After elderly grandmother’s home burns down, city hits her with $25K demolition bill

Family of Cruz Flores, 86, slams city over lack of communication; city said they had to act fast due to safety issues at property

SAN ANTONIO – An elderly San Antonio woman whose home was destroyed in a fire Memorial Day weekend has been hit with a demolition bill for nearly $25,000 after city of San Antonio officials said they were forced to have the structure demolished.

The family of Cruz Flores, 86, criticized the city for what they described as a continued lack of communication following the May 28 fire in the 100 block of Bernice Drive.

“We try not to talk about it too much because she gets upset and we go a day at a time,” said Rachel Cordova, Flores’ granddaughter.

When the family spoke with KSAT this summer, Flores was living in Cordova’s living room.

Most of Flores’ belongings were in containers and she had resorted to sleeping on Cordova’s couch.

Cruz Flores, 86, currently lives in her granddaughter's living room. (KSAT)

Cordova said after the fire, the family was working on plans to sell the property as is, and planned to use the proceeds to move Flores into her own apartment.

Instead, on June 13, the property was leveled by a city-hired contractor, pictures obtained by KSAT show.

Cordova said as the family watched the home being demolished they found a weather-beaten door hanger affixed to a chain link fence on the property.

Flores' family found a weather-beaten door hanger attached to a fence that explained the home would be demolished. The family found the hanger while the demolition was taking place. (KSAT)

Cordova said it was the only notice the family received about the demolition.

“It’s a difficult situation because time is of the essence, due to the safety issue, the hazard,” said Michael Shannon, director of San Antonio’s Development Services Department.

Shannon told KSAT the property was determined to be a dangerous premise after the fire, meaning the structure had to then be demolished within 96 hours of the emergency declaration.

A subsequent letter sent to Flores informing her she would be billed $24,727.56 for the demolition incorrectly stated the structure was torn down on June 20.

“Safety will always take first precedence. The more important thing for us is the safety on that property and the neighboring properties. So we have to move quickly,” said Shannon, who added that miscommunication or a lack of communication can happen during emergency situations.

An excavator levels a home in the 100 block of Bernice Drive June 13. (KSAT)

Flores had lived in the home for more than 35 years and told KSAT it was uninsured at the time of the fire, since she was unable to afford home improvements required to keep it insured.

Flores, a widow, said she is unable to pay the demolition bill.

Shannon said in circumstances like this, the city will place a lien on the property that will need to be cleared before any future sale can go through.

“Unfortunately there is an expense that the city will attempt to recoup at some point,” said Shannon.

A majority of Cruz Flores' belongings were destroyed in the May 28 fire. (KSAT)

“She’s been on her own for so long and she wants that again, some type of normalcy. I see her spirit broken more than anything, and that’s what’s tough. That’s what’s tough,” said Cordova.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.