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Living Inside the Box

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By Lisa Harrison Rivas

Local entrepreneur aims to bring more shipping container homes to S.A.

It’s no secret that in San Antonio and much of the nation home prices are on the rise. Affordability is an issue in many communities, and this has led to thinking outside of the box when it comes to creating housing that is both affordable and appealing. The tiny house option is one way some are downsizing their living space as well as their debt. Shipping container homes are another unique dwelling option.

Though not a new concept, these homes are not common in the San Antonio area, but master designer Anya K. Bartay wants to change that. She has designed a house on the East Side using two shipping containers, and she also can incorporate several of the 40′ x 8′ containers to build a multi-level home that’s as big as a traditional house. The base price for a 2,000 square-foot home is around $220,000.

Her love of design and architecture began when she was a child. She spent part of her childhood in Panama and said that experience helped her appreciate the value of what we have in the United States.

She also credits her life in Panama with spurring the creation of Project N.O.A.H which stands for Net Zero Affordable Housing. Bartay stresses she is not designing government housing but housing that is affordable.

One of the homes she designed sits on the East Side and will become an Airbnb rental so that people can see what a shipping container home is like before they buy one. And soon, Bartay and her family will move into a container home she is building in Northeast San Antonio. It will be a model home she and her family will be living in for a year to provide data on how the house impacts the environment.

“We’re going to work with UTSA, CPS, Eco Central on monitoring all of the systems that are going to be implemented in that house. The solar, the rainwater collection to see how much is real, how much we use. To see how less of an impact we create with that house.”

Bartay recently discussed her plans to bring more shipping container homes to San Antonio.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I’m working on a partnership with a factory that is already building shipping container homes to facilitate my need for the construction and to help them with their need for sales. We do have a subdivision that we have in mind. The owners of that property (on the Southside) said they will give us the land and we will create a neighborhood.

Q: Why would someone choose to buy a shipping container home?

A:  The first thing is safety. The container is resistant to tornados, hurricanes, torrential winds. Lots of construction won’t withstand those different disasters.

Q: How do people react to your project?

A: When I give them a proper understanding of what container homes could look like, their reaction is wonderful.

Q:  How did you become interested in building shipping container homes?

A: What I did was start doing searches and finding out what would be acceptable to present to people I worked with who needed a little bit of financial assistance getting their architectural needs met. So, shipping containers came up.

Q: Have you talked to city officials?

A:  I have presented this to Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert Jr., Senator Jose Menéndez, Neighborhood Housing Services of America and SAHA. And they’ve all agreed to using it.

Q: So how did you get training to build these homes?

A:  Once I had a nonprofit ask me about my designs, and then I got an investor. I looked up the details on YouTube and I put them into practice and started doing the work myself. I’ve been drawing it for years, so it’s just doing it now.

Q: Describe your style

A: I have 75 percent masonry on the outside and all the different means that everyone has for permanent housing. We are embedded into the foundation. And one of the biggest things is that we provide a thermal insulation coating and a rust-o proof coating for the container so that we avoid mold or any kind of disease.

Q: How much would a basic container home cost?

A: $110 a square foot (40-foot long containers are used). We have closing costs and money down assistance for an FHA or conventional loan.

Q: What type of foundation do the homes have?

A: We can do piers if you have elasticity in the soil. And you can do a regular slab on grade if you have nice solid bedrock.

Q: How long does it take to complete?

A: It should take no more than three months, but we’re going to be striving for one and a half. Most of the construction happens in one day. If it’s a custom, we’ll say three to six months.

Q: What are some of the things you can do to customize a container home?

A: Instead of sheetrock, you may want to use wood paneling, or put brick on the outside, or have an accent wall. You can do a lot of different variations of finishes.

Q: Do you help clients come up with a design?

A:  We try to help get the psychology behind the client’s needs and implement it into the design.


Lisa Harrison Rivas is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Don Johnson Realtors. If you are planning to buy or sell, feel free to contact her at 210-380-9006 or 
lhrivas@realsa.com

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2021 Budget Adopted

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City of San Antonio’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Makes Investments in Public Health, Housing and Workforce Development

SAN ANTONIO (September 17, 2020) – Today, the City Council unanimously adopted the $2.9 billion Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, which is $4.4 million lower than last year’s budget, stays well below the statutory cap on property taxes and continues to invest resources in the four pillars of the Recovery & Resilience Plan, which includes keeping people in their homes, training people to secure jobs that are available today, supporting small businesses and improving digital connectivity for residents.

“The goal of the fiscal year 2021 budget is to maintain the city services that our residents expect, while also helping them recover from the devastating economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said City Manager Erik Walsh. “We’ve been able to make meaningful investments in the services our community asked for, including public health, housing and human services, such as resources for mental health and support for those experiencing homelessness.”

The FY 2021 Adopted Budget invests $346 million in the community to vital services including health, housing, education and human services; this is in addition to the $291 million from federal grants targeted to assist the City with the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, as part of the continued response to COVID-19, many departments, such as Metro Health, Fire, Neighborhood & Housing Services, Economic Development and Human Services, have changed their focus to address the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and help San Antonio recover from its effects.

Public Health

$45.8 million is allocated to Metro Health, including $20.3 million in the General Fund, which is a 29.6 percent increase compared to the FY 2020 Adopted Budget, the largest proportional increase of any department. The Adopted Budget creates a new Violence Prevention Division in Metro Health with a total investment of $8.9 million, including $1.3 million in new funds, and the transfer of 20 Crisis Response Team employees from the San Antonio Police Department to Metro Health. 

The adopted budget also includes $1 million to expand the Healthy Neighborhood Program and to create a new Community Health Connector Partnership and augment other public health programs. The adopted budget also adds $120,000 to add 12 healthy corner stores in Districts 1, 2, 4 and 7, while maintaining support for the eight stores in District 3. This program provides healthy food options to areas that lack access to grocery stores. 

Housing

The FY 2021 Adopted Budget allocates $27.5 million for affordable housing initiatives. This allocation also includes $300,000 for new legal kiosks at key city locations to assist at-risk populations. 

Policing

The adopted budget includes $486.5 million for the San Antonio Police Department, an increase of 1.7%. Nearly all of the increase is contractually-obligated (by the collective bargaining agreement with the police union) or state law-required. The proposed budget reallocates $1.6 million from the police budget to accept a federal COPS grant to hire 25 new officers focused on preventing domestic violence and reduces overtime for police officers by $3.4 million.

The FY 2021 Adopted Budget also introduces a deliberate process to address foundational issues within the police department, review police services and engage the entire community on expectations. The San Antonio Police Department responds to more than 2.1 million calls for service per year, some of which may be more appropriately handled by other departments and service providers. The process will review foundational issues, such as accountability and discipline of officers, determine the community’s expectations of the police department, incorporate community input and identify funding and alternative response mechanisms. A draft plan will be presented to the City Council by April 2021. Negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the San Antonio Police Officers Association will begin in the spring of 2021.

Support for Residents Experiencing Food Insecurity

The budget also invests $1 million in the San Antonio Food Bank’s Culinary Center. The project will provide more prepared meals for families experiencing food insecurity. The center will also increase Culinary Training program class size, provide space for on-site nutrition education classes and allow the San Antonio Food Bank to be more prepared in the event of a natural disaster or future pandemic. 

General Fund 

The General Fund, the largest operating fund in the proposed budget, is $1.28 billion, which is a 0.7 percent increase over FY 2020. The increase is primarily due to compensation increases from the collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire unions. The Adopted Budget includes new and existing investments in community service priorities. These investments include:

  • Small business support: additional $500,000 that partially reinstates a City fee waiver program and an establishes a new entrepreneurship program
  • Violence Prevention: a new division in Metro Health with a total investment of $8.9 million, including $1.3 million in new funds and the transfer of 20 Crisis Response Team workers from SAPD to Metro Health
  • Affordable Housing: $27.5 million to assist residents at risk of displacement and facilitate the development of affordable housing
  • Homelessness and Mental Health: $36 million investment, representing a $1 million more than FY 2021. $560,000 will allow the City to expand the Homeless Outreach Team created through the recovery and resiliency plan resulting in 11 district outreach Teams (one per district and downtown). $500,000 is added for an alternative mental health response option
  • Healthy Food Access: $120,000 to add 12 healthy corner stores in Districts 1, 2, 4 and 7, while maintaining support for the 8 stores in District 3
  • Education: $1.1 million to AlamoPROMISE to provide college scholarships to Alamo Colleges students
  • Human Services and Workforce Development: $24.3 million for delegate agencies providing critical services to San Antonio residents

The General Fund also adapts to a new fiscal reality and the impacts of COVID-19 by including $87 million in budget cuts over two years ($38 million in FY 2021 and $49 million in FY 2022) due to revenue reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some the of the reductions include: 

  • Reduction of $14 million through City hiring freeze for most vacant positions, no pay increases for City employees, and other compensation adjustments
  • Suspension of economic development incentives saving $5.5 million
  • $3.4 million in reductions to the Police Department overtime budget and suspension of Police Cadet Hiring Bonus program ($739,500) 
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Girl Scouts Announces First Black CEO in the Organization’s 108-Year History

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Nationwide — Judith Batty, a lifelong Girl Scout and board member, has made history as the first Black CEO of the Girl Scouts of the United States since the organization was established 108 years ago.

“When I was young, the Girl Scouts instilled in me the courage, confidence, and character that have guided me through my life and career. It is an incredible honor to bring those lessons back full circle to help the Girl Scouts navigate this transition,” Batty said in a statement released to the press.

For so long, Batty was a Brownie in the Girl Scouts and eventually served two terms on the National Board. She also served as senior legal counsel and an executive for a Fortune 100 corporation, where she became the first woman and first Black general counsel to one of the company’s overseas affiliates.

Batty was handpicked by the GSUSA to take over the position after the previous CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, announced her resignation. She will be the one responsible for leading the staff and council leadership in laying plans to for the organization’s further improvement.

“As families across the country contend with so much uncertainty and upheaval, I am committed to ensuring that the Girl Scouts continues to offer a shelter in the storm – a place where all our girls feel welcome, can find community, solidarity, leadership opportunities and fun, despite the challenging moment we are all collectively living through,” she said.

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The Promised Land is Yours

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Do you live, work, visit, worship, play, or just pass through the 78220 area?  Better yet, maybe you are looking to add a new favorite menu to your curbside/carryout food repertoire. Well there’s a new chef in town serving up a variety of delicious flavors located in the heart of the Eastside of San Antonio.

Located at 3363 E. Commerce, Ste. 102, the Promised Land International Flavors kitchen is now open and serving a multitude of flavors from around the world.  The idea behind the new location is to provide a missing variety of foods that offer nutritional value and address various health needs in the community while still providing a flare of flavors. The kitchen is open Monday – Friday with breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and lunch from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.  On any given day you can find Italian, Asian, Latin, Southern Soul, American dishes and more.  According to some of the neighboring residents and customers in the building, the Mexican Enchilada plate and the Italian Pasta with shrimp are some of their absolute favorites. 

Executive Chef Fred Johnson brings his 40 plus years of experience to his new venture Promised Land International Flavors.  Chef Fred grew up in a military family and then later served in the Navy himself.  His passion for culinary arts began when he was just 14 years old.  Realizing he was blessed with the gift of culinary skills, Chef Fred pursued his passion.  His blessing has afforded him the opportunity to teach Airforce and Navy Basic Culinary classes, he’s managed a Zio’s Italian Kitchen, he once cooked at a dinner that included the late President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, and prior to his recent end of June 2020 retirement, Chef Fred cooked seven days a week on the U.S.S. Frank Cable AS-40 ship for 1,200 servicemen when the pandemic hit. So, this well traveled Plainview, Texas native is no new kid off the block, he’s got game! 

Promised Land International Flavors had a soft opening July 5, 2020 for the residents and building tenants and currently is now open and serving the public. Promised Land International Flavors is also available for small catering events.  For more information visit http://promisedlandif.com/, https://www.facebook.com/PromisedLandif/, call (210) 238-2625, or just stop by and place your order to go.

by LaNell Taylor

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