Virtual San Antonio Housing Authority groundbreaking sparks West Side protest

Tie-in to Day of the Dead called ‘insulting’ by organizers

'We're not celebrating these apartments,' protestors say following San Antonio Housing Authority project ground breaking
'We're not celebrating these apartments,' protestors say following San Antonio Housing Authority project ground breaking

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Housing Authority’s decision to air a four-minute video Monday morning on Facebook Live to mark a virtual groundbreaking of its newest development, The Legacy at Alazan, is being questioned by some of its critics.

The video was shot last month on the project site, which is a vacant lot with a cement slab and an elaborate Dia de los Muertos altar created by two West Side artists, April Ceja and Crystal Tamez.

“This ofrenda is dedicated to the legacy of the Alazan neighborhood,” Tamez said.

Also in the video, Anthony “Midnite” Floritz, an art teacher, praised the project,

“It shows growth. It shows everything that we want to do as a community is to grow,” he said. “I’m really glad to see what’s going to come out of this.”

However, soon after the video aired, protestors gathered at the same site.

“We’re not celebrating these apartments, and you’re using the culture of this neighborhood to pretend like you care about the neighborhood,” said Kayla Miranda, an Alazan resident.

“The San Antonio Housing Authority took an opportunity to celebrate the closing of their multi-million dollar for profit deal by honoring its residents with the Day of the Dead,” said Terri Castillo of the Historic Westside Residents Association. “That just is insulting to the community.”

However, a SAHA spokeswoman said, “It is paying homage to the history and the future of the community in a respectful manner.”

She said the altar includes the ofrendas made by West Side families to their loved ones.

Near that same vacant lot where the SAHA video was shot, the Rinconcito de Esperanza each year has had its own community altar and celebration. But, it used what is now the future site of The Legacy at Alazan for parking and staging its events, at no cost with permission from the property owners.

The SAHA spokeswoman said the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center “is welcome to use the nearby Alazan-Apache Community Cenbter, Alazan Park, and the future community center for the Legacy at Alazan.”

She also said SAHA is grateful that more 80 families “will soon have the opportunity to live in modern housing for years to come.”

Completion date is October 2021.

Following is a statement SAHA emailed to KSAT 12 News:

"SAHA is proud to celebrate the groundbreaking of 80 new affordable apartments for low-income families. With more than 45,000 families on the waitlist in dire need of affordable housing, we believe creating new housing opportunities is the priority.

While the vacant land has been extended free of charge for use by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center over the years by Avenida Guadalupe, the Botello Family and later SAHA for their one-day annual event, we are grateful 80 new families will soon have an opportunity to live in modern housing for generations to come.

The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center is welcome to use the nearby Alazan-Apache SAHA Community Center, Alazan Park, Guadalupe Plaza, the future Legacy at Alazan community center breaking ground today, as well as other nearby venues to host their one-day event."

BACKGROUND

The vacant land at El Paso and Colorado Streets was owned by the Botello Family and Avenida Guadalupe for many years. SAHA acquired the land in early 2018. During all of these years, both organizations and the Botello Family extended the vacant land to the Esperanza Center to host their events as a courtesy and free of charge.


About the Authors: