By Deborah Silliman Wolfe/UTSA College of Engineering
Long-time San Antonio residents can remember a time not so long ago when pastures and wildflowers filled what is now The University of Texas at San Antonio Texas Main Campus. The city’s sprawl should not be surprising to locals who have seen the growth first-hand – San Antonio was the fastest growing of the top 10 largest cities in the United States from 2000 to 2010. In preparation for future growth, the City of San Antonio has put together SA Tomorrow – a planning effort to guide the city toward smart, sustainable growth. Afamia Elnakat, associate professor of research at the UTSA Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute, has been chosen by the City to serve as a chair on the SA Tomorrow steering committee.
“San Antonio is expected to receive over 1 million additional people by 2040,” said Elnakat. “The SA Tomorrow approach is unique in that it includes feedback from everyone -citizens to local institutions- to address issues of importance to the entire community including transportation, jobs, housing, air and water quality, and energy efficiency.”
A three-pronged planning effort, SA Tomorrow will encompass a Comprehensive Plan update, a Sustainability Plan, and a Multi-modal Transportation Plan, all focused on addressing the challenges and opportunities associated with adding one million people to San Antonio by 2040.
“UTSA is one of the partnering agencies that was invited to provide feedback to better align our growth master planning with the region,” said Elnakat. “More people coming to San Antonio, means potentially more students coming to UTSA. For UTSA, managing our growth and infrastructure is part of this growth opportunity.”
Elnakat was asked by the City of San Antonio to represent environmental and energy issues as well as Low Impact Urban Design because of her expertise and background in the industry. In addition to her current position at the Institute, she serves in SAWS’ Community Conservation Committee, and is a member of San Antonio River Authority’s Low Impact Design Texas Land and Water Sustainability Forum. Elnakat is one of the three chairs. Councilmen Ron Nirenberg and Darryl Byrd are also serving as the other chairs.
“The real reason I invest my time in everything I do is because of my daughter,” said Elnakat. “All of this planning, is for every citizen in San Antonio, including my daughter, to have the chance for a better tomorrow.”
According to the SA Tomorrow website, the plan will guide City of San Antonio leaders as they set public policy that preserves social, economic, and environmental resources; develops transit corridors that consider current and future congestion; and unites planning efforts to make sure public policies and procedures are interconnected, complementary, and work together.