First let me admit my bias. I consider the term “gated community” to be suspect from the start. Sort of like “gentlemen’s club.”
I don’t think establishments where men pay to watch women take off their clothes, gyrate around poles and perhaps give lap dances cater exclusively or even mainly to gentlemen.
And while there may be a few gated real estate developments that actually develop into communities, I think the basic form constitutes an assault on communities.
Communities bring people together.
Walls — as the current presidential campaign persistently reminds us — are built to keep them apart.
Up to this point, gated developments in San Antonio have been suburban.
The crown prince of these is The Dominion.
Built in the early 1980s, it appealed to San Antonio’s new money by attempting to appear old.
At its swank country club, the walkways featured a succession of different stones, to make it look as though they had grown organically through the decades.
And the walls of the clubhouse were coated to produce a patina to make them look weathered.
The club even brought in an expert from Houston to offer etiquette lessons to teach the ways of old money to the new.
She was a bit flummoxed when a well-known businessman asked for a way to inform his dinner guests that he was serving them a particularly expensive vintage of wine.
It was not a question old money would have asked.
Nor did old San Antonio money — ensconced for generations in Alamo Heights, Olmos Park and Terrell Hills — feel the need for the Dominion’s guarded gate.
That was, at least in San Antonio, something for suburbanites who felt more insecure.
And in what may be a healthy sign, there haven’t been a great number of gated developments built lately.
But this week the Express-News alerted us to plans for a new gated development on the eastern edge of the historic Monte Vista neighborhood, just north of downtown.
Last month the city’s Planning Commission drew little notice when it approved plans for La Marquesa Estates, 52 single-family homes on a tight 9.2-acre tract, gated and presumably walled off from its neighbors.
It’s at the corner of Shook and Kings highway, not exactly a high-crime area.
Perhaps the developers believe buyers will want to be shielded from the denizens of their most prominent across-the-street neighbor: Trinity University.
Or perhaps they figure that if a developer can sell unwarranted fear to win a Republican presidential primary and perhaps the White House, they can use it to sell at a premium new houses in a peaceful old neighborhood.
Not surprisingly, the neighbors are not amused.
One referred to it as a “neighborhood atrocity.”
Others just talked about how inappropriate it is.
Councilman Roberto Trevino, an architect, told the Express-News it “doesn’t sound like a good fit to me, either,” an admirable bit of understatement from a politician.
City Council does not have the power to overrule the developer-oriented Planning Commission on this sort of matter.
And the developer won’t have to go to the council for a zoning change as long as each single-family house sits on a lot larger than a modest 4,000 square feet.
But because the development is in a historic neighborhood, the developers must take their plans to the City’s Historic and Design Review Commission to obtain a “certificate of appropriateness.”
It’s hard for me to imagine how the commission could find that a development design based on suburban queasiness could be appropriate in a placid urban neighborhood.
But if the historic review board rejects the concept, unlike the Planning Commission they can be overruled by City Council.
Stranger things have happened, but I have to strain to think of what.
Perhaps we may see a “gentleman’s club” open on the campus of nearby Trinity Baptist Church.