Record flood leads to buyout proposal

Demolition planned of 30-plus houses north of Olmos Basin

SAN ANTONIO – The record Memorial Day weekend flood last year has led to a plan for the city to  buy more than 30 damaged homes along Barbara and Shannon Lee north of the Olmos Basin in order to make way for a $45 million drainage project.

Diego Bernal, District 1 City Council member, said the plan awaits approval by the full council "as quickly as possible."

"It's just a formality," Bernal said, given the majority of the affected homeowners who supports the idea.

"It's an opportunity but at the same time, when there's no choice, it's forced upon you by nature and circumstances, said Martin G. Martin, whose home on Barbara was flooded that weekend.

Marquis Pedrazine, his neighbor down the street, said, "The buyback is a good offer and we do need to do something about the drainage."

Bernal said $3 million would go toward phase one of the three-year project that includes buying out the houses on either side of an aging drainage canal just off McCullough, south of Oblate.

If all goes as planned, Bernal said a much larger, earthen channel with grass and trees would help relieve chronic flooding in the Olmos Basin.

"It's almost a joke when we say, the 100-year flood seems to happen every seven years," Bernal said.

Given that homeowners would have a hard time selling their flood-damaged houses, Bernal said, "We're the best buyer you'll find and we want to be fair to people that way."

He said they will be offered prices based on pre-flood appraisals.

"As if your house was never in a floodplain, as if it was never damaged," Bernal said.

He said the city also would cover closing and moving costs.

Bernal said residents could buy the same sized house or one that better suits the size of a family.

"We will get something according to our needs," Pedrazine said. "We will not get anything less than our needs."

However, Martin, who is in the real estate business, said the San Antonio market is improving so he doubts he will find another house like his at the same price.

He said, "It's going to be difficult emotionally but also financially because once you're established, you have to start all over."