San Antonio

Background Information

With 1.4 million residents, San Antonio is the second most populous city in Texas, and it continues to grow at a rapid rate. The region’s economy is the fourth largest in the state, anchored by energy, healthcare, financial services, and a large number of U.S. military bases and related defense companies. As a result, the city is vulnerable to changes in federal defense spending. Climate change—and the resulting increases in both averages and extremes for temperature and precipitation—also pose threats to the region. More intense precipitation events pose a particular challenge to what is already one of the most flash-flood-prone regions in North America.

The city of San Antonio, with its municipal utility CPS Energy, has taken strides to develop its clean energy portfolio, which currently stands at 16% and is well positioned to grow further. CPS Energy is already the state leader—and seventh nationally—in solar capacity, with 229 megawatts in commercial operation. Under the San Antonio Tomorrow Sustainability Plan, San Antonio has a 20% renewable energy goal for the year 2020, and an unofficial goal of 40% by 2040.

Team Summary

The San Antonio team is currently developing a Resilient San Antonio Action Plan covering climate change mitigation and adaptation that will include climate projections, a climate action plan, and a resilient neighborhood pilot program. The resilient neighborhood program will address tree canopy, social cohesion analysis, food systems, air quality, energy, flooding, mobility, and urban heat islands. The team seeks to create a coordinated data- and community-driven approach to resilience and explore how to engage the community on resilience, establish the community as equal partners in the planning process, and implement and track resilience.

Promising Practices

  • San Antonio initiated a new faith­-based initiative within the Department of Human Services to more efficiently and effectively connect the services within the community with the services offered through the city offices. The goals are to: 1) develop relationships with key faith-based groups, interfaith networks, and nonprofit organizations; 2) survey faith and civic leadership for understanding, shared services, and strengths; 3) create a network of partnerships; 4) facilitate a common vision and focus of community concerns and needs; and 5) build capacity through education, technical support systems, and healthy collaboration.
  • Members of the team have traditionally worked within vulnerable communities disproportionately affected by health disparities, and in the last three years, the team has focused increasingly on place-based interventions within targeted low-income neighborhoods. These interventions have employed a social ecological approach and community organizing to holistically address the social determinants at the neighborhood level and equip residents to be agents of change.
  • The Office of Sustainability utilizes 23 indicators to track progress, as well as the STAR Community Framework, which has many resilience and equity indicators.
  • The team has developed an approach to discussing climate with the community under the banner of La Buena Vida (the Good Life). The group facilitation model of Conversational Leadership and on­going Relational
  • Coordination is also being utilized by the San Antonio faith-based initiative.
    The city has established a Chief Equity Officer to focus on issues of equity in San Antonio.

Key Challenges

  • Directly connecting the top community concerns within San Antonio’s faith­-based community—generational poverty, homelessness and hunger, immigration and refugees, and literacy and neighborhood needs—with environmental concerns.
  • Defining and facilitating conversations around equity and resilience; creating a common vision and common definitions in order to work toward the same goals, despite differing motivations and languages across sectors and populations.
  • Establishing trust in the City of San Antonio since many communities feel strong distrust for the city.
  • Learning more about food insecurity and sustainable food systems, engaging low-income residents in sustainable transportation planning, air and water quality, and environmental justice.