Montrose Fiesta Building Owners: That Variance Is for Future Generations

The request for a variance that would allow developers of the 3.68-acre property at the corner of Dunlavy and West Alabama to avoid putting in cul-de-sacs at the ends of Sul Ross and Branard St. — and that prompted the posting of signs around the Fiesta Food Mart on the property — isn’t the work of a new owner. It was submitted by the same owner who has held the property since the early sixties when the current shopping center was constructed.

So why the need for a variance that would only matter if the grocery store were redeveloped?


“The property is now for sale,” the application states, “and it is likely that a new owner will remodel or expand the center or that the property will be redeveloped for other non-single family uses.” It’s buyers that are pushing the seller to action: “Prospective purchasers indicate that they need to have the issue of cul-de-sac bulbs for the two streets that dead end into the property resolved (as well as some easement problems resolved).”

Whether applying for the variance is a condition of an already negotiated sale or merely a part of the owner’s marketing strategy isn’t clear. For a buyer, an application by the current owner would have a few advantages: The planning commission wouldn’t be able to require any concessions from the new developer as a condition of the variance — as happened when H-E-B applied for its own variance across the street. And the current owner can fight the cul-de-sac requirement by arguing that building one at Sul Ross “would necessitate the removal of the existing building.” That’s something someone planning a new structure in that location might have a harder time saying.

Map of 3803 Dunlavy St.: Houston Planning Commission

19 Comment

  • If they are already dead ends, what is the justification for requiring anyone to turn them into cul-de-sacs. I could see the justification for someone who wanted to take public right of way and turn thru streets to dead ends. Why not require anyone on that street to build cul-de-sacs if they want to replace a light bulb or build a new deck? Also, wouldn’t the conversion encroach on the private lots at the end of the streets?

  • Gus, you solved the problem.
    So, the property’s been negotiated and the owner’s clearing the way as part of the deal? What do figure, 30 days or so to wrap it up?

  • Hopefully this is part of negotiations to sale the property for a new development. It will be so disapointing if it isnt.

  • What is the supposed of benefit of having a cul-de-sac bulb at the end of these streets?

  • (I mean, “supposed benefit,” of course. Extra word in there.)

  • Building a cul-de-sac at the end of the street makes eminent domain issues easier to resolve when the COH wants to turn the dead end into a through street later. It’s cheaper and easier to procure a house or two than it is to move an HEB. It’s forward thinking, which is why it’s so hard to understand how the City thought of it…

  • I don’t deal with this stuff all the time like many commenters here, so I may be something, but that’s still kind of mystifying to me. The configuration there now suits the use of the properties & the likely future uses. Why put in a bulb, because you might want to run the street through later (& get rid of it).

    Sorry if I’m being dense, but this just seems silly… what am I missing here?

  • The 1900blk of Hawthrone was a dead end to the old apartment complex that was torned down behind the Randalls on Shephard. Somehow the city required by ordinance to have a bulb put on the end of Hawthrone that would have gone onto their lot, reducing the size and what could be built there. The ordinance required the bulb so a fire truck could turn around. This requirement went away, once a variance was accepted by the city to officially close the street. But it all so gave the neighborhood at Winlow Place, notice, and some power. They were going to open up Harold as a entrance to the new midrise. We supported their efforts to close Hawthrone, in return we stopped them from opening up Harold as a entrance. (Harold is not a dead end.)

  • The city’s code requires a bulb so that fire trucks and garbage trucks and school buses can turn around without having to back out. Apparently these vehicles are incapable of operating in reverse (even though they do so on all the hundreds of non-bulbed dead-ends currently existing). It’s the same one-size-fits-all development-code mentality that requires the same amount of parking in Montrose that it does on FM 1960.

  • I live on the Branard dead end and have spoken with the platting engineer. Other than being a tip off that the property is selling, this is a non-issue. It’s one of the rare circumstances where everybody wants the same thing. The property owner doesn’t want to lose any developable property to cul-de-sacs, and the residents don’t want a potential apartment entrance on their street.

    There is one potential problem: since the variance will already be in place, COH won’t be able to force a new owner to make concessions in exchange for a variance. So they could tear down the sound walls or worse. Flip side is a new owner may actually want the back entrances and never apply for the variance at all.

  • To: M

    “One potential problem? Maybe you should let your imagination loose. When the 1700 block of Branard/ Sul Ross negotiated a variance to close those streets to HEB traffic, they did a poor job (or the city did a poor job of assisting them). The variance called for a “reasonable landscape buffer.” That vague language resulted in 8 feet of grass and a few new trees–none of which buffer noise. The loading dock ended up near Sul Ross and all trucks travel the west and south perimeter of the lot–bringing truck noise to adjacent neighbors and shattering their peace.

    And let’s talk height. The Ashby high rise was planned for a 70,000 sq ft lot. What will be planned for the 140,000 sq ft Fiesta lot? You can forget those floating rumors of a 6 or 7 story building. That’s bait. Developers will need far more to cover the expensive cost of that lot. Instead, you can assume something so tall that the 1600 blocks of Branard and Sul Ross are forever in their shadow. No more light from a setting sun.

    There are worse things than traffic coming through those streets.

  • It doesn’t matter what any nearby resident thinks will happen or what they wish for. The developers will do as they please and the neighbors will have to adapt. The city backs high-density development and you will have to live with it.

  • I have to add this tidbit. Residents in this area have responded to this too late, as usual, to understand what this means or what might be best for them. Residents involved in the HEB variance gave away their negotiation advantage, immediately for a grocery store, which can be controlled by the public. In this case, a residential developer can place their building at the very back of the property adjacent to the side streets and create a 25 story wall if they aren’t allowed to open the streets.
    For over 5 years, most of these people never attended a civic association meeting. My guess is that they went screaming for help after they found out about this, while they screwed their neighbors during the HEB development.
    This is why it’s so easy to create high-density development in this area. The neighbors will be crushed again. But the bright side is that those people can turn their houses into rental property.

  • Is high density development inappropriate in this spot?

  • Yes. High-Density Development is appropriate for all areas within the COH. There are no exceptions. And residents have to adapt. – They acted too slowly in getting involved and the new ordinances are ineffective.
    If residents in this area had protested against the HEB development, they might have sent a signal to developers to work with the community. However, the civic associations have been pro-HEB, on record, thus giving the green light for development. Basically, the residents went on record to approve it, and now they’re getting what they asked for.

  • The COH has ALWAYS been pro development. That is who makes campaign “contributions” to the politicians. The pols are bought off political mouth pieces. I’d use a few more colorful words ,but you readers can guess what they are. Anyway,Montrose Slums is right: the neighbors NEVER attend civic assn. meetings and then when a new development comes along,they panic and react when it is too late and the neighbors have NO leverage to negotiate concessions from the developers. And even if they do, the COH concedes to the developer. BTW, go to,click on address (in the upper right hand corner ) and type in 3803 Dunlavy and it’ll bring up the c/o info for the property owner.

  • I heard that the variance was approved, and that it’s going to be eight stories of residential; no retail.

  • Awesome. Can’t wait for this to go up.

  • More rumors.
    Planning Department will hold 4 meetings this year in regard to the residential buffering ordinance. Modifications? City politics?