The Texas grandfathering law has played a pivotal yet often hidden role in shaping San Antonio's growth. To determine the law's impact, the San Antonio Express-News pored over files for each vested project, conducted scores of interviews and analyzed several government databases.
To calculate how often developers file last-minute plans in an attempt to avoid looming ordinances, the Express-News turned to a city database of 8,200 plat applications filed between 1990 and April 2005, and broke down the number of plans by month to look for spikes in filings.
The database also helped show how much money the city lost in fees from developers who filed plats before an Oct. 20, 1997, drainage ordinance hit the books. The drainage fees are based on land use, acreage and number of residential lots. That information is noted for each plat in the database.
However, the plat database doesn't break down land use for sites devoted to apartments and businesses, and the drainage ordinances impose different fees for those types of projects. In those cases, the Express-News went with the apartment-complex fee which is lower than the commercial fee to provide a conservative estimate.
The Express-News also examined Texas databases that track political campaign contributions and lobbyist activity. While the real estate industry as a whole has given generously to the Texas Legislature, the newspaper considered only interests that have supported vested-rights legislation.
The newspaper confirmed that support by reviewing witness lists for legislative hearings, or in some cases, learned of the support through interviews with lawmakers...
See Express-News for full article
Losing Ground: How we did this report