Flyer Sent to Very Near Northside Warns of Dangers of Minimum Lot Size Designation

Map on Minimum Lot Size Flyer, Near Northside, HoustonSwamplot reader Triton reports receiving a flyer urging people to oppose a minimum lot size designation for the area just north of Downtown shown in the map at right. The authors of the bright yellow flyer, written in English on one side and Spanish on the other, identify themselves only as “a group of very concerned property owners in this neighborhood,” but the text doesn’t include the names of any organization or individuals — only a Quitman St. return address and a phone number. “If you are within the marked boundary of the map below we want to inform you that there is a minimum lot size application currently being processed by the city of Houston,” the flyer reads. It encourages readers to oppose the application, because (it claims) “your land will potentially decrease in value,” and “it scares investors away.

Here’s the text portion of the flyer:

***

Minimum Lot Size Flyer, Near Northside, Houston

“I don’t even live in the zone,” reports Triton, “so I found it a little strange that I got the large yellow flyer. . . . I have this suspicion that this actually came from developers.

Bright Yellow Concerns

45 Comment

  • I’m sure the flier came from a developer or a real estate agent specializing in that area, BUT they’re not wrong.

  • Another sign like this was just put up in Brooksmith too! Neighbors are wondering what they can do to stop it! Any advice??

  • I called that number and got a recording that said “Please leave a message for (blank).” No name or company, just ambient background noise and no voices. Per HCAD, 201 Quitman is a single family home owned by a woman. Yeah, doesn’t sound very kosher. Maybe a developer made her an offer she couldn’t refuse?

  • Yes, god forbid the developers have a neighborhood set off limits to townhouses being crammed onto standard-size lots 3 or 4 at a time. Scumbags..

  • I think this all depends on whether you are looking to sell or not. My neighborhood has deed restrictions preventing subdivision of original lots which means single family homes are being torn down to build tremendous single family homes. As someone looking to stay in my neighborhood for 10-20 years, that is a much preferred situation than single family homes all around me torn down and replaced with townhouses 4+ to a lot, with all the traffic and hassle that brings. If this minimum lot size designation goes through, immediate property values might not skyrocket like parts of the heights are, but might go higher eventually if the neighborhood is preserved as being somewhat nicer, less dense single family homes.

  • All things being equal, restricted property is worth less than un-restricted property. However, property for which NEIGHBORING properties are restricted can be MORE valuable. Property owners accept MLS restrictions on their own property in return for MLS restrictions on their neighbors’ property. If the value they give up by accepting the restriction on their own property is less than the value they gain by ensuring they won’t end up living next to a townhouse cluster, then it can be in their interest to accept the restriction.

    If you own a tear-down, MLS restrictions will (probably) reduce the value of your home. If you own a valuable structure on a block with one or more tear-downs, MLS restrictions will probably INCREASE the value of your home.

  • The property value argument is BS. Just look at Oak Forrest. The neighborhood’s lot values have skyrocketed primarily because they are protected from being chopped up. And once developers start townhousing up an area, anything you put into your house is money down the drain because the only buyers are looking to demo the property. The near northside will do much better in the long run if they protect their neighborhood from getting townhoused. There is plenty of land in the 1st, 3rd and 5th wards for townhousing. Near northisde could see substantial value added by bucking that trend and offering people a real single family neighborhood that is an affordable alternative to the ever escalating prices west of I-45.

  • My neighborhood has min lot size restrictions and my property values have skyrocketed. Investors are rehabbing and building homes. This flyer didn’t come from any developer, it had to have come from a townhome developer.

  • First the effort to brand the adjacent area Tampico Heights then the pro-bulldozer propaganda. It’s clear that overall area is in the crosshairs of those who have visions of remaking that area.

  • With the bayou tributary on the north, Hogg Park and the cemetery along 45, and lite rail on the east along Main, this area is ripe for a large master planned development instead of being left to the most likely scenario of hopscotch development of single family homes morphing to crappy expensive townhomes. There is actually some topography! Really an under-utilized and under-appreciated area so close to downtown . . . If the mayor wants to have some vision for the future, this is the kind of planning our elected officials should promote with a TIRZ instead of more WalMarts.

  • I would not rely on the numerical claims of a flyer in which the two sequential reasons are both numbered “1.”

  • West U., Tanglewood, and Southampton have not seen their values decrease due to lot size restrictions. Now this neighborhood is not up to those standards at this point in time, but it is located a similar distance from employment centers, and 20 years from now it could become valuable to those looking for a close in area with large lots and single family homes. But as JuanCarlos said, if you want to sell tomorrow, then minimum lot size restrictions are a net negative.

  • Don’t worry guys, I’m sure its just a concerned citizen. No one is going to build townhomes in that area. It’s still the same old area it’s always been. No amenities outside of the light rail has been gone into the area and we all know that light rail doesn’t spur development.

  • We own some garbagieo just east of there. Yeah. I don’t see the town home Trent hitting there anytime soon. Still a sea of $400/month rentals.

  • so how is that Houston is currently in a housing crunch with not enough available inventory in the inner loop, yet it’s somehow immoral for a developer to maximize the efficiency and livable space of near-town lots so that more people can have better options on where they can choose to live in this city for the betterment of their families?

    by all means please do what’s well within your rights (as opposed to those Southampton folks who prefer to bankroll lawyers in hopes of sidestepping democrat voting, or simply distrust it) , but most all of you just come off as stereotypical in that you’re fighting to preserve current standards of living (nighborhoods densities, traffic, lot sizes, etc) at the expense of younger generations. if you guys want to live in an area that’s heavily restricted and unable to expand to meet demand for incoming residents then please choose not to live in the center of a major city and even better, try relocating yourself to an area such as the Bay Area that’s already heavily restricted and hinders any new development and tell me how much luck you have at finding an affordable home.

    leaving the morality of it all aside, it’s statistically proven beyond any and all reasonable doubt that increased density provides an expanded return on tax revenue/expenditures which in turn guarantees better economic outcomes and access to public resources (ie. standards of living) to those living in said dense areas. i’ve seen study after study explain how increased density and less restrictive development improves standards of living, can someone please point in the direction of studies showing larger lot sizes and more development restrictions providing the same? i don’t know about you all, but i definitely don’t want to live in a city that is actively denying itself increased prosperity.

    many of you are proposing policies that will force younger couples to the suburbs for long term family planning indefinitely taxing the reach and efficiency of our tax revenue and access to existing resources. just interested in what it is that many of you feel you’re losing with increased density as i’ve lived here my whole life and the past 10 years have seen this city grow in ways I’d have never foreseen due to the increased density and it’s provided better infrastructure and amenities that have clearly been beneficial to all citizens. perhaps best for a new thread, but would really like to understand how the past 10 years of development in Houston have wronged so many and forced many to believe this city requires much more stricter building codes because it’s definitely not clear at all to me.

  • Your suspicion is correct, Two developers are pulling their resources together to oppose the residents of the Near Northside from proceeding with Chapter 42. The flyer was delivered to zip code 77009,this may be the reason you received the flyer.

  • There are three problems with the “just look at neighborhood XXXXX, it has large lots and its property values have shot up” argument.

    The first is ceteris paribus or the fact that you have to hold all other things equal. If home prices have gone up 20% in neighborhood XXXXX, but 50% everywhere else, then the large lots hurt property value. Or, even if they went up 60% maybe they would have gone up 80% if they had had divisible lots. So all of you guys talking about neighborhood XXXXX are not actually contributing anything worthwhile to the conversation at all.

    Second, even if neighborhood XXXXX did really go up in price relative to where it would have been with divisible lots, not everyone who wants to move into (or stay) in town is a millionaire. People lower on the totem pole would also like to be able to live in town. Restricting supply of lots (and thus housing units) first of all lowers supply meaning fewer people can live in town, and then, if preference sets/distributions don’t change the middle and lower classes are eventually forced out, as the city continues to grow. In the second case restricting the supply of lots by setting a lower limit on the size of lots makes housing units more expensive (you have to pay for more land) , making it harder for those of less means to be able to afford a decent urban lifestyle.

    Third, households vary on multiple axes. Not just income, but also preference for land, proximity to the city and many others. The fact that one neighborhood with large lots and cute bungalows has high prices does not mean that there are enough people with enough money and strong enough preferences for land and urban proximity, that price of every piece of land would go up if it had a larger minimum lot size.

    P.S. Angostura is correct, restrictions of this type may benefit those who live far enough away from the edge of the district, at the expense of those who live on the edge of the district (one reason why that historic district boundary announcement yesterday was such a joke), but my guess is that no one is actually far enough away from the boundary of this area to not be harmed by this restriction.

    empirical analysis of the the distributional impact of zoning using Baytown, TX ‘s creation of zoning ordinance.
    “Zoning and the Distribution of Location Rents: An Empirical Analysis of Harris County, Texas”
    Jeremy R. Groves, and Eric Helland

  • We passed prevailing lot size ordinances in Studes 2nd easily with usually one or two slum lords protesting that they didn’t want their property restricted because it would devalue it. A lot of neighbors hated deed restrictions but liked the pvls ordinance for its one purpose. Even today, years after we passed the ordinances I haven’t heard any complaints about it. A 50 ft. wide lot is not that big either. The property values here have risen because of the close proximity to downtown Houston and we still have old houses along with new. Just about everyone says that they love our area for its yards and trees. No one ever says they’d love to double the number of houses on their block.

  • I think we should take this to the Tampico Heights homeowners association meeting next week.

  • As the location advantages of the Near Northside become apparent and acceptable to the overall market, lot prices will go up – possibly substantially – regardless of whether minimum lot size restrictions are in place or not. Most homes in that area aren’t that compelling in their existing state nor for restoration purposes, so if the restrictions are enacted, the existing homes will be torn down and new expensive McMansion-ish homes will take their places.

    The lot prices without restrictions would likely be higher since the properties could be divided up for multiple new townhomes. I don’t buy the argument that total land prices in an un-townhomable neighborhood would be greater because of a uniform single family suburban-ish image – maybe for River Oaks, but not for areas less prestigious, which is pretty much everywhere else.

    For those who think that townhomes aren’t coming to the Northside soon, there are a few already there – and the tide is rolling in from First Ward and Woodland Park, a short walk across the Hogan overpass or Quitman underpass respectively. With our current economy, it’s pretty inevitable.

  • This is a disgrace. Another example of big developers moving in and taking advantage of an underserved neighborhood. I’ve lived in this peaceful, friendly neighborhood for >15 years. No one paid attention to this part of Houston for many years. Starbucks wouldn’t even come into the hood. Now, the developers want to come in, bulldoze the housing stock (great houses that need refurbishing) and built cheap, crappy townhomes that will be tenements in 10 years, if they aren’t blown away by the first Cat 1 hurricane that comes through. When a developer met with the neighborhood leaders, he showed them his plan to build 17 townhomes and a large drive through on 5 lots!!!! The 5 lots owned by the developer are on the corner of Quitman and South St. right next to the feeder of I-45 going north. The developer threatened the residents with “a well-organized and well-funded campaign to get people to vote against the Minimum Lot Size”. He expected the residents to just roll over and agree to this lunacy. The flyer uses scare-tactics and is not factual. Obviously the authors of the flyer care only about their money and not quality of life for the residents. No one is suggesting to heavily restricting the neighborhood. We just want our lots to remain the same size. There are no deed restrictions in the Near Northside. Since most of the residents living there now do not have a lot of money (unlike the developer who keeps talking about his investors and who owns multiple properties in other neighborhoods and who put the property back on the market for double what he paid for it a month before), Chapter 42 is the only means by which the residents can protect themselves. Less than 5 years ago the NNS was listed on the Texas Top 5 List of the States Most Endangered Neighborhoods. The Near Northside is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This neighborhood should be saved, not destroyed. Haven’t we learned from Freedmen’s Town?

  • The guy sending these poorly written flyers out IS a developer. He and his “investors” want to put 17 town homes on the corner of South Street and Quitman. They bulldozed a large quasi-single family home that was most recently used as a wedding venue. He is using underhanded tactics to scare residents into voting against the petition. His jerk-bending aside, this is one of a short list of options this lovely little pocket has to preserve a small piece of Houston’s history and a close knit community. We are constantly bring threatened by the 45 expansion, hardy toll road/Elysian viaduct redo, and developers coming in wanting to build tacky townhomes. I am all for a densely populated urban core, but I think the city planners need to tackle that issue. This is a democratic process and hopefully the residents and property owners will vote for establishing a minimum lot size.

  • The neighborhood is being targeted by developers, and this is part of of their plan to turn it into Sawyer Heights, or thanks to Houstonia, Tampico Heights.

    According to HCAD, 201 Quitman is owned by an individual whose mailing address is 2324 South. Also per HCAD 2324 South is owned by INTER SIGMA INVESTMENTS LLC. In March, this developer demolished the buildings on the property (Permit pulled was on swamplot: http://swamplot.com/daily-demolition-report-betsy-to-heavens/2014-03-07/)

    These folks did not do their homework, and will not be able to subdivide this property in order to cram as many townhomes as possible into this neighborhood. They are now faking grassroots support to try and scare the neighborhood. Kudos to these Near Northsiders for being one step ahead of these vultures, in a city where the vultures usually win.

  • So when amateurs express their own view of their self-interest, and it conflicts with the views of the social engineers, either those folks are blind to what’s best for them, in a “what’s the matter with Kansas” sort of way; or else they are urged, contra the prevailing zeitgeist, to selflessly set aside their preferences for the sake of others unknown to them – indeed, others not yet arrived.
    Should that latter group also be thinking of “what’s best” for others or do they get a pass?

  • I still think neighborhoods where more than 60% of the buildings are single family houses, should default to a suburban designation. Make the developers lobby to change that, or more realistically, push the developers to build townhomes and new residential neighborhoods on larger,underutilized pieces of land.
    .
    Houston is going to get more dense as more people move here. But that’s not the only thing pushing townhome and multifamily developers into single family neighborhoods. There’s also the matter of scale. Small developers can’t afford to buy a huge old warehouse or apartment complex, replat it, and build 30 or 40 houses on the land. Even mid sized developers might shy away from such an investment as being too risky.
    .
    The idea of defaulting residential neighborhoods to a suburban designation, could be coupled with efforts on the part of the Management Districts and TIRZs to help small and medium sized developers build on bigger, non-single-family pieces of land. They could team up with big developers to buy big pieces of land, replat it, do all the front-end neighborhood development work, and then sell lots to the smaller developers for townhomes. This would be a huge help in keeping cramalot development out of single family neighborhoods on the Near Northside and elsewhere, while also allowing for Houston’s growth and including small and mid sized developers.

  • RoB, do you mean First Ward? Sawyer Heights is an apartment building next to Target in First Ward.

  • So — I currently live in Near North Side, in a townhouse. When I purchased the house, it was all I could afford with wanting to live ‘in the loop’ and I have loved living there. Unfortunately the houses in the neighborhood are not of the same stock of the houses in the Heights — most of the houses (with very few exceptions) in NNS are falling down and in deplorable condition and likely unsalvageable. Before individuals will feel comfortable coming in and refurbishing houses in the area, the developers need to lead by building more townhouses and helping to gentrify the area. I am not opposed to minimum lot sizes – and think at some point they should be set for my neighborhood, but not yet. The area needs to have more growth, and gentrify further. Developers will lead this process by building additional townhouses…

  • So residents of an unzoned area should be able to restrict the property rights of others purely to protect an aesthetic theme against an aesthetic they don’t like, which causes them no physical harm (please don’t bring up the sunshade trope which is illegitimate anyway), under the banner of preventing their neighborhood from something mislabeled as “destruction” but is actually natural economic evolution – likely even beneficial as deteriorated, mostly unappealing housing product is replaced by current, more appealing housing product. Riiight…

    Newsflash: every single one of the original low-density single family suburbs built in Houston (like the Near Northside) – now basically in the very center of the urban region – is logically eligible and justifiable to be converted to higher density per the basics of urban economics unless prevented from doing so by private deed restrictions that haven’t expired. There is nothing wrong with this, it is actually a great sign of Houston’s economic health, and should proceed. Artificially trying to stop it through public regulatory restrictions on private property rights, in the ridiculous attempt to keep Houston’s core a low-density suburb, only hurts the city.

  • Regardless of the differing opinions of valuations, just be honest in the lobbying. Clearly this flyer comes from a developer and most probably a townhome developer; although, lobbying without transparency is the way we choose to treat all political games in this country.

  • This week I’ll vote against a school bond (“against the children!”), mostly out of cussedness, but also because I don’t really care to add a couple hundred dollars to my tax bill to satisfy others’ aesthetic taste. That is to say, the bond issue will not be used to beautify the campus across the street from me – that I would vote for – but it will re-artificial-turf some playing fields that were artificial-turfed 3 or four years ago … and I think they look fine, I didn’t care to see them turfed in the first place; and to purchase more iPads, since which are meaningless or even counterproductive educationally, it must be the sight of them in kids’ hands that pleases people – pure aesthetics, verging on superstition.
    In the years to come, if I bother to vote, I’ll vote against all kinds of things. just because they lead to stuff I don’t fucking like the sight of.
    But others do like, so I will always be on the losing end. Does this mean it’s my rights that are being trampled on? I feel your outrage and I appreciate it.
    We’re none of us starving, it can all be construed as aesthetics at this point.

  • Localplanner, which townhouse community are you currently building?

  • Dear mister planner,
    We are aware the town homes are already moving into our hood. They were tossed up in a week using particle board and staples like something purchased from IKEA. This is exactly why we don’t want you moving in! Get it?

  • @RyanR, Yes I mean First Ward. Sawyer Heights is not the neighborhood name, but it is used by real estate folks to sell the new townhouse version of First Ward (ie http://masonluxuryhomes.com/Properties/searchresult/propertydeatil:1/city:Houston/subdivision:SAWYER+HEIGHTS). I have been told second hard that one of the First Ward Civic Association folks made it part of their saturday morning ritual to review the real estate listings for the neighborhood and email or call the listing agents of properties that claimed Sawyer Heights to tell them that was not a real thing and to call the neighborhood First Ward.

  • The Near Northside has some of the oldest houses in Houston but as mentioned above they’ve been neglected and abused for most of their lives so it would take a special person to restore one. A few will and I applaud them but the bottom line is that area is destined for demolition . That cute Queen Anne cottage pictured in the Demo Report today is in 1st Ward and is probably in better shape than any over in NN and is going down because the 5000 sq ft city lots are going for $300K now. If you combine that area, the 5th Ward right over the tracks and most of the East End, you’ve got probably 1/4 of the entire Inner Loop area that has housing stock that is not, save for grass-root or municipal intervention, going to survive the demand for land in the coming decades. And I’m a hard-core preservationist type. The real question is what types of construction and of what level of quality will take place where; ie; if rape is inevitable, please wear a condom.

  • Ha! Just because I’m not against densification of single family detached areas you think I’m a developer. Sorry, I have no financial interest in any townhome developments, though I might occasionally work for such developers from time to time – as well as other types of developers. My position is purely ideological, and correct.

  • Arguments about property values and aesthetics aside, from a planning standpoint, a neighborhood of aging, low-quality, single family (mostly) rental properties, in the shadow of downtown, and along a brand new light rail line, is about the dumbest possible place to enact minimum lot size protections. Isn’t this area exactly where high-density multi-family projects SHOULD be built?

  • For a telling example of what happens when you fight to prevent density (height- or width-wise) in order to preserve aesthetic in a high-demand area, one need look no further than San Francisco.

    First come the architectural controls, then come the rent controls, and then come to the new laws to prevent evictions and the protests about being priced out of their own city as the housing stock does not keep up with population.

  • luciaphile, certainly understand your examples, but whereas it’s perfectly understandable for the entire community of taxpayers footing the bill for a schools bonds to vote on them themselves, what’s not clear to me is why an individual neighborhood within a larger community (ie. houston) is able to vote for their own lot size restrictions with no input from neighboring citizens. we all pay the same taxes and are paying for the same infrastructure so this is where I get lost and am trying to understand all the rage against townhomes, despite them being an economic necessity for the inner loop right now.

    still not understanding the hate other than the “way they look” and that apparently people don’t like them being engineered and built with the most cost efficient materials while still meeting all code requirements. It’d be fair to say you have an issue with our building codes that new developments are engineered to, rather than basing it on subjective opinions of building materials.

  • @Angostura, perhaps you hit it just right: this is where “high density multi-family projects should be built”–not townhomes OR single-family housing.

    Just playing devil’s advocate here for a second, but perhaps an apartment developer put this out there to get the locals–who of course would be against townhome development–to vote yes for the minimum lot size requirement. If large developers don’t have to bid against the small townhome developers they’ll get to build their apartment buildings with less buying competition for the land. Moreover, minimum lot size means full blocks of houses can be bought more easily without townhouse developer competition that isn’t looking to buy the whole block.

    A vote of “no” = townhomes. A vote of “yes” = multi-family apartments.

  • I never cease to be amused at the reflexive accusation of “developer!” at anyone who takes a anti-regulatory stance on land use. I’ve seen it so many dozens of times now around the country you’d think it came out of an official NIMBY Book of Dishonest and Logically Fallacious Argumentation (under the “Effective Ad Hominems” and “Cynical Appeal to Motive” chapters), but perhaps everyone has hit on it independently.

  • What was the point of putting the Red line up N. Main if the adjacent neighborhood property owners were going to request MLS? It’s like a bizzaro-world version of the University Line and the Afton Oaks situation.

  • “Sorry, I have no financial interest in any townhome developments, though I might occasionally work for such developers from time to time – as well as other types of developers.” If you occasionally work for townhouse developers, please explain to the jury how it is that you have no financial interest in any townhome developments. Seriously.

  • Dana-X, when I consider this topic, I can only think of Clayton Williams. Your comment is dead on. So, “[i]f it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it … and hand that vulture a condom.”