Fees, penalties, or incentives: How should the city deal with owners of abandoned properties?

SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio may soon begin to consider how to deal with the owners of buildings left abandoned after an increase in the number of complaints and fires surrounding those properties.

On Tuesday, a plume of smoke coming from the old Fujya restaurant on Wurzbach Road got everyone’s attention.

Hunter Bass, a business owner, said he tried to warn the city about problems with the abandoned property next door for several months.

“People were very uncomfortable with the traffic that was going through that area,” Bass said.

He attempted to help some people by allowing them to use water, but things got to be too much when more and more people started going in and out of the building, he said.

Bass explained they found an extension cord going from his building to the abandoned property.

“We had some phone chargers, we had some routers. We had things that they were plugging into it. So eventually we did have to get to the point where we blocked off all the faucets and all of the wall outlets outside except for one right by the front door,” he said.

San Antonio police records show there have been nearly 60 calls for service to that property in the last two years. Some of them involve fights, homeless encampments, and even burglary alarms.

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez said his office has been trying to delicately handle the issues, but more action needs to be taken across the city to deal with abandoned properties.

“Boarding up these properties doesn’t work,” he said. “A lot of this falls on the shoulders of the private property owners who in many times are absentee owners and quite honestly don’t care if their property is in a dilapidated state.”

During the recent public safety hearing, council members consulted with SAFD about plans to move forward with finding a solution.

“We’ve been trying to handle this in the most delicate, humane way. But I mean, at the end of the day, we can’t have people lighting fires inside buildings. That’s just unacceptable,” said Pelaez.

He said the council should start talking more about their ideas in the coming months.

Pelaez also explained penalties, fees or incentives are all among the things that should be considered to handle the abandoned building issues.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.