Frank is fresh off a nail-biter loss in a special election for House District 118. He is running again and joins us to talk about the lessons learned and plans if he wins. He is born and bred in 118 and has a wealth of knowledge about our great city.
Justin Hill: Hello and bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here. All right. Welcome to The Alamo Hour. Today's guest is Frank Ramirez. Frank was recently running for election in HD 118, a special election to replace the retired or resigned Leo Pacheco.
In the special, it was a super close election. He did not win. There's a chance. I think he probably already has an answer to it that he will be running in the future, but we're here really to talk to him about his time in San Antonio. His love for the city has worked in politics here. Get to know him a little bit better. Frank, thanks for being here.
Frank Ramirez: Hey, thank you, Justin. Coming off of the trail has been a very sobering time. It's been about a month now since the election and I've taken time to myself to recollect myself rest and really get a better understanding of the race that we ran and how effective it was because for all intents and purposes, it was. Even though we fell short, we did a lot of really great work that brought a lot of people out that normally would not have come out. We're excited about you having me here today. Thank you so much.
Justin: Rest and relaxation [laughs] is that you like the Japanese tea garden doing yoga, looking at the koi pond, or is that beers and tacos on the strip?
Frank: Hey, that's me getting a mile in the morning now, but also being able to balance that with those beer and tacos.
Justin: [laughs] All right. That's fair. I told Frank before we started that maybe the least amount of research today for a guest, but I'd done plenty of research when you're running for office and got to know you a little bit. We're just going to talk a little bit about San Antonio, talk a little bit about your time in politics, your hopes for the city, what you think the future San Antonio looks like because I think that's a real important discussion that's being had right now.
We are on the edge of this Austin explosion and that's going to spill over so we're going to talk about that, but I always start with a top 10. It's probably might be 10, might be 20, might be 4. What are your favorite hidden gems in the city? You're a San Antonion and so you might have some places that I've never been to or never heard of so dig deep favorite hidden gems.
Frank: I am a lifelong south sider. The majority of my experience in this city has been in the south side. I'm a product of the Harlandale Independent School District. That's Gillette, Kingsborough, McCollum high school go Cowboys, and go Cowboys in Dallas as well. We were a very tight-knit community, but at the same time we support businesses in the south side and we like to tout them. We like to tell people, "Hey, when you come to the south side, you got to go to these spots because they're the best."
Frank: I'll give you my top five restaurants in places in the south side. If you're looking for some great Mexican food, you got-- Don't bet those Mexican restaurant. I have been in the neighborhood for over 50 years. Then you got the other one, which is one of my personal favorite south of 90 is Blue Moon Cafe off of Flores Street. That's on Mitchell and Flores, and they have the best chilaquiles tacos in the entire city, hands down.
The other one taco-wise is going to be got to be Carnitas Lonja which has been featured on Forbes magazine and is a nationally acclaimed restaurant. Actually the chef, [unintelligible 00:03:41] he was actually nominated for the James Beard award. He was, I think, one of the top two finalists in the state of Texas for that award and it just goes to show how amazing their food is
In terms of, and I'm going to stick to food because I eat a lot, that's culinary-- Whenever you're in San Antonio, what do you do? You got to go to the river walk, you go to the Alamo, and then you go to eat because we've got TexMex. Chef Chris, out at RockerDogz off of Roosevelt Avenue.
Justin: Never heard of it.
Frank: Never heard of it. I guarantee you this is the best hotdog you've had in your life. They have this one where it's a carne guisada chili with queso and salsa verde hotdog. That is solid brother.
Then of course I'm going to stay away from food. This last one is the entirety of the mission trail. I'm a biker, I like to bike. One of the largest infrastructural improvements for multimodal transportation, you're talking about not just being restricted to a single person in a single-vehicle. You're talking about ways to get downtown from the south side that are unconventional to some. I'm talking about the entire mission reach from outside of 410 south, even into the county past Mitchell Lake, you can get downtown to this trail and about 45-minute bike ride you're downtown and you're in the center of the entire city.
Those are some of the coolest spots and in the south side in terms of luxury, leisure, and transportation, but also for activity. If you want to get back from your bike ride, you ride back down, and then you go to Don Pedro's or to any of those other restaurants.
Justin: I've only been to two of those you just listed, the restaurants. I've been to Don Pedro's and I've been to Carnitas Lonjas which I hear got built out a little bit. It used to just be a counter.
Frank: It used to be the counter to go. They have a patio now and now they have fish lonja. It's like a fish counterpart and they do cocktails, shrimp cocktails. They do fish tacos, quesadillas, mariscos, and everything. It's awesome. It's awesome.
Justin: I'll have to go check that out. I wonder if the James Beard people knew what the restaurant looked like in the inside when they nominated, but it was just fantastic food and I think that's an-- They did one thing really, really well and that's it. That's all you got to do. Are you a Bcycler?
Justin: Have you ever rented one?
Justin: My last guest, number one in the city, multiple years in a row in miles on a Bcycle. Apparently, they track it.
Justin: Now I'm going to start asking everybody because he's the legend. Favorite Fiesta event?
Frank: Favorite Fiesta event, NIOSA definitely. That's just hands down. You get a couple of friends and you just got to--
Justin: I don't think you're going to say that in 10 years. It already hurts to say it this year. I tell you that. What night of NIOSA though?
Frank: I can't even confidently say this anymore, but college night was always the most fun. I'll even say this, not even at night anymore, just going during the daytime and leaving before it gets--
Justin: Tuesday at 5. I'll be there if I'm going.
Frank: I'll be there at five o'clock hands down every single year now. I enjoy that atmosphere a little bit better. The other is Mission Fest. That's mission San Jose.
Justin: Never been.
Frank: Awesome. That's an awesome spot. Mission San Jose was actually my home church for a long time and it's a lot more centering because it's in the historic missions. They actually have mass inside of the church that people had mass in three, four, hundred years ago.
Justin: I'm probably sound very non San Antonion by saying this, but is San Jose the big one with a wall around it?
Frank: That's right.
Justin: That has the big facade. You see, every time I go there, somebody's getting married there. Looks beautiful. That's right.
Frank: They're all iconic in their own rights. Some of them were more built out than others, but [crosstalk]
Justin: Some are grand and some aren't. Some are.
Frank: As is a lot of things, you have your centerpiece and then you have the peripherals around it, but--
Justin: The Alamo is not grand compared to San Jose.
Frank: No. The story's grand, but Mission San Jose is much more beautiful. You have a lot more vision around.
Justin: Have you read the Alamo book, the Stanford one that's getting all the controversy.
Frank: I haven't. The one that--
Justin: Real Alamo--
Frank: Okay. No, but I understand. It's an interesting topic to delve into. The history of the Alamo who is the villains who were the heroes, how was history written in that regard.
Justin: Yes. I think there's a discussion of how slaves played a role at the Alamo that's never discussed. I tried to do a new Fiesta event every year, Mission fest will be a new one. Are there any Fiesta events you have not done that you want to do?
Frank: I forget what it's called, but it's a taste of--
Justin: Well, there's Taste in New Orleans.
Frank: Taste in New Orleans is the one that I was trying to get to.
Justin: You said Taste of Northside or, is that really a fiesta though? It's so far?
Frank: If there's anything culinary-related, I'm sticking to the south side in our cuisine because I went downtown too. Downtown, you start your learning.
Justin: Well, [laughs] I don't really go to the south side much for food. You live in your bubbles it sounds like. I finally went to Brooks city, Base Leo was a guest and he gave me and Ryan Pape who is looking to build a facility down there a private tour. I was blown away, but driving down there, I remember thinking, this is far. It's a Trek to get down there. If you're not down there or need to go down there, you don't just venture.
Frank: It's like, if I have Brooks in the south side, am I really going to take the drive to La Cantera, if we have all the same things, but we don't. We will, for now.
Justin: I think so too. I think that's where that's all going.
Frank: You just look at in the scope of real estate, what's built out, what is not. You look at shirts of low universal city, often 35, it's already all built out. There's very little room for there to be any type of lateral growth or horizontal growth. It all has to be vertical at this point. In the south side, you go outside of 410 South, little land. It's just nothing but land. That's where a lot of these developmental trends are going to start going towards east or west of 90, east 90, outside of 1604. It's all trending back down south because that's where the available real estate is at.
Justin: One thing I found interesting was, I don't know if I was reading about it or I was at one of the county commissioners' meetings, there was a big discussion about how some of those developments were just so poorly planned. They were just throwing up these developments that had 400 homes and one point of ingress and egress and it was causing traffic and the roads are too small. If you never hear that conversation, you never really understand the responsibility for developers to responsibly develop, and do it right, and make sure you take all those things into consideration. The south side is a good example, I think of some people that have done it poorly.
Frank: That's why it's important that I got into this arena, specifically because of that. Because we do see how bad development affects not only the people that are going to be moving there but the people that live there. There's a development that occurred a few years ago, a school that was built basically on the buffer between a commercial road or an industrial road and a single-family residential neighborhood that had been there historically. Now you have a feeder road, and you have people picking up their kids on this feeder road, which is only two lanes on one going each way at two, three o'clock in the afternoon every day.
Justin: That's poor planning.
Frank: Right. You have from point A and literally a mile and a half road to point B, that's how long the line is to pick up your kid. You take into consideration design standards and things that people don't necessarily have to do because our state laws don't necessarily require that. Traffic impact analysis. How many peak hour travels are going through this
Justin: That's where our local leader should.
Frank: The issue is that if it's already zoned, or if it's already prepared for that type of development, there's not a lot of hands that the city has in that rezoning or that development because outside of permitting, you can't do anything about something that's already given to you by right. That was a strong part of my campaign is, how can we responsibly grow the next trend of developments in the city of San Antonio? I worked in development for the past four years of my professional career.
Doing that, we understand the ins and outs of, okay, if we're going to have a single-family development in an enclave neighborhood, we have to make it to where it is seamless with the existing infrastructure. On top of that, how are we being mindful of the infrastructure that's already around us in terms of other single-family residential? We don't want it to be so encumbering that if you're trying to get home, it now takes an additional 20 minutes because of this new--
Maybe not even 400 or 400 homes, but even 70 homes can make that impact because you consider that, all right, I have a nuclear family with a wife and two kids, and my kids are 20 years old each, they're both in college, they both drive a single car. Instead of just having two cars per house, you're talking about four cars per house now. Instead of 70 homes, you're looking at 280 cars, vehicles getting to that one neighborhood, and that's what creates [crosstalk]
Justin: It doesn't take long for that to stunt the growth or development or new people purchasing into a neighborhood. Because when I was looking around, I remember I looked at a neighborhood and my realtor said, "You would not want to come here between 2:30 and 4:00 because it backs up all the way to 410 because of a school that was there." I just remember thinking, "Okay, I'm not interested in that." I moved on.
Frank: Take into consideration Culebra outside of 1604. Historically, it didn't have anybody living there. Traffic was never an issue. All right. You have one lane going this way, one lane going that way. That's never an issue because nobody's going that way. You're always coming back in. You put a 200-unit development out there, single-family residential, all of a sudden, your traffic impact is exponentially increased and people were trying to get home, now it takes you an hour and a half. Because nobody ever had to go home that way. Now they are.
Being mindful of that not just with single-family residential, not just with development like that, but the expansion of Brooks City Base, the expansion of those amenities in Texas A&M, San Antonio, Palo Alto. We're hoping to start breaking ground and really building up the new university health system in the south side, outside of 410 South near Zarzamora. What are we doing to preempt these things? What are the identified issues right now that if we were to put this development in today, would we be able to sustain it?
Justin: I think you and I were talking about that Westover Hills development had a full hospital system before like the south side. There was literally nobody living out there, and they built this giant complex and still, we didn't have a big one in the south side, which I think now they are building that one right there off the 35. I think they've announced another big one that they're going to build down that way. You're born and raised in San Antonio, you're a roadrunner.
Justin: You are a Longhorn. Okay. I had UT in my head. Is that the only time you've lived away was your time in Austin?
Justin: Four years or did it take a little longer?
Frank: I was there for up until from 2012 to 2016 but I stayed there as well for the 85th legislative session when I was a legislative director and chief of staff. I lived in Austin until 2017.
Justin: For Tomas?
Frank: That's right.
Justin: All right. Uresti,
Frank: Uresti, correct.
Justin: Any odd hobbies? You said you've picked up boxing. Anything else?
Frank: I enjoy boxing. I enjoy weightlifting, biking. I've been playing guitar for about 15 years now. I enjoy playing guitar, cclassical, acoustic, electric. Just throw it at me.
Frank: Flamenco is a little harder.
Justin: You said throw it at you. I'm throwing it all out there.
Frank: My grandpa, he actually is a very good flamenco guitar player but they used to call him the Mexican Elvis when he was in the army.
Frank: He did a lot of work like that. Other weird hobbies, outside of a 27-year-old guy in the south side running for office, that time is restricted whenever you're doing that. I have my luxuries. I like hanging out with my friends, my family. I have two nephews who I love to death, and whenever I have an opportunity to see them, it's always fun. I like watching football. I like going to football games. UTSA, they made us all proud as a city this past year.
Justin: [unintelligible 00:16:33] [crosstalk]
Frank: That's right. It's interesting to see that that happening. Lifelong Spurs fan. I go to every single game as often as I can. I'm a cute Cowboys fan.
Justin: The guy you just met, Damon, he played football at Trinity. He is not all-American. I used to say it was all American. He's like, I was not an all-American. Now I'm described as not all-American running back there. He was all-conference...