the report san antonio

Report: San Antonio vacates and demolishes homes at exponentially higher rate than other major Texas cities combined

the report san antonio

This story was updated to reflect responses from the city of San Antonio.

A new report out from the University of Texas Austin School of Law says San Antonio uses code enforcement aggressively in communities of color, removing people from homes at rates hundreds of times higher than other major cities combined.

The report out Thursday said the city issued vacate orders and orders to demolish 626 single family homes that had been occupied between 2015-2020, a rate nearly 4000% higher than Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth combined in that same period. In total, it issued 1,000 orders during the window.

“I've been doing this work for about 25 years, and I have never heard of this happening at this level in these large Texas cities, and Houston and Dallas definitely have lots of poverty, and they still have a pretty large stock of older substandard housing,” said Heather Way, author of the report and co-director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at UT Austin.

Dominic Walsh

The report said the city often bypasses the hearing process when issuing these orders. There were 337 orders to vacate issued outside of a hearing process, a dubious honor the report says the city holds alone among other major Texas cities.

“We disagree with the conclusions reached by this report,” said Michael Shannon, director of Development Services at the City of San Antonio. “Due process is the keystone to all code enforcement actions on a systematic and consistent basis, as required with the enabling statutory authorities and local City Code ordinances.”

The processes in other cities are different and it wasn't clear to city staff if this analysis was apples to apples.

“Notices to vacate are used only when a structure is determined to be unfit for human occupancy and constitutes a threat to the health, safety and welfare of its residents as required in the San Antonio Property Maintenance Code. Our overriding priority is, and always will be, the health and safety of our residents,” Shannon said.

Generally the city uses a hearing to determine that a structure is unsafe for residents and for the community before it demolishes them. The report said this was skirted at times the past five years. It found 86 demolition orders where no hearing was held. And it said the city only held hearings for vacate orders 17% of the time.

When it did hold hearings, the report cites direct observation of hearings where residents were treated disrespectfully.

At one Buildings and Standards meeting on June 13, 2019 — the report said — an impoverished resident was pleading for understanding. The cost of repairing her home was too great for her. The chair of that board responded:

“Ma’am, do you know how stressful it is for us to look at this property and know that human beings are living here? That’s very stressful on us too.”

The city using city code enforcement through pro-active drive-bys from city staff seems to target homes in urban core neighborhoods. They write up homes with overgrown, junk-filled yards and structures that appear unsafe.

The report argued these measures are being used disproportionately in areas adjacent to downtown that have older housing stock, high poverty and long standing communities of color. It pointed to census tracts in District 2 on the city’s East Side — a rapidly gentrifying community that has been historically African American, as well as many in District 5, one of the poorest in the city.

The so-called “Decade of Downtown” launched by former Mayor Julián Castro has been cited by many as displacing people from downtown adjacent neighborhoods — a feeling the report supports. Many of the most affected areas are in downtown adjacent tracts whose property values have been affected in recent years — and could be prime targets of redevelopment.

The report pointed to the city’s own findings that aggressive use of code enforcement in these communities could lead to exacerbated gentrification but the author stopped short of saying there was a connection between the dovetailing of the development community’s interest and city actions.

“Those connections could be made by some (who) read this report,” said Way.

Further, the report argued the city is breaking state law by not offering relocation costs to people it displaces, a practice they find well established in cities like Fort Worth.

The city disputes the idea that it has violated state law saying it adheres to all of them.

“Staff consistently provide information on all resources available for assistance to come into compliance to property owners, including relocation services,” a city staffer said in an email.

It wasn’t clear if San Antonio provides monetary compensation for people displaced but the law seems to indicate they should. Here is a passage from the Texas Property Code Section 21.046 which deals with Relocation Assistance.

“If a person moves or discontinues the person’s business, moves personal property, or moves from the person’s dwelling as a direct result of code enforcement, rehabilitation, or a demolition program, the person is considered to be displaced because of the acquisition of real property.”

In the last year, the city has spent tens of millions of dollars on rental assistance and home maintenance programs. But the programs met the needs of too few, said the report.

Wednesday night, the city’s Housing Committee met for hours formulating a $150 million affordable housing bond that could pour money into programs devoted to these communities. Keeping people in their homes through repair and rehabilitation programs.

City workers clear out unhoused people from under a downtown overpass. Many displaced people are highly vulnerable to becoming homeless, says the report.

“Ballot language for the 2022 housing bond should explicitly target funds for extremely low income housing development and preservation,” said Rebecca Flores, a resident of District 5 speaking at the bond meeting Wednesday night.

“Tax breaks and other incentives awarded to developers for the decade of downtown have used our public revenue of millions of dollars, while not building affordable housing for low-income residents," Flores said.

Ultimately the report provides many recommendations for the city concluding it should cease issuing vacate orders and doing emergency demolitions outside without a hearing and increase support and assistance programs and counsel in any hearings.

In an email, the city said the report represented simply the opinions — not “a law review article” or “scientific study” — of the authors, who they said did not engage meaningfully with city staff for this report.

“There was no real attempt to engage with city staff tasked with implementing policy and procedures,” said a city staffer.

Way disagreed, saying she and her co-authors sought to discuss the study with city staff a number of times and ultimately did have several phone calls and conversations with them.

“We tried very hard to connect with staff,” she said “And initially they weren’t responsive, but we learned alot from those conversations when they finally did respond.”

the report san antonio

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Barratachea and Melancon win San Antonio River Authority board seats

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Liza Barratachea, left, and Patrice Melancon, right, were the leading vote-getters for the two open at-large seats on the San Antonio River Authority’s 12-member board of directors.

This article has been updated.

Former hotel association leader Liza Barratachea and project management consultant Patrice Melancon claimed the two open at-large seats on the San Antonio River Authority’s 12-member board of directors.

Barratachea led the five-candidate field with 26.6% of the vote, followed by Melancon with 23%, according to unofficial results from the Bexar County Elections Department Tuesday night. Dan Rossiter, a computer scientist, followed closely behind at 21.7%.

Joel Solis, an engineer, took 16.6% of the vote and environmental activist Joseph “Joedy” Yglesias had 12.1%.

The San Antonio River Authority manages the San Antonio River watershed, helping develop policies on water quality, flood control and overall health of the river and its environs. Its board consists of two at-large members from Bexar, Wilson, Karnes and Goliad counties, and one member for each of the river authority’s four districts in Bexar County. The authority’s jurisdiction covers 3,658 square miles.

Having garnered the most votes, Barratachea will serve a four-year term under the river authority’s new term system, while Melancon will get a two-year term.

The two women come from very different career backgrounds.

Barratachea  has worked for multiple San Antonio City Council members, served as a budget and policy advisor to former Gov. Rick Perry, and spent nearly 10 years as the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of public affairs. Melancon  spent 33 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves, where she reached the rank of brigadier general.

A native of San Antonio’s West Side, Barratachea said she has often been involved in water policy in one way or another across her professional career. She worked for former District 8 Councilwoman Bonnie Connor prior to serving as president of the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association — during which she said focusing on the health of the San Antonio River and the River Walk was an important part of her job.

She went on to become a community liaison during the formation of San Antonio’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and told the San Antonio Report Tuesday evening she has always felt proper flood planning is important to San Antonio’s future. She added she’s particularly interested in the river authority’s work with the Westside creeks, which are poised to receive significant federal funding for revitalization efforts.  

The river authority is “doing great things, and I am looking forward to being part of their team to continue to do great things,” Barratachea said. She added she understands many San Antonians have a connection to the river as a cultural icon and see it as a representation of the ecology of the area.

Melancon also has years of experience working in the realm of water management. She is the sole proprietor of CWG Consulting, a project management consulting firm that specializes in water resources, flood control and construction.

She has worked as the Air Force’s executive director of natural disaster recovery, as the director of joint space ops center consolidation for the Air Force, and as the watershed engineering department manager for the San Antonio River Authority.

Melacon has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and a master’s degree in water resources from the University of Texas, and she represented District 10 on the City of San Antonio’s Drainage Committee for the 2022 municipal bond.

The river authority’s budget is funded through property taxes at a rate of 1.80 cents per $100 of assessed value. Its adopted budget for fiscal year 2023-24 is $389.6 million.

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Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media... More by Lindsey Carnett

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8 killed in fiery crash after deputies chased suspected human smuggler near San Antonio, DPS says

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KTRK) -- Eight people died in a fiery car crash after deputies chased a driver suspected of smuggling migrants southwest of San Antonio, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

The video above is ABC13's 24/7 livestream.

Authorities said the deadly wreck happened on Wednesday, at US-57 near Batesville, about 80 miles southwest of San Antonio, at about 6:30 a.m.

A Houston driver was allegedly hauling migrants while trying to outrun deputies from the Zavala County Sheriff's Office, according to DPS.

Investigators said the Houston man was driving a 2009 Honda Civic when he tried to pass a semi-truck on a two-lane road. During the lane change, which was in a no-passing zone, he drove head-on into a 2015 Chevrolet Equinox, according to troopers.

Lt. Chris Olivarez posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the head-on crash resulted in the Chevy bursting into flames, killing the driver and passenger from Georgia.

In an update, authorities identified the victims as 67-year-old Jose Lerma and 65-year-old Isabel Lerma.

Olivarez said troopers confirmed that the driver and five passengers, several from Honduras, were killed.

It is the latest deadly vehicle crash involving migrants, marking the highest death toll since 13 people died in a collision in remote Holtville, California, in March 2021.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has tallied 106 deaths in Border Patrol vehicle pursuits from January 2010 to June of this year. Deaths averaged 3.5 a year through 2019 but spiked in 2020, leading officials to develop a new policy for vehicle pursuits with an eye toward increasing safety.

The policy announced in January stops short of prohibiting pursuits but, according to CBP, "provides a clear framework for weighing the risks of conducting pursuits, such as the dangers they present to the public, against the law enforcement benefit or need."

Local law enforcement agencies have been involved in fatal crashes as well in recent years. In June 2022, four migrants were killed in a smuggling attempt following a police chase in the South Texas city of Encinal, about 80 miles southeast of Wednesday's crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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San antonio spurs injury report vs. knicks: devin vassell out, keldon johnson probable, share this article.

Ahead of their contest against the New York Knicks, the San Antonio Spurs injury report includes a couple of key players .  Devin Vassell is listed as  DOUBTFUL , while  Keldon Johnson is listed as  PROBABLE . In addition, Charles Bediako and Sir’Jabari Rice, the Spurs’ two-way players, are unavailable as they are in the G League. Sidy Cissoko is also on assignment in the G League.

Vassell exited the Spurs’ game last Thursday against the Phoenix Suns with left groin tightness, and he is now listed on the injury report with a left adductor strain. As for Johnson, he is currently dealing with left wrist soreness.

The Knicks are listing nobody on their injury report ahead of the contest on Wednesday night.

San Antonio will be looking to bounce back from a brutal loss at the hands of the Indiana Pacers where they got blown out by a score of 152-111 . Johnson appeared in that game, putting up 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists while shooting 6-of-12 from the floor.

The Spurs are currently 3-4 on the season. However, San Antonio currently lays claim to the worst point differential in the NBA at a -79, but a large portion of that was because of their 123-83 loss to the LA Clippers earlier this season.

Meanwhile, the Knicks are also 3-4, but they have a point differential of +14.

As the Spurs look to bounce back from their loss to Indiana, they will likely be doing so without Vassell, looking for big performances from Victor Wembanyama, Tre Jones, and the rest of their lineup.

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ERO San Antonio removes known Mexican drug cartel leader wanted in Mexico for organized crime

ERO San Antonio removes known Mexican drug cartel leader wanted in Mexico for organized crime

SAN ANTONIO — Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) San Antonio removed an undocumented noncitizen wanted by authorities in Mexico for organized crime, money laundering and illegal possession of firearms. Deportation officers from ERO San Antonio and ERO Harlingen removed Oscar Arturo Arriola Marquez, 54, from the United States to Mexico on Nov. 1.

Arriola was the presumed leader of the Arriola Marquez cartel and was once one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.

On Dec. 16, 2003, a federal indictment was filed against Arriola in the District of Colorado charging him with conspiracy to distribute controlled substance, attempt/conspiracy to import/export controlled substances and money laundering. Subsequently, an arrest warrant was issued.

On Feb. 2, 2006, authorities in Mexico arrested Arriola and placed him in Mexican custody pending extradition to the United States. On March 1, 2010, U.S. Customs and Border Protection paroled Arriola into the United States through El Paso for criminal proceedings and turned him over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

On April 13, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado convicted Arriola of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, conspiracy to import 5 kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States, and money laundering conspiracy and sentenced him to 270 months confinement.

On July 12, 2015, ERO Phoenix encountered Arriola at the Phoenix Federal Correctional Institution, determined he was subject to removal from the United States, and lodged an immigration detainer against him.

On Aug. 15, ERO San Antonio received custody of Arriola and issued him a notice to appear. On the same date, ERO San Antonio transferred Arriola to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center to await his immigration proceedings.

On Aug. 16, 2023, ERO San Antonio received confirmation from a foreign service national investigator that Arriola was the subject of an active foreign arrest warrant in Mexico.

On Oct. 16, an immigration judge ordered Arriola removed from the U.S. to Mexico. On Nov. 1, Arriola was removed to Mexico through Laredo, Texas, where Mexican authorities took custody of him without incident.

ERO conducts removals of individuals without a lawful basis to remain in the United States, including at the order of immigration judges with the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review ( EOIR ). EOIR is a separate entity from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigration judges in these courts make decisions based on the merits of each individual case, determining if a noncitizen is subject to a final order of removal or eligible for certain forms of relief from removal.

As one of ICE’s three operational directorates, ERO is the principal federal law enforcement authority in charge of domestic immigration enforcement. ERO’s mission is to protect the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the safety of U.S. communities and the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and its primary areas of focus are interior enforcement operations, management of the agency’s detained and non-detained populations, and repatriation of noncitizens who have received final orders of removal. ERO’s workforce consists of more than 7,700 law enforcement and non-law enforcement support personnel across 25 domestic field offices and 208 locations nationwide, 30 overseas postings, and multiple temporary duty travel assignments along the border.

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