San Antonio tenants demanding meeting with Mayor Nirenberg forcefully removed from City Hall

Some tenants of Seven Oaks Apartments said they haven't had air conditioning in five months.

click to enlarge Ashton Condel, a housing justice organizer, is escorted out of City Hall by SAPD after demanding a meeting with Mayor Ron Nirenberg to discuss "dangerous" living conditions at the Seven Oaks Apartments. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
Ashton Condel, a housing justice organizer, is escorted out of City Hall by SAPD after demanding a meeting with Mayor Ron Nirenberg to discuss "dangerous" living conditions at the Seven Oaks Apartments.
Police forcefully removed a group of protesting tenants from San Antonio City Hall Tuesday after they demanded to meet with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and discuss what they called dangerous living conditions in the Seven Oaks Apartments.

The tenants, along with the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), an advocacy group for working-class Texans of color, have made three formal requests to meet with Nirenberg about problems at the Northwest San Antonio complex, they said. Without success so far, they showed up downtown to force a meeting.

Tuesday's incident was the latest escalation in a push by Seven Oaks tenants and TOP to have the city intervene to correct what they say are inhumane living conditions and unfair evictions at the complex.

Roughly 30 protesters gathered in the lobby of City Hall around midmorning, demanding a conference with the mayor. As they waited, some broke into chants. Eventually, eight San Antonio Police Department officers surrounded the group, who were denied access to use the restrooms by John Peterek, the assistant to the city manager.

Eventually, Peterek instructed a police officer to close the doors to City Hall. He told protesters to leave several times, and police moved in and herded people toward the door.

click to enlarge Assistant to the City Manager John Peterek tells protesters to vacate City Hall. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
Assistant to the City Manager John Peterek tells protesters to vacate City Hall.

"He's touching a disabled woman," Seven Oaks tenant Claudia Nega said as police tried to herd the protesters out of the building.

Officers briefly put one of TOP Housing Justice Organizer Ashton Condel's hands behind his back before forcing the housing advocate out of the building and locking the doors behind the exiting protesters.

"Instead of [Nirenberg] actually standing with us, he's allowing the police to physically push us out of our own house," Condel told the group after he was ejected.

Organizers remained in the plaza in front of City Hall for two hours. During that time, Peterek repeatedly denied a woman who said she suffers from Lupus and a 4-year-old girl access to the public restrooms.

While Nirenberg never meet with the protesters Tuesday, Condel eventually told the group that he'd received word the mayor would send a staffer to the apartment complex next Tuesday.

In a statement emailed to the Current, Nirenberg said the city has already offered "an array of services" to Seven Oaks residents and that the mayor's staff will meet with them in the "near future."

"Helping Seven Oaks residents cope with their difficult circumstances has been a priority since the city was notified, and staff has been aggressively working to address the situation," Nirenberg said.

The city has so far spent $22,000 funding temporary lodging for 19 households, assigned a liaison to to meet with tenants and provided two events at which residents can apply on-site for relocation assistance, according to the mayor's statement. 

What's more, city officials also are pursuing actions against Achieve Investment Group, the Austin-based property investment company that owns the complex, according to Nirenberg. So far, the city has issued 24 citations for a total of $7,200 to the property owner for violations it didn't repair, according to the mayor's statement.

Achieve Investment Group didn't respond to the Current's request for comment.

According to residents gathered at City Hall, problems with routine maintenance at Seven Oaks began shortly after Achieve purchased the property in December 2021.

Management has also allegedly sent out bogus eviction notices and refused to make routine repairs and maintenance to apartments in the complex that is 90% low-income housing, said Rose Cruz, one of the tenants who showed up for the protest.

"There's no running water, no air conditioning, rodents, roaches, windows that can't be opened, toilets that can't be flushed," she said. "They want to throw out all of the low-income people. They don't want anybody living there that's on a government subsidy."

Neither Cruz nor Ernestina Martinez, another tenant at the City Hall protest, has had air conditioning for five months, they said.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to more accurately reflect John Peterek's comments to protesters.

click to enlarge Claudia Nega (pictured above with red hair) gives a piece of her mind to the officers who removed her from City Hall during a tenant protest of conditions at the Seven Oaks Apartment Complex. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
Claudia Nega (pictured above with red hair) gives a piece of her mind to the officers who removed her from City Hall during a tenant protest of conditions at the Seven Oaks Apartment Complex.
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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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