My apartment at the Wood Ridge apartment complex is hard to recognize in the articles I have been reading (and stories on the news). My 2nd-floor home has high ceilings and is full of light. The view through sliding glass doors looks out on some plantings on a grassy hillside. It is on a bus line, is close to downtown, and the rent is reasonable. I chose it from among seven other complexes, newer, more modern, but with less character and useful space. The leasing agent was proud to tell me that it had been designed by a recognized architect, and had been student residences for many years until the neighborhood changed.
It is not Travis Heights, of course. The AC might be as old as the building, 40 years, according to articles. I wish there were more insulation in the roof. The floor slopes a little. However, the septic lines have never been obstructed, and, unlike our fomer home in south Texas there are no cockroaches or bugs. In three years here, I never noticed cracking, splitting, or shaking of the walkway that would hint at a duplication of the problems of Building 2 where the walkway collapsed on May 16th.
We were given half an hour to collect some belongings (longer than people had in the Bastrop fires) for an unknown time away from our home. I wore the same clothes every day, ate unhealthy food, didn't get much exercise, did not complete paperwork in a timely manner, could not transfer title to a car, and was unable to access the information I needed to complete my father's obituary. Our lives were on hold. I am grateful for the crews of Camp Construction for completing the work required so quickly, so that we could return in just under 3 weeks. The management company, gave us $500 (our deposit plus reimbursement for our displacement time) within just a few days, in case we needed it to pay for accommodation, or rent a new place. There were no strings attached.
The 15 buildings in the complex are arranged on a hillside. Each faces in a different way on the slope, to drainage, to the sun and the rain. Last summer, the Statesman ran articles about the ways in which the drought was affecting the foundations of homes and the shifting of the pipes. At Wood Ridge, on a lower level of the complex, the concrete around the swimming pool heaved up. At the lowest part of the property, where Bulding 2 is located, the City had to reset a hydrant because the pipes had shifted, and a seep developed on a lawn near the street.
The previous management company had been notified that there were problems and the current one was in the process of arranging for repairs when, after two bouts of heavy spring rain, the walkway of Building 2 collapsed. Was the collapse caused the type of construction? Its location on the slope? Its orientation to the rain? Or was it caused by shifts in the foundation? We will be finding out. The walkways of five other buildings had the same type of construction, but not the same orientation or position on the property at all, From the photographs we've seen in the paper and at the Building and Standards Commission meeting, it is not clear if Code Compliance checked those other buildings' walkways and found even the smallest signs of imminent collapse before issuing the order to vacate to forty families at six o'clock on a Friday night.
Let us hope that the disruption that was caused by this action is vindicated by actual evidence of imminent collapse and wasn't an opportunistic high-publicity stunt at the expense of distressed renters. And until the facts are known, this situation should not be an opportunity for grandstanding as was so evident at that meeting. Working calmly and professionally to resolve problems should surely be the most productive attitude, and could even encompass the City's goals of ensuring affordable housing in Austin. I and the other residents will be looking forward to your updates.