Where I Live: Terrell Heights – San Antonio Report

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San Antonio Report
Nonprofit journalism for an informed community
The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.
When I was in high school, way back in the late ’90s, I loved hanging out at the houses of friends who lived in a cute little cottage district called Terrell Heights. The homes were modest, the yards were tidy but not overly-manicured, and there was more diversity in the working-class families that lived there compared to the other neighborhoods in the “Tri-Cities,” as Olmos Park, Alamo Heights, and Terrell Hills are known locally.
The majority of homes were built in the 1940s, as well as the mammoth Sunset Ridge Apartments, which were intended for military families from nearby Fort Sam. A lot of young families start out here before moving on to larger, more impressive homes in the adjoining neighborhoods. But just as many families stick around, content with their homes, schools, and neighborhood. 

About 11 years ago I was lucky enough to buy my first home in Terrell Heights. That house, on West Meadowlane, was the perfect place for me and my toddler, Eloise, Boston Terrier, Wallace, and eventually my mom. As a recently divorced single mom, I was limited on what I could find in my budget. Though tiny, the house had a huge backyard that backed up to the grounds of the McNay Art Museum, which remains one of my favorite places to visit. 
Both my ex-husband and I went to high school at Alamo Heights High School, and it was important to us to have our daughter go to school in the district. While it still lacks diversity, the quality of teachers and staff, as well as the amount of community involvement, makes Alamo Heights public schools some of the best in the state. I thought I would be able to provide a safe and comfortable life here, and it certainly has been. 
We loved that house and our neighbors, but as my daughter grew, we were in need of more space. Luckily for us, my parents decided to stay in the house and rent it from me while Eloise was young so that they could be close by to help out. My fairy godmother of an aunt-in-law decided she wanted to buy an investment property in the neighborhood and found a beautiful house about six blocks away.
Eloise and I, and the dog, moved into our current home in the summer of 2017. Wallace has since passed, but we’ve adopted Duncan and Rosie in the last few years, and we are now a happy family of three humans and five dogs; my boyfriend Ben and his dogs moved in after the February winter storm. Things are a little tight (and hairy), but we are very happy.
With the median price of homes sitting around $360,000 these days, I’m not sure we would be able to afford anything in this neighborhood now. I’m very grateful to be able to rent from a family member at a reasonable rate. Skyrocketing home prices all over San Antonio are making it harder and harder for the working class to afford to live here. Seeing the market change so quickly, we can’t help thinking about what happened in Austin and fearing the same will happen here.
Some of the perks of the hood: excellent and relatively affordable schools, traffic is almost non-existent, our crime rate is low, and people are friendly. One of the best aspects is its proximity to everything. I can get to the airport in under 15 minutes, downtown 15 minutes, and U.S. Highway 281 and Loop 410 are easily accessible within 10 minutes. I’m lucky to have the majority of my business within central San Antonio, so I don’t have the daily commute to suffer through.
We have plenty of grocery options nearby, along with chain retailers, as well as small businesses. Several exercise studios, art galleries, and beauty salons are within a mile of us. The Sunset Ridge Shopping Center and surrounding area is a favorite. You can find great casual restaurants like EZ’s, Twin Sisters, Boss Bagels, and Adelante. Our awesome vet, Alamo Heights Pet Clinic, is located there. Sunset & Co., Mike’s Dog Store, Invitations, Etc., and Tackle Box Outfitters are staples in the neighborhood, and there is the fabulous Good Goods boutique on Austin Highway. The city recently passed measures to redevelop and beautify the Austin Highway corridor, while we are not excited about one of our major arteries being under construction for a long time, we are eager to see the improvements. 
I often joke that we are a “progressive island in the Red Sea,” as we typically lean more left than the surrounding high-income areas. I am proud to drive down the streets of Terrell Heights during election season and see tons of support for progressive candidates via yard signs.
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Unfortunately, many of these yards, including mine, were recently vandalized after a heated school board election. Those of us who supported a progressive Black candidate, as well as other Democratic candidates in local, state, and national races, found large swaths of our yards sprayed with an herbicide, causing thousands of dollars in damages. Other areas of Alamo Heights were hit as well, including the community garden. It was a stark reminder of the racism, classism, and bullying that continues to be an issue in our area. It was also a reminder of how much work we still have to do. As neighbors, we often come together for social events, but it’s also important to come together to address difficult issues.
We have an active neighborhood association and a beautiful community garden maintained by our neighbors. There are activities such as a neighborhood garage sale, movie nights, and a Halloween party. We have Scates Park, a favorite of all the kids, as well as several pocket parks that add much-needed appreciated green spaces. You will be hard-pressed to drive through the neighborhood and not see joggers, families with strollers, and tons of dogs walking their owners. We’ve noticed a lot more front yard furniture over the last year and a half. Seeing neighbors hanging out, chatting with each other, families spending quality time together, it’s really wonderful. There are families moving in and out all the time, but there is always a familiar face around. There is so much that doesn’t change over the years, and that is all right by us. 


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