River Improvement Overlay (RIO) Districts
RIO is a zoning overlay. Its purpose is to establish
regulations to protect, preserve and enhance the San Antonio
River and its improvements by establishing design standards and
guidelines for properties located near the river. The San
Antonio River is a unique and precious natural, cultural and
historic resource that provides a physical connection through
San Antonio by linking a variety of neighborhoods, cultural
sites, public parks and destinations. The districts cover a
total of six geographic areas spanning the river from its
northern boundary, near Hildebrand Avenue, to a southern
boundary near Mission Espada and the southern City Limits. The
RIO design objectives were developed through an intensive public
input process and were adopted as part of the enabling ordinance
approved by City Council on February 21, 2002.
In reviewing an application for a certificate of
appropriateness for properties in the six (6) River Improvement
Overlay districts, the HDRC and the Office of Historic
Preservation (OHP) consider the character and design objectives
for each river improvement overlay district, as well as the
design standards set forth in the UDC. There are also specific
design standards for the Riverwalk specified in the UDC. For
additional information, please refer to section 35-670 of the City of San Antonio's
Unified Development Code (UDC) and the recent amendments at
the link above or contact OHP staff for
Extending from Hildebrand Avenue south to US Highway 281 North,
the northernmost of the six (6) RIO districts includes a mix of
residential, commercial, and recreational uses.
The design objectives for RIO-1 are: to maintain the character of
existing residential neighborhoods and redevelop commercial nodes;
to encourage mixed use redevelopment of the urban character along
Broadway and Avenue B; and to maintain scenic open space and the
natural character of the river, particularly through Brackenridge
Extending south from US Highway 281 North to Lexington in the
northern portion of downtown San Antonio, the area encompassed by
RIO-2 includes small single-family residential pockets surrounded by
a variety of higher-density and commercial uses.
The design objectives for RIO-2 are: to encourage high-density, mixed-use developments as extensions of
the downtown core; to encourage neighborhood and cultural tourism oriented uses as well
as those that provide additional housing for downtown workers; to enhance the pedestrian experience with high quality streetscape
designs and links to the public Riverwalk; and to enhance the pedestrian experience with high-quality building
designs that include balconies facing the river and primary
entrances facing the street.
Extending from Lexington south to West Durango Boulevard, RIO-3
includes the traditional Riverwalk "horseshoe" that still maintains
many of the original features designed by architect Robert H. H.
The design objectives for RIO-3 are: the historic work of Robert Hugman, CCC and WPA construction
work, Ethel Harris tile work, and work of the National Youth
Administration shall be respected and preserved in all construction
efforts, and adherence to the intent and spirit of those plans is
essential in all construction; traditional, formal street level design precedents shall be
respected, but at the river level, the more informal, handcrafted
style shall be maintained; the integrity of historic properties shall be preserved,
and historic differences between street level designs and river
level designs shall be respected; the traditional design context of
the area shall be respected at two levels: the broader downtown
context and the immediate block as it faces the river; the
microclimate of the river walk level shall be maintained and, during
construction, shall be given extra protection, and River
operations staff will be consulted to provide specific instructions
for construction procedures.
Extending from West Durango Boulevard south to Mission Road,
RIO-4 meanders along the Arsenal, through the King William Historic
south through a portion of the Mission Historic District.
The design objectives for RIO-4 are: to encourage urban quality mixed-use developments;
to preserve and enhance the historic character as well as emphasize
the street scene; to construct new development that complements the nearby historic King William area but
does not mimic
its style; and to encourage new development in clustered nodes.
Extending from Mission Road south to Southeast Military Drive,
RIO-5 skirts the San Jose Mission complex.
The RIO-5 design objectives are: to maintain the residential character of the area while encouraging
development of new mixed-use nodes that offer neighborhood shopping
and services; and to respect established neighborhoods in new top-of-bank riverscape
designs, particularly recreational opportunities that require
parking or transport of recreational equipment.
Extending from Southeast Military
Drive south beyond Southeast Loop 410 that includes the Mission
Espada complex, RIO-6 has a distinctly rural character, consisting
of rolling riparian prairie.
The design objectives for RIO-6 are: to maintain the historic rural Texas character while encouraging
development of new and mixed-use nodes; and to maintain the natural quality at the top of the riverbank using
native plants and minimizing formally landscaped areas to preserve
the natural character of the river.
RIO-7 DISTRICT for San Pedro Creek
In 2016, City Council adopted UDC amendments which established a new overlay district specific to San Pedro Creek (RIO-7). The overlay places requirements for design review which will ensure quality public and private development within the vicinity of the San Pedro Creek Public Improvements Project.
ORDINANCE_UDC Amendments_RIO-7 (PDF)
Map of currently-proposed boundaries (PDF)
The proposed RIO-7 zoning overlay received unanimous approval from the City's Zoning Commission on December 20, 2016. The zoning case will receive final consideration from City Council on January 19, 2017.
The RIO-7 overlay only affects new construction projects and does not require changes to existing buildings or uses that are currently permitted. Properties zoned for single-family residential use are exempt from the RIO-7 overlay.
For more information, please contact us at 210-207-1496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rendering of San Pedro Creek Improvements, Courtesy of San Antonio River Authority.
The purpose of a Viewshed Protection district is to establish regulations to
protect, preserve, and enhance views and vistas. The City of San
Antonio has many views and vistas of historic places, landmark
buildings, and other sites of cultural importance which have
always been important to the city. These views will continue to
be amenities and assets of great value to the city, its people,
and its economy. New development in the vicinity of these
important places is usually beneficial, but when construction
becomes too tall and begins to overwhelm or intrude, in scale
and mass, the main view or vista of a smaller place of
significance, then the viewshed located behind the significant
property should be protected. Viewshed Protection districts are
overlay districts that will be used primarily for unique
situations regarding views and vistas that are not adequately
covered by the standard zoning districts. No part of a new structure, sign, tower, roof top
equipment, or other appurtenance shall be permitted to encroach
into any designated viewshed as set forth in this ordinance
unless an encroachment was approved legally before the effective
date of the Viewshed Protection ordinance. If the maximum height
allowed in any zoning district within the city differs from the
height permitted by a protection district, the more restrictive
height limitation shall apply.
San Antonio currently has one (1) Viewshed Protection district:
Alamo Viewshed (VP-1). This Viewshed Protection district lies
behind the main entrance to the front door of the Mission San
Antonio de Valero (The Alamo), a local Exceptional Landmark and
a National Historic Landmark. A brass disc monument named VP-1,
Alamo Viewshed, has been set to mark the viewpoint origination
in Alamo Plaza in front of the Alamo Chapel.
The area above a plane described by the following boundary is designated as the Alamo Viewshed Protection District (VP-1): beginning at a point at elevation 663.22 feet above disk VP-1, Alamo Viewshed, and extending through a point of the plane of the façade that is level with and six inches northwest from the topmost northern corner of the Alamo façade at a vertical angle of 9°34’38" and at a distance of 109.23 feet to the east right of way line of Interstate Highway 37 for the northern boundary of the viewshed (see Ch. 35-337 of the Unified Development Code for full boundary description). The images below display the geometry of VP-1.
Mission Protection Overlay Districts (MPOD)
Similar to a Viewshed Protection District, the Mission Protection Overlay Districts were developed specifically for the four southern missions in consideration of the pending World Heritage Status for the sites. In order to protect these important community treasures, the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation developed the MPODs through public feedback. The MPODs regulate building height within a 1,500-foot buffer area of Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada.