City owned a faulty retaining wall

City owned a faulty retaining wall

Faulty retaining wall
Photo courtesy of Ernest Ruiz

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.

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.

“There were rocks all over the place,” said Ruiz, a 72-year-old rancher who has been buying property in the area since the 1980s and now has about 265 acres that he calls Leon Creek Ranch. “When that rain came, it tore everything right down the middle.”

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.

Ruiz found it ironic that the city criticized Centex Homes for not pulling a permit for the wall at the Hills of Rivermist, while the city suffered its own wall failure.

Jen’s story about the legal dispute featured some colorful details about the ranch — how Ruiz’s family likes to play cards on poker nights and fish for perch, and how the rumble of jets at Lackland AFB drowns out the country tunes from the AM radio in Ruiz’s Toyota pickup.

I like articles that paint a scene for the reader. One way to do that is to write descriptions that engage all the senses — not just how something looks, but how it sounds and smells and feels. Jen’s story makes you feel like you’re sitting in the truck cab with the old rancher, going along for the ride.