SpaceX Is Trying to Force Residents Out of a Small Texas Village

Two residents of Boca Chica Village, Texas, say that SpaceX has given them a Friday deadline to accept an offer to buy their homes.
October 2, 2020, 1:00pm
Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 6
Image: VICE TV

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is trying to force longtime residents out of their homes in the small community of Boca Chica Village, Texas. Boca Chica Village is up the road from SpaceX’s Texas launch center and representatives from the company have given residents until Friday to accept the most recent offer on their home. The homeowners tell Motherboard that SpaceX’s offers are insultingly low and that they aren’t budging.

SpaceX has been trying to buy property owned by the people of Boca Chica Village for more than a year. It initially offered residents what it said was three times the appraised value of their homes—roughly $150,000. Some people took the money, but many others said no. SpaceX then reduced the offer to two times the home's appraised value. The beach is part of a wildlife preserve and is one of the only undeveloped beaches in Texas. The community is near SpaceX's Launch Facility.

Then VICE TV aired a documentary about Boca Chica and the community’s clash with Musk. After the documentary aired, SpaceX reached out to the remaining residents again and once again promised them three times the appraised value of their homes to leave, according to the email obtained by VICE. In an email obtained by VICE, David Finlay, SpaceX’s Senior Director of Finance, told Boca Chica Village residents that this would be SpaceX’s final and best offer and threatened the company would need to pursue alternate means to obtain the homes if the people of Boca Chica Village turned down the money.

Finlay sent emails to the Boca Chica holdouts this week and spoke with some of them on the phone. “As follow up to our recent discussions, I am writing to confirm SpaceX’s offer to purchase your property,” Finlay’s email said. “I note that this past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of SpaceX’s initial offer to purchase your property. During that time, SpaceX has endeavored to ensure a fair and equitable process for all residents located within the designated South Texas Spaceport at Boca Chica Beach.”

“In addition to the tremendous community support SpaceX has received, I have enjoyed getting to know you personally over the last year. It’s been a pleasure to learn about your connection to

the area, answer your questions, review the basis for the purchase offer, and share information on the public safety requirements associated with launch operations,” the email said. “As we have discussed, as the scale and frequency of spaceflight activities at the site continue to accelerate, your property will frequently fall within established hazard zones in which no civilians will be permitted to remain, in order to comply with all federal and other public safety regulations. This email therefore represents SpaceX’s best and final purchase offer.”

“I turned down the offer because it’s not enough,” Boca Chica Village resident Celia Garcia said on the phone. “I don’t want to become a millionaire or get rich…I just want enough so that I can go to another coastal area a mile and half from the ocean, buy a three bedroom brick ranch like I have now.”

“I’m not saying it’s worth a lot, but for that amount of money you can’t find anything close to this,” Boca Chica Village resident Mary Bloomer said on the phone. “We’re not asking for a million dollars.”

Garcia didn’t buy Finlay’s argument that Boca Chica Village is in a dangerous space. Both she and Bloomer said that SpaceX has remodeled and repainted some of the homes other people sold last year. They said that sometimes SpaceX employees stay in these homes.

Garcia said that Finlay told her on the phone that the FAA was involved. “He said this has been declared a dangerous area by the FAA,” she said. “If it’s a dangerous area, why are they remodeling the homes they purchased instead of demolishing them? Why are they putting in a new septic system? Why did they advertise for a project coordinator to make this into a resort area with a bar and restaurant? Are they willing to endanger everybody else except us?”

According to a job posting on Greenhouse, SpaceX is currently looking for a Resort Development Manager. “SpaceX is committed to developing revolutionary space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets,” the posting said. “Boca Chica Village is our latest launch site dedicated to Starship, our next generation launch vehicle.”

“I don’t see how they can even justify kicking us out for his little resort idea,” Bloomer said. “If we were to buy land [in the area] we couldn’t build because the county has all kind of restrictions. But they can do whatever they want.”

Finlays email gave a hard deadline for the residents of Boca Chica Village to sell their homes. “The offer will expire on October 2, 2020,” the email said. “Please be advised that should this offer expire, SpaceX may need to pursue alternative approaches to ensuring that launch operations within the State designated South Texas Spaceport at Boca Chica Beach can be conducted within all necessary public safety requirements.”

Both Garcia and Bloomer said they’re not opposed to moving, they just want a fair price for their property. “I want them to treat us decent,” Garcia said. “I don’t want to supplement Elon’s income any further. He’s already using my tax dollars for the next ten years. Now he wants me to give him my home for nothing? No.”

Garcia said she’s been frustrated by how excited people have gotten over Musk’s plan to explore space. “People are kind of blind because they’re so excited about [Musk] working on sending people to Mars,” she said. “Mars is 40 million miles away…he should be spending his money some other way to make this Earth a better place. We’re already in it, make it a better place to live.”

Local politicians have been no help, and Garcia said she’s heard them say that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. “Well the rights of the few protects the rights of the many,” she said.

Both Bloomer and Garcia have turned down the offer and are waiting to see what happens. “We’re in it till the end,” Bloomer said.

SpaceX did not respond to our request for comment.