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San Antonio ordered 474 homes demolished between 2015 and 2020. Richard Montellano’s house was one of them – San Antonio Express-News

Dry Wall Contractor

When the code enforcement officer showed up outside his home in October 2017, Richard Montellano didn’t think much of it.

Maybe a neighbor complained about his property. Or the man could have been patrolling the neighborhood, tucked behind the railroad tracks that separate San Antonio’s near West Side from the downtown towers.

Montellano, 63, has lived all his life in the small home his father built on Grand Alley in the 1930s. It’s where his mother raised him and his nine siblings, in one of the city’s most historic Mexican American communities.

But the house long has been in disrepair.

The house shakes with every train that rumbles through Montellano’s neighborhood. Over the years, the concrete foundation buckled and cracked. Walls disintegrated, holes gaped through the roof, and eventually there was no heating, air conditioning or hot water.

When the officer visited in 2017, Montellano told him he was saving up for repairs. Since then, he made some, he said, but there was always more to be done. After nearly 30 visits from code officers over the course of almost three years, at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the city deemed the home a “public nuisance in need of abatement.”

In other words, the government wanted to knock it down. It is one of 474 homes the city ordered demolished between 2015 and 2020. A third of them are on the West Side.

Slow decline of home

For a family of 12, the 876-square-foot home was cramped. But it was in the part of town where families like the Montellanos could own property, near the stockyards and agricultural plants where Mexican Americans and immigrants worked.

In the early 1900s, racist real estate practices segregated Black and Latino families to the East and West sides, barring them from buying property in neighborhoods reserved for white residents.

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