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Lamar School is a symbol of courage and struggle for civil rights for all

Letter to the Editor
Sunday, August 12, 2018

Dear Editor,

With this letter I hope to discuss some issues regarding the rezoning request of the Lamar School property from Area of Stability to High Density with consequent destruction of the Lamar School campus.

Those vocal supporters of the rezoning, many of whom live outside of the Heritage Neighborhood or out of town, may not be aware that investors have purchased houses all around the school and the historic district. Once the area is zoned from “Area of Stability” to “High Density” it will set a precedent for everything around it. Then investors who have purchased properties near the Lamar School could then easily ask for up-zoning to “Neighborhood Main Street” which will allow for up to three stories, with mixed commercial use. There has already been a request to do just that at the end of Hopkins by an investor who owns no fewer than 18 properties in San Marcos. Most of this developers properties are ether in or around the Historic District, and some are next to the Lamar School. The Gold Rush is on for investors who are scooping up old houses near the old school, renting to students, and probably waiting to re zone. They all seem to be singing that Van Morrison song, “Domino.”

High Density does not make sense for that property unless you have no regard for the neighbors who are not planning to sell their properties to developers. The traffic is already very busy in the area. The streets are parked up to Scott Street by 8 a.m. on school days. There is not enough infrastructure to support a high density development. A better plan may be to zone the area as “Area of Compatibility.”

There are many in our neighborhood who value history. The Lamar site has always been dedicated to education: first the Coronal Institute, then the Lamar School, one of the first high schools, if not the first, to be desegregated in Texas. There are some in the real estate business who seem to have little interest in the preservation of our history. They say that the Lamar building is old, ugly and therefore, “not historic.” But these old homes and old buildings are not valuable just for the wood in them, but for the stories they share about who we are as a community and, by consequence, where we are going. Moral clarity and strong culture are the hallmarks of a successful society. If we disregard our history and culture, money will not compensate for this. We will just be rich animals.

Some claim that our passions for preservation should be focused on the restoration of the African American Church instead of the Lamar school. Let me assure you that many of us are involved in both projects. It is my hope that we will someday recognize these sites as cultural sisters of importance in the civil right struggle of not just African-Americans, but also Hispanics in San Marcos. The Lamar School carries a civil rights history and example that all races can be proud of. Those school board members who bravely voted for desegregation are role models for our future generation of leaders. The Lamar School can show our children we believe that the future can be better not just for a few, but for all.

I hope that our Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council will deny the application for change in zoning of the Lamar Property to High Density and respect the surrounding neighborhood, our history, and our culture in San Marcos.

Diana Baker

Historic District resident