Destroying Parks for Google Fiber

Would you be upset to learn San Antonio is violating state laws and local land use rules to subsidize Google Fiber – a $538 billion company?  (Editor’s note: Google Fiber is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., formerly known as Google, a multinational conglomerate company with revenues of $75 billion in 2015)

I have watched the one acre Haskin Park on the near north side of town functionally cut in half.  Google installed an industrial building- a “Fiber Hut” with four commercial air conditioning units and a loud gas generator on 1,600 square feet of land in the middle of the park.  Taxpayers also paid for an unnecessary parking area and a new road through Haskin Park for Google’s use despite the lease requiring Google to pay for these improvements.

According to Richard Medellin, retired army combat veteran and current president of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, the same type of ugly industrial building is planned at an entry to our historic Highland Park on the near east side of town. We hope our City leaders will stop this”.

Research indicates the San Antonio City Council granted permission to Google to materially degrade Highland Park (District 3) and Haskin Park (District 10) and five other parks across the city while refusing to comply with state law and local ordinances restricting such encroachment.  Nine sites targeted for this industrial building are zoned single family with one ugly fiber hut squeezed between homes in a historic neighborhood.

State Parks and Wildlife Code required Google to hold public hearings, consider alternatives to the use of and minimize harm to park land.  A San Antonio ordinance further required Google to obtain a “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the Historic Design & Review Commission (HDRC) before any permits on public property could be issued.  Why weren’t these laws enforced before a green light was given to proceed?

The city granted a city-wide Master Lease to Google at below fair market values (the subsidy) including one park where the city does not even own fee title.  The Office of Historical Preservation Director’s husband, who worked for the city of San Antonio at the time, signed the below-market Master Lease with Google. Why were permits issued to Google without the HDRC holding hearings necessary to obtain a “Certificate of Appropriateness”?

San Antonio taxpayers pay a bloated city bureaucracy to “enforce” land use laws and the rules are strictly imposed on developers and homeowners. Mr. Medellin and I question why the city is allowing Google to blatantly violate preservation and residential zoning restrictions designed to protect neighborhoods from such commercial activity.

The City’s website calls for “modeling ethical behavior and core values of integrity at all levels” yet City Management apparently waives many legal requirements if a crony friend (Google) proposes a project the city wants.

It is time for the city to stop this madness, preserve our parks, restore the damage already done, model it’s “core values” and enforce the rule of law fairly with everyone- including Google.


John Whitsett, MAI, is a concerned San Antonio resident and is in the commercial real estate business. Contact: John  Whitsett, 210-386-7164

Editor’s Note:

Mr. Whitsett send a recent email update (2/1/2017) to his article confronting the Mayor and City Council on the city’s handling of the Google Fiber project.

To: Mayor Taylor and City Council Members

Ron Nirenberg is doing his Q&A on Facebook and for the second week and I have asked a form of the below question of him. My neighborhood-Oak Park Northwood-HaskinPark) and I are interested in your answers to this question. I believe it goes hand in hand with the issue (Hemisfair Park) that Manuel Medina, Mayoral Candidate, and several other council candidates discussed this morning and the pledge they signed in front of City Hall regarding cronyism.

 Please do not answer this about needing better technology and more competition since we all agree we want both. The question deals with the expectations that our City leaders will uphold the rule of law by telling our City Manager to enforce and follow the rules that apply to all of the rest of the citizens.

The City Council and Sheryl Sculley recently determined installation of Google Fiber Huts in City Parks and single family lots was an erroneous decision by staff and cancelled four park sites, three residential, and one other due to a previously undisclosed deed restriction.

 The citizens of San Antonio now know that the City Council allowed the City Manager and Development Services Department to illegally issue what are invalid permits for the Google Fiber Hut in Haskin Park in violation of the Unified Development Code (Ch 35-450), and failed to notify the neighborhood and hold the multiple required public hearings to try and obtain approvals as required by Parks & Wildlife Code Ch. 26, the Historic Design Review, Zoning and Planning Commissions.

 QUESTION:Will City Council do the right thing, follow through and show their leadership by calling for the immediate removal and relocation of Google’s Fiber Hut?

 If you believe it is OK to allow it [to] remain in the Park, please explain your reasons that justify ignoring the city’s laws and ruining a dedicated City Park.

 Note: Several viable options are available to Google along their fiber route that would be easy to implement.

 Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to your answers.

/S/ John Whitsett

Attached Petition   Make Parks Great Again