04/27/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MARCH OF PROGRESS, AS PERFORMED BY HOUSTON MIXED USE PROJECT PLANS Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019Rendering 1: Shiny multifamily tower, midrise condo and office buildings, multilevel retail center with parking neatly concealed in above- and below-ground garages tucked under the buildings. Sleek architecture looking like something on Vancouver Island or in Dubai. Rendering 2: [Single] midrise office building and 6-story stucco apartment complex with hats. Big parking garage with a 2 story retail strip center wrapped around one side. Rendering 3: 4-story ‘Houston wrap’ apartment complex. One-story strip center with big parking lot. Final rendering: Large strip center with big box anchor and acres of parking. Architecture identical to retail center recently built in Pearland. [Old School, commenting on New Gleaming Mixed-Use Visions of a Former Fourth Ward Incinerator Brownfield] Outdated rendering of mixed-use development planned along Allen Pkwy.: Tianqing Group

04/26/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW HOUSTON GOT ITS SPRAWL, AND OTHER TALES OF PSEUDOZONING Illustration of Oversized Parking Lot“Blame our city’s efforts at ‘planning’ in lieu of zoning. In the early 70’s, due to insufficient wastewater infrastructure, the city enacted a ban on apartment buildings of more than 4 units inside the Loop (driving much of apartment development to Uptown and Meyerland) and enforced a 5000-sq.-ft. minimum lot size. This gave rise to the Montrose 4-plex (of which there are still some examples remaining), but put a cap on residential density inside the loop. Then in the 1980’s, we got 25-ft building setbacks, followed by mandatory minimum parking requirements. This added a cap on commercial density to go with the cap on residential density. The rest is history: for the next couple of decades, the car became the focal point of the built environment, and we became the low-density city we are today. With repeal of some of the more retrograde density caps we’re starting to get some residential density, but setbacks and parking minimums are still getting in the way of the necessary commercial density needed for real walkability.” [Angostura, commenting on Comment of the Day: No, Sprawl’s Not Just a Number After AllIllustration: Lulu

04/25/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE THAT DAYS INN TOWER FALLS ON THE HOUSTON ABANDONED HOTEL SPECTRUM Former Holiday Inn, Days Inn, and Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St., Downtown Houston“As much as I would prefer to see a building like this having some kind of economic use or value in its function, as long as it is not inviting of crime or danger, I don’t have issue with a building just sitting there — that is the owner’s prerogative. (Remember the Sheraton-Lincoln hotel? It sat vacant for years, graffiti-less and fully windowed; no one would have given it a second thought driving by.) In the past few months, the graffiti has exploded, and more and more windows are being broken out. I don’t know what happens when you smash a window 300 feet in the air, but I’m pretty sure those pieces come raining down near and around the building and onto the street. The owners need to do their part to keep the building secured to prevent the criminal activity, and prosecute the trespassers and vandals. Otherwise they are no better than the owners of the Southwest Inn.” [tmr, commenting on Downtown’s Preeminent Dilapidated Hotel Tower Now Outfitted To Greet I-45ers with New Nametags, Fewer Window Panes] Photo: Bob Russell

04/24/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: NO, SPRAWL’S NOT JUST A NUMBER AFTER ALL Illustration of Density, Houston“Only one of the neighborhoods cited on the ‘Houston’s not all sprawl‘ article even comes within shouting distance of what people think of when they say ‘East Coast density’ — and that’s Montrose. Two of the other neighborhoods (Gulfton and Westwood) have the residential density, but they lack the commercial density and the layout of a typical East Coast urban neighborhood. They’re basically a bunch of suburban-style apartment buildings shoved together. Pecan Park achieves its density level by cramming a lot of people into suburban-style single family houses and wasting very little space in between the suburban 5,500-sq.-ft. lots — but while it’s a cute little neighborhood, it too lacks commercial density. So basically, aside from Montrose and a couple other pockets of larger neighborhoods (i.e., northwest Midtown) there’s nothing here which even approaches a dense East Coast neighborhood, and we pretty much are all sprawl.” [Christian, commenting on Grand Central Park’s Official Debut; Houston’s Not All Sprawl] Illustration: Lulu

04/20/17 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A HOUSTON LITMUS TEST FOR PARKING LOT PROGRESS Parking Lot for Hobbit Cafe, Blue Fish House, and Yelapa Playa Mexicana, 2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston“That parking lot was epic for decades. Let’s hope it was actually reconstructed, and not just the lunar craters poured over with asphalt. The next good flood will tell.” [Miz Brooke Smith, commenting on Richmond Ave’s Contender for Worst Parking Lot in Houston Gets Smoothed Over] Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/18/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FOR WHOM THE TRAIN ROLLS Trains to Office Buildings“. . . The few large cities that you’re referring to, where central living expenses are far higher than Houston, all provide far more extensive mass transit options. I know I have multiple transit options after midnight in other large cities — not so for Houston. For those without reliable transportation and non-office hours, the availability of Park and Rides does not solve or address accessibility issues.” [joel, commenting on Grand Central Park’s Official Debut; Houston’s Not All Sprawl] Illustration: Lulu

04/14/17 4:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HOUSTON KEEPS ITS HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIPS STRICTLY PROFESSIONAL Witch Hat, circa December 2013“Houston is a city of practical and economical people. Emotion does not drive the focus of our communities like San Francisco or New Orleans. If it is economical to refurbish an old establishment for modern luxury, Houston will do it. If neighborhoods neglect their historic landmarks for 20 to 30 years and have the institutions fall into disrepair, they will cost the tax payers in a time where our budget is upside down.” [Mr.Clean19, commenting on Until We Forget the Alamo Wasn’t Always Just a Tex-Mex Chain] Photo of melted Witch’s Hat, since restored: Claude B. Anello

04/11/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: CAN WE LAY TO REST THAT POSITIVE VIEW OF HISTORY? Gravestone and Ravine, Olivewood Cemetery, First and Sixth Wards, Houston“If one of the Georges (or let’s say King George to round things out a little) happened to have been responsible for the destruction of some place — notable or otherwise, regarded as new or old at that particular moment in time — is that not an event deserving the adjective historical? Why must history be construed to reflect the addition to some facet of our tangible world, and never a subtraction from it? Is a repository of construction waste not historic simply because it lacks gingerbread affectations? If cemeteries can be historic, then why not a dump? . . . As a society, I think that we must acknowledge that the physical manifestation of our civilization is an ongoing work in progress. We should not mortgage our future to honor the past in this way.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: History is in the Eye of the Deedholder; previously on Swamplot] Photo of eroded grave in Olivewood Cemetery, ca. 2010:  J.R. Gonzales

04/10/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HISTORY IS IN THE EYE OF THE DEEDHOLDER Historic and Gone“Demolish your great aunt’s soup tureen! Every person wants to preserve her or his family history, yet is bonkers to bulldoze the neighbor’s. BS. All of it is Houston’s history — whether, or not, George Washington or George Bush slept there.” [movocelot, commenting on Texas May Demolish Your Local Preservation LawsIllustration of demolished historic structure: Lulu

04/07/17 5:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: TEXAS PROBLEMS WITH A TEXAS HYPERLOOP Cow Grazing on Subdivision“Setting aside the pie-in-the-sky[-ness of the] plan, is this track supposed to be underground 0r above ground? Either way, that’s going to cost a lot of money. And, talk about a tempting terrorist target. Underground: risk being buried alive. Above ground: risk being blown up in front of the people on the freeway. And cows. In front of cows.” [Hyperactive Imagination, commenting on Where a Houston Hyperloop Track Could LeadIllustration: Lulu

04/06/17 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ABSURDIST EVERYMAN’S VISIT TO HIS LOCAL MANAGEMENT DISTRICT BOARD Illustration of Master Planners“If you attend a TIRZ meeting at 8:00 AM on a Friday morning, you will realize the distrust and dissent that the TIRZ has created in a once cohesive community. As the meeting convenes, you can hear the roar of the cement truck in the background, covering every square foot of the TIRZ district with parking garages and multistory apartments. And where is the detention for all this impervious surface? The storm water runoff is detained in the residential streets and private homes of the surrounding neighborhoods. Just try signing up for the Public Comment period. Your 2 minutes disappear as the Chair detects an speaker unsympathetic to the TIRZ and cuts the mike. Your questions are not answered, so you try again, this time with an Open Records Request. Now you meet the TIRZ lawyers, plural, a sassy bunch, who can look you in the face and say with impunity that the record does not exist. It was just a typo.” [Long Time Houstonian, commenting on State Bill Would Call for TIRZ Elections in Certain Cities That End in ‑OUSTONIllustration: Lulu

04/03/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FOR IF YOU GAZE LONGINGLY AT TRENDY DEVELOPMENT, IT GAZES ALSO BACK AT YOU Looming Townhomes“All you ‘trendy people’ in Spring Branch need to bear in mind that even though your property values have risen dramatically, legacy homeowners don’t just immediately convert or turn over into ‘trendy people.’ That’s a process that takes time — [and] once it happens, you’ll feel nostalgia for the way things were. The newcomers won’t be ‘trendy’ — that term has positive connotations and you’ll reserve it for yourself. You will speak of them in derogatory tones, using words like yuppie and hipster. You’ll complain about how they’ve overrun your neighborhood, creating parking SNAFUs, cyclist-disrespecting traffic, and drunk drivers. You’ll complain about how closely packed the new townhomes are, even though you live in one; and about how loud the bars are, even though you bought a house next to one that had been there for 20 years. You’ll complain about how your property taxes rise 10 percent per year every year, and simultaneously protest new public housing, even though your unrealized capital gains are being subsidized by state statue — and you’ll demand even more subsidy! You might even vote for Dan Patrick. You’ll vote for localized prohibition and think that it’s ‘weird,’ kind of like living in Austin would be, except you don’t live in Austin and aren’t as weird as them — which is a terrible thing because they aren’t very weird either. You will have been co-opted by the powers that be. This is understandable. You were trendy, and will fall in line with somebody, sort of thoughtlessly, and complain relentlessly. That’s what it is to be trendy. It’s what you always wanted.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: Send the Trendies Outside the Loop, PleaseIllustration: Lulu

03/31/17 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SEND THE TRENDIES OUTSIDE THE LOOP, PLEASE Inside and Outside the Loop“Ridiculous that all trendy restaurants must be packed in the same area. Move out of the Loop and dominate. Spring Branch north of I-10 for example has Heights-y demographics but the restaurant dollars go elsewhere for the most part. Take a risk like some are already doing and venture out. The old Hollister Grill location is getting a trendy new restaurant and one of the bartenders from Anvil (I think it is) is opening up shop on Long Point Rd. Karbach’s already has a new restaurant on Karbach Street in Spring Branch. Sheesh people. Move outward!” [Spring Branch, commenting on Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s Are Not Dead Yet] Illustration: Lulu

03/28/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NO-BIKE-LANE BIKE PLAN Bike Rider in Traffic“There’s even a more simple plan: Make the right lane 12 ft. (or more) and the left lane 10 ft. Don’t stripe new bike lanes or overly alter existing regulations. Don’t plan. Don’t get approvals. Don’t p/o motorists with the silly bike lanes that bikers fear and never use. We just need a little extra space for cars to pass us by. And: Motorists will like having buses and other heavy vehicles in the larger right-lane, too . . . you don’t even need signage.” [Chris M(2)., commenting on Comment of the Day: Houston’s New Bike Plan Is Just a Plan] Illustration: Lulu

03/27/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT IT TAKES TO LIVE NEXT TO THE FAST LANES Freeway Overpass Next to Building“The housing stock of the city has MANY luxury apartments located too close to comfort to a freeway. On I-10, the Sawyer Lofts’ north side [sits] right up on the freeway with some units being feet away from an exit ramp. Go further west and I-10 is lined with luxury apartments that look out at the freeway from a very uncomfortably close distance (basically two lanes away, plus a small setback). This is becoming a permanent fixture of the city. I’m not sure why anyone would voluntarily rent one of these, but the developers are banking on housing being in so short supply that someone will basically lose out when the music stops playing and there’s not a chair to sit in and they will be forced to rent one of these. I think that must be the game plan. Maybe they think if it’s common enough people will just subconsciously modify their lifestyle expectations in a big city to thinking its okay to live between 7 and 50 feet from one of the widest freeways in the world.” [Commenter7, commenting on The Downtown Apartments Caught Between a Freeway and a Curved Place] Illustration: Lulu