Much has happened since the Department of Cultural Affairs took over responsibility for the physical site of La Villita in late 2012. Almost none of it is positive for the businesses of the village. The only notable achievement of this City of San Antonio department is that they changed their name to the Department for Culture and Creative Development—called DCCD in shorthand. I suppose the name change makes them sound more important and professional in print. It surely did not elevate their competency level.
La Villita and its businesses are in a state of crisis. The decisions made by DCCD regarding La Villita have brought about this reality. Seven business owners have given their notice and/or left the area. Seven out of twenty-one! A full third of all shops and galleries are soon-to-be-history.
Felix Padron, the self-important head of DCCD remains in his position of so-called “authority” over La Villita, despite his many failures and shortcomings concerning La Villita since 2012. Mr. Padron has time and again exhibited a lack of understanding concerning the nature of the area, its needs, the nature of the La Villita businesses, their needs, the nature of this so-called RFP process and what it means to wipe out dozens of businesses with an arrogant, shallow, inexpert, uninformed approach to “curating” the area. DCCD has done its best to stack the odds against the Tenants and it has been called to task for it many times. Mr. Padron is unable to answer even the most basic questions at public meetings and continually demonstrates a lack of care and understanding regarding the small businesses that are suffering because of his decisions.
The so-called “professionals” Mr. Padron tapped to handle the “reinvention” of La Villita have been either fired or moved to other responsibilities because of their behavior—related to La Villita or not. Responsibility for on-site, day-to-day La Villita has been temporarily taken away from Padron and DCCD and passed off for the time being to an authority at City Hall. The City Manager’s Office has stepped in and placed a manager over the physical site until a proper individual can be hired to assist Mr. Padron. If only a new, more competent person could replace Mr. Padron as Executive Director as well. Until this happens, small business will suffer in La Villita. Long-standing tradition and atmosphere and fabric of La Villita will continue to deteriorate. The animosity, snobbery and apathy Mr. Padron has time and again demonstrated for the business owners of La Villita will continue to rule the day.
Yet….yet… on a daily basis, visitors to our great city stop by the La Villita businesses and voice their support to keep the shops. They speak of past visits to La Villita and its stores. They speak with great love and nostalgia and fond remembrance. They remember visiting with their grandparents, or their graduating Air Force class, or their newlywed spouse. They can’t believe the City of San Antonio would demonstrate such a lack of understanding in what they are doing. They can’t believe they would seek to stamp out small businesses to pursue an unrealistic, uninformed, beyond-lofty plan touted by the supposed expert for Culture and Creative Development: Mr. Felix Padron. (pictured below)
When will the insanity end?