In spite of their emotional pleas, residents of the Mission Trail Mobile Home Park will be forced to move to make room for a $75 million development. Many people who spoke struck a chord with several council members and the mayor Thursday.
When it came time for the vote, Mayor Julián Castro reversed course from his usual push for progress. He said he could not support a zoning request to make the Mission Trail Mobile Home Park, located on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River, a mixed-use development for shops and apartments.
"It was said...we move mountains to create jobs in this city and we move mountains to preserve our aquifer," said Castro to the audience inside the council chambers. "We move mountains to save bats and we move mountains to preserve historic buildings often. And we need to move mountains for people."
District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, and District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzalez were the only council members to agree with the mayor's perspective.
Many residents came and laid their heart on the line for the council. This, after attempts they made before at various meetings to ask if they could just stay put.
Adriana Amador shed tears, speaking in Spanish to the council with a translator relaying her message.
"We're not a community; we're a family," she said, with her voice cracking. "Please listen to us. Don't abandon us."
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, who represents the district where this is taking place, told the upset residents the ante was being upped from previous deals. She said they'd get $2,600 for moving, a rent discount and rent voucher worth $2,500, another $2,500 for moving by Aug. 15. If a trailer can't be moved, the buyer is offering to purchase the home for its appraised value.
"Not one of you will be left behind, kicked to the curb or forgotten," Viagran said.
Other council members think the move forward is a good one. District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor was absent, but City Clerk Leticia Vacek read a statement from the urban planner.
In the statement, Taylor noted that the South Side has been overlooked for too long and this is a way to create more market rate housing options.
"This boils down to our commitment to providing a variety of housing options throughout our city or whether we will continue policies that concentrate poverty and lead to disinvestment in humans and neighborhoods," said Vacek as she read the statement.
Those like Taylor in the yes camp believe the residents are getting a better resolution with city oversight in the transition. But many like Castro also said the city needs a policy on moving people for the sake of development.
"I believe that there is too much concern, too much of a red flag with things that have come up recently, and that we do need to be smarter about how we handle gentrification," he said.
Bernal happens to be working on that very topic now.