Houston’s “No Zoning” Award: The Official 2011 Ballot

Uh-oh: Looks like there might be a big storm ahead! That would be Category 5 of the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate: The “No Zoning” Award. What place, person, or effort deserves such an honor? One of the 5 official nominees listed below. You tell us which, with your votes!

You’ve got 4 of them to spend in this category: You can cast one vote in a comment at the bottom of this post, another in an email to Swamplot, another from Twitter, and another by posting on the wall of Swamplot’s Facebook fan page. (All the rules for voting are spelled out here.) If you want to help your favorite candidate win, start a campaign! The voting ends for this and all categories of the 2011 Swampies at 5 pm on Tuesday, December 27th.

The official nominees for the 2011 “No Zoning” Award are . . .


1. Office Towers on St. James Place, Galleria. “The Marathon Oil Tower at 5555 San Felipe sits directly across the street from 4-or-more-bedroom homes and an entire residential neighborhood. A 40-story building to the left, a home with a huge lot to the right. Pretty much sums up no zoning, Houston style.”




2. Proposed 40 Percent Increase in Required Number of Off-Street Parking Spaces for New Bars, City of Houston. “Under the plan, new bars of a certain size would need 14 spaces for every 1,000 sq. ft., not the current 10. The change should allow more retiring bar patrons easy access to their vehicles at the end of the night — walking through neighborhoods all the way to a car parked on the street in the wee hours can be dangerous. No, there’s no zoning here in Houston, but we sure do regulate us some land use.”


3. Spec’s Wine & Spirits, 6010 Washington Ave, Camp Logan. “Forced to close more than 2 years ago after the county attorney’s office found TABC had granted the store a liquor license based on an error made by the city. But Spec’s still has a lease on the property, and the battle continues to rage behind the scenes. A new state law allows the county judge to appeal the city’s decision not to allow a license, even though the store is located within the ‘alcohol-free zone’ surrounding Memorial Elementary. If we’d all known where these no-zoning zones were, would this mess have ever happened?”


4. St. Agnes Academy Athletic Complex, Bellaire Blvd. at Fondren, Sharpstown. “A fuss over competing city and state alcohol regulations, or a proxy war for the future of Sharpstown? PlazAmericas bar El Corral applied for an alcohol license before the girls-only Catholic school bought the former auto dealership lot across the street — but only received it after construction on the running track, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and other sports facilities had already begun. St. Agnes filed a lawsuit to prevent the bar from opening. Nope, there aren’t any zoning laws involved — just a city ordinance that allows schools to petition for ‘alcohol-free zones.’ Do the athletic fields count as a school? There’s something that seems uniquely Houston about the whole situation.”


5. Zone d’ Erotica, 2626 West Loop South, Galleria. “‘Mommy? Daddy? What’s in that cute pink-and-purple store next to Dillards?’ Yes, that lumpy looking building is Houston’s highest-profile sex shop, bulging near the base of the city’s highest-profile skyscraper, and next to its highest-profile shopping mall. Do Galleria managers grimace in distaste every day as they drive by? Or do they even notice it anymore? Sure, Houston has zones — they’re just different from the kinds you might find elsewhere.”


All righty, then! Which one of these nominees deserves to win? Vote now!

Photos: Flickr user Yu-Pu (parking lot; license), Candace Garcia (all others)

33 Comment

  • #5, because its just so Houston.

  • Tough call between nuns filing a lawsuit to keep a bar from opening across from an all girl’s school and a sex shop operating in the shadow of the biggest shopping mecca south of the Mason/Dixon line… tough call. I vote for the nuns, #4.

  • #5. It IS so Houston: a gaudy exterior(but very well equipped – pun intended !) sex shop in close proximity to Le Gayleria.

  • I’d say #1, because though the people in Southamton may fuss and fight over the Ashby Highrise, St. James Place shows there is “nothing new under the sun” as Shakespeare put it.

  • I vote for #2, the Off Street Parking proposal, firstly because it’s a 2011 event and secondly because Houston is all about cars.
    On another note, that Zone d’Erotica must be underwritten by the CVB. Every visiting businessman, passing between the obligatory Galleria shopping trip and Starbucks face-time, snickers and snaps a picture of it. And, as shown in the photo, the virile Williams Tower helps send the message Let’s Get It On: Houston is Up for Business.

  • Movocelot, you crack me up, year after year!

  • Gotta go with #3. Seriously. It’s a Spec’s. They’re not idiots. They had the permit, people, they had the permit! (Runs screaming out of the room)

  • #5. Didn’t it used to be a greasy burger place (I remember it as ‘good’ but was never there sober)? If I recall correctly, that didn’t fit there either. This is a multi-generation ‘no-zoning’ award winner.

  • Only #1 might possibly have been affected by zoning, so I’m going with that and suggesting that all the other nominees be disqualified.

    Zone D’Erotica is a tenant operating in a retail store. The fact that it is a retail building in that location would be perfectly acceptable in any zoned city. If y’all don’t like the signage, propose a modification to the sign ordinances. We have lots of those.

  • C&D scrap metal next to all the houses in the heights on Shepherd.

  • Definitely #2, as our city council seems hell bent on making illogical decisions that will hurt our local economy, and make it difficult for new businesses to open and old businesses to stay open. Unless they’re in a strip center. Encouraging more people to drive to a bar is ludicrous beyond all reason.

  • #5! I asked my mom about it when I was younger and I’m pretty sure she told me it was an internet cafe. Not that that makes any sense, but I was a kid.

  • Let’s go with #4. I mean why pay $500,000 for a house unless you are certain to have the 2:00am entertainment of some drunk screaming at the top of their lungs “Hey I’ll see ya next Saturday – s#$t – where the f&*k did I park my car?

  • #2 it is. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    And #5 was a Luke’s Hamburgers. Not a bad burger…until it burned down in the middle of the day. Was rebuilt, but didn’t make it.

    Have a nice day, boys and girls!

  • #5.. When I asked, my mom told me it was a “santa’s workshop” hahaha. Houston is OPEN, let’s get it on.

  • Lots of cities have adult business zoning that would have sent Zone D’Erotica to the obligatory service road near the airport. I would have to vote for Zone D’Erotica because when I first arrived in Houston, I was quickly alerted to the lack of zoning when I saw Talk of the Town III plunked right in the middle of an otherwise pleasant Montrose neighborhood.

  • #2 gets my vote

  • #5 is not a zoning issue; it’s a Dillards problem. The spot is “zoned” retail commercial, just as it would be anywhere in America. Dillards SHOULD have a provision in their REA that prevents SOB from operating in the parking lot.

    #3 is also disqualified — this is just state mandate of liquor laws, not zoning.

    The office building on San Felipe is probably the winner, just because it baffles me why a developer secured a piece of dirt so far removed from the uptown business community, and built a VERY tall building there, all by its lonesome.

  • #5 cause its just soooo ewwwww.

  • #3, because it’s the rare instance of local government admitting a mistake, followed by the not-so-rare complete bungling that followed.

  • JG and others, I am sorry to say that all of the above, including #3 and #5, could have been prevented/fixed with some good old fashioned zoning. Perhaps ya’ll ain’t never lived anywhere with some of those fancy “adult-use” or “special use” city ordinances?

  • #3. It highlights the ineptness of the city office whose sole job is to prevent this kind of madness. Spec’s deserves to be made whole over this.

  • #5 was built as a Roy Rogers resturant back in the 70’s before they pulled out of the Houston market. My family ate there a few times when we visited (what was then) Joske’s next door. I remember their decor had more wagon wheels than a stagecoach museum!

  • #5, but in a positive way. I can tell people to look directly up to the top of Williams Tower when they reach Zone D’Erotica on 610 to see the kitty! While someone else is driving, of course….

  • #5 definitely. Yes, it used to be a Roy Rogers and I liked eating there. Zone D’Erotica is a definite blight!

  • While I really dislike what Zone d Erotica does to the Galleria image as one drives slowly south on 610, I agree that it is not a zoning problem. The winner should be Marathon Oil, et al.

  • #5! If I remember correctly, Dillard’s leases the land from Rice, so wouldn’t the University be leasing to the zone d’ Erotica? Stay classy Houston…

  • Does anyone know the story here? I have always wondered what the story behind the Zonea de Erotica next to the Galleria is. It seems like the landowners method of shooting the finger at the city of Houston. Anything would be more profitable than an eyesore smut shop next to the city’s flagship piece of property.

  • #5–just gotta love the combo of sex and excess