Man sues city over seizure of house with underground shelter
Two years ago today, Joe Del Rio was awakened to find city officials at the door of his lifelong home in East Austin, demanding entry. Before it was over, the Police Department’s SWAT team and the Fire Department had been deployed, and Del Rio said he was detained and questioned for about 10 hours because of what officials called a multilevel bunker-like space under the house with suspicious and unusual materials.
After the city billed Del Rio in April for about $90,000 in repairs it said were critical to make the home on Canterbury Street safe, Del Rio sued the City of Austin last week for what his lawyers say was a heavy-handed and unconstitutional seizure of his property without compensation.
“The ordeal they put me through was unnecessary,” Del Rio, now 72, said the afternoon before the second anniversary of his forced eviction. “I’ve gotten the runaround. I think they want the property. Condemning it is a cheap way to get it.”
The city released this statement in response to the suit: “The City of Austin has yet to be served with a lawsuit from Mr. Del Rio; however, actions taken by the City at 2006 Canterbury St. were done due to a public safety risk caused by the structure located on the property.”