On Monday, City of El Paso announced the completion of its review of signatures on a petition filed to try to impose historic designation zoning on the site selected by City Council for the Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center by placing the matter on the ballot of the next general election.
The petition was filed on September 11, 2017. The City Clerk’s office authenticated a total of 1,974 signatures of registered voters on the petition. The process was completed within the 20 working days as required by the City Charter.
The City Clerk’s office certified that the necessary number of signatures required under the City Charter, 1,666 signatures, have been submitted but the certification does not automatically place an item on the ballot.
The City Council is the body required to call an election. The matter will be placed on the agenda for the City Council meeting to be held on October 31.
The proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance included in the petition seeks to create a new Historic District and related use restrictions in the area bounded by San Antonio Avenue, Paisano Drive, Durango Street and South Santa Fe.
Via a news release, city officials said, “On June 27, the Council was advised about what Texas law provides in regards to attempts to impose or repeal zoning by initiative or referendum…Texas Courts have consistently held for decades that zoning matters have been removed from the field of initiative and referendum, irrespective of broad Charter provisions.”
The group Paso del Sur, who submitted the petition on behalf of residents of Duranguito, released the following statement:
Today the Citizen’s Initiative submitted by Paso del Sur on behalf of the residents of Barrio Duranguito on September 11, 2017 was validated by Interim City Clerk Laura Pine.
This second petition was signed by more than 2,200 El Paso voters, and went through a 26-hour validation process by members of Paso del Sur prior to submission to ensure the validity of all the signatures collected.
The City Clerk validated 1,974 signatures, exceeding the required number of 1,666 signatures.
The first petition, which was submitted on May 15, 2017, contained over 2,400 signatures and called upon City Council to establish a historic overlay in Duranguito. City Council refused to take action, which triggered the second round of the petition initiative. With this second petition City Council is bound by its own charter to present the item for a vote in the next general election as a ballot item.
Thousands of people have supported the petition initiative across two rounds. Both petitions were made possible by a diverse group of volunteers ranging from students, elders, and members of grassroots community organizations. Volunteers were able to reach the required number of signatures needed despite the fact that they were limited to only gathering signatures of registered voters who had voted in the May 2017 election – a day with a record-low voter turnout. Apart from signing petitions, hundreds of El Pasoans have also spoken at City Council, attended neighborhood meetings and community events, and have written letters to voice their opposition to the City’s reckless and fiscally irresponsible push to destroy El Paso’s history.
We await City Council’s response in hopes that they will respect the wishes of their constituents who demand that Duranguito be protected from demolition and established as a historic district.