Comment of the Day: Microlots by the Park

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MICROLOTS BY THE PARK “I think most people flee because they think they need yards for those kids, and with X amount of money you can either buy a house from the 50s on a lot or a townhome from the 80s to now on a microlot. I have a five year old and moved from my last two homes on lots (including Lazybrook) to a townhome in the 77007 and couldn’t be happier. We live next to the biggest, most amazing parks in the city, the arboretum, etc – why would I mow my own yard when I can walk a block to that?! This is turning out to be a better place to raise my kid than any of those neighborhoods were.” [Brandy C, commenting on Comment of the Day: Moving for Kids]

44 Comment

  • “We live next to the biggest, most amazing parks in the city . . .”

    As a fellow 77007-er, I can only guess what parks the OP is referring to, but I wonder if they will re-think their view when the parks are no longer mowed as regularly and become trash-strewn wastelands full of congested vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

    It may suck to have to mow your own lawn, but at least you know what is in your lawn and you can control how nice it is.

  • The difference can be summed up on one word – SCHOOLS.

  • Bubba carries what is a common misconception amongst most unfortunate suburban souls, better schools. Public schools in any far-flung suburban area are evenly matched with public schools in the affluent parts of inner Houston. Also, keep in mind the elite primary and secondary schools in Houston are private and nowhere near your precious suburban utopia.

  • The key word in landedgents post is affluent.

    I ran into another reason to leave inner Houston yesterday when a crazy homeless crackhead tried to steal my shoes. He was walking around with no shoes on and proceeded to tell me that it was “your shoes or your life”. When some other people walked up he ran off down the street. I see a kid that looks to be about 12 walking by the corner this happened to me on almost everyday. I don’t know why a parent would let their kid walk around this area everyday. Yes, crime happens everywhere but I never saw a homeless person or a crackhead until I moved to Houston. To me, homeless people and crackheads do not make for an environment where you want to raise kids.

  • I think townhome or bungalow; as long as you are happy then don’t listen to the petty people who want to tell you how you should feel, think or anything else. I have some open lots available in 77007 so there is still hope for a yard AND a “non-townhome”. I have lived in 007 and 009 and love living in the city.

  • I love my townhouse! That being said, I understand why people don’t like them. We bought our’s as a foreclosure and therefore as an investment to sell. Now we love the neighborhood and want to stay. We’re both really involved in our community through our civic club.

    I do not understand why people act like satan has moved into the neighborhood. I can look out my window (one of the things people don’t like about townhomes) and see rats come out from under my neighbor’s house. It’s a rental and the people that tend to live there (and never stay long) are not the cream of the crop. The police are there on a regular basis. Would you rather have me as your neighbor or drug dealers/wife beaters?

    I’d love to see some of the bungalows in my neighborhood fixed up but its just not happening. I don’t want to see townhomes on every corner but people need to get over it.

  • “Yes, crime happens everywhere but I never saw a homeless person or a crackhead until I moved to Houston. ”

    What about methheads? Last I heard was that meth was on the rise in the ‘burbs and in more rural areas.
    Just ’cause its nicely zoned, landscaped, and manicured, don’t mean there ain’t any crack dens and meth labs among ’em.

  • 77007 rules, aside from Washington Avenue (*which isn’t all bad). I lived there for almost 10 years, but have always hated those 3-4 story stucco monstrosities. Give it 20 years and they will look awful, by comparison to the older homes which were built in the 20th century.

  • Rats? Wow, it’s been years since I’ve seen a rat in Houston. I do see dozens of feral cats every day on my walks through Eastwood, however. Maybe there’s a correlation, here.

  • i sometimes feel bad the kiddo doesn’t get a bigger yard to play in living in the ‘trose, but we go on weekly rides to hermann park, discovery geen, along the bayou, rice U, menil, etc. and these are places i would have dreamed to have been able to bike to when i was a kid in the burbs so it’s just a trade off. there’s plenty of local parks to hit up as well, but as a parent you just have to go along for the trip which is better for everyone anyhow. stairs to climb up and down constantly every day, thank god. people are way too out of shape these days.

    i also think wilson montessori is better than any school i had access to in the burbs. he also gets a much more diverse experience of the world and gets to see all the good and bad that the world has to offer.

    another upside, he gets to have rich friends which is something i never had.

    as a disclaimer, i grew up in the deer park/pasadena area which is far more dangerous than living in the montrose though.

  • HISD in NOT on par with Katy ISD or Spring ISD. Yes, good schools can be found in HISD but they are the exception. And Yes crappy schools can be found in Katy and Spring but as a whole, there is no comparison. The comparison gets even starker when you compare HISD with a suburban schools in Massachusetts or Virginia. That difference becomes apparent when HISD students get to college and compete with the others. Oh, yeah, only half if HISD student graduate?

  • Yes, there are great inner city places to live in Houston, but the pluses and minuses of those places change dramatically when the kids arrive.

  • Bubba is misinformed. Bellaire, Lamar, Carnegie Vanguard, HSPVA, DeBakey, and even Westside compare quite favorably to most suburban schools. As a former college admissions counselor at an Ivy, you’d be surprised by how well received kids are from the schools I listed. We’d much rather recruit a kid from those 6 HISD schools than say one from The Woodlands or Cinco Ranch.

    Additionally, you don’t have to be “affluent” to attend any of those schools listed above since all have magnet programs (helicopter parents are more important than money to gain admission) and even the ones that are “zoned” have pockets/apartments that don’t require a big nest egg to live in.

  • I agree with Emily, townhouses are awesome. Every home in Houston is built crappy (not just townhouses). As long as you maintain them, everything is fine. People also say they look the same… but fail to see how their suburban home is exactly like their neighbor’s.
    My wife and I plan to raise kids in our townhouse in Midtown. Small side yard, two blocks to a great park (Baldwin), quick bike ride to Discovery Green, and minutes to The Children’s Museum and the zoo. When I grew up in the burbs, I had to sit 45 minutes in the car to see the Zoo and ask every minute “Are we there yet?!?!”

  • so all we’re learning here is that there’s both bad suburban and city schools? it seems we’re just trying to compare the best suburban districts against the best city schools and come up with no difference in the end.

    besides, it’s all in how motivated your kid is and what they decide to do that really matters. is katy churning out a statistically higher amount of doctors, lawyers, engineers, business gurus, etc. than HISD once you take household income ranges into account?

  • From TheNiche:

    Rats? Wow, it’s been years since I’ve seen a rat in Houston. I do see dozens of feral cats every day on my walks through Eastwood, however. Maybe there’s a correlation, here.
    September 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm
    I live in the suburbs (Memorial) and I see rats here. Shocking, I know. They will happily live anywhere they can find food. My sister lives in Sugar Land and has an even worse pests to contend with–skunks!
    As far whether kids are better off in suburbs or in town, I think it makes little difference. I think what does make a huge difference is the wealth of the family and whether the parents are college graduates. I would be shocked to find that the children of fairly well-to-do Montrose-area parents do any worse on average than parents of roughly equal wealth in the Woodlands.

  • Schools cannot be blamed for lousy parenting. Teachers are not baby sitters. And an education begins at home.

  • I’m raising two young children in a 3 story townhome in 77007. Like PP have said, there are pros and cons to this. We were lucky to find a townhome where all three bedrooms were on the same floor. Most townhomes in the area have the master separate from the other bedrooms.

    Some cons for us: Not that many kids in the neighborhood. Lack of sidewalks. No yard (front or back). Bad public schools so we use private.

    Pros: We can walk to Memorial Park. We are close to so many fun activities. No long commute to work.

    About public schools: what I find at HISD is that one of the schools you are zoned to may be fine but the rest are questionable. Usually the EM is fine but the MS is terrible and the HS may be bad also.

  • I’m ready to trade my old large 2 story 77006 Montrose home with a yard and new sidewalks, and zoned to good HISD schools (Poe, Lanier, Lamar) for something with less maintenance and space. Finished raising my children, and happy to say they turned out to be respectable young adults who appreciated have lots of things to do close by. Being exposed to diversity also helps build character. Having grown up in Montrose myself and then exhiled to the ‘burbs for a few years, it was great to come back to Montrose 15 yrs ago with the young’uns and put the roots back down. I would not have had it any other way.

  • I’m sure the millions of kids who’ve grown up without sprawling yards (like me) will be shocked to learned how deprived we were. (I grew up in the burbs, but that was when a normal ranch house was considered spacious and a quarter-acre lot was luxury.)

    My nephew lives in an apartment. His “yard,” about a block and half from his front door, is Golden Gate Park. His school (public, and good) is a few blocks up the street. When I visit, I’ve gotten questioned by neighbors on the street who don’t recognize his out of town uncle because they know him and are keeping an eye out for him.

    He’s too young to wander off on his own, but he’s ridden the buses and trains many time with his parents and when he’s older he’ll have the whole city of San Francisco accessible to him.

    When I think of the teenage claustrophobia of the town where his mom and I grew up – and this was when parents actually let their kids take off for hours at a time on their bikes! – I think he’s a pretty lucky kid.

    I think raising a kid in a place where pretty much everything requires car trips is nuts. It’s like holding them hostage at the age when they are ready to start exploring the world more. Looking at Houston suburbs, I feel pretty fortunate that at least my childhood burb was 50s vintage & in the northeast, meaning that as I grew up I was able to get around on foot, bike, and bus, with no six- or eight-lane roads with high speed traffic to navigate. Everybody wanted a car, but most of us had none at our disposal unless dad let us take his somewhere at night and that didn’t chain us to our houses at all. Modern suburbs, which are most of what one sees around here, don’t seem to give kids that kind of freedom. (And I suspect a lot of parents wouldn’t allow it anyway.)

  • Rats are everywhere inside the loop, don’t fool yourselves. Just watch the power lines around sunset. Them ain’t squirrels.

    Also, living close to Lanier MS we get the twice a day traffic cluster-fuck of entitled parents driving their little darlings to school. Besides being shitty drivers, two things stand out about these parents… 1)Why so many of them drop their kids off late for school and, 2)Why they need to walk their kids up to the front door of the school in the morning and have to go to the front door of the school to collect them in the afternoon. Little fuckers will never grow up getting treated like that.

  • If you don’t own land, you own nothing but promises. Parks & public land or shared areas can be lovely until the gangs takeover or sheer tragedy of the commons rears its head. In the long run, your property value and ultimately your inheritance won’t be weighed by worthless trinkets (stucco, colorful brick, branded design, blah blah) and promises but instead by frontage & square footage in prime locations.

  • I grew up in the Pearland School districts, and the stories I heard from people going to inner city schools were the same as what I experienced on a day to day basis, so the golden suburban education system is a myth. There was a contribution of all races and colors, and all incomes that contributed to the lack of motivation and personal growth. If a child is in a loving home no matter the location and is given the chance to grow into a mature adult, the possibilities are endless. To say that everyone becomes a doctor etc. doesn’t mean that they’re a descent person, so if we really want to reform children and parents based on fear of urban areas, then we should take the emphasis off the income racket and on the next generation of minds.

    Personally I would have loved to grow up in the city. I would’ve felt more connected to a urban core, rather than the isolation that living in the suburbs creates. And the lack of transportation options makes it difficult to move around, I always felt like a bird in a cage. To have had the suburban living and the ability of public transit to go to the city would have changed the entire climate, but the majority of people there would oppose, and do oppose such ideals, due to fear. We are a fear based society.

  • Crude Lube: and yet the world is filled with great public spaces, because the people in the communities where they are make sure they are taken care of: the Boston Common and Public Gardens, the endless parks of DC, Central Park, Golden Gate Park, Madrid’s Retiro, the Champs-Elysees and Tuileries in Paris, and on, and on, and on. Somehow, people all over the world manage to make sure that their cities have great public spaces for residents to enjoy in safety and peace.

    The idea that your house is some kind of little fortress unconnected from the other houses and the neighborhood amenities around it is kind of strange, unless you are living alone on a mountain somewhere.

    I’m sure at this point someone is going to say that wanting great parks is some weird desire to be “world-class” but really it’s very practical: going to those public places is an extremely pleasurable activity that’s largely unavailable to Houstonians. This is a great place to live but I will admit that I miss being able to go simply enjoy the outdoors in those kinds of spaces, as I did when I lived elsewhere. Sitting in your back yard, while also quite lovely, is a *different* kind of thing to do.

  • There is a reason it’s called sub-urban.

    And Crude Lube, you don’t own your property if you live in the city, you’re just renting from the gubment.

  • After returning to live in TX again after being away for almost a decade, I’ve come to a realization that “Owning Land” (i.e. huge lots, acres,etc) really is a big issue for “Texans”. It’s also funny to hear how the some of the spoiled Texans (houstonians) complain about mass intrusion of townhomes in areas where the “dilapidated bungalows” don’t cut it anymore and are just plain horid!

    Funny thing is that if you go to any MAJOR city that has any kind of density, TOWNHOMES are actually preferred and are usually the more EXPENSIVE option…If it’s a stand alone Townhome even more $$$(i.e. Chicago, Boston, SF and even LA). Highrises and Townhomes are usually built and sold to maximize livable space in HIGH DEMAND areas. As far as the townhomes looking identical, remember the “Full House” street in S.F. or better yet take a trip to Chicago.

    By the way, as far as the Land issue, why is the supposedly cheaply built 3-4 story townhome on a micro lot ($300-$450k) in 77007 cost/worth more than the suburban home with more sq. ft on an 1/2-1 acre lot?

    Location,Location Location!!! Supply(too much of it in burbs) and Demand (obviously a lot for those inner loop’s just the rule of Real Estate…Go look it up.

  • If one is really interested in moving “for the schools,” I think you are going to have to move a bit farther than Katy. I would suggest moving to Massachusetts, Connecticut or Northern Virginia. Public schools in Texas, even the “good” ones, are pretty mediocre when compared to the rest of the country. And now with budget constraints and the nutcases setting set education and textbook standards in this state, it’s only going to get worse.

  • @ John (yet another). Good point! I was in NYC in August and thoroughly enjoyed another walk thru Central Park. It truly is beautiful. What I want to emphasize is that Central Park hasn’t always been this way. The tipping point was the horrendous rape and attempted murder of a young jogger (google it) as well as the pandemic of endless muggings. Boston Commons too is great now, but hasn’t always been. But these are major parks. What I speak of are the smaller parks of considerably less than an acre where the local governing entity, be it a developer or otherwise, lets weeds grow, human and otherwise.

    I’ve been blessed with living in the ‘burbs and urbs, they both have pluses & minuses. But from a property valuation standpoint, it still comes down to how much earth you own and however you color a microplot isn’t a fair exchange for cold hard cash on real estate decades in the future. In 10-20 years the designer will retire, the builder will be bankrupt or have moved on, and you’ll be older. I’d rather have the title to acreage, not stucco.

    @ markd. Agree. But people manage to profit from and enjoy explicitly rented land in Hong Kong and China just fine. I’ll take it. You stay in your apartment or hostel.

  • When we were looking for a place last year, the biggest problem we had with townhouses was that, in most cases, the 3rd bedroom is on the ground floor, two flights of stairs away from the other two bedrooms. This makes that 3rd bedroom close to useless as a bedroom for a young-ish child (and probably closer to useless for a child of sneak-out-at-night age).
    We settled on a newish place in the Heights as a happy medium: similar in living area to a 3-story townhouse, but on two stories, with all BRs on the 2nd floor. Enough yard for a little bit of landscaping and an herb garden, but not enough to play football on or sink a pool in. Plenty of neighborhood parks around. Close enough to your neighbors that you can talk to them when you go out to the sidewalk to pick up the mail or have a glass of wine on the front porch.
    And it looks like we weren’t the only family to discover this happy medium. The Heights is clearly toddler central these days. At a recent weekend breakfast at Lola, of 12 occupied tables, 11 had high chairs or strollers alongside. Hopefully this bodes well for the quality of public schools over the next decade or so.

  • Note to self: Don’t go to breakfast at Lola on the weekends.

  • I disagree wholly 3-4 story townhomes, are awful testaments to inflated mortgages, for homes with rather questionable build qualities. I for one am much happier in my 1936 brick four square, and my mortgage is reasonable and the house will only increase in value. Best of luck selling those stucco laden monstrosities in the years to come.

    To be glib you can paint a turd, but it’s still …. To each their own, enjoy your conspicuous consumption and short sightedness.

  • The animosity between the inner loopers/outer loopers (or the city dwellers vs. those who like country livin’) always mystifies me. Everything is a series of trade-offs. Can you find great schools inside the city? Absolutely (my kids attend one of the best elementary schools in the state of TX – and it’s right smack dab in the center of the city). Can you find diversity in the ‘burbs? Yep – just look at the race map that was posted on Swamplot recently to see that some of the suburbs are a heck lot more diverse than River Oaks. You CAN find acreage inside the loop – but you’re going to pay for it. You can find a lot more house for your money outside the loop, but you’re going to spend time and gas money commuting. It’s just a question of priorities. I always sense a bit of insecurity in anyone who has to vehemently criticize the choices made by others – whether that be about where to live, when to work, who to marry, or how to worship.

  • Well put, LT…

  • Corey,
    Not all townhouses are stucco and I have just as much right to love my townhouse as you do to love your bungalow. And I could sell mine right now for at least $100K profit and I’ve only lived there 2 years.

    My main point was that if your bungalow hasn’t been maintained in 20 years and is in disrepair…it’s a turd too (as you put it). I guess it’s easy to blame everything on the townhomes though.

  • JW, have you bothered to visit Houston? Your highly desirable townhomes and highrises in Chicago, New York, SF, LA, and even San Diego aren’t at all like the typical “townhomes” in Houston. Ours tend to have blank garage doors or gates facing the street, narrow side entrances, ugly stucco with cheezy postmodern detailing in front, unpaintable siding on the sides, lightly built stick-frame party walls, and sit on post-tensioned slabs with 50-year lifespans. Do your “high demand” properties have those features? Just because we call them townhomes here doesn’t make them as nice as the models they’re supposed to evoke.

  • LT, bless you.

    markd, we do it just to tick you off. We drive on the public streets, park a mile from the school away from the “NO PARKING” signs, walk a few blocks back on the public sidewalks and see our kids to the doors because we hate you, we’re scary foreigners from a whole two zipcodes away, and we’re bad parents. Or maybe we’re afraid that our kids will be accosted by someone who, like you, quietly calls them “little fuckers” to anyone who will listen.

    Look, inner loopers commute, too. This is Houston. Everybody has to drive somewhere. The bile directed in the comments at people who drive *to* somewhere is getting just downright bizarre. I see the same thing around the high school in my neighborhood. Everybody moves here to be close to the school, but by the same token all the homeowners get upset when teens have to unmitigated gall to actually try to get there in the mornings. I’m glad we’re walking distance from the place, but I don’t resent those who aren’t.

  • It’s not about how much earth you own…IT’s about the “VALUE” of the Earth that you OWN!

  • Mines brick, and built by the Russell Brown Co, the resident builder of River Oaks. I rather like my brick home, and it’s a 2 story home not a bungalow, and I’m not a resident of Rice Military anymore either. They’re not all stucco, but most are, as a long time resident I’ve been vehemently opposed to those for years, though I do like the brick ones built in 1999 near the WoW right off Washington. New doesn’t necessarily mean better, there is this little term called craftsmanship, and I doubt a home built in 2-3 days as quickly as earthly possible can even compare to the build quality of the early 20th century. You have some valid points, but so do I.

  • Crude Lube: you do need to separate media hype from reality. I lived in Boston in the late 80s/early 90s, and the Common was a kind of scrappy patch of land, with lots of homeless people, but it was also used by enough other people that it was pleasant anyway. Same with the Charles River Esplanade – you knew not to be there when the sun went down unless you wanted to be mugged, but by day it was a great place to take in some sun and people-watch – the city’s pretend-beach. And even when crime in Central Park was the worst, countless New Yorkers enjoyed it safely every day.

    DC was excellent for its smaller parks – I never lived anywhere there where I did not have some pleasant green space within a few blocks of my front door. And when I wanted solitude I had my 10×12 patio out the back door.

    I’m really pleased to see Houston investing in things like Discovery Green, which are starting to fill this quality-of-life gap in the city.

  • Martin brings up a good larger point about schools – if I had kids & wanted to send them to public schools, I’d move back to the Washington area, even if I had to live in the smallest townhouse in Fairfax (VA) or Montgomery (MD) County, because my kids would be in one of the nation’s top school districts. There are indeed Houston schools as good as what you find in the burbs, but… it’s all relative.

  • What a deprived childhood I realize I had! Grew up in a two house locked compound in Korea in the 60s, and suffered in a high rise apt in Hong Kong in the 70s. Had to ride my bike in a car park, use public transport, deal with germs and strangers and everything.

    Even worse, I raised children in an old town home in Houston surrounded by trees that harbored all sorts of crazy wildlife. Daughter managed to ride her bike, walk the dogs, catch poison ivy and bring home a snake.

    Life is what you make of it, regardless of location. I’m in an apt in Australia now where high density living is a fact of life but as a result the public outdoor areas are amazing, maintainted and convenient, and I can walk to the grocery, library, and about 20 good restaurants within 10 minutes.

  • Sihaya, if you park blocks away and walk your kid(s) to the school that’s all good – I’m talking about the parents that run late and park in or block the neighborhood driveways less than a quarter block from campus.

    And I use the term “little fuckers” in the most endearing kind of way… I would only accost the parents who see fit to do such things as empty their ashtrays and clean out their other vehicular trash to be left curbside, which seems to be a pretty regular event.

  • If a parent parks in my driveway, or blocks it, he or she will be shocked to find their car towed by my brother in law the wrecker driver.

  • markd,

    Ah, I see where you’re coming from. I’ve encountered the driveway blocker a couple of times. He’s a loathsome creature who also tends to box in the traffic that’s already parked on the road by hugging their bumpers. No one can move until he does. I’ve not met the parents who eject trash directly from their car onto the road, but I certainly believe you, because people are amazing that way.