12/20/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LET THE COLLEGE STATION LAND RUSH BEGIN! “The station in Roans Prairie is a developer’s dream: high-speed rail, new I-14 interstate, and miles and miles of undeveloped land. The master-planned communities will start popping up in no time. Work in the city (Houston or Dallas) and live out in the country on your acreage homestead. Just wait, the Bryan-College Station-Huntsville MSA will see the fastest population growth in the entire nation for years and years to come.” [Thomas, commenting on Proposed High-Speed Rail Line’s Bryan—College Station Station Would Be 27 Miles East of Texas A&M] Map of proposed Brazos Valley Station: Federal Railroad Administration

12/20/17 2:00pm

THE BATS OF WAUGH DR. HAVE MOVED DEEPER INTO MONTROSE During Hurricane Harvey, Buffalo Bayou rose above the Waugh Dr. bridge, killing off some of the 300,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that lived there. Others have found new residences:Some of the surviving bats have relocated to nearby buildings. Just take a sniff in any of the multi-floored parking garages lining the streets around the bayou, and you’ll smell their pungent droppings.” Now, Maggie Gordon writes, “In addition to a swarm of winged mammals flying out from beneath the bridge, smaller populations exit from nearby buildings. They join up with the bats from the bridge during their hunt, then return to their new homes for the night, before repeating the same cycle the next day.” [Houston Chronicle] Video: Ihadatt

12/19/17 12:00pm

AN ASPHALT FAULT ON THE 59 OVERPASS ABOVE LITTLE YORK RD. Over the weekend, TxDOT made temporary repairs to a stretch of the Eastex Fwy. that crosses over Little York Rd. by pouring a “hot mix” of asphalt over a portion the roadway, Meagan Flynn reports. Crews planned to return to the site for more permanent repair work tonight, but got an early call this morning after the concrete beneath the road’s surface collapsed overnight, opening up a hole straight through southbound side of the overpass. ABC13’s Courtney Fischer snapped this photo of emergency workers looking down through the hole after multiple accidents took place this morning during rush hour. Portions of the freeway are now closed for repairs. [Houston ChroniclePhoto: Courtney Fischer

12/19/17 10:15am

YES, THE HARP ON RICHMOND AVE IS CLOSING DOWN There’s a reason why Braun Enterprises has been trying to find a new tenant to replace the Harp at 1625 Richmond: it turns out that the bar’s founder, Declan Plunkett, is retiring, Craig Hlavaty reports. The Ireland transplant plans to close the 18-year-old bar when the lease expires at the end of February, meaning there won’t be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Harp next year: “Plunkett is planning a weeklong bash to see the bar off. ‘We might sell some of the stuff off the walls for people who have been such dedicated patrons,’ Plunkett says.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Braun Enterprises

12/18/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PITS “Up until the 1930s, most oil taken from the ground was quite simply stored in earthen pits. Oil penetrated the soil to about 30 feet vertically and 100 feet horizontally. Humble by itself had 6,000,000 barrels of earthen pit storage. Note that the world’s largest documented land-based oilspills (not related to the Gulf War) were the Lakeview Gusher in Kern County, California (9 million bbl) and Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan (2 million bbl). Deepwater Horizon was the worst maritime spill (4.1-4.9 million bbl). These pits are not considered spills, but the land around them is far more impacted than a spill site. Back then, when pits failed from flooding or erosion, that was often unreported.” [TheNiche, commenting on An Update on the Leaky Oil Well in Missouri CityImage: Lulu

12/15/17 5:00pm

AN UPDATE ON THE LEAKY OIL WELL IN MISSOURI CITY All liquids that spewed from the oil well on McHard Rd. just west of the Fort Bend Tollway after its blow-out accident last Wednesday have been removed from the ground surrounding the facility, the Missouri City Office of Emergency Management now reports. But that’s just the wet stuff. Workers from Haz Mat Special Services have so far dug up 1,200 of an expected 5,200–7,200 yards of possibly contaminated dirt from the immediate vicinity, to be replaced with soil from somewhere else. What else can they do? “Crews have also sprayed the area to reduce the odor. Air monitoring is still on going. Crews are also trying to prep the area for the predicted rain fall the region may receive.” [Missouri City Emergency Preparedness; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Fort Bend County OEM

12/14/17 2:30pm

THE WOODLANDS BEATS HOUSTON TO ITS DOCKLESS BIKESHARING FUTURE While Houston’s city council debates proposed new regulations that might allow as many as 6 competing companies to let loose as many as 3,500 new leave-’em-anywhere shared bicycles each across the city over the course of a year, The Woodlands has decided to go ahead with its own smaller kiosk-free program — with a single vendor. Mobike, a 2-year-old Chinese company now ranked as the largest bike-sharing organization in the world, will begin unleashing 50 to 100 bicycles, mostly intended to be used around The Woodlands Town Center. The company has operated in Washington DC since September. The Woodlands Township entered into the agreement with Mobike after a pilot program approved in October with Houston docked-bike vendor B-Cycle stalled. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Mobike

12/13/17 4:45pm

PETER H. BROWN, 1936–2017 Peter Brown, who passed away yesterday, wore many hats — he was an urban planner, architect, neighborhood activist, city council member, and occasional rapper — as well several distinctive long scarves. Amidst other civic legacies, he leaves behind a substantial back catalog of YouTube videos — in which an unseen cameraperson chronicles Brown’s peripatetic musings on various aspects of Houston’s occasionally urban landscape. As “Pedestrian Pete” on both a Facebook page and YouTube channel of the same name, Brown explored “the good, the bad, and the ugly pedestrian conditions of Houston”: He scoured neighborhoods in search of traversable sidewalks, railed against car-centric attributes of the Heights Walmart, and strolled along Lower Westheimer in conversation with Annise Parker, who had defeated him in his 2009 run for mayor. Brown was 81. [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotVideo: Pedestrian Pete

12/13/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: BROADACRES’ LONG HISTORY OF PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS “In a way, this is just the latest battle in a hundred year old fight. On a Preservation Houston tour of Broadacres (where we trespassed all over the esplanades), it was pointed out that the neighborhood was originally designed as a closed loop with the only access to the city via Parkway to the east. Houston, however, viewed the streets as public and forced the developers to cede ROW through the lots on the western side of the loop to connect North and South Blvds to their counterparts in the west. This is why North and South Blvds pinch weirdly right around West Blvd. — when you’re ceding expensive land, you only give the minimum required. . . .” [Cactus, commenting on Who Owns the Esplanades on North and South Boulevards?] Photo of Broadacres assessor’s map: HCAD

12/13/17 10:45am

CITY: WE OWN THE BROADACRES ESPLANADES; HOA PREZ: NEIGHBORHOOD TRUST OWNS THE GRASS The Houston Public Works department confirms in a press release that the esplanades and streets on North, South, and West boulevards in Broadacres are in the public right-of-way. But lookie here what Diane Cowen at the Chronicle reports: “Cece Fowler, president of the Broadacres HOA, said that it’s been determined that while the city owns the streets on North, South and West boulevards as well as the brick sidewalks that run down the middle of the esplanades, the Broadacres Trust owns the grass.” Also, according to Cowen, the park along Parkway Dr. is owned by the trust. The HOA placed NO PHOTO SHOOTS signs along the esplanades and in the park last Thursday, but removed some of them over the weekend. The rest were taken down on Monday, ahead of the city’s statement that “The public ROW is available for anyone in the community to use for legal activities, including personal photography. Signs and blocking the public ROW are not allowed without specific permission from the City of Houston.” The signs — 13 total according to Cowen — cost the HOA $1,300. [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

12/12/17 11:45am

BROADACRES HOA TAKES DOWN ITS ESPLANADE NO-PHOTOSHOOT SIGNS The Broadacres Homeowners Association has removed all signs posted on the esplanades along North, South, and West boulevards welcoming visitors and telling them photoshoots are prohibited. As to whether the esplanades are public or private property — that’s still up in the air: “The homeowners association said the property was deeded to the group in the 1920s, and is looking for the documentation to enforce its ban.” The HOA initially placed the 11 signs on the esplanades last Thursday. [abc13; Previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

12/11/17 1:30pm

WHO OWNS THE ESPLANADES ON NORTH AND SOUTH BOULEVARDS? The president of the Broadacres Homeowners Association, Cece Fowler, tells the Houston Chronicle’s Diane Cowen last weekend that the neighborhood’s esplanades, as well as the park along Parkway Dr., are owned by the HOA. However, Cowen says that according to the City of Houston, the esplanades are part of the city’s Adopt-An-Esplanade program, making them public right-of-way. The dispute continues: “Fowler said that she and her board are conducting a title search to prove their ownership. She said the neighborhood has maintained and financed the esplanades and green space from the beginning.” That maintenance took a new turn last Thursday when 11 signs prohibiting photoshoots were erected on the esplanades. According to Fowler, the gatherings had become more than a nuisance: “up to 40 to 50” were occurring per week beneath the canopies of oaks that line the boulevards between Mandel St. and Parkway Dr. The 26 homeowners that make up the community discussed mitigation strategies like putting in speed bumps, adding a gate to the neighborhood, or hiring full-time security personnel before settling on the signs as a more cordial means of discouraging shutter-happy visitors. Now that they’re up, residents hope they’ll keep out flashbulbs as well as the props that sometimes come with them: “Fowler said some have brought in sofas and bookcases and one group drove a Jeep onto the esplanade, damaging the grass, brick sidewalk and sprinkler system. They throw confetti onto the ground and release Mylar balloons into the trees. And all bring photography equipment and crews that hang around for hours.”  [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

12/08/17 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NORTH AND SOUTH BLVD. PHOTOSHOOT BATTLE IS JUST WARMING UP “As a close relative of a Broadacres resident I will report what I know. Yes, the esplanades are privately owned and maintained by the homeowners and the signs are legal. The reason for the signs was the volume of people taking pictures. I have lived there for 15+ years and it has never been this bad. In the evenings you will have 2, 3, or 4 groups of people on each block taking pictures and it’s not just people that are the problem, it’s all of the props (sofa, chairs, tables, GLITTER, lighting) that they bring with them too. As some commenters have pointed out, some homeowners have approached those taking pictures and gotten back a lot of attitude and some form of “This is public property.” Err, well, no it isn’t actually. The signs were a compromise to discourage further pictures and serve as an initial educational campaign. If it backfires or the signs are ignored there will most likely be some sort of security enforced permitting in place or, the nuclear option, buying out the streets from the city and gating the neighborhood.” [BroadAcres Brat, commenting on New Signs Declare Photo Shoots Will No Longer Be Allowed on North and South Boulevards] Photo: Swamplot inbox

12/08/17 1:15pm

WHAT IT TAKES TO JACK A HOUSE “Adam Bakir, a Houston builder and remodeler, does one or two home elevations a year. The job is akin to major surgery. Workers tunnel under the house, Bakir said, then raise the whole thing on jacks—the slab and the house that rests on it. Since Harvey, Bakir has received more than 20 inquiries about home elevation. If potential customers ask for a cost estimate, he’ll tell them: between about $75 and $100 per square foot. ‘If you have a 2,500-square-foot house, which is typical,’ he said, ‘the upper end of it would be about $250,000. The lower end, around $180,000.‘” [CityLab] Photo: Arkitektura Development

12/07/17 4:45pm

IN THE MISSOURI CITY AIR Wild West Well Control is expected to finish capping an oil well this evening on McHard Rd. just west of the Fort Bend Tollway that blew out last night, sending foul-smelling fumes southeast into Fort Bend County. Nearby residents got a nose-ful: “Winds carried the smell across a large portion of the area; it is believed that the smell was from hydrogen sulfide. Total Fire has been conducting air monitoring in the area and has been unable to detect significant amounts of the chemical in the air.” [Fort Bend County OEM] Photo: Fort Bend County OEM