: Exciting, Not so Good, Very Good

It's time to catch with things. I've been a little busy lately with some traveling out of town over the last few weeks. But its good to be back in town for a couple of weeks without having to pack up and get on a plane!

There's an exciting initiative that will involve the Dignowity Hill community and our public schools that is getting ready to launch in the next few weeks called the Trinity Project. The idea behind the this project is an innovative concept to deliver education by working closely with the community and using community assets to strengthen and improve the quality of the educational experience. Bowden Elementary School will be the setting for piloting this project which is being championed by our good mayor, supported by SAISD and driven by Trinity University, hence the the name Trinity Project. The first community meeting is scheduled for sometime in late August so stay tuned for more details as things develop.

Not So Good
Back in May I got wind of an something not so good happening at the Union Pacific rail yard. It seems that the UP has allowed the construction of an ethanol transfer station along the Pine street side of the rail yard. This was done without any input from the community. Apparently, rail road companies are exempt from most city and state codes are allowed to lease their properties to companies that produce and pipe ethanol for use in mixing with gasoline. I'm not against the use of extending our energy resources...that's good...but the not so good part of this is that the UP rail yard is in the midst of two neighborhoods, Dignowity and Government Hill and this has raised some serious concerns among our residents regarding the safety of the operations. I invited reps from the UP and the ethanol company to our July 19th association meeting to address those concerns and answer questions and they agreed to attend.....should be very interesting.

Very Good!
The Hays Street Bridge Opening is scheduled for July 20th at 10am....finally! I can't wait to ride my bike over this old and historic bridge!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Long as I Can See the Light

Now that summer is upon us I like to take my walks in the neighborhood in the evening just as it's getting dark. It's a good time to get's relatively cooler and there's something about taking a walk as the day is phasing into night. As I'm walking about I like to take note of how many of my neighbors light up their front porches. There is something about a front porch with the light on that is welcoming. It's also a good crime deterrent. There are many parts of the neighborhood that have dark areas because the street lighting falls short of providing more than adequate illumination. Our cops like to see properties well lit....burglars and other bad guys typically do not like working with lights shining on them.
So light up the ol' front porch and do your part to light up the neighborhood.

From the Credence Clearwater Revival song "Long as I can See the Light"
Put a candle in the window, cause I feel I've got to move.
Though I'm going, going, I'll be coming home soon,
long as I can see the light.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Community Garden Dedication

The Dignowity Community Garden was dedicated and blessed on May 15th. Great turnout, we estimated around 80-90 people showed up for the blessing and fellowship. It was good to see so many friends and neighbors be a part of this community effort!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

POP on the Eastside

The recent article in the newspaper about using Problem Orient Policing (POP) on the Eastside gives me hope that the cops and the city have discovered a way to work together to really make a difference in cleaning things up. The cops on the Eastside generally do a good job but other city departments have historically lagged behind in enforcing code violations. But things seem to be changing for the better. This approach to policing is has been around for some time and has been used in other cities with success. But as the chief of police noted in the article, this is only a piece of the work that needs to be done. And he's right. If Eastside neighborhood residents really want to see change then collectively we need to do our part in the clean up. We need to continue reporting code violations, keep our properties cleaned up, work closely with our cops, report any criminal activity, hold our city officials accountable and take the attitude that our neighborhoods really matter.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Renewal Hope Continues for the Friedrich Building

The Friedrich building complex has been the topic of revitalization and economic development projects for over a decade. Built in 1925 it was the home of the Friedrich air conditioning company until 1990 when competitive pressures forced the company to relocate most of its operations to Mexico. Located on E. Commerce St just east of downtown it sits mostly vacant waiting for its moment of renewal. The building has a strong industrial look and feel with a healthy dose of historical significance. The old building complex is on the market again after several attempts in the past 10 years to breathe life back into it. During the recent series of economic summits that focused on the Eastside this building was chosen as among one the top 5 revitalization projects. For some in the community hope still lingers that the Eastside will someday benefit from the resurrection of this old building. In the meantime, life goes on.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The BRAC Thing

This past Monday Texas Public Radio broadcasted an interview with yours truly and our esteemed Council woman, Ivy Taylor. The interviewer wanted our take of the BRAC and what impact it will have on the surrounding neighborhoods. Then on Tuesday, Ms Taylor and I were part of panel discussion at st Phillip's College on the BRAC that was recorded for later broadcast by Texas Public Radio. Besides myself and the council woman, the panel included the post commander at Ft Sam Houston, Col. Mary Garr and city official, James Henderson. You can catch the interviews and panel discussion on line at:

In case you've been away for awhile, the BRAC at Ft Sam Houston will be bringing an estimated 12,000 troops to the post. The potential economic impact from this BRAC expansion is estimated to be $8.3 billion. On the surface it sounds like a huge impact but to put things into perspective 80% of that impact is due to the new construction currently taking place on the post. Once construction is finished then it is estimated that the economic impact will increase $1.6 billion annually with additional annual sales tax revenue of $4.9 million. During the construction period on the post an estimated 62,000 construction jobs could be created. After the BRAC is completed an estimated 15,000 jobs could potentially be supported by the community due to the increase in missions on the post. The on-going earnings potential from these post-BRAC jobs is estimated to be $1.3 billion annually. Pretty impressive!
Source for the above data: Ft. Sam Houston Economic Impact Update, March 2009,

So what does this all this mean to the neighborhoods the surround Ft Sam Houston? Well, at this point not much. Expectations had been raised that since no new housing would be built on the post for the expected influx of troops, the surrounding neighborhoods would be absorbing those folks. Realistically, that is not going to happen, at least not immediately. Neighborhoods such as Government Hill or Dignowity Hill are still in the nascent stages of revitalization with much work to be done on improving infrastructure, dealing with aging housing stock, and other quality of life issues. The current reality is that many of the troops that will initially make landfall at Ft Sam will be making home buying or house renting choices away from these historic neighborhoods. This has already occur ed with the first wave of troops and civilians that have arrived at Ft. Sam. There are other questions and issues that need to be addressed as well. For example, the New Braunfels Street gate that leads into Ft. Sam Houston from IH 35 has been closed since after 9-11. Having this gate closed has had an adverse effect on businesses on that corridor and on the Government Hill neighborhood. The military is not willing to either open up the gate again or even consider the possibility of engaging in a conversation with neighborhood or community leaders. Hmmm....interestingly, the logo for the BRAC tells us to Embrace BRAC but the current attitude from the military on the New Braunfels street gate issue is not exactly a warm abrazo!

But...I remain hopeful.....the best thing we can do at this point is to plan for the long term, continue revitalizing our neighborhoods, keep nudging both the city and military on finding ways to create positive solutions and most importantly, get over the fact that this BRAC thing is not all what it was hyped up to be for our neighborhoods!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pushcart Derby

Well, another successful Pushcart Derby took place this past Saturday. The year's event was by far the biggest so far with double the number of entries from last year. Mucho thanks to Cruz and Rina Ortiz for their vision and tireless efforts in organizing what has become a great event for the neighborhood.