Attendees gather in front of Miguel's home on Thursday. Photo by Page Graham.
Attendees gather in front of Miguel Calzada's home on Thursday. Photo by Page Graham.

The home of Miguel and Guadalupe Calzada appears to be on the road to salvation. Neighbors, friends, and strangers rallied to help the longtime Beacon Hill residents last December when their home was threatened with demolition. The City of San Antonio has since agreed to extend the deadline for required repairs on the house until Christmas.

A gathering was held Thursday on the front yard of Miguel’s home to celebrate the successes so far. The next step is to get the necessary repairs done in nine months. As per a written agreement, the City has retained the right to levy a $20,000 fine on the Calzadas if they fail to meet the deadline. At one point, they were seeking the right to impose a $50,000 penalty.

Click here to download the agreement.

Although renovations have not begun, funds have been raised and volunteers – known as the “Save Miguel’s Home Team” – have stepped forward to offer their professional services. The full cost of materials for repairs must still be raised and a GoFundMe site will soon be online to do so.

During his remarks, Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) said that he has submitted a Council Consideration Request (CCR) to help prevent demolition orders from being issued in certain circumstances. The next step will be for it to be considered by the Governance Committee, then to City Council for a vote.

If it is approved in its current form, the CCR will extend the period of time before a demolition permit can be issued for those who are:

  • Veterans
  • Living in their homes and have lived in it for 20 years or more
  • Suffering from chronic health issues
  • Over 65

Under these criteria, the Calzadas would qualify by the last three counts.  Click here to download the CCR.

The CCR would also establish criteria for those who serve on the Building Structures Board (BSB) in order to better balance it out, adding an architect, a civil engineer, a general contractor, a social worker, a health care professional, a retired person (over 65), and a military veteran. Currently, the BSB has two panels of seven members, including a Mayor’s appointee and three who are rental property managers, plus one historic preservation professional.

Rod Sanchez, director of the Development Services Department, and Shanon Miller, director of the Office of Historic Preservation, also attended the event.

Miller said the home was about to receive a “Landmark Designation,” an ironic turnaround for a residence on which renovations have not even begun.

“Demolition is one of our tools of last resort, it’s unfortunate that we do have to demolish homes and buildings,” Sanchez said. He was glad to see this home preserved.

Office of Historic Preservation Director Shanon Miller (right) addresses the audience while Rod Sanchez (center) and District 1 Councilmember Roberto Treviño (left) looks on. Photo by Page Graham.
Office of Historic Preservation Director Shanon Miller (right) addresses the audience while Rod Sanchez (center) and District 1 Councilmember Roberto Treviño (left) looks on. Photo by Page Graham.

Sanchez complimented Treviño, who, as an architect, is “somebody who speaks the same language as I do.”

Getting to the point where the City will agree to allow the home to be restored rather than torn down has been challenging. There have numerous meetings with City staffers, often with Treviño in attendance. Attorney Michael White has been instrumental in the process, providing his services on behalf of the Calzadas pro bono.

Perhaps the most inspiring person in the whole process has been 101-year-old Marylou Miller, who was on hand to be part of the celebration. It was Miller who got the ball rolling, becoming aware of the Calzadas’ situation and alerting retired union organizer Robert “Bob” Comeaux, who was initially reluctant to take on Miguel’s cause due to his busy schedule. Miller was not to be dissuaded. “This is important, you’re going to meet with them,” she ordered.

Miguel Calzada (left) and Marylou Miller look on as the Save Miguel's Home Team gathers in support. Photo by Page Graham.
Miguel Calzada (left) and Marylou Miller look on as the Save Miguel’s Home Team gathers to support the preservation of Calzada’s home. Photo by Page Graham.

“Have you ever tried to say no to Marylou?” quipped Comeaux. He went on to point out that Miguel used to take Miller out to run her errands. “Doing the things that neighbors do.”

After Comeaux jumped on board, it was easy to enlist the services of former Councilmember Maria Berriozábal, as well as Tom Heger, retired Pastor of Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church. Soon after, he recruited architect David Bogle, Beacon Hill Neighborhood Association President Harry Wallace, and structural engineer Patrick Sparks into the cause. From there, it quickly became a cause celebre…

Pastor Tom Heger encourages the group to pray. Photo by Page Graham.
Pastor Tom Heger encourages the group to pray. Photo by Page Graham.

It has been by no means a simple process. The bureaucratic hoops are intimidating at best. If not for the dedicated cadre of the Save Miguel’s Home Team, the Calzada’s unmolested Victorian home would probably have been a pile of rubble by now, leaving the two senior citizens with the demolition bill.

This only serves to illustrate the disconnect between the average citizen and the bureaucracy they face in a situation like this. Sanchez, who wears a uniform consisting of a black polo shirt with a police-style insignia and black cargo pants, would likely be an intimidating figure to the Calzadas if he was to appear at their front door one day with a demolition order.

Make no mistake, we all have our flaws. No one should be painting this situation in black and white, good guy versus bad guy. The Calzadas are indeed part of our eclectic community. In the case of Miguel, he is known for his capabilities to salvage stuff. A hoarder, if you will.

Anyone who has ever performed a home renovation knows the old adage: “It’s going to cost twice as much and take twice as long as your original estimate.” The Save Miguel’s Home Team has their work cut out for them.

Miguel Calzada's yard in Beacon Hill. "Ain't none of us is perfect." Photo by Page Graham.
Miguel Calzada’s yard in Beacon Hill. “Ain’t none of us is perfect.” Photo by Page Graham.

 *Featured/top image: Attendees gather in front of Miguel’s home on Thursday. Photo by Page Graham.

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Page Graham has been a resident of San Antonio – on and off – for over 30 years now. He has moved into the corporate world, making a living developing training materials and Powerpoint presentations...