San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, population 1,359,758 (2011) is home to popular tourist destinations including the Alamo and River Walk. In 2007, the City adopted a form based zoning district (FBZD) that promotes compact growth in hamlets, villages and regional centers and includes the TDR mechanism incorporated within the SmartCode template.

Section (c)(2) of the FBZD establishes TDR as a means of gradually transferring development rights from the S2 (Reserved Open Space Sector) to the S4 and S5 (Growth Sectors) allowing development to exceed baseline densities set forth in 209(d)(4) and Table 209-18. Once land in the S2 sector is preserved it becomes part of the S1 Preserve Sector, consisting of open space protected from development by law, acquisition and easements as well as TDR, including surface water, wetlands, protected habitat, riparian corridors, dedicated open space and conservation easements. No building can be placed in the S1 sector and the land can only be used for passive recreation and required access.

The sending area in this program consists of lands in the S2 Reserve Sector. The S2 contains land that should be but is not yet preserved including flood plains, steep slopes, woodland, farmland, view sheds and areas to be acquired as open space, corridors and buffers. As established by Table 209-18, on site development in the sending area is limited to one unit per 20 acres. Presumably, the preservation of each 20 gross acres of sending area land generates one TDR although the FBZD does not appear to specify this allocation ratio.

Development rights are expressed as units of Overall Density, with each unit allowing one housing unit, which can be converted to one hotel/motel lodging unit or 750 to 1500 square feet of office/retail floor area within zones that allow these uses. Section (d)(5) indicates that developers can achieve density bonus for sustainable design and housing mix as well as TDR. In fact, developers must earn 16 points for sustainable development in order to qualify for any bonus development.

Receiving areas consist of four growth zones. In the Sub-Urban Zone, bonus density from TDR (and the other incentives mentioned above) can increase development potential from a baseline of 2 units per acre to a maximum of 4 units per acre. In the General Urban Zone, bonus density from TDR and other incentives can increase development potential from a baseline of 4 units per acre to a maximum of 8 units per acre. In the Urban Center Zone, bonus density from TDR and other incentives can increase development potential from a baseline of 6 units per acre to a maximum of 12 units per acre. In the Urban Core Zone, bonus density from TDR and other incentives allows development to exceed a baseline of 12 units per acre with no maximum.

The City initially applied the FBZD to City South, bounded by I-410, I-37, I-35 and a line one-quarter mile south of the Medina River, a large area that is served by the Austin-San Antonio Inter-Municipal Rail Line and is home to a Toyota plant. This area also includes San Antonio’s Verano Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, a 3,100-acre Texas Enterprise Zone that qualifies for tax increment financing and is planned for almost 7,000 dwelling units, 6 million square feet of non-residential floor area and a college campus, Texas A&M-San Antonio, with an estimated enrolment of 25,000 students at full build-out. As of early 2012, the campus was under construction but the Verano community itself was stalled.