Photo Credit and Photo Copyright

The photographs of San Antonio and Dignowity Hill used within this blog are the property of Juan A Garcia East Light Images. All rights are reserved to the owner. Copy and use of these pictures is forbidden without written permission. Contact Juan at for permission.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Slum Watch in Dignowity

Lets face it, we have a slum lord problem in our neighborhood. We have abandoned and neglected properties and in some cases dangerous structures that create unsightly blight.  In the midst of what is becoming a tangible revitalization effort in our part of the world we are still saddled with properties that are owned by individuals or investors that for whatever reason do not take care of their properties. Neglected and distressed properties are a huge problem for neighborhoods and the city. Studies have shown that vacant and distressed properties have an adverse affect on a neighborhood's quality of life, property values and the overall sense of community. Vacant and neglected buildings raise the probability of increased crime as they become havens for petty burglars or drug dealers/users. Despite the fact that residents and the neighborhood association over the last several years have loudly complained about these properties there seems to be little or no progress made on this front. Something needs to done.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a blog called Baltimore Slumlord Watch, you can find the blog at  The blog began in 2009 as a way for Baltimore residents to share information about the city's many slumlords. Started by a resident who was tired of watching out of town “investors” and others who can negatively impact neighborhoods as a result of their negligence.  The blog has become a way of publicly calling out property owners who let their properties become an eyesore.

Last year one my neighbors, Tyler Tully, wrote an excellent article in the Rivard Report ( that addressed the urban decay that affects San Antonio's inner city neighborhoods. The article referenced Baltimore as a model of how urban decay can be addressed. Unfortunately San Antonio is not Baltimore. As Tyler points out in his article, code compliance in San Antonio is like a pit bull with out teeth. There are city ordinances in the books that specifically spell out steps to be taken to address vacant structures and vacant lots. You can find those ordinances at  Yet it is a slow and excruciating process to hold these slum property owners accountable.

I personally know some of the good folks that work for the city's code enforcement department and as residents we tend to beat up on our code enforcement officers for the lack of visible progress on those neglected and abandoned properties that litter our own neighborhood. These code enforcement officers are doing their jobs within the confines of the ordinances. The real problem as Tyler pointed out in his article is the lack of an incentive for owners to fix up their properties because they do not want higher property taxes and current laws designed to protect responsible property owners in essence also protect irresponsible property owners.  In his article, which was published in July of 2013, Tyler provided some great ideas and solutions that could be implemented to attack the urban decay that is visible in our inner city neighborhoods. So here we are six months later and the only thing that I know of that has occurred is the reorganization of the city's code compliance department. We still have many of the same neglected properties that were present when we first moved into the neighborhood in 2007! 

So in the spirit of the Baltimore Slumlord Watch blog I will periodically be posting an image of a neglected property in the Dignowity Hill area that has been deemed unsafe, abandoned or has been neglected beyond a reasonable amount of time. The information for these properties comes from public records that are easily accessible by anyone on the Bexar County Appraisal District web site:  The intention is to highlight these properties publicly and perhaps motivate both the city, county and these property owners to do something positive about their properties. We need to do something about this pernicious slum lord mentality. If you own property in Dignowity Hill then keep it clean or clean it up!

 819 Lamar
Property Owner: Patel Balubhai
Legal Description:NCB 1368 BLK 5 LOT 19
This property has been declared a dangerous premise by the city.
A notice on the structure indicates that the property went before the city's Building Standards Board on November 14, 2013 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year and New Starts!

The start of a new year is traditionally when we make resolutions to better our selves, our community, our world. I've never been big on New Year resolutions since I feel new starts can be made at any time in our lives but in the spirit new beginnings for a new year here some thoughts.
My only resolution is kick start this blog! I haven't posted since June of 2013 and lots has happened in the last 6 months!  To catch up and on a personal note, I left the corporate world of health care in April of 2013.  Some may call it a retirement, after all I'm past 60 but I call it a transition. I'm busy with various projects such starting a guest house business, serving on several non profit boards and working for a local credit union as their community/business liaison on a part time basis.  We're keeping our eyes out for another old house restoration/rehab project.  I'm still serving as the president of our neighborhood association but that gig is coming to a close in April of this year. That's a good thing. Change is always good and its time for someone else to pull the cart.  I have to say, however, that being the prez of our neighborhood association has been a great experience for me. I've learned lot about neighborhood and city politics, I have met some great folks as well as some folks I rather have not ever met. But most importantly it's a privilege to be involved in the process of community building.
Dignowity Hill has come a long ways in the time since we moved into the community in 2007. We continue to see private investment in the restoration or rehab of our older houses. A steady stream of new comers continues to either move in or raise the awareness of the neighborhood as a desirable place to live. On the other hand, the big disappointment is the lack of public investment in basic infrastructure improvements not just in our neighborhood but in the general area of the eastside.  The economic summits that were organized in 2010 to chart a path for revitalization in the eastside have been a disappointment as well because neighborhood needs have not been addressed properly.  Investors and potential businesses seeking to relocate to the eastside have sent a message to our elected officials and paid city staff that the basic infrastructure needs of the neighborhoods to be fixed first before consistent investment will take hold on the eastside. My hope in 2014 is that someone in city government can find a way to allocate more dollars for basic needs in the neighborhoods otherwise the already slow pace of revitalization could be slow down even further.

There are of course other bright spots even shining stars in the midst of the slow pace of revitalization. The Choice Housing Grant is starting make an impact in area of the eastside with persistent poverty. The Eastside Promise Neighborhood Education Grant is making some headway although its been slowed down by the bureaucracy of its administrative agency. These two grants represent close to $60 million in federal dollars. That's a lot taxpayer money going directly into the community. The best news to hit our neighborhood was the ground breaking for the Alamo Brewery to be built next to the historic Hays Street Bridge.  Despite the controversy that this brewery generated,  the construction of the brewery means private investment in the eastside, city support in the form of incentives and most importantly the opportunity to potentially create an environment to attract additional investment in area. It's all good at this point!

In August of 2013 a large scale mural was installed on the underpass of Nolan Street...see the image below. In many ways the mural with its dynamic use of color and free flowing graphic design represents the energy that has developed in our part of the world.  This blog has always been about the happenings in and around Dignowity Hill and it will continue to be that way as we move forward into 2014 but look for an expanded view as well and like the mural my intent is to capture that energy as we move forward into making the world a better place. Peace in 2014! 

Dedication of the Mural on the Nolan Street Underpass.