Headlines: Houston’s Unsustainable Growth; Last Call for SRO Sports Bar

Photo: Candace Garcia via Swamplot Flickr Pool

19 Comment

  • I find it funny that the headline “Houston Quality of Life in Jeopardy” is directly followed by “Houston Makes Case for Highest Standard of Living in the World.” Which is it?

  • @jefe, I saw that too. lol.

  • jefe/benny, I believe the Standard of Living article reflects the “is” and the Quality of Life discusses the “will be” and offers some suggestions. (One of which was laughable: Houstonians spend a nationally disproportionate amount of their incomes on housing and transportation, so the solution is … more public transportation! But why not, if public transportation is really an empirical solution and not just a policy desire, more public housing, too?).

  • Jason C: Your comment reflects the gist of the problem. Too many Houstonians have some freakish belief that Houstonians and Houston are totally unique in the world and that solutions that work around the world simply won’t work here.It’s truly laughable.
    To your point about public housing; we already subsidize housing for hundreds of thousands by spending billions on infrastructure that allow people to buy cheaper housing further and further away from the employment centers described in the report. The Grand Parkway is a perfect horrendous example of this practice. If those same dollars were spent to improve the existing transportation infrastructure, we might be better off.
    BTW, freeways and tollways are just as much a part of “public” transportation as rail systems. We’ve spent 50plus yrs ever-expanding them; yet our they have never solved our traffic problems. Perhaps we should primarily invest in something else for the next 50.

  • I didn’t see the full study, but is it for the city of Houston or metro? The article made it seem as it is for the city. If that’s the case, then I assume all the anglos are in the suburbs. If it is a metro study, where and why are they all going…Austin?

  • I would love to know why TI is moving farther out to Sugar Land, when they are busy closing the Stafford location. The article addresses reasons given, real reasons?

    Tax credits? Cleanup of old site?

  • The Rice report recommends the sexy “sustainable” idea; more rail, more density (UN Agenda 21, climate change). The other is slanted toward free markets, low taxes, let business expand freely (Manhattan Institute writer). Maybe that’s how they’re able to each portray differents stat graphics to support their twists.

  • Public transportation works great in other cities. I’ve lived in Pittsburgh (where we were a 1 car family), Chicago (awesome train service into the city) and Minneapolis (suburban bus lines rock) where mass transit doesn’t mean massive amounts of traffic. Why can’t it work here? We already have the suburban sprawl so why don’t we work on some solutions to reducing traffic?

  • The study that said Houston isn’t going in a sustainable direction said 2 things…

    1. better mass transit.
    2. living options closer to work, and they referenced the current rebates offered for building residential in downtown, but that this wasn’t enough.

    1. we do need better transit options, not just mass transit. our current bus system is a joke, and it’s unsafe to ride a bike in all but a select few areas.
    2. their reference point of offering an incentive to downtown condos is a great starting point, and I think if it succeeds it could be copied in other business districts.

    problem is, native Houstonians and long time occupants of the city want 2 things:
    1. to have a brand new and huge house.
    2. to have a bigger truck than the car they really need.
    a lot of the cost of living things would go away if the people living here would adjust their goals a bit.

  • @toasty, what goals? The folks I know who live in large houses need them. Houses in the suburbs are much more affordable than anything in town, which is the main concern. The people who live in Copperfield, etc, are not going to move to a tiny condo or apartment in town, even if the commute is shorter. They like the schools in the burbs, the yards, and the amenities.

    As for SUV’s, they are the new station wagon. Without my 4Runner, I would not be able to carry all the stuff for our weekend activities, go camping, go hunting, tow a boat, etc. When I was a kid, we had a large station wagon to do all of that.

  • I have lived in many cities overseas and in the USA and I can assure you that this is the freeest place to live work and play in the world. No one cares much who your father was, you can get an affordable house (in the burbs or in a few cheaper areas outside beltway 8 or east Houston) and there are jobs! You don’t have to kiss the ass of some corrupt moron zoning official to build something or contend with freakish Sierra Clubbers telling you what you can do with your property. You can be black, Hispanic, Asian, gay, libertarian or anything else and people mostly accept you here. Women succeeded here too. Try starting a business in Chicago or San Fran and see how far you get….the only weakness here is the schools and the weather but the people are awesome

  • @Jason
    Yeah, you’re right building roads has never solved traffic problems in Houston except … oh yeah … allowing the metro to grow from 1 million to 6 million people.

    The premise is dumb and tired – improving ANY infrastructure is not supposed to clear ALL congestion.

    I challenge you to find someone who really believes that if one road is widened in a rapidly growing city (like Houston), that they’ll never have to sit in a traffic jam again.

    Transit also does not reduce road congestion by any measurable amount and does not offer significantly different trip times either. And often, the taxpayer cost per transit customer far exceeds the sam for roads. If a particular transit project makes sense, let’s build it, but don’t build something just because other cities have done it.

    Yeah, but heck, let’s just “try” something different anyway. Right?

  • The unwillingness to send your kids to HISD seems to me a more than minor caveat. My recollection is that thirty or 40 years ago, typical GOP-voting West Houston types, unless they were Catholic, rarely considered sending their kids to other than public secondary schools. The subject of “education” didn’t absorb them, to say the least, but if my parents were any guide there was a suspicion that there was something weak about you if you couldn’t make it in public school; and a purely practical notion that the world you were being readied for has in it many kinds of people, none of them hand-picked for your convenience, and school should reflect that.
    Public school, at least in its current incarnation, is no ideal of mine; but the fact that it has so readily been sold down the river kind of renders hollow encomiums to Houston’s openness. A 2-tiered school system, one for the children of the elite and one for the proles, seems like a recipe for oligarchy, but maybe that’s the only way a place like Houston is really “sustainable.”

  • Public education is the bedrock of modern civilization. Get rid of it and we will become Mexico in a generation. That’s the truth. It was very heartening to see Houstonians vote in favor of HISD’s bond proposals in such overwhelming numbers.

  • It’s not just HISD. Educated professionals are unwilling to send their kids to: (most of) HISD, part of Spring Branch ISD, all of Alief ISD, all of Aldine ISD, all of North Forest ISD (soon to be gone anyway), all of Pasadena ISD, all of Spring ISD, most of Goose Creek ISD, part of Fort Bend ISD, part of Katy ISD, part of Klein ISD, part of Cy Fair ISD. In my opinion, it’s not so much the districts (as administrative entities), it’s the other kids who will share their child’s classroom. Generally, upwardly mobile professionals don’t trust children from low-mod income households – even ones from low-priced single family homes (under say $125,000) – and don’t want their kids to be around them. This has a greater effect on metropolitan development and real estate markets, especially in the suburbs, than almost anything, IMHO. I know there’s exceptions of course, but the home prices and Census stats in favored school zones speak for themselves.

    That said, making blanket statements that imply a tradeoff between sufficiently spacious homes in the outer suburbs and a tiny condo in the city is ridiculous. It can’t be all about house size and price. The city and inner suburbs have many areas of inexpensive spacious suburban homes with yards – even some new-builds – it’s just that most people willfully ignore them for the school reasons stated above.

  • Yes, luciaphile, I think it’s such an obvious answer that I kind of wonder why they asked it. It was THE deciding factor for where I grew up in the Houston area. And it is even more of a concern today. Most young people I know that have lived inside the Loop for several years are now all looking at real estate outside 610. Sure, many of them make enough money could afford a house inside 610, but they realize they would have to move in 5 years if they had kids right away – or send them to private school. For the majority of HISD, it’s not even an option – you would be consigning your child to a worse education and fewer opportuniteies than you had.

  • Something that popped into my head as I read the comments here: Did you know that Kevin Brady got Federal stimulus monies for traffic abatement that were used to build a boat house for the water taxis in The Woodlands? That illustrates why the system we live with, while better than most, is still very broken.

  • @Michele,

    I have given up entirely on The Woodlands. I spent the better part of my childhood growing up and attending school there from the early ’90s to the mid ’00s, and have seen how far it has strayed from George Mitchell’s original vision for the community.
    The town center has become a tacky haven for nouveau riche Real Housewives wannabes and for rich Mexican expats who have no taste or class whatsoever.
    The newer neighborhoods don’t adhere to the old design principles – they don’t bother to leave the original flora or bury the powerlines underground anymore. And instead of tasteful, understated houses that blend in with the natural features, it’s block after block of pasteboard faux-Tuscan/Mediterranean monstrosities.
    And the water taxis? I believe Brady made the case at a number of town hall meetings that they could be considered “public transportation” for people who live on the Waterway and work in the office buildings by the mall. The number of people who actually could use them to go to work are maybe a couple dozen at best and who in their right mind wants to sit on a boat in a smelly fake canal at 8:00 in the morning? No one.

  • From Ross: Houses in the suburbs are much more affordable than anything in town, which is the main concern. The people who live in Copperfield, etc, are not going to move to a tiny condo or apartment in town, even if the commute is shorter. They like the schools in the burbs, the yards, and the amenities.
    All those are legit reasons to move to the burubs. But why are they so cheap? Because they’re far away. So the trade off is being further from the city center. So when buying out there, you’re trading locatino for size and cost. Thus, you can’t expect to get the advantages of big & cheap w/o the disadvantages of being in BFE and fighting traffic to get to where you want to go.
    And FYI, there are TONS of inner loop locations that are super cheap. I know because I see investors buying land and property all over the east side of the loop. We’ve bought buildings a few miles east of downtown for the low teens PSF on the land, that — if a few miles west — would be $100/SF. Sure it’s not the best neighborhoods but it solves the cost/location issue.