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Alazan-Apache Courts Named Endangered Historic Place

Westside Preservation Alliance
Alazan-Apache Courts on San Antonio's West Side

The National Trust for Historic Preservation Thursday named San Antonio’s Alazan-Apache Courts among America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, possibly bolstering efforts to prevent the demolition of the West Side public housing complex.

The annual list is released to raise awareness about the threats facing some of the nation's greatest treasures.

The Westside Preservation Alliance and Esperanza Peace and Justice Center submitted the Alazan-Apache Courts to the National Trust in February.

The organizations hope the San Antonio Housing Authority can use the designation to raise funds for its repair and restoration.

Dr. Sarah Zenaida Gould of the Westside Preservation Alliance said most of the places named on the list in past years were spared from demolition.

The Alazan-Apache Courts opened around 1940 and were nicknamed Los Courts by members of the Mexican-American neighborhood.

The courts proved to be an affordable place to live for the area’s working poor who had to deal with higher death rates, flooding, and a lack of city services.

Neighborhood residents say affordable housing remains a problem 80 years later.

“My family moved to Torreon Street in the Alazan Housing Project when I was two years old,” said Dr. Gloria Rodriguez, a former resident and founder of AVANCE, a nationally-recognized program for low-income families with young children.

"For us, it was really 'moving up' because we now had an indoor toilet and bathtub, a living room, a balcony, and a house made of brick,” she said.

“Plus the house was affordable for a single mother with five young daughters. Alazan was transitional housing for us until my mother had our house built in the Edgewood District two years later. We have many fond memories of this community,” Rodriguez said.

She said the Alazan was a planned community that placed the needs of those who lived there in close proximity.

“There was a playground, theater, bakery and the school that was walking distance. Professionally, I returned to Alazan many years later to establish AVANCE, and it is still there providing early childhood, parenting services and family support,” Rodriguez said.

“Alazan is a significant historical landmark that was one of the first federal housing projects in the nation for low-income people. I am so glad they received this prestigious designation,” she said.

Backers said though the Alazan-Apache Courts provide the San Antonio community with affordable housing and represent a part of Mexican American history, the San Antonio Housing Authority is planning to demolish these historic structures.

"We should be preserving housing stock, not destroying it. We are talking about 1,200 of my neighbors and friends that would be displaced if our homes were demolished. They want to flush us out to make room for higher income individuals and majority market rent properties," explained Kayla Miranda, Alazan-Apache resident and a community advocate.

"In a truly affordable housing crisis, what possible excuse could the housing authority have to reduce available public housing units?" Miranda asked.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian