Real Time Current opinion of living in San Antonio - 9/23/2012
After living in a major city in the west area now for two years I have been quibbling about moving elsewhere. I was born in Texas, grew up in San Antonio way back when and lived right by the North Star Mall. Then my father was transferred and we lived in another region for many years. About 7 years ago I moved back to SA and lived in the Stone Oak area then the farther north 281 region.
In my experiences in living in SA I can give people good current knowledge of the area.
Pluses: Nice weather year round- not as humid as most make it out to be- it averages around 25-30% by day and gets up a bit at night as moist air moves in from the gulf maybe hitting 45% + I think it's nice. Of course during rainy spells it does get hot and muggy. Some cold temps during December and January- gets down in the 30's, highs during the day of 50-60+ on some days. Most cold weather days during the winter probably average in the 65+ range with cool nights in the 40' and 50's on average. A skiff of snow once in a while and ice every couple of three years.
Can be hot during the summer- but most temps range mid 80's to high 90's. If you think thats awful try Phoenix. The 'dry heat' doesn't matter much once it's 115.
People are somewhat friendly- I did run into people now and then that would give out the stink eye, but for the most part I never found them unfriendly. High Hispanic population, seriously you will RARELY see blonde hair (natural) and blue eyes. When I moved out west, I was shocked to see blonde, towheaded kids with blue eyes. :)
The Hispanics do stick together. SA is THEIR city. Don't believe me? Try and find out for yourself. They can be cliquish and group together. Most are very nice, but they still will defend their territory.
There's lots of white folks too and a smaller amount of blacks. A few Asians, but rare. Really no population of the church induced eastern Europeans- they tend to go to Dallas/Austin. So your main culture in Hispanic.
Pretty good Mexican food, not like it used to be, but pretty good local chains like Las Palapas, Taco Cabana. Real, old style SA Mexican food can be found on the River Walk at Casa Rio. The La Fonda on Main St. is another old, old SA icon- not owned by the Berry family anymore, and the food isn't as good as in the days back in the 70's but the atmosphere is still pretty much like it was 40 years ago. They have a beautiful courtyard patio thats fabulous on spring evenings. One of the old hostesses there has worked there for SIXTY years. Me and my family hadn't been in there for 20 years when we moved back, but when we walked in, boy she recognized my father right away! AMAZING! She is 84 or so years old, hope she is still going strong.
There are some trendy chi chi places mostly north of Loop 1604- there is a Silo Bar/Restaurant and a Chocolate Martini Bar, so all is not lost to the 'trendy' hipsters if you're looking for higher end tapas or such. Downtown is pretty much touristy- not a lot of really great places on the River Walk. There are some local steak houses around, I have heard Bohanan's is good, but I have never eaten there.
La Villita is downtown and has some old, well known restaurants one being Mi Tierra. Know for it's 365 day a year Christmas decor, the food isn't too bad and they have a huge Mexican bakery/pastries in the front door when you walk in.
Other decent restaurants lots of the well known chains. I'm not a big fan of mom and pop places, so this didn't bother me.
The only and best places to live are up north of Loop 1604, Stone Oak area and beyond and up Hwy 281. Everything up there north of the loop is built on limestone deposits, so your house will rarely settle or move around. BIG PLUS. In other areas of SA the ground is Texas clay and sand and your house will settle and may shift. Newer homes are built with post tension mountings, but you can still have foundation problems years on down the line.
Things are cheaper out west of the city but to me, around Loop 1604 and Braun, St Hwy 151 is too far out of the mid part of San Antonio. And again, you're on the Texas clay soil. Lots of people live everywhere but the mid/north part of SA is the best part of the city. With new and newer homes, shopping, etc in my opinion it's the best place to be. You are still central to downtown and other parts of the city.
It has a nice vibe and I loved the weather. To me there is plenty to do, decent shopping, lots of Marshall's, TJ Maxx, decent malls, North Star is the oldest but the best with Dillards carrying higher end merchandise. For kids, you have the SA Zoo, which is very nice, the McNay and Witte Museums are standard staples of the city. pro basketball team, the Spurs, everyone bleeds black and silver. A couple of water parks, Six Flags in the NW part of the city, lots of lakes up north around Austin, very popular for tubing and boating. Natural Bridge Caverns is a short drive up I 35 North.
I think the school systems are still pretty good, they were when I was in school there- most schools require uniforms which I think is a great thing.
Utilities were low compared to other parts of the country, in my 2400 sq foot house, my air/heat was an average of about $175 a month. If you have a bigger family use more energy, like the air way down or the heat way up your bill will reflect that of course. Water is cheaper about $50 bucks a month, though there are droughts and water restrictions more and more through S Texas so water rates may start climbing.
Groceries are decent priced or they used to be. HEB is pretty much the ONLY grocery store in SA. They corner the market there. You have Super Walmarts and Super Targets but that is it. No Kroger, no Albertsons, no Safeway, no United Supermarkets.
Airport is easy to get in and out of and has good service.
Okay for the negatives:
BIG ONE. Very high property taxes. No one notices or thinks about property taxes until you move there and commit to buy a house. No state tax in Texas is a plus, but they get it out of your hide in property taxes. Houses in Texas are assessed at a higher, almost selling value. They run depending on in you live in SA or right outside of the city limit- about 2.9% within SA and about 2.5% outside of the city limit. If you buy a house for $200K you can count on about 3% being your tax- so that would be $6,000 a year, split that up monthly and it's about $500 a month tacked onto your house payment. Your house will be assessed close to what you bought it for, maybe a bit less since real estate has nose dived there. If you are over 65 years old you can get a cap on some of the taxes which saves a little bit. My house which was right outside the city limit was assessed for about $185 and was worth about $215K at the time- and with my moms senior cap, taxes were about $4100 annually. But if you're within the city and you're in a bigger, more expensive house, the taxes go right up. A $300K house will probably have taxes in the $9,000 range. Look up addresses in SA in the price category that you want to buy and go to Zillow, put in the address and look at the taxes. In some of the newer neighborhoods you'll see smaller amounts but it's only because the correct info hasn't gotten to Zillow. Also if you're outside of SA city limits, you may see only a small, like $1500 in tax amount, like what my last house showed, HOWEVER, outside the city limits you have to pay taxes for TWO counties and you can add on another $1,500 to that amount. For some reason Zillow doesn't count in the two counties tax structures. Though you pay for two counties, you still save a half percent because you aren't paying SA city taxes.
This is important for people planning to move to Texas to know.
Lots of military bases and lots of military retirees who retire at 40, move to SA and gobble up the jobs. In my opinion if they have retirement money coming in, they will/can take jobs paying less- which I think runs down the salary averages for the city. I work in a well known industry that should have plenty of jobs- but I had a tough time finding anything decent. There is a partiality to Hispanics and to the military. The jobs I got into were not good and didn't last long. Especially working with women- seemed to be very cliquish. Unless you were of that certain ethnicity you were the outsider. Others may not find that, but I did. That was reason I left for another big city out west.
Even though SA is a BIG city, there is still a small town mentality with jobs- seems like you had to know someone to get into anything good. It is sort of a good ol' boys town- I think women are on a lower rung, that was part of the issue. SA still hasn't moved out of the 1970's on many accounts.
You can drive down below Loop 410 and the streets, business and signage hasn't changed since I left in '74.
In a way it's nostalgic, but to someone to who comes from a bigger, more progressive city, they may be put off by it.
The roads in SA were laid out based on the old cattle trails that came into the city. There is no grid to them. They meander all over the city without going anywhere. As one poster said on here, it can take you 30 minutes to go 5 miles. There are only a handful of roads that go from one part of the city to another. This can create huge traffic jams if there are accidents as there is no other street to get off on that will take you anywhere. The main roads are:
Loop 1604 goes east to west of the north part of the city.
Hwy 281 goes from up north through downtown.
I-35 goes north to Austin, Dallas, goes south through and around downtown SA.
I-10 goes northwest and southeast taking you through downtown.
Blanco Rd goes north and southeast through the mid part of town, but cuts off after downtown.
McCullough down by North Star Mall, if you live in that area, will take you downtown, but nowhere else.
All other side roads are clogged, congested and generally only go within a few mile radius, I call them 'local' roads that go nowhere. Traffic can be a mess at most times. One of the worst things about the city. There is just a huge lack of major roads to carry the traffic of 1.4 million people.
There are NO parks in the city. I'm used to pocket parks, walking paths, small little lakes- nothing like that in SA. When walking or biking, you're stuck in your neighborhood. Neighborhoods there don't have neighborhood rec areas or parks. Just houses and sidewalks. Your neighborhood may have a pool and small play area, but that will be it.
There are parks around SA but they are heavily wooded, nature type parks that are not conducive to exercise nor safe for women or kids. They are very secluded and downright scary. MacArthur park around the airport was a place I went as a kid. But you gotta get out and drive to it, it's not neighborhood accessible. It has climbing stuff, swings and such and again, a heavily wooded area. Not for evening play. Again you have to drive to them- they're not walk accessible.
If you want to know anything, ask- I will try and answer any questions.