Muni Auditorium scuffle continues before possible legal challenge

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Attorneys for residents opposing plans to gut the historic Municipal Auditorium in order to plant the multi-million dollar Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in its shell and those tasked with carrying out the said gutting toured the inside of the 1926 building Friday afternoon, reaching a tentative agreement that could delay for two weeks a potential lawsuit that could force the construction to stop.

Opponents such as local attorney Sharyl Teneyuca have objected to the demolition of significant elements of the auditorium to make way for the bond-funded Tobin Center. “Right now they say they’re removing asbestos from the building. I obviously don’t care if they remove asbestos, but I don’t want them to tear down any walls or impact the structure of the building, seeing as they’re already removing things from the inside,” said Teneyuca.

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However, auditorium lighting and seating have also been removed, she said, as has the metal lettering across the front of the building spelling out “Municipal Auditorium” (right).

Opponents are both inspired and informed by the successful community lawsuit that stopped the city’s retooling of a drainage project that would have rerouted floodwaters into the San Antonio River’s headwaters instead of a concrete culvert further south on Broadway as originally spelled out in the language of the bond. “Once you go to the voters and say you’re doing ‘X,’ you can’t change that unless you go back to the voters,” Teneyuca said.

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Attorneys for the County are hoping to delay any legal action until Bexar County Performing Arts Foundation head Bruce Bugg returns from Europe to join the discussion, she added. “They basically want to buy two weeks until Bruce Bugg gets back into town, and we want to make sure in the interim they don’t do anything to significantly alter the building.”

Teneyuca quit practicing law recently to focus on completing a novel about her aunt, the radical organizer and San Antonio cultural icon Emma Tenayuca (of slightly different spelling), who led a famous strike of San Antonio's pecan shellers in the 1930s. One of the most popular stories involving Tenayuca occurred in 1939 when an angry mob stormed the auditorium as she was prepared to address a meeting of the Communist Party there, forcing her to escape out the back.

Teneyuca is being assisted in her literary effort by celebrated author Carmen Tafolla. While a "very well known" actress has lobbied hard for the right to produce it as a feature film, Teneyuca said she is is committed to seeing at least a portion of the film being shot in San Antonio and ensuring the screenplay adaptation keeps as close as possible to actual historical events.

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