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Onion Creek Area Homeowners Frustrated Over City's Buyout Delay

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
Ruined furniture was piled on the side of South Pleasant Valley Road on Oct. 31, 2015.

Yet again, homeowners in the Onion Creek area spent Saturday cleaning up after torrential rains flooded their homes, for the second time since the Halloween floods of 2013. And this time around, some residents are losing patience.

That includes homeowners like Jose Vara, who was feeling angry as he stood outside his home wearing tall black rubber boots. His house got about six inches of water inside. From the door you could see mud all over the house floor. 

"Right now you see there’s no one," Vara said. "They weren’t here yesterday."

No one, as in no police officers or city officials coming by to talk to them. 

"We’re thinking of looking for a lawyer and go[ing] a different way this time," he says. "We’re not going to let the city do us like they did the last time."

Emma Weijers lives a couple houses down the street from Vara. She last heard from the city in an email around June about being approved for a buyout of her home from the 2013 floods, and like Vara, she feels frustrated that no one’s walking around the neighborhood on this day.

"Where is the city again? Last time it took them five days to come out," Weijers said. "I’ll see how long it takes for them to come out. It’s not a matter of urgency to them, they don’t get any votes here. We’re all low-income families here, they don’t give a crap. That’s what it comes down to."

Credit Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
The house of Maria Medel was among the hardest hit in the Onion Creek area, after the October 2015 flooding.

Maria Medel’s house on Onion Creek Drive and Onion Crossing is in pretty bad shape . All the furniture is ruined; some doors had come off the hinges. Her flood insurance expired a month ago, and she didn’t renew because the city had already appraised her house as part of the buyout.

"Well, we were just waiting on that, but it seems like they’re taking forever," Medel said. "So I have no idea what’s going to happen now."

She’s worried the city will now appraise her house for less. 

Across the street, one homeowner, who wouldn't give his name, was taking this all in stride. He says he’d even stay in this neighborhood if the city gives him enough money. 

"A lot of our neighbors are moving to Kyle, Buda, San Antonio, Bastrop," he said. "We want to stay in Austin, in 78744 if possible."

He says it’s likely not going to work out that way, because the amount he'd need to make his house flood-proof would be a lot.

Credit Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
A homeowner on Onion Creek Drive shows a picture of the water level that covered his car on Oct. 30, 2015, just one day before the water had receded.

"I guess we just have to take our losses and move on," he added.

For what it's worth to them, Jerry Reynolds with the Austin Code Department says he understands their frustration.

"Their whole life has changed just in a matter of hours," Reynolds said. "So we try to understand them and work with them. I feel for them."

Despite complaints of not having any city help, Reynolds says crews are going through the affected area and assessing the damage — they’re just not going door-to-door. I saw fire trucks and cable company vans roaming around– assessing the damage, and even fixing it, too. Homeowners who have a house too dangerous to live in will likely be notified sometime Monday.

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