Lyft Comes to Houston; The City’s Scariest Freeway Onramps

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Photo of City Hall: Steve Oprea via Swamplot Flickr Pool


21 Comment

  • How did 45N from the Allen Parkway not make it onto scariest on ramps?

  • Try to kill an apartment development by getting the MUD to deny them water. That’s a new one…..
    Seems to me from reading their comments that the neighbors in Kelliwood Place really should have gone to their planning and zoning board and pushed for a landscape buffer and height regulations on the piece of land. That wouldn’t solve the problem of having too many apartment units out in Katy. But it would at least mitigate the issue of having the apartments backing up to the neighborhood to where tenants can look down into back yards.
    Sadly, it’s probably too late now. The time to do it was when they originally platted that land.

  • Shameful actions by the Katy-area residents who obviously have no respect for property rights or the rule of law and appear to think that they have some sort of “right” to property value protection. This kind of mentality is an embarrassment to the Houston region.

  • Very interesting how many of the “moving” post offices are in close proximity to each other: Greenbriar, University and Melcher. When I officed on Richmond those were the 3 we used – I wonder if they’ll choose a more central location in that area? Greenbriar and Melcher were almost always busy.

  • LOL, Katy NIBMY’s think they have any say so on MUD’s approval, it’s like asking oxygen to stay away from your neighbor’s lot.

    The onramps are only a problem if you’re driving a Prius.

  • I live pretty close to this property, and I have been on both sides of prperty rights issues. Yes, there are two sides, Local Planner. I think apartments in this location would be a mess, but that has to be quantified. There is already significant flooding that causes ingress/egress issues to the neighborhoods during heavy rain, so that could be a mitigating factor. In addition, if the residents believe that the current utility district does not have capacity for as many as several hundred new residents, I think they are obligated as responsible residents of the district to challenge the board for proof of free capacity. Rights go both ways here. Motivation, ingenuity, patience and pocket depth will likely win the day.

  • Oh gawd, I hope Lyft leaves those pink mustaches back in San Francisco. Maybe in Texas they can use pink longhorns instead. I would probably think twice about taking a ride from the type of person that would welcome a cringe-worthy addition to the front of their car.

  • @HeyHeyHouston
    Because it doesn’t even feed onto a freeway. It feeds onto the collector/distributor lanes, and this is what these lanes are designed for; all traffic in these lanes is exiting to Memorial and Houston Ave. or entering from the city streets of St. Joseph or Pease. Therefore, this traffic isn’t going as fast.

  • @ ZAW, this site is not within an incorporated city (most of what people call “Katy” is actually unincorporated Harris or Fort Bend counties). Counties in Texas do not have zoning powers, so no P & Z Board.

    I believe that there are already detention requirements (though someone would need to confirm this) – would those somehow not be sufficient? Regardless, for the residents to be acting in good faith, they would also have to oppose any use which would have a comparable level of impervious surface, such as a retail center or office building. Even single family detached can have a pretty big impact.

    Perhaps water / sewer capacity needs to increase for a multifamily project, though this doesn’t sound like what the neighbors are claiming. Regardless, the State of Texas would not look approvingly upon a taxing district which refuses to provide service, even if capacity increases are needed.

    And as I’ve said before, the adjacency of taller (in this case a measly 3 stories) buildings to single family detached is a non-issue, whether in a suburban location or an urban one.

    If the single family residents can’t stand being near or sharing their school with the children of apartments, they are perfectly free to move elsewhere. Just keep in mind that all unincorporated areas and many cities such as Houston don’t have zoning to keep multifamily use out (which is generally bad policy anyway, especially an area like Katy which is growing as a job center).

  • Planner: They still have to submit for re-platting when they subdivide or combine parcels of land, and that’s when all of the setback requirements, height restrictions, public access easements, etc. are put into restrictive covenants on the land. If neighbors can nose in on that process, they can get a lot of things in there that will prevent problematic development.
    As far as your statement about height restrictions. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. Cities regulate height and bulk all the time, and they have done so ever since the Equitable Building in Lower Manhattan in 1915. It’s not at all unreasonable for height and bulk regulations to be in restrictive covenants.

  • I personally think that cities which regulate height, other than purely for safety reasons (or because as in Houston the FAA is making them do it near airports), are simply wrong. So yes we disagree on that one. The restrictive covenants to which you refer are not public regulations, but private ones governed by a property owners association. If the multifamily applicant is seeking to get a variance from deed restrictions (covenants), then this becomes a different ballgame.

    Yes a replat may be required. This is not the same as zoning however. If the replat meets the requirements of Chapter 42 and certain other ordinances, it cannot be denied by the City – or at least not without engendering an Ashby-style controversy. Buffering requirements are part of this, though I don’t know if the project is tall enough for them to come into play.

  • “The onramps are only a problem if you’re driving a Prius.”

    No, I’ve driven a prius before. Even those things are capable of getting up to freeway speeds when the throttle is matted. The onramps are only a problem if you’re scared of the gas pedal.

  • Planner: New York’s setback laws (height and bulk regulations) were originally intended to ensure that light reached the lower floors of buildings and the street. This was, and is a concern in downtown areas everywhere. The concerns in suburban areas are more related to privacy. If someone’s apartment has a balcony where they can stand and look down on your back yard – that’s a reasonable concern. This is why I think it’s perfectly reasonable to include height and bulk regulations in covenants.
    As far as the plat process and regulations: there’s a certain amount of horse-trading that should go on, IMO. A developer could, for example, work out a deal where he can put all of his street and shade trees into a landscape buffer at the back of his site, to shield neighboring homes – and in return get better visibility from the road from not having all those trees out front.
    In any case, I think we can agree that trying to stop a project by getting a MUD to deny them water is the wrong way of doing it.

  • @ Mike Honcho: New subdivisions are required to provide adequate stormwater detention capacity both to mitigate on-site and downstream flooding. There is a limit to adequacy. It may not protect from flooding in a 10,000-year storm, but that’s still okay from a policy perspective. Detention ponds and certain landscaping features are obviously for that purpose, but what is less obvious is that the streets themselves are excavated to be at a lower level than the lots. The fill dirt that has been taken from the low spots usually gets piled onto the lots, increasing their elevation that much more. If your streets are flooding, it is because they were designed to flood so that your house doesn’t flood. It is a feature, not a bug.

    (There are some unintended consequences, but they are few. For instance, in The Woodlands or Conroe, it can be very difficult to preserve trees because the expense of digging deeper to maintain existing lot elevations and then moving 100% of the excavated soil offsite becomes prohibitively expensive; and only six inches of soil moved on top of existing tree roots will kill 100% of the trees. So they scrape the trees in most new subdivisions, now. This doesn’t impact Katy very often, though.)

  • I doubt that the Katy property is subject to any deed restrictions, since it’s not part of a platted subdivision. If it was subject to deed restrictions, we would not be having this conversation, because every set of DR”s I’ve ever seen included a prohibition against multifamily housing. The opposition is more rooted in a visceral fear of the type of people who might live in apartments.

  • @ ZAW: Though I shouldn’t be drawing this conversation out any more, you do seem to be confusing “covenants”, which are generally considered privately created and administered development restrictions (though honored by public agencies), and public development regulations, such as the City’s Chapter 42. In the Houston region, there is a very big distinction between the two. I would submit there is no need for public regulations to feature height restrictions unless there is a real safety benefit. Private restrictions, on the other hand, can do pretty much whatever they want.

    @ Ross: I think you hit the nail on the head. Evidence: the obsessive concern that the apartment owner will accept government-funded housing vouchers (Section 8).

  • @Ross…your last words “The opposition is more rooted in a visceral fear of the type of people who might live in apartments.” is as bigoted a generalization as the worst motive for opposing this construction. I don’t doubt that there are those that oppose the apartment construction out of classism or even racism. However, to state that the opposition is “rooted in visceral fear” indicated to me that you carry much of that same hate in your heart when you indict others so cavalierly.

  • @ Ross: Every major master-planned community that I can think of off hand has deed-restricted commercial reserves suitable for multifamily development and for which multifamily development is permissible.

  • @Mike, I said what I said because many of the people I know in Katy seem to have a totally unreasonable fear that apartments attract the “wrong” type of residents. They seem to think that just because they paid some semi-large amount for a house, they should never, ever have to have anyone further down the socioeconomic ladder living within several miles of them. If I lived out there, I wouldn’t care whether these apartments were built or not. It’s not my property, it’s not within my subdivision, so it would be unreasonable of me to interfere with the property owner’s plans. This is not the first time there’s been an issue with building outside of a subdivision. The Memorial Parkway HOA fought tooth and nail to prevent the erection of cell towers outside the boundaries of the subdivision, easting resources on a fight they never should have started.

  • Planner: I understand the difference between covenants and local planning requirements. Covenants build on local planning requirements. Chapter 42 requires a 15′ setback on a major thoroughfare (then here’s a 15′ restricted zone where you can only build up to 75′ — yes, the City of Houston regulates height: ;-) ). I could require a 25′ or 30′ setback in my covenants.
    This is where the horse-trading should come in. There SHOULD be some leeway within the local planning requirements to allow for covenants to have some give and take. Let someone platting a piece of land double up on setbacks adjacent to a neighborhood, and give him a break on the setbacks adjacent to a road on the other side of the property. And, to make it work, the re-platting process SHOULD include public hearings (if I’m not mistaken it sometimes already does) so that neighbors can call for this sort of thing.
    @Ross: they are right to be concerned, in the very long run (though that quip about it only taking one year is way off the mark). Apartment complexes typically change ownership every 8 or so years. There’s no guarantee whether the next owner will screen tenants the way they should. And if you get enough owners in the area who refuse to screen tenants, like you have in Westwood, it can be a very serious problem.

  • @ ZAW: Your concept works only if the original developer set up such covenants on the commercial reserve in the first place; it’s possible that this site may not have even been owned as part of the original development and has no applicable covenants at all. And depending on how the site was designated in the original plat, if it was part of the same plat as the single family, it might not even require a replat, just site design and building code review.

    A replat does have to go before Planning Commission. However, they have little grounds to deny if the replat meets all requirements and applicable private covenants.