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City Seeks to Improve Demolition Permit System

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
Jumpolin Rentals store owner Monica Lejarazul (right) and neighbor Diane Ontiberos (left) look on as a fence is erected around the remains of the storefront in February.

A City Council committee is directing staff to look at adding requirements to the demolition permit system that would ensure tenants are notified of planned tear-downs.

During a review of the city’s demolition permits, the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee heard from Sergio Lejarazu, the former owner of Jumpolin, the East Austin piñata store that was torn down in February with the merchandise still inside. 

Council member Greg Casar said the issue at hand was common sense.

“It seems rational to me that if you own a business, you should receive notification from your landlord if they’re going to demolish the building with enough time for you to remove things from the building,” he said.

City staff said the application a property owner fills out before wrecking a site does not ask whether or not tenants are currently living in the building. While relationships between landlords and tenants are handled by the state, Casar asked staff to look into any city regulations that could prevent incidents like the one at Jumpolin from happening again.

“This was a pretty serious story of what happened in our community, and I want to know what it is that city processes can and should legally do to review these demolition permits,” Casar said.

The committee asked city staff to follow up with a memo with suggestions on how to ensure that demolition permits aren't released to people with tenants still in the building.

When Jumpolin on East Cesar Chavez was torn down in February, it was still full of piñatas and party supplies. Lejarazu says he and his wife received no notice of its demolition, though the property owners say they had told the tenants it would be torn down months earlier.