More than 50 San Antonians took to the streets on the West Side Saturday afternoon to protest the planned demolition and redevelopment of Alazán Courts, San Antonio’s largest and oldest public housing project overseen by the San Antonio Housing Authority.
Arguing that the temporary relocation of the 1,200-plus Alazán Courts residents would leave many vulnerable tenants at a high risk for homelessness, protesters marched from SAHA Headquarters to the South End Lofts while calling for outgoing SAHA President and CEO David Nisivoccia to “do better” for SAHA residents, and for the SAHA board to reconsider the demolition.
SAHA first announced its intention to demolish the Alazán Courts in 2017 in a plan similar to the Housing Authority’s redevelopment of Wheatley Courts on the city’s East Side, which was carried out with a 2012 Choice Neighborhoods program grant. Unlike during that project, however, Alazán’s 1,200 residents would be relocated in phases as the buildings are razed and rebuilt over time.
Following 10 months of resident input on the project, the SAHA board voted 5-2 earlier this month in favor of the demolition. The board will vote again next year on whether to follow through with the plan that will take several more years to implement.
Protesters chanted “mi barrio no se vende” (my neighborhood is not for sale) and held signs reading “Stop the housing holocaust,” and “Save our public housing,” during the quarter-mile march. Several protesters drove next to the marchers, having painted similar messages onto their car windows. They honked their horns and chanted out the windows in unison with their sidewalk counterparts.
“Your job is to defend and to protect our community and support us, but instead what do you want to do? You want to displace us,” said Leticia Sánchez, co-chair of the Historic West Side Residents Association, addressing city and SAHA officials. “We have 1,200 residents in 500 housing units, and [there is] a 45,000-person waitlist on SAHA for public housing. And your solution is to demolish the one public housing in our neighborhood so that you can bring in developers? Yeah, it’s just wrong.”
The demolition of the residence would only contribute to further gentrification in San Antonio, argued Jake Tucker, a member of the one of the protest organizer groups, the Party for Socialist Liberation. Moving vulnerable people out of their current living units to give land to wealthy developers is unfair and wrong, he said. SAHA should focus on helping its existing residents, Tucker added.
As a resident of Alazán Courts, Jacquline Caldwell said she thought moving into the residence would be a blessing for her, a chance to get on her own two feet. But SAHA isn’t doing its job because the conditions at Alazán Courts have been anything but pleasant, she said.
“My children shouldn’t be in places where there’s trash overrun because maintenance can’t keep up,” Caldwell said. “My children shouldn’t be raised in a place where they don’t have any opportunities … because SAHA would rather profit and outsource instead of utilizing the community that built their property.”
Fellow Alazán Courts resident Kayla Miranda said SAHA is trying to tell residents it will help relocate them, but the properties its listing residents as going to are not actually available.
“They have long waiting lists, or they only have maybe nine or 10 units out of all the units that are available,” she said.
Section 8 housing vouchers to go live at private apartment complexes are not a good option either, Miranda said. There are already too many people who have vouchers that can’t find housing, and SAHA officials are wanting to add another 1,200 people, she said.
“We are protesting the fact that SAHA constantly and consistently ignores what we’re telling them,” Miranda said. “The [SAHA board] chair, Cha Guzman, she repeatedly says she has overwhelming community support for the demolition of the Alazán and that’s just not true.”
Present at the protest, Kimiya Factory, the executive director of Black Freedom Factory and a Black Lives Matter advocate, said to address social injustice as a whole, issues like gentrification must be addressed.
San Antonio is socioeconomically segregated, and SAHA is contributing to that by trying to leave out residents that have been where they are generationally, Factory said. In an effort to expand San Antonio, City of San Antonio and SAHA officials are trying to push out residents and immigrants that have been in San Antonio for generations, she said.
“While SAHA is equally responsible, it’s also the City Council and everybody who has hands in these dealings, in these types of expansion projects,” Factory said. “The City just wants better views. Let’s put people over profit.”