• The 408th Civil District Court is considering a lawsuit filed against Alamo Heights Independent School District by Selina Jones and Roy Hummel who, with a third tenant, were forced to leave the Desert Sands Apartments in 2020 after AHISD bought the rental property.
• In their suit, Jones and Hummel ask AHISD to reimburse them for relocation costs.
• Resident and activist Molly Ague is seeking to create more awareness of Jones’ and Hummel’s situation.
ALAMO HEIGHTS — A civil district court is weighing a lawsuit filed by two former residents against the Alamo Heights Independent School District after AHISD bought their rental property and told them to relocate.
Plaintiffs Selina Jones and Roy Hummel say they want AHISD to reimburse them for their move from the Desert Sands Apartments, a former development that included low-income renters at 6815 Broadway across from Alamo Heights High School.
Patti Pawlik-Perales, an AHISD spokeswoman, said the district could not discuss the ongoing litigation.
However, AHISD over several months made “numerous good-faith efforts to work with (the) tenants, including continual attempts to communicate with them about their needs, assistance in finding viable affordable housing elsewhere, and numerous extensions to the rental agreement even after rent went unpaid for months.”
Now, Molly Ague — an AHISD resident and activist — hopes to bring more attention to what she calls unjust practices by the school district.
“Where is your kindness? Shame on (you)!” stated a sign carried by Ague during a one-person vigil May 3 outside the vacant apartments, where a contractor is preparing the site for demolition.
Pawlik-Perales said Jones “refused to engage” AHISD until housing advocates told her the district should provide financial-relocation assistance.
Jones paid no rent after August 2020, Pawlik-Perales added, and AHISD began eviction proceedings that continued until Jones officially moved out in January.
Pawlik-Perales said the district is not required to offer relocation fees, adding such financial aid might be seen as a gift of public funds, which is a violation of statute.
AHISD acquired a neighboring vacant multi-family building at 6801 Broadway that is also proposed for demolition. As for the vacant apartments, community members speculate AHISD wants to create more parking space for students.
The district currently has “no definite plans” for the sites, Pawlik-Perales said.
The case began to pick up speed in December 2020, after Jones and Hummel filed suit against AHISD for expenses incurred in their departure from the development.
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, a nonprofit providing free legal services, represents Jones and Hummel.
They each were paying $500 monthly rent at the eight-unit apartment complex.
The suit claims the school district violated state code and federal law by not extending financial relocation aid to tenants forced to move from the newly acquired property.
The case is before 408th Civil District Court Judge Angelica Jimenez.
Ague said AHISD, one of the area’s most property-rich school districts, could have been more helpful to Jones and Hummel when they faced few options regarding their move, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You have an outstanding reputation for being compassionate in the community, for being kind and forgiving, and to say you’re not going to give relocation assistance to (Jones)? That’s just horrible for her or any tenants of this place,” Ague said.
It was spring 2020 when AHISD told the lone three Desert Sands tenants they would have to move out by the end of June.
Jones reached out to Ague for some kind of help. According to Ague, Jones feared she did not have the funds to move.
“They weren’t looking for sympathy,” Ague said.
Jones and Hummel’s suit states Jones on Aug. 24 wrote AHISD seeking financial aid. But one week later, Jones was notified the district would take legal action if she did vacate before Sept. 30, her lease-termination date.
Hummel left in September; the third unnamed tenant left in July. All three remaining tenants were on month-to-month lease agreements at the time.
The Architectural Review Board met on May 18 and recommended denying AHISD’s existing demolition plan. City Council is scheduled to review the case on June 14.