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HOBB Update Message
Sunday, 14 March 2010

A message from Janet Ahmad: Nations 7th Largest City and Largest Homebuilder Pulte-Centex Take Lots of Heat as Builder Buys Back Houses

A message from Janet Ahmad:
Nations 7th Largest City and Largest Homebuilder Pulte-Centex Take Lots of Heat as Builder Buys Back Houses 
Although San Antonio , Texas is 7th largest city in the country it has long held the distinction as the most lax major city in code enforcement and new home inspections. San Antonio's careless new home construction policy over the past two decades has produced public records that confirm as many as 75% of all new homes did not get all the required inspections.  A few years ago then Mayor Phil Hardberger in his State of the City address to the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce asserted, "We want San Antonio to be a facilitator, not a regulator."

Not surprising San Antonio's corruptible public policy became the subject of national news January 24 when Rivermist a Pulte-Centex community was evacuated due to the collapse of a hillside and retaining wall that continues to move over a month later.  Although there is a permit required for the construction of retaining walls, the city has disregarded any and all enforcement for decades.  

Further adding to the scandal city officials confirmed that four code inspectors are currently the subject of bribery investigations.  This past Thursday Texas Representative David Leibowitz appeared at the weekly City Council meeting asking elected officials to thoroughly investigate the landslide and to get tough with developers.

Friday the Express-News reported that a retaining wall on a relatively new major city Parkway is failing and posses a major threat.  Again today the Express reported that a city owned retaining wall failed three years ago causing damage to private property.  So far the city has failed to clean up the damage done, while one engineer claims the collapse was an act of God.   

A grassroots movement is underway in earnest as homeowners are eager to speak publicly.  On Wednesday approximately 100 Rivernist residents, along with Alliance for Home Buyer Justice (AHBJ)
, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC and Home Owners for Better Building (HOBB) along with Rep. David Leibowitz held a press conference and rally directly in front of  the Pulte-Centex homes that are teetering on the cliff.  See Rivermist press conference and rally photos as well as local and national news coverage below...

Also see coverage of the couple, Bob and Jane Cull that won a $58 million jury decision against Bob (the Godfather of Political Contributions) Perry.

Be sure and read the latest news updates below: Help us to help you by keeping in touch. Tell your story through HOBB, to your elected officials, and post your comments on the many news reports. 

Thank you,
Janet Ahmad, President
Home Owners for Better Building

News Updates:

Rivermist Photos
See the latest on the Rivermist Community.  See Photos

Rivermist Picnic a Great Success
Rivermist Fun and Food
Rivermist Families held activities, ate together, and all had fun Saturday.  The community event was held in honor of the all displaced families. Little ones enjoyed the many activities and played with their friends. Read more...

Express News: Too Many Years Ignoring Retaining Walls and Failed City Public Policy
Rancher fights city's own wall collapse
In the summer of the epically wet 2007, a city-owned retaining wall that sits between Pearsall Park and Ruiz's South Side ranch collapsed during a rainstorm, sending dirt and debris onto his property and into Leon Creek ... While San Antonio rebuilt the damaged portions of the retaining wall and cleaned up its property, Ruiz said the city has done nothing to clean up his property, and he's still trying to recover. He lost between 40 and 50 large, old trees, including pecan, elm, hackberry, black walnut and mulberry. The pileup of dirt and debris also damaged fences, cut off access to 30 acres of grazing pasture and caused water to back up on his property, he said..."Here they have an ordinance about trees," Ruiz said. Former Mayor Phil "Hardberger is out there hugging trees, and they're here kicking me in the butt." Read more...

Express News: Tedesco on City Failed Wall
City owned a faulty retaining wall
After a tall retaining wall buckled in a San Antonio neighborhood, threatening dozens of homes, rancher Ernest Ruiz called us with a tip about another faulty retaining wall. Ruiz's story had an interesting twist: The collapsed wall near his rural property hadn�t been constructed by Centex Homes or other homebuilders. This wall was owned by the city: From a mostly quiet tract of land surrounded by the hubbub of urban life, Ernest Ruiz has waged a nearly three-year fight against the city of San Antonio over the failure of a retaining wall.  Read more...

Univision 41: Rivermist and Rep. Leiborwitz at City Council
Constructora comprara casas afectadas
 Veintisiete propietarios recuperarn parte de su inversion en Rivermist   Video Report

Texas Rep. Tells City of San Antonio to Get Tough with Developers

Texas Representative David Leibowitz Calls on San Antonio   City Members for Transparency and to Stop Issuing Permits
Rep. Leibowitz made an official visit to City Leaders telling them; "It is a slap in the face to the resident who are displaced to see new homes being constructed in the very neighborhood from which they are displaced. Stop the building and the issuing of permits until this matter is thoroughly investigated...As elected officials, we have to establish, and enforce, regulations to the extent necessary to protect the citizenry.  Unfortunately, the city has not been as strict historically, with the regulation of developers as many San Antonio residents would like...This incident, and the indecision which has followed, will irreparably damage their ability to sell their homes." Read Letter to San Antonio City Council  

Texas Politics: Rivermist and Binding Arbitration Serious Subjects at Texas Capitol
Homeowners: Too late to start over 
Homeowners from San Antonio 's Northwest Side neighborhood that underwent a landslide had a few minutes apiece before a House committee today. The committee is considering the issue of consumers being required to agree that they'll take any claims to arbitration in deals such as home-purchase contracts. Janet Ahmad of HomeOwners for Better Building said the San Antonio homeowners' contracts had such clauses for all disputes. Cervantes said he used Centex's in-house mortgage and title services when he bought his home. Now, he said he must go to an arbitrator with his concerns and "I'm going to be at their mercy." Cervantes said it's too late for him, but he'd like to see the law changed to protect his children and grandchildren.  Read more...

Texas Rep. Leibowitz Asks City to Get Tough
State Representative says City should toughen up on developers
State Representative David Leibowitz, D-District 117, is going to bat for dozens of homeowners living in limbo in the Northwest side subdivision. He is asking the Council take action to protect the family�s living near a cracked retaining wall.  "Stop the building and the issuing of permits until this matter is thoroughly investigated," Leibowitz suggested to the Council. The Representative told Council members the saga in the subdivision could have been avoided had the City fully investigated concerns he and others raised three years ago about the quality of fill material used to develop the area. Leibowitz is also suggesting the city toughen up on the developers. Read more...

Homeowners selling out to Pulte-Centex
Rivermist buyback offers are being taken
Two homes have been sold back to the builder and developer of Rivermist and The Hills of Rivermist, while 11 more property owners either have verbally agreed to sell their homes to the company or are in the process of signing paperwork, Centex spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga said Thursday...The ground shifted and a large retaining wall collapsed on a steep slope in the neighborhood Jan. 24. Since then, many of the homeowners have been living in hotels, apartments and rental homes with limited access to their property. Read more...

Homebuilding Giant Pulte Homes Sues Nevada AG over Pulte's Predatory Mortgage Lending
Homebuilders Pulte and Lennar sue AG over hiring of law firm to probe lending

...one of the homebuyers filing complaints, purchased a Pulte home in Las Vegas in 2007 with a 20-percent down payment and a good credit score. The union alleged Pulte inflated the home price, used incentives to steer her to Pulte's lending affiliate and failed to disclose important mortgage terms, particularly that the interest rate could increase after seven years. Read more...

Dave's Landslide Blog , United Kingdom on San Antonio , Texas Pulte-Centex Landslide
The Rivermist subdivision in San Antonio , Texas is on the move again - and it is a rotational retaining wall failure
David Petley, Wilson Professor, Department of Geography, Durham University . The woes of the families displaced by the slope failure at the Rivermist Subdivision in San Antonio , Texas have been exacerbated by a new phase of movement.  Read more...

Good Samaritans Help Why Not The City Code Enforcement or DA
Contractors Help Scammed Woman
Some local contractors are volunteering their services to help a woman who needs a rehabilitation room built for her son who was hit by a car. Salinas said that she paid Estrada nearly $30,000 from money she had saved and raised from a benefit barbecue. But Estrada never finished the job, Salinas said... Roger Delgado of Turdminator Plumbing, who was one of the first contractors to lend a helping hand, said that he found fitting joints unglued that wouldn't have passed inspection. Read more...

Univision 41: Rivermist Press Conference Rally
La pesadilla contina en Rivermist
Las viviendas de ese complejo perdieron mucho valor  Video Report

WOAI News 4: Another illegal retaining wall
City concerned about retaining wall near sports stadium, Wurzbach Parkway
A retaining wall that sits just feet away from a Northeast Side sports stadium is the cause for some big concerns. Heroes Stadium is near Wurzbach Parkway and Thousand Oaks . City officials say a nearby retaining wall was illegally and incorrectly built...The retaining wall is not causing any problems right now. However, city inspectors told News 4 WOAI if the wall were to fail, it could cause some major damage to Wurzbach Parkway. Read more...

Wall Street Journal - Pulte-Centex Under Pressure Agree to Buy Back Homes
Pulte Offers To Buy Back Damaged Homes in Texas
The builder has not addressed other residents' complaints of reduced property values, leaving some angry. "We've worked all our lives for nothing,"resident Dell Hammett told the San Antonio Express-News. "It makes us sick."  But since the collapse, six homes have sold at prices similar to before the slope's failure, Ms. Dolenga said, a sign the community is holding value.  In late January, about 90 houses were evacuated following a "significant soil movement" underneath some of the homes. Read more...

Austin-Stateman: Pulte-Centex to buy back Texas Homes
Builder offers to buy homes in Texas landslide
The builder of a San Antonio development partially evacuated after a landslide in January has offered to buy back 27 homes. Spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga said Wednesday that Dallas-based Centex Homes is offering to buy back the homes because homeowners will likely need to remain evacuated for six more months. The homeowners had to leave Jan. 24 when a landslide began and a retaining wall split. Centex, which is owned by Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Pulte Homes Inc., said once it has approval from city officials, it will build a new $5 million retaining wall to prevent future landslides. Construction will take six months.  Read more...

Rivermist Residents Rallied Wednesday
Centex Agrees to Buy Back Rivermist Homes
They are buying back homes, but some Rivermist residents are still not happy. Since a retaining wall collapsed in January, homeowners have been uprooted and some still are not back in their home. As Rivermist residents rallied Wednesday in front of their homes, the builder Pulte homes offered buy backs to the 27 homeowners still displaced.  Pulte homes says they will rebuild the entire retaining wall that collapsed. They are also promising to inspect all similar walls city-wide that are more than four feet tall and built within the last three years. FOX 29 Grace White Reporting

KSAT 12: Rivermist Community Comes Together
Pulte To Buy Back 27 Rivermist Homes
The families who live in those homes have been under an evacuation order since the slope failed, causing structural damage to several homes, putting several others at risk. Wednesday evening, residents in the subdivision gathered in front of the damaged homes, and called on Pulte to do right by the remaining homeowners, some of whom say they have already seen serious structural damage to their homes, which they believe was caused by the slope failure. "Our issue is that Pulte doesn't want to talk to us," said John Schneider, who owns a home across from where the slope failed. "The only communication we've had from Pulte is through their attorneys. What we're looking is for for them to talk to us about taking care of us." Read more...

River Mist Homeowners Protest
Builder offers to buy back homes after landslide
The builder of a San Antonio development partially evacuated after a landslide in January has offered to buy back 27 homes. Spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga said Wednesday that Dallas-based Centex Homes is offering to buy back the homes because homeowners will likely need to remain evacuated another six months. The homeowners had to leave Jan. 24 when a landslide began and a retaining wall split.  WOAI 4 News Report      Read more...

KENS 5 Report: Resident Rally to get Homes Bought Back
Hills of Rivermist residents rally, demand buybacks
It's been weeks since a massive retaining wall failure left an entire subdivision questioning the safety of their homes. Now, dozens from the Hills of Rivermist subdivision are demanding action by Pulte-Centex homes.  They say they are frustrated with the lack of progress.  Stacia Willson has the full story. KENS 5: Stacia Willson Reports

Rivermist Community Rally for Buy Backs
Buyback offers for 27 homes at Rivermist
Centex Homes will offer to buy back 27 homes in a Northwest Side neighborhood and plans to spend $4 million to $5 million to rebuild a massive retaining wall that collapsed Jan. 24. Carlos Pena, who bought a house a few months ago at the top of the slope, stood at his back door and pointed to where the earth fell away from his house. The area where his back porch once stood now drops straight down at least 10 feet and his entire backyard sank.He has received a buyback offer but said it doesn't address the stress his family has experienced. �It's not enough,� Pena said.  Read more...

Express-News Editorial Board - City Inspector Bribes
City inspector probe merits Council scrutiny
Misconduct by rank-and-file city employees is far less conspicuous than misconduct by city leaders. But it can be every bit as destructive to public confidence. When it involves the enforcement of city codes, it can pose even greater dangers to public safety...City Council should monitor the investigation's progress closely. The taint of impropriety can't be allowed to mar city government. Enforcement of the city's building code shouldn't be up for sale.  Read more...

Closed Door meeting by City and Builder Over More Shifting of Hillside
Soil still shifing along the Hills of Rivermist  
Pulte-Centex homes says the soil is still moving in the Hills of Rivermist. New reports of cracks in walls had the homebuilder back on the site with engineers, doing soil testing. The company confirms it hasn't stopped the ground from shifting along some portions of the failed retaining wall.  Read more...

Star-Telegram - Bob Perry's Day in Court Cost Him $58 Million
Jury awards $58 million to Mansfield couple in home builder lawsuit
The Culls filed suit in December 2000 in an attempt to get Perry Homes to fix structural and foundation problems that started shortly after they moved into their 2,900-square-foot, four-bedroom house near Walnut Creek Country Club in 1996.The case became politically charged as it moved through the judicial process. Perry Homes is owned by Bob Perry, who has contributed heavily to judicial candidates and political action committees in Texas . Warranty Underwriters Insurance Co. in Houston is also a defendant. "It became more of a mission and less about the home," Cull said. "We're still in that battle."  Read more...

New York Times: Creaking Sounds of Foundations from Shifting Soil
Shifting Soil Threatens Homes' Foundations
STEVEN DERSE, the owner of a corporate travel business in Nashville , cannot feel his house move, but he can hear it. "It's an eerie creaking sound," he said, and it echoes throughout his two-story Georgian-style house.  It started two years ago when a severe drought contracted the soil beneath the foundation, which caused it to crack and sink, pulling the house down with it. The noise has continued intermittently, becoming more insistent last year when flooding pushed the already compromised foundation and house back upward. Read more...

Express News, Mark Eberwine weighs in on the ' Mud Lake of Rivermist'
Little Rivermists are everywhere in San Antonio
What is going on over at the Hills of River Mist is just 'the tip of the iceberg' in San Antonio . The 'Mud Lake of Rivermist' would have been a more appropriate name. All over San Antonio and the surrounding areas just outside anybody's oversight, subdivision after subdivision have been built where thousands of homes have had foundations constructed on improperly prepared lots. Read more...



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