We were asked recently about changes likely on a property that was once home of Rivendell Restaurant just up from the intersection of North LBJ and Chestnut Street. For some this is the entrance into what is sometimes called (erroneously it could be argued) the Sessom Greenspace. The City of San Marcos holds several disconnected parcels of properties that make up an undeveloped greenbelt that sweeps along the north side of Sessom Drive as it rises up to West campus.
There are many things to consider when trying to determine the overall value to the city if this change is realized. For many who love natural areas it would seem completely unwelcome. The property in question was purchased with the intent of creating a mixed use site in which residential, retail and parking would be somewhat vertically built to fit a relatively small foot print. The current proposal has over 100 student living units, retail on the first and second floors, and the required dedicated parkland.
On the positive side is the opportunity to have increased residential density and local services. Density close to the center of campus and the city center reduces commute times and enables bike and pedestrian activity. The nearby retail provides services that further reduce travel and provide some employment. And placing this density close to downtown means natural areas on the edge of the city may be spared from sprawl. While SMGA often supports many forms of development for these reasons, we also balance that support with concerns, and sometimes active opposition, about keeping the most valuable natural resources protected, healthy and able to offer the long list of benefits they give to residents and visitors. Sessom Creek is one of those natural resources.
Sessom Creek is the first creek to flow into the San Marcos River below Spring Lake, but is unrecognizeable as a creek below LBJ Drive due to paving, concrete and channelization. Any construction in any portion of the watershed must have effective and closely monitored runoff control measures during and after construction. The city and the university have recently improved their watershed management with better design, construction and monitoring; coordination and planning have significantly improved as well. The city, county and the university have recently entered into an agreement that will create an upper San Marcos watershed protection plan. Many of these recent improvements would not have happened without citizens paying close attention to activities and the direct involvement of the SM River Foundation (SMRF). The Chestnut Street property is something SMGA and SMRF will be watching closely.
You can participate by reporting unusual activities to the City of San Marcos and SMRF along the creek and staying informed about watershed activities. In the meantime we will continue to urge stakeholders to conserve the natural areas that protect Sessom Creek and all of the upper San Marcos watershed.