SAN ANTONIO – Saturday’s annual Paseo por el Westside is taking a stand on the gentrification that’s occurring in other neighborhoods in and around downtown.
This year’s theme is “Mi barrio no se vende,” meaning "My neighborhood isn’t for sale."
With the University of Texas at San Antonio's downtown campus, just west of I-35, expanding for a cybersecurity campus, and the development it will likely attract, Amelia Valdez, president of the Historic Westside Residents Association, worries about the impact it could have.
“We do want things better. Of course, we do, but at a cost we’d be able to afford," Valdez said.
She said any high-end apartments for students, faculty and staff members who choose to live on the West Side would be out of reach for many of the residents who are on fixed incomes.
Valdez said many residents are already being bombarded with mailers and phone calls from people wanting to buy them out.
Margarito Carrillo, who has lived in the same house for more than 50 years, said it’s only a matter of time before he’s approached.
“We can’t afford a large amount of rent,” Carrillo said, much less buying a house with large mortgage payments.
He and others, like Valdez, said that, due to the lack of affordable housing, any profits from selling their homes wouldn’t last long.
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It’s also a concern for Kristi Villanueva, president of the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, who wants to preserve the West Side’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“We have heard reports that some of the businesses are getting inquiries, and it’s a large chunk of money,” Villanueva said.
She said she tells them the businesses to “proceed cautiously. We don’t know how this is going to work out. Will you be able to find another location?”
Villanueva said family-owned businesses may find themselves divided over what to do.
“They’ll end up splitting the money and the business will basically close down, and we’ll never see it again,” Villanueva said.
She the West San Antonio Chamber is trying to do outreach to educate residents and business owners on how to make wise decisions.
Since many residents don’t have the deeds to their properties, Villanueva said, the Mexican American Unity Council is assisting with the legal paperwork.
Villanueva said there’s no doubt a larger UTSA campus could bring greater educational opportunities to the West Side.
“We are very happy to support UTSA,” she said.
But Villanueva pointed out that, even though the expansion is a done deal, a study by UTSA on its impact is only now about to get started.
“I don’t think it’s too late,” she said.
Villanueva said there’s a coalition of 10 community organizations working with UTSA.
“We need to make sure that we all continue to move forward together," she said.