SimplySanAntonio March Begins the Growing Season NUMBER 7
FOR RESIDENTS, VISITORS, OR ANYONE PASSING THROUGH
By Thomas Harris, Ph.D. www.thehillcountrygardener.com
March is a major gardening month in our area. The weather stabilizes and by the end of the month it is warm enough to consider planting warm season plants. The last average freeze date occurs about mid-month, but it looks like “winter” may be over here now. Black chin, ruby-throats and rufous hummingbirds will show up sometime during the month. You can cut tulip foliage down as soon as it is unattractive. They’re annuals here and won’t come back. Fall-planted pansies, snapdragons, dianthus, stocks, alyssum, and larkspur are spectacular this month. Be sure to fertilize them one more time early in the month. If the weather is warm after the 15th, consider moving the bougainvillea, plumeria and hibiscus onto the patio. Keep up the spray regimen with roses. Be sure to fertilize the roses this month. There is still time to trim the roses back for Spring. Remember that flowers only form on new wood, so it’s important to prune the roses—Valentine’s Day is a
In this issue of
SimplySanAntonio • Sidewalks? We live in hope • Stepping outside the box • Wurzbach Parkway’s “Day of Reckoning” at 40, 50, 60 mph will soon arrive... • Are we growing old in all the wrong places? • Powering up Bougainvillea are wonderful for tropical landscape color
good way to remember when to prune them. Plant hibiscus, bougainvillea, madevilla, and allemande vines in containers for tropical landscape color.
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• 6 not-so-good Home Improvement habits
March begins the growing season Fertilize established perennials like lantana, bush morning glory and the bulbs this month. It’s still too early to fertilize the lawn. The only thing growing right now are the winter weeds and if you put down fertilizer, you’re only feeding the weeds. The soil needs to be at least 70 degrees before the plants can use the fertilizer (that will be about income tax day, April 15.) March is a good month for aeration and adding a quarter to half-inch of compost to the lawn as a soil dressing. It’s the best thing you can do for your grass. Put the containerized tomatoes in the ground towards the end of the month. If you started them from seeds back in February or maybe even January, now it’s time to put them in the garden. March is a month for planting favorite vegetables. You can write me for a list of which ones to get and when to plant them. Rather than planting a whole package of veggie seeds (because you can’t possibly eat that much), plant only the number you want or can eat and save the rest in the fridge, not the freezer, to keep them cool and dry.
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Delicate plumeria can be moved onto the patio for warmer weather
Sidewalks? We live in hope
Pedestrians in many parts of town are forced to take their chances on the road alongside cars and trucks.
It would be exciting to “trumpet from the rooftops” that San Antonio recognizes the need for sidewalks in our city, if the progression of subdivisions beyond Loop 410 had plenty of that 4’ – 6’ wide section of concrete alongside roadways. Alas, such is not the case, as many subdivisions and neighborhoods are void of them. And aside from San Antonio’s bent to improve its sidewalk accessibility for the handicapped, per the Americans with Disability Act, allowing for cutouts and dips at street corners for accessibility by those in wheelchairs or walkers, the city has a real problem with sidewalks in general, especially where folks stop, look both ways and cross streets in crosswalks, an unsafe adventure in many parts of the city. Speaking of sidewalks, San Antonio’s ordinances were outdated until 2006 when an updating occurred, and now playing catch up, many areas of the city still have no sidewalks, or sidewalks are not the width of current regulations, a minimum four feet, or there are gaps in sidewalks, such as the sidewalk children would walk to Huebner Elementary School on. From Bitters Road, a sidewalk exists to Congregation Agudas Achim synagogue, than stops at an owned, vacant lot where there is no sidewalk. And further ahead, a sidewalk reappears to take children the rest of the way or at least to a point across Huebner Road from the school. And to cite at least one other example, no sidewalk Continued next page
Sidewalks? We live in hope
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No sidewalk exists on UTSA Blvd in front, or on either side, of the campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio where apartment buildings now exist for students who have to walk to school.
exists on UTSA Blvd in front, or on either side, of the campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio where apartment buildings now exist for students who must walk to school on the street, grass or dirt adjacent to their residences. And the reason I was given, when I inquired of the building department why there is no sidewalk, was that the city is widening the boulevard and the sidewalk would just have to be pulled up and put down again. As mentioned in another article in this newsletter, sidewalks are generally considered a prerequisite for a livable community or neighborhood that promotes physical independence and opportunities for engagement with neighbors and others. When a person is able to be flexible in his or her life, freely moving about and “touching others” in a near or far neighborhood, a more complete life is available. So, shouldn’t we strive for just such a city?
Stepping outside the box Maureen Christianson works as a cashier at Whole Foods in The Vineyard shopping center. In her very spare time she has fostered a program, with the concurrence of her employer which promotes this sort of “outside the box” activity at many of its stores, for children from infant to age 10, once a month hosting an animated reading program, reading stories she’s previously researched about endangered animals. The program, which started about a year ago and drew only a few at that time, is now drawing from 60 to 80 youngsters and, invariably, moms, to the front “patio” area of the store, or inside the store during inclement weather. The “reading club” meets on the first Tuesday of each month and for the last two get-togethers, the children have listened to Maureen talk about pandas and parrots.
Maureen Christianson engages her young audience at Whole Foods in The Vineyard
Wurzbach Parkway’s “Day of Reckoning” at 40, 50 or 60 mph will soon arrive... According to San Antonio city government officials, the Texas Department of Transportation and various websites I’ve viewed, it’s taken 30 years to plan, buy land and carry out construction of the Wurzbach Parkway (PA1502.) And now that this urban roadway has been completed, splitting the distance between Loop 1604 and Loop 410 pretty much in half, perhaps 2 miles in either direction, and covering the distance between the I-35 and I-10 corridors, it’s time, or nearly so, to take stock of what has been wrought. And wronged.
a major parkway is not just any road and Huebner Road’s noise level will never measure up to Wurzbach’s because there will be the 18-wheeler effect on Wurzbach, almost nonexistent in any proportion on Huebner or other local roadways. So, it remains to be seen, then, what will happen with home values in many subdivisions along Wurzbach, including the Summit at Colonies North, Colonies North, Whispering Oaks, and Elm Creek, all of which were built before the Wurzbach Parkway was even a glimmer in anybody’s eyes. And consider up the road a bit, on the portion where the posted speed limit rises to 50 mph, Inverness and the new Alon Estates sit. Although each subdivision has a stone wall in front, second stories of houses, especially in Alon, are well above the walls. Still further along, houses in Vista Del Norte beyond Blanco Road, where the speed is now set at 60 mph, the same speed at which vehicles can travel until the Parkway reaches I-35, face a similar dilemma. This is where a friend mentioned that he tried for months to sell his house that has a 40-foot tall concrete “sound buffer wall” between it and the Parkway to baffle the noise. Unfortunately the wall didn’t seem to help; he said it took just shy of eight months to get his house sold.
Bumper to bumper traffic is not an uncommon sight
Yes, for drivers, the time it takes to get from the east side’s I-35 to north central’s I-10 has been shortened appreciably, though the full saving remains to be seen as the speed adjusts, now based on the amount of growth in the area along which the roadway traverses, and will continue to adjust until a “steady” speed limit is decided upon. But what we don’t yet know, and what I don’t imagine any of the officials involved in the build-out gave any thought to is the effect building this new parkway will have on the prices of houses close by the parkway when they’re put up for sale. A Realtor friend in San Antonio told me of a house he’s trying to sell for a client in Shavano Creek that backs onto Huebner Road, a four-lane 45 mph road, which has sat vacant because, as he states, prospective buyers have complained that “it backs onto Huebner where the traffic and accompanying noise are scaring folks away.” Now, houses have been built backing, or even fronting roads, some more heavily travelled than others, for longer than the Wurzbach Parkway was ever considered, and noise can generally be heard in backyards, if not inside houses. But
A 40-ft “sound buffer wall” borders Vista Del Norte and the Parkway
So, if any conclusion can be drawn from the experience of the noted few, it might be that 30 years is too long of a time to consider building a high speed parkway that at some point and degree will plow its way through residential areas. Because the havoc it will play with homeowners and housing prices might not be worth the dollars spent.
Are we growing old in all the wrong places?
As people live longer, healthier lives, it may be time to reconsider purpose built neighborhoods for multi-generational families
Lately I’ve been massaging the theory that we shouldn’t leave our elders to “wither away” alone, or nearly so, without so much as a friend, acquaintance, or even an unknown person nearby. And when I consulted two friends, one, Betty, in her 80s, the other, Estelle, in her 90s, they were quick to concur, suggesting that it would be a darn sight better if seniors were able to live among young, middle-aged and older folks in communities together. When I heard those thoughts, it reminded me of a book I’d read some years ago, Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America (copyright 2012 by the Stanford Center on Longevity), a book edited by, among others, San Antonio’s Henry Cisneros, who suggested that his mother still lived in the house in which he was born and raised, 60 some years ago (Mrs. Cisneros passed away in November, 2014). It was his thought that his mother flourished in the area she was familiar with, well into her 80s, knowing where the stores she shopped were, the church she attended
was and the neighbors she, his deceased father, and his family grew up with. Doing some research on this subject, I’ve found that governments, universities and private organizations continue to explore the possibilities that communities of more than one can and do exist. “The future design, structure and function of our housing, neighborhoods and communities are central issues as we try to come to grips with an aging America. One important strategy will be to develop healthy communities that engage all residents and foster intergenerational experiences,” says John W. Rowe, Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in the forward of Independent For Life. Returning to my 92-year old friend for just a moment, I am constantly surprised at her energy; we met at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts one Saturday evening a year or so ago, she arriving by a bus provided by
...growing old in all the wrong places the senior facility where she lives. In the course of conversation, which has taken place numerous times since, she has told me her family lives in California where she travels once or twice a year. She moved with her husband, now deceased, to Air Force Village some twenty-four years ago. Estelle has hobbies, including sewing, and sells her work at community shows. But one thing she speaks of is the need to have younger people around, those who can help and be helped, giving additional meaning to her life and those of her friends. The baby boomer generation brought with it a time of change in this country. And today, this generation is again leading a charge, quickly approaching a time when the number of people 65 and over will outnumber children 15 and under. And according to statistics I’ve read in AARP, (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) periodicals, more than 90 percent of the 60 plus generation want to stay where they live as they get older and are seeking ways to adapt their current home and community to their needs, which, according to Mr. Cisneros, is doable. “In addition to individual homes that support aging in place, we need thoughtfully created communities—both existing and new neighborhoods—that feature safe streets, usable sidewalks, stores offering groceries and pharmaceuticals, public parks, churches, and services.” So what makes a community livable for multiple generations? AARP, in a paper titled Livable Community, states: “A truly livable community is designed for all ages and not only supports but appeals to residents from the youngest children to the oldest adults. Livable means wellmaintained sidewalks and safe crosswalks. Transportation options help residents who may no longer drive get to the grocery store, which should be nearby, and students get to schools. Affordable housing helps young professionals live near their jobs and retirees remain in homes they can afford. And livable communities recognize the dangers of isolation and find ways to promote engagement and help people stay connected. In fact, a livable community is one that is as comfortable for a 92-year old as it is for an 8-year old. Beyond that, engagement in the larger community is essential to physical and mental health. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and
Neighborhood gatherings where members of all generations can mingle offer so much to communities. Old and young can learn a great deal from each other – and actually have a lot of fun together!
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Urban Development, of which Mr. Cisneros was Secretary in the Clinton administration, community development activities build stronger and more resilient communities through an ongoing process of identifying and addressing needs, assets and priority investments. Community development activities may support infrastructure, economic development projects, installation of public facilities, community centers, housing rehabilitation, public services, clearance / acquisition, micro enterprise assistance, code enforcement, homeowner assistance and many other identifiable needs. Federal support for community development encourages systematic and sustained action by State and local governments. No doubt, people of all ages benefit from having jobs, shopping, health care, recreation and volunteer opportunities closer to home. And communities benefit by becoming more desirable places to live and to visit. The concept of value in communities goes deeper. Also involved are land-use decisions that emphasize convenience and access. These communities work to keep the environment clean and public spaces safe, green and appealing. They incorporate principles of universal design in home building and renovation (wide front doors, no step entrances and easy to grasp door handles, for example). And they incorporate the concept of “complete streets,” policies that focus on safety and comfort for everyone on the streets including drivers, pedestrians, transit riders and bicyclists. So let’s give serious thought to building neighborhoods that support varying generations, places where Estelle and Betty can live, if not side-by-side, then down the street or around the corner from younger families, all of whom can intermingle with one another, with one generation benefitting the other and vice versa. Thinking along these lines has given me a clear path back in my mind to my “growing up” years. In fact, I recall living in the Bronx, New York on a street of apartment buildings and private homes, with wide sidewalks and relatively narrow streets. People of all ages were out walking, going to the pharmacy, fruit stand or grocery store and generally talking with one another. What a grand life that must have been for others besides this 8 year old!
POWERING UP IT’S TIME TO GET WIRED—BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF HOME SAFETY U.S. homes now have more than half a billion devices connected to the internet, according to one study. This is an average of 5.7 devices per household, twice the average number of actual people per household. Nielsen Research set the average number of televisions in a home at three. In addition, there can be upwards of 30 or more power-using appliances vying for consideration. While it’s true (fortunately) that these gadgets don’t all get plugged in at the same time, there is clearly an on-going demand for power in the typical American home. As a result, families sometimes turn to extension cords or power strips as a convenient way to bring power into a room when the devices outnumber the outlets. However, extension cords can become a fire and safety hazard and should be used correctly. It is crucial to check labels whenever purchasing power strips and extension cords. The only correct purchase is equipment that has been approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). Cords should be selected according to the appropriate rating. A cord’s gauge (its thickness or capacity) indicates its size. The smaller the number, the larger the wire and the more electrical current the cord can safely handle. Another rule to keep in mind is that shorter cords have more capacity. As previously mentioned, extension cords are not appropriate for all uses and should be used as indicated. The grounding pin of an extension cord should never be removed in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet, creating a dangerous shock hazard. For similar reasons, an extension cord should not be attached to the floor or other surface with staples or nails. And when removing an extension cord, it is the plug, not the cord that should be pulled when disconnecting from the outlet. A power strip can also be used to provide more power to specific locations. A power strip is a contained number of electrical sockets attached to the end of a flexible cable. The cable is then plugged into an electrical receptacle, doubling, tripling or quadrupling the number of available outlets, sometimes more. Some models include a push button that automatically trips if the strip becomes too hot for safe operation. Courtesy Integrity Real Estate Inspections, www.integrityinspects.com
Power strips can be used in cases where the number of electrical appliances demands more outlets than are available. While power strips can be useful in some instances, there are some do’s and don’ts regulating their use. A power strip should never be daisy-chained or double-plugged into another power strip or extension cord. This practice violates National Electrical Code (NEC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations because the strip or wall receptacle can become overloaded, resulting in failure or fire. Similarly, power strips should never be routed through walls, ceilings, floors, or similar openings. If your home simply has more electrical demand than outlets, it might be time to call an electrician. One last thought on the subject of plugs and electricity. Whether you are inserting a plug into an extension cord, power strip or wall outlet (and no matter what type of appliance or tool you might be plugging in), make sure the plug is fully inserted into the receptacle or outlet. Plugs that are not fully inserted can be a fire and shock hazard.
Overloading a power strip can be catastrophic
not-so-good Home Improvement habits
Often, homeowners can overdo it when the time comes to clean their homes. This Old House highlighted several ways eagerness to do good can actually do bad. 1. Having light bulbs that are too bright. You want a well-lit home, but exceeding a lamp or light fixture’s recommended wattage can be dangerous, particularly with incandescent or halogen lights, says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories (UL). “Using a bulb with too-high wattage will cause the fixture and its wiring to overheat,” he notes, which could then allow the heat to travel to the wall or erode the insulation on the wires and lead to a house fire. Check the label on the fixture to make sure you use the correct wattage. 2. Planting trees near driveways or walkways. A line of trees to the house may up the curb appeal but adding young trees near driveways or walkways could be putting your slab at risk. As these trees grow taller, their roots will go outward, potentially pushing up the paving and causing it to buckle or crack. This Old House recommends planting small trees that will remain under 20 feet at maturity and that are at least 10 feet from paved areas. For larger trees, leave at least a 20 foot radius. 3. Overscrubbing a sink. Don’t overdo it with abrasive cleaners: they can scratch the sink. “Cleaners with a grit or grain to them will wear away at the finish and dull it,” Kohler’s Mike Marbuch told This Old House. “That will make the sink more prone to gunk sticking to it—actually making it look dirtier.” Try a liquid cleaner like vinegar or lemon juice on the sink and avoid scrubbing it every day. 4. Overdoing it with can lights. Excessive recessed lighting in a home can cause a lot of air leaks. Recessed lighting is known to cause heat-sucking air leaks, especially when the fixtures are unsealed in vaulted ceilings. Airtight recessed lighting fixtures are available that are rated for insulation contact (IC). Also, use as few recessed lights as you can, especially when it comes to adding them to cathedral ceilings or in rooms directly below un-air-conditioned attics. 5. Using glass cleaner on mirrors. Watch out for store-bought sprays that promise to make your glass sparkle. Whether it’s your first time, or “A drop of liquid running around the mirror’s edge can cause you’re moving up or downsizing, the reflective backing to lift or craze,” This Old House notes. The black edge can occur from using ammonia or vinegarI represent sellers and buyers of based cleaners. It is recommended using warm water and fine homes, as well as investment a soft, lint-free cloth to clean mirrors. Or if you do use the
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sprays, spray it onto a dry cloth first and not directly onto the glass. 6. Repainting too much. “Excessive paint is detrimental, especially on an older house, which may have layers of thicker oil-based paint, which becomes brittle with age,” notes This Old House. To avoid thick, cracked or peeling paint, be sure to carefully power-wash prior to painting, sand areas that need it and then use 100 percent acrylic resin-exterior paint. Source: 19 Ways You’re Killing Your Home With Kindness. This Old House, February 2016.
and commercial properties.
David Simon Realtor®, SRES (210) 573-0643
14855 Blanco Rd, Suite 403, San Antonio, Texas 78216 Your referrals are always welcome.
In this fast-changing city and metro area in which we live, it behooves us to stay in touch with the old as well as the new. Change touches all of us. Thus the mission of SimplySanAntonio is to highlight change and how it affects us, as homeowners, so that we can make the most of the present and keep a watchful eye on the future.
For Residents, Visitors or Anyone Passing Through