City of Austin Ruins Man's Home, Gives Him the Bill for the "Service"; He Now Sues

Details from the Austin-American Statesman:

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....

Del Rio said the space in question started out as a Cold War-era fallout shelter — by no means uncommon at the time — which he later expanded into what he described as a work space when he took possession of the family home.

According to city records, code compliance inspectors visited Del Rio's house in 2008 and 2009 in response to neighbors' complaints about holes. In 2009, records show, he built a retaining wall that he said also elicited a complaint.

Yep, there's a political paranoia angle--not Del Rio's, but the city's:

Del Rio's description of his questioning by police and city officials in May 2010 suggests that they thought they might have another "Unabomber" on their hands. They questioned why he was shirtless and his hair was messed up. His response was that he had been awakened at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. City crews also found military memorabilia, inoperable hand grenades and a collection of about a dozen firearms in the home.

Del Rio's lawyers Monday produced documents stating that Del Rio was a military veteran with a high security clearance who later worked as a part-time security guard for the Austin City Council.

"He guarded the council 22 years, and now nobody's guarding his rights," lawyer Mack Ray Hernandez said.

Ah, the "services" the city provided!

Del Rio also said officials concreted in the basement, fenced and locked the perimeter of the home and removed utility meters, making the house, in its current state, uninhabitable. The suit says that at the time of the seizure, Travis Central Appraisal District records put the house's reasonable fair market value at upward of $172,000.

But--public safety? Not really:

Round Rock structural engineer Jeffrey Tucker, whom Del Rio hired when he was putting in the 9-foot concrete and steel rebar retaining wall, said he inspected the wall and the rest of the house in 2009.

"It appeared it was structurally safe," Tucker said Monday. "I did not see anything that indicated it would fall in."

A video interview with Del Rio appears at Off Grid Survival, that article also featuring this detail: Austin "brought in contractors and completely filled in his entire basement and bunker with 264 tons of concrete."

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  • wareagle||

    They questioned why he was shirtless and his hair was messed up.

    WTF? Now we're going to have appearance monitors for how folks look in their own homes?. I hope a jury of sane individuals rules for him and forces Austin to cut him a very large check, not just for its own stupidity, but also for its assholery. And, that ought to be a real word.

  • Abdul||

    In a world where bad hair day now equals suspicious activity, only the bald are above scrutiny.

  • sloopyinca||

    Good. It's about time we got the respect from our overlords we've been fucked out of for so long.

  • Abdul||

    Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

  • fish||

    Is it okay to hate you for other reasons?

  • T||

    You never have to ask permission to hate around here, fish.

  • SKR||

    Everyone already knows that evil = hair loss. Just look at Monty Burns and Dr. Evil.

  • Loki||

    Nope. Bald will equal "skinhead".

  • Brandon||

    And "skinhead" will only be acceptable if you are a current servant of the state.

  • R C Dean||

    City crews also found military memorabilia, inoperable hand grenades and a collection of about a dozen firearms in the home.

    Which probably could be found in at least 25% of the homes in Austin, never mind the rest of Texas.

    "It appeared it was structurally safe," Tucker said Monday. "I did not see anything that indicated it would fall in."

    So they seized his home, destroyed part of it, rendered it uninhabitable, and billed him for the privilege, all because his improvements were structurally sound?

    I'm hoping Reason keeps an eye on his case. I'll be interested to see how it turns out.

  • Brett L||

    If he's got a good lawyer, he'll get a change of venue outside of Travis county, and then he's got the case won. Who outside of Austin doesn't want to see them taken down a peg?

  • John||

    Which probably could be found in at least 25% of the homes in Austin, never mind the rest of Texas.

    I think that might be a bit high for Austin. Remember, Keep Austin Retarded.

    There is a reason why the rest of the state hates that place. Texas took all of their retards and put them in a captive breeding program known as Austin.

  • Brett L||

    No. I assure you, the flavor of stupid is different, but Texas has plenty. My counter-argument would start with Vidor.

  • John||

    Fair point. I guess I should add East Texas to the retard breeding program.

  • Loki||

    Note: Vidor is not all of "East Texas". Some people from East Texas even go on to become Aerospace Engineers. There are plenty of retards and non-retards anywhere you go.

    The problem with Austin is that the retards are actually running the place.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    +1

  • Brandon||

    This. With the state government being there, all the intelligent politically-minded people in Austin go for state office, which leaves the unpopular busybody tards who would normally be on HOA boards to run the city government.

  • Ramjet||

    Yes. Not only does the City Council want us to ride our bikes to work (lovely in August in 110 degree weather) or take a billion dollar slow commuter train and walk 8 blocks (same weather), the mayor also wants to control the number of buttons on our remotes. Seriously.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Wasn't the remote control thing an April Fools' joke?

    Austin would be great, if you got rid of about half of the people who had moved there from California in the last 10 years. What is it about TX mayors and their love of these stupid little, at-grade Tonka trains?

  • Spoonman.||

    From what I know of it, Vidor may be the worst place in the United States. Maybe not as bad as Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

    Anybody know if that "He Got Away with Murder - in Vidor" billboard is still up on I-10?

  • R C Dean||

    I think that might be a bit high for Austin.

    Maybe not as high as you think. There are still plenty of Texans there.

  • John||

    In Georgetown and Round Rock sure. But Austin proper? Maybe 25% but no more.

  • LarryA||

    Add gangbangers.

  • Brandon||

    John, have you never met a Texan? Nobody hates Austin (Well, except probably Del Rio, now, but even that's the City Council and not Austin itself), it's the Switzerland of the Houston/Dallas century-long pissing contest and it's where the rest of Texas goes on vacation, some of us for 4 years at a time. There may be like 20 idiots in Lubbock who actually hate Austin.

  • ||

    Dunno, I was in San Antonio on vacation a few years back, and ran into several people who made comments about "the fucking People's Republic of Austin" or whatnot.

    The California of Texas.

  • Mensan||

    Same here. I've never been to Austin, but when I was living in San Antonio (FSH), I never heard a positive word about Austin except from these hippee college kids down on River Walk.

  • daveInAustin||

    This is an example of government getting in the way of tinkerers. How would Thomas Edison do today if his neighbors started complaining to the zoning board. Look at the 2600 block W 12th Street and you will see an equally dangerous place next to a school that has just been left for years. It's owned by a large developer, not a quirky old man so it is allowed to be left in place.

  • fried wylie||

    Tesla would've gotten lynched real fast.

  • Tim||

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    His mistake was not appealing to the tinpot dictators known as building inspectors for permission.

  • ||

    Because that's what government is there for. To get in the fucking way.

  • sloopyinca||

    I guess Ken Shultz was right about Texans. Oh wait, the only fuckheads in this story are the enlightened progressives running the hellhole called Austin.

    Methinks a city run by rednecks wouldn't have fucked this guy over as bad.'

    Cunts!

  • wareagle||

    a city run by rednecks would be somewhat impressed by the guy's ingenuity and as long as he was not screwing with his neighbors, sure as hell would not storm the gates on a Saturday morning.

  • Brandon||

    They chose Saturday for the overtime pay.

  • juris imprudent||

    A proper city council would've been down there drinking beer with him admiring his work.

    I'm guess the Austin City Council fancies itself Berserkley or Portlandia.

  • Abdul||

    The guy seems to be going out of his way to deny that the space was a "bunker."

    I'm thinking: "So what? don't we have a right to bunker?"

  • Surly Chef||

    From the wording of the articles and linked page it would seem he didn't even build the bunker and that it was there before he was owner of the property. He simply added amenities so it could be more than just a bunker.

  • NoTalentAssclown||

    As an Austin resident, Austin is most definitely a stupid Blue dot in the middle of a mostly Red state. The city government is very progressive, including the fascination with the choo-chho trains...

  • rho||

    Austin's a nice place ruined by hipsters.

  • juris imprudent||

    It started with Slackers and went downhill from there.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Bet this guy's on a no-fly list AND the SPLC's hate-group section of their website.

  • fried wylie||

    started out as a Cold War-era fallout shelter - by no means uncommon at the time - which he later expanded into what he described as a work space

    Exactly what I'd do. the Underground Lair appeal is just too much to resist.

    (FYI, add those double-width hyphens to the list of 50+chars-too-long triggers.)

  • R C Dean||

    No kidding.

    There are also people who have roofed over their swimming pools for an Underground Lair. Which strikes me as the only reason to buy a house with a swimming pool.

  • fried wylie||

    no skimming leaves from a properly designed underground lair.

  • ||

    So the city of Austin is Mr. House?

  • ant1sthenes||

    I didn't see where they filled in his Fallout shelter with concrete.

  • Obese American||

    Keep Austin Statist!

  • T||

    The real motto of the City Council.

  • Brendan||

    Yep, all about safety of the structure. Which explains why they did nothing (as I read) to the structure and focused obsessively on the basement.

    At what point is it acceptable for a person in this situation to go out shooting a la Carl Drega or perhaps go big like Timoth McVeigh?

  • ||

    Austin =/= Texas
    Austin = Berkeley + 30 degrees.

    Then again, any city with The Whip In rates A#1 on my civilization list.

  • R C Dean||

    They need to open a branch: The Whip Out.

  • NoTalentAssclown||

    that is MY spot. I go there at least a couple of times a week. Actually eating some butter bourbon chicken as I type.

  • ||

    Funny, you never gave me the Libertarian Recognition Symbol. Pecan Porter, panaani, and Lee Barber playing a set- more fun than I've ever had that didn't involve blowjobs.

  • NoTalentAssclown||

    I must've left my monocle at home that day...

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