Soap Works: Stopping Gentrification Downtown San Antonio

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Greg Harman

The winners and losers of the “Decade of Downtown” trumpeted by Julián Castro in 2010 continue to take shape across the center of the city, as residents navigate the speculative real estate landscape the gentrification push has ushered in.

Those living at the Soap Works, Soap Works 2, and Towne Center apartments on the west side of downtown now join those pressed by the City’s drive for increased downtown residential density. After years of inhabiting a quiet edge a short walk from Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, residents here suddenly find themselves atop prime real estate. The City is rapidly pursuing the restoration of San Pedro Creek, which fuses ecological concerns with concern for high-dollar construction.

On Sunday, February 18, residents came together to share their experiences and organize to best resist new owners, Barvin Group, a Houston-based development firm, who they describe as allowing conditions to deteriorate while raising a variety of monthly fees in an effort to force the income-limited residents out.

District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño, who listened at length before fielding questions from those attending, said he is committed to assisting residents resist gentrification pressures in the short term while also working to amend state laws that limit the city’s ability to react. Some attending said that solely waiting for the Texas Legislature to reconvene in 2019 was not an option.

Listen to Sunday’s community conversation:

Listen to the conversation with Councilman Treviño:

Meanwhile, this Wednesday night, Soap Works residents introduced themselves to the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force, convened to discuss an evolving comprehensive housing policy for the city. (Really? Our first?)

The first hour of the meeting opens with my speaking with residents and housing justice organizers before the meat of the task force meeting is held.

In the second clip, the audience gets to have their say.

State lawmaker Diego Bernal recently posed the question of gentrification-driven evictions to a significant online response:

Here are a few of the replies:

Gentification & “Renoviction” 101

Flyer distributed at the Housing Task Force Meeting.

How to help.


Greg Harman is founder and co-editor of Deceleration.

{Follow Stand with Soap Works and Towne Center on Facebook. You can read more on the experience of some residents in this recent story at Folo Media.}