Four Brand New Old Historic Districts Approved; Heights East and Heights West Batted Back for More Study

FOUR BRAND NEW OLD HISTORIC DISTRICTS APPROVED; HEIGHTS EAST AND HEIGHTS WEST BATTED BACK FOR MORE STUDY Votes by city council this morning mean Norhill, Avondale West, and Boulevard Oaks will remain historic districts with their existing boundaries governed by the city’s new preservation ordinance. First Montrose Commons — minus a single property removed by the recommendation of the planning director — will remain a historic district as well. But by a 7-to-8 vote, the council rejected the planning director’s recommendations for Heights West and Heights East. They’re still governed by the ordinance, but the reports have been sent back to the planning department for “further review.” Still to come up for votes: Heights South, Glenbrook Valley, and Woodland Heights. [Previously on Swamplot]

49 Comment

  • Thank you to the 8 council members who LISTENED to the 65% opposition in the Heights and vote the Heights districts back for review. It remains to be seen whether Planning listens to the opposition, or whether they attempt to railroad the same thing back through.

    My suggestion, as a resident of the pending South Heights district, is to start over and gain a consensus of the neighborhood before going back to Council. But, this has never been about what the majority of residents want. It has always been about what a few dozen residents want to do to the rest of us.

    Thanks again to Council. My faith in the process has been restored!

  • 65% opposition? Since when did 25%=65%? I thought the big argument was that we did not know what the level of support was because we shouldn’t assume that a non-response is support. Sounds like 65% opposition is making some of the same assumptions.

  • Yay, more fighting about the historic districts … just when we were all staring to calm down.

  • Regarding the 65% opposition claim: Herman Goebbels said that if you repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough people will believe it. This type of claim also pervades the national debate on a variety of crucial issues.

  • So, just asking here, what is the most realistic next step on this? I am thinking the planning department will go back, tweak out some properties and put it back through? How long will that take?

  • Let’s be clear that in neither Heights West, East, nor South, did 65% of property owners respond in favor of repeal. It’s that simple.

    This ridiculous 65% opposition number has been and is being thrown around by people taking the (approx.) 40% of survey respondents in support of repeal, plus 20% of property owners who did not respond.

    I don’t remember the exact breakdown of the numbers, but I was at council when this woman from the Heights got up there and tried telling council that basically no response is tantamount to opposition to a historic designation.

  • This is good news. Maybe they will actually let the communities decide on what is best for them, instead of just telling them how they should be.

  • To get the stats right, in Heights East, 52.13% of property owners signed the petition to establish the district. In Heights West it was 52.55%. But in both districts they stopped when they had more than 51% as that was all that was required.

    On the recent resurvey, in Heights East, 24.74% of the tracts voted to repeal the district and in Heights West it was 26.26%. Those are the facts.

    There is simply no evidence that a “majority” or anywhere close to that threshold want to repeal the historic district designations.

    The “anti” group has been working since last summer with signs, blogs, letters, phone calls, personal visits, flyers, editorials in print and on air and ads in the local papers to garner support for doing away with the districts — they failed. If they had a petition signed by a large number of homeowners, or some evidence to support their claims, I am sure we would have seen it by now.

  • 65% comes from an independent poll taken of the Heights E, W and S residents. It was a fair poll, not the disengenuous method applied by the corrupt historic preservation ordinance.

    I remind everyone that the 51% original historic designation petition was achieved over three years and was for a historic district designation that provided for a 90 day waiver.

    The problem is that it really is true that the vast majority of Heights residents oppose historic district status under the new ordinance and city council is now realizing the consequences of acting against the wishes of their constituents.

  • Heightsroadbiker,

    Do your figures include city property? Because the petitions submitted for the historic districts did. That’s how they got their “majority”. Additionally, when the new ordinance came out, dozens of former supporters retracted their support.

    I’ll agree that their is not one survey that shows 65%, but rather a compilation of residents who showed opposition from several votes and petitions. BUT, whose fault is THAT? The Mayor and CM Lovell’s, who did not want an accurate gauge of opposition or support. They knew the numbers were against them.

  • So Avondale West, which had the highest number of petitions as well as surveys from all the districts, is approved, while other districts are requiring more analysis?

  • While my faith in the system is far from restored, Im temporarily impressed that the voice of reason prevailed today.
    Faith will permanently be restored, when and if they devise a system that gets an up to date vote on the “current” ordinance, giving each landowner the proper percentage of voting weight based on their land ownership—and I’ll live with the results.

  • I take it the repeal folks are like the Tea Party activists… Scream something loud enough and you don’t need facts. You can just shout down the opposition from your soap box. I bet the next step is a proposition requiring all supporters of historic designation to have to provide their birth certificates.

  • I often wonder how people come up with the names they use here and on other sites. Sometimes it is very obvious…

  • Great news for the future viability of Houston Heights.

  • Outfield Dan: I am in Heights West. No one polled me. No one released this “poll” to the public. Was this the same kind of “poll” Walmart used to claim they had support?

    You all had your chance to show your opposition and you failed. Now, you all have managed to scare up the politicians enough to get them to reject the recommendation. But, guess what. That just means that the status quo is still in place. No 90 day waiver. The anit-preservationists have only succeeded in cutting off their nose to spite their face.

  • Seems a little silly to be fighting over whether 25% oppose the designation, or 65% oppose it or 51% support it.
    The ordinance provides a process for designation of districts, so if support is there, it should be a simple matter to get signatures from the 10% required to start the process (and maintain protected status) until a survey under the rules of the ordinance can be taken.
    If I lived in one of these districts, and I wanted these restrictions applied, and I thought my neighbors agreed with me, I’d want to get started on this process sooner rather than later, instead of relying on the Council to grandfather in the existing districts.

  • Old School… the Pro Ordinance crowd had their chance to do this correctly, as a community driven change, and Failed. A lot of people who would support parts of the ordinance are against it strictly because of the way it was just railroaded in. Your use of the term “anti-preservationist” shows your colors. It is obvious that it was not a democratic process, it was not community driven, and does not reflect the general consensus of the neighborhood. Instead of blaming developers/teabaggers/republicans why not try to do this the correct way, with true community support? Do you really just want to hammer something through if even just only 25% of the community is VERY against it? That is not very neighborly.

  • There is no evidence that a majority of homeowners in the districts either approve of or disapprove of the new ordinance, that is an undisputable fact. The correct, democratic way to clear this up is to poll all of the homeowners in the district again using the new ordinance. Surely noone would have any problem with that would they?

  • By the by, it does amuse me that people in favor of a system that counts a no vote as a vote for one particular side of an issue would try and lecture anyone about democracy or propaganda. Possibly a civics refresher is in order.

  • Hear, hear Jimbo.

  • Jimbo,
    I agree with you. The only way to clear this up is to poll all of the homeowners. I don’t think the anti-ordinance crowd would be against that, but it seems the pro-ordinance crowd is. If they are afraid that they would lose in an all encompassing poll, then shame on them for trying to push something through they aren’t confident the majority supports.

  • The Pro-ordinance crowd is petrified of any real vote because they probably do not have even 25% homeowner support. The old 51% survey that was used (1) included city owned property (which is exempt from the ordinance) (2) was based upon the ordinance which included a 90-day waiver (3) Took 3 years to get 51% (many people who signed no longer even own the property)
    These same people knew when the ordinance was changed that they would lose a great deal of support so they attempted to cram it down everyones throats.
    People woke up! They saw their single largest investment being destroyed by a bunch of snots who did not care who they walked over to get their way.
    There has never been an affirmative vote on this issue…a true yes or no. That is what the Anti-ordinance people want…they want a real chance to be heard…..they want to show the city that the pro-ordinance support does not exist….that what we have is actually a bunch of loud snotty people who want to control their neighbors use of their property so that it forms their own personal utopia.
    All that is asked is a real vote…nothing more, nothing less. The support is not there or it would have happened by now.

  • Marksmu: what is a snot, what does it look like, and is it talking to you now?

  • A snot is a person who tries to impose their own will and personal beliefs upon others without any regard at all to what the other wants.

    In this instance its everyone who claims support for the ordinance exists, but is unwilling to allow a real democratic vote on the issue.

    See also: any person who believes that the process used to modify the ordinance, or to vote upon/create the districts has been democratic, fair, or not grossly eschewed to achieve a predetermined outcome.

  • Having been through a political process where support had to be demonstrated, I can say from experience that those who opposed the particular issue at the time did not limit themselves to the truth. They made wild false claims—some easily debunked with empirical evidence, others not— and spent much time creating as much chaos, and confusion as possible. Why? because it’s easy to “turn” many people to your side if you scare the crap out of them, and then turn them off the whole issue by the “battle”, so they are less likely to be receptive to accurate information, and more likely to just steer clear of the whole thing. Scare tactics are unfortunately effective, and prey on people’s ignorance. The nos did not prevail in the case I speak of, but it was a longer process than it would have been without the rampant spreading of bald face lies meant as scare tactics.

    It’s far easier

  • It’s far easier to just make wild false claims, to just make a lot of noise while making it up as you go than it is to limit yourself to accurate and sometimes a bit complex information.

  • In this case, you can take the exact wording of the ordinance and show how it prevents homeowners from doing almost anything at all to their house without an approval from the HAHC.

    You can also show using the exact wording of the ordinance, how broad the powers granted actually are….the extremely broad nature of the ordinance leaves it open to incredible amounts of abuse.
    There were far more lies/misleading comments made by the supporters of the ordinance than there were by the anti-ordinance people.
    The support is not there. The Mayor, Sue Lovell, and Ms. Hartgrove know that…they will oppose any effort that will call for a true vote on the issue.

  • the mayor and the city council are elected officials. elected officials have one overriding desire – to continue as elected or appointed government officials.

    supporting divisive issue, like a restrictive historic preservation ordinance is bad for your political survival coefficient.

    so not surprising that the city council sent the ordinance ‘back to planning’ where it can be watered down and made non effective and less
    controversial. then the new rules approved by the city council as the easy way out.

    all playing out to its logical conclusion.

    back to the 90 day waiver with a few restrictions prohibiting multi- family housing complexes in heights east and west. which seems to be the crux of the issue.

  • hmmmm just watched the council meeting yesterday and read the transition ordinance to see what teh law says has happened.

    The council did not vote to send it back to planning. They voted to reject the planning depts recomnedation/report that recommended to keep the districts as is.

    According to the law outlined in the transition ordinance itseld,planning could only …recommend changes, recommend doing nothing or recommend dissolving the district. Council then could only accept or reject the recomendation. They rejected it for these disticts thus there are no longer districts and according to the ordinance itself their vote is final.

    No where does the law provide the option of sending it back to planning. If you watch the meeting they didn’t even make a motion to do so. you may wish they did you may think they can and youmay think that it is allowed. But their is no provision in the law for the council to do anything but acceptand follow the recomendation and report or say no to the whole thing.

    I see a law suit just dying to eat up the city’s money here.

  • and yes 2 degrees and years of experience still mean my typing and spelling sucks. but my point is still valid.

  • The pro-ordinance group still seems to want to rely on a flawed process which wasn’t even followed which broke it more. The 25% returned in a vote is better than all city officials got in their vote in 2009 and likely will surpass what they will get in 2011. But, the petition process is a much better indication of the true sentiments of the community. That is what council understood. The opposition presented REAL AND SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE of a lack of support and that is what swayed the council, not some outlandish claims of support that could not be demonstrated. They see the same old group of 20 people from the Heights show up and say everyone loves it, its a silent vote, a non-vote is a vote. But the council isn’t that stupid. They get it. Because of the way Parker manipulated things, the proponents had NO EVIDENCE of their claims of support. Not that they would have had it anyway but they had NOTHING to back up their so called over-whelming support in the Heights. There is no point of blaming anyone but the “boss” as Gonzalez calls her. She overplayed her hand and she lost in a big way.

  • What was this “real and substantial evidence” of a lack of support? That 75% of the people in the districts didn’t ask for them to be removed?

  • This is an interesting set of comments, though. Mostly I have learned that anti-preservation people REALLY LOVE THE CAPS LOCK KEY.

  • @John. By my count there is 1 word in caps in the first comment from David Ward and 7 more in caps in RHP’s comment just above yours. Thats out of 34 comments. Could you explain how that is evidence of some sort of rampant caps lock overuse?

    Also, lets apply your logic about the level of support to the last mayoral election. 102,000 people voted for Annise Parker out of approximately 1,000,000 registered voters. Applying your own logic that means that almost 90% of registered voters didn’t want Annise Parker to be mayor and therefore she should never have become mayor. Actually its worse than that because there are more people eligible to vote than actually registered to vote. Please don’t tell me you really can’t see how undemocratic this process has been.

  • Democracy requires that people be given the opportunity to participate. If they choose not to take it – too bad. If someone can’t be bothered to return the petition that showed up in their mailbox – the process involved the city actively soliciting a request to kill the districts! – then I don’t believe that person is opposed to it. Or, they’re opposed to it, but don’t care enough to take four minutes out of life to help get rid of it, then they don’t matter.

    Only about a quarter of residents expressed their opposition. Sorry, that’s a fact.

  • John,

    That isn’t really an apples to apples comparison. 3 years to sign the petition for a not even comparable ordinance, vs. 30 days during the holiday season. Indifference does not equal support or non-support. Your statement that the indifferent crowd doesn’t matter is not very neighborly. 25% of all possible voters is quite significant, do you really want to piss off 1/4 of your neighbors if you aren’t certain that the majority wants what you want?

  • If you can only get 25% to sign despite spreading a lot of doom & gloom and overheated rhetoric, that says something. And I’m sorry, but if you don’t bother to get involved by voting and paying attention to what’s happening in your neighborhood, you *won’t* matter. That may not be neighborhorly to point out, but it’s the truth.

    A petition was delivered to everybody’s mailbox. I’m not sure how much easier you can make it.

  • #38

    Simple and easy, it should have been a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. That way, EVERYBODY would have been required to return the “survey”.

  • A 25% vote is an incredible turn-out. There was never any question that a “voting process” (if you can really call it that) would never yield the same kind of numbers a petition process would. Americans don’t vote, which is really kind of funny given we are supposed to be so democratic. The rest of the world’s democracies don’t get why we don’t vote – but the fact is we don’t. The percentage of registered voters who voted for mayor in 2009 was 19.12%. They had the opportunity to early vote. They had the opportunity to vote by mail. And they could go to the polls. And the best they could do was 19.12%. All in all, the opposition had an amazing turn-out given the timing of the busiest two weeks of the year and a so-called ballot, called a survey (which many people threw out) and looked and read just like what people had already signed. And in the busiest time of the year, 25% managed to get their HCAD and legal address, fill out an envelope, get a stamp and put it in the mail. All things considered, it was an absolute landslide – if you understand the voting habits of Americans and look at all the obstacles placed in front of homeowners to vote.

    Obviously the council members got it, did the math, looked at all of the opposition and voted no. Like Bradford said “they are still waiting on a card, council member.” And what was it Pennington said to Gonzalez? “if you had been listening to what people have been saying you’d see , I don’t think this a good argument at all, nor do I think, I agree with Bradford here, that we’ve not had a fair process here, I don’t see how you can defend that process, there hasn’t been a card, hasn’t been an opportunity to vote yes or no, I wasn’t going to get into that, but since you insists on defending it , I think it’s indefensible, thank you”

    And that is from two of the 5 lawyers on Council. It is interesting that 4 of the 5 lawyers voted to reject the report. Think they know something? Pennington was a Fulbright partner specializing in muni law. I suspect he knows a tad more about this than Ed “the Mayor is my boss” Gonzalez.

  • So then what was so strikingly different about the process and results in the four districts where the planning director’s report was accepted?

  • Depends on which one you are talking about. 3 of the 4 didn’t have much more than 10% petitions for reconsideration. Norhill was only slightly above 10% – like 12 or 15%. But they already have very restrictive deed restrictions. For them, it is a matter of having to deal with two sets of regulations and two steps to make changes. There was no need for the ordinance. FMC – again, barely got their 10%. And they have no deed restrictions. Their deal isn’t that they want the restrictions on existing structures but hate the townhouses all over Montrose (and I agree) but they didn’t have to go that route to eliminate townhomes. Boulevard Oaks only had opposition on two blocks. They have deed restrictions and didn’t need the ordinance either but those two blocks shouldn’t be in the district. They barely escaped getting re-drawn because the proponents went back to the homeowners and got them to retract their opposition otherwise they were on the road to getting rejected too. The HOA convinced the opponents to stay in for the rest of them and said the restrictions wouldn’t hurt them. Supposedly the HAHC will let them renovate in sensible ways because they are already large enough and they were made promises that their plans will be approved. They were also told by the HOA that they think their CM will go to bat for them if they have to appeal to council. (Which would not be the case with Bonzo Gonzo).

    That leaves Avondale West which was the one district that actually had enough opposition but it was mainly from investors and their CM went with the residents, not the investors. The few homeowners who were opposed got thrown under the bus. Had the opposition been from more residents, they wouldn’t have gotten through. They also had a number of petitions that “mysteriously” never made it to the planning department and one that didn’t was one of the strongest opponents who swears, is adamant that his ballot was mailed – but oops, never showed up. There was a number of those in the Heights too, including my neighbor who sent his in even before the Reagan meeting. Magically, some petitions turned up later…who would have guessed??? They are still probably finding them – ROTFLMAO!

    The Heights districts were a whole ‘nuther animal. Those districts had a very large number of petitions signed so the only legitimate explanation are those we’ve already expressed. And council agreed with.

  • Investors definitely should not matter as much as residents. Investors property rights are worthless, and in general investors do not play an important role to any neighborhood anyway.

  • Dana, who made you the arbiter of who is important and who isn’t? An investor’s property rights are just as important as your or mine. Besides, some of the investors actually live in the areas where they own additional property.

  • Ross, I have to agree with Council’s decision. Sure Avondale had the most opposition out of all the districts, but there is no reason to look into their results any further. It is true almost all investors in the area were strongly against the ordinance. And you are right, most of those investors also live in one of their buildings or one of their homes. But we have to agree with our Council, and our rep in particular, Wanda Adams. She clearly knows the areas well. She voted to make some historic and voted to send some back for more analysis. She was the key, and I think her opinion should be respected and followed, even if she can’t correctly conjugate verbs.

  • @ Dana – Sarcasm is pretty difficult to pick up on over the internet, and your comments are so out of touch with reality I think they have to be sarcastic. If they are not sarcastic…well I dont even know where to start.

  • No – investors and residents rights should have been equally weighed and the numbers should have prevailed. And it certainly the results need more scrutiny. The property owners, investors and residents alike have recourse if they choose to go that route!

  • Marksmu, you don’t trust that our elected council members will act honestly and in the best interest of the property owners, those being affected? Wanda Adams met with the three people who presented to Council for Avondale West. Two of them were not owners. Then she concluded from having spoken to them that a strong majority of Avondale continued to accept the historic designation. I am generally for historic preservation, and owning 25 buildings in Montrose I know a little about its effects personally. But the process used to get there used little math and a lot of politics. An equation I will never support. it hurt a lot of people, and helped just the few that had already restored their buildings and had no intention of expanding or selling.

  • We are hearing that the administration is in quite a quandry about both the 2 Heights Districts and the pending districts. There is no provision in the ordinance to send it back to planning. They know they can’t get away with doing nothing. They don’t have direction and they can’t act without direction. Quite a predicament that they have no answers for. And they don’t have the votes to pass any of the pending districts. Right now, the count on the pending is 9-6. Council members want to know the current level of support for each. Some are saying it needs to be 67% and others are saying it needs to be 51% but none are willing to vote for it if it isn’t 51%. And none are higher than 47%. It will be interesting to see what tricks are used to try to get them passed.