04/17/18 4:30pm

AFTER HARVEY, WILL KINGWOOD PROPERTY TAXES BE ENOUGH TO FUND A NEW EVACUATION ROUTE? What would it take to turn Northpark Dr. into an all-weather evacuation route for Kingwood? “We’re going to have to bring it up out of that [floodplain],” TIRZ 10 consultant Ralph De Leon tells the Chronicle‘s Melainie Feuk, “which means the road’s going to have to come up.” The goal: “In a Harvey-like event, the road will still be passable and you can move people from the back of Kingwood to 69,” says city councilmember Dave Martin. TIRZ 10 had planned to issue bonds to fund a mile-and-a quarter segment of the project — between Russell Palmer Rd. and the Eastex Fwy. — but hit a snag. “Our big holdup,” TIRZ chairman Stan Sarman now says, “is waiting to see what’s going to happen to the appraised value.” Still in the works: the TIRZ’s funding application for the other portion of the road — east to Woodland Hills Dr. — which it plans to send in to the Houston Galveston Area Council sometime between June and July.  [Houston Chronicle] Map of Northpark Dr. between Eastex Fwy. and Woodland Hills Dr.: Houston City Council

04/06/18 1:00pm

A LAWSUIT OVER RIVERSTONE’S VANISHED LEVEE More than 400 residents of Fort Bend County’s Riverstone development — between Hwy. 6 and the Brazos River — are suing the engineering firm that designed their stormwater systems, alleging that the design left one portion of the community flooded by the runoff from the other during Harvey. The roughly 3,700-acre area is divided into 2 Levee Improvement Districts — LID 19 (shaded blue on the map) and 15. “It became very clear when we passed into LID 15 that something was not right,” one LID 19 homeowner said in a press conference. “We were inundated with water in our neighborhood, and just on the other side of the street everything seemed to be perfectly fine.” Both LIDs were designed by Costello, Inc. the company founded by Houston’s flood czar Steve Costello. (He’s said he divested from it in 2015.) That firm’s failure to consider what would happen when a levee that ran between the 2 districts — along Hagerson Rd. — was removed is what downstreamers say is to blame for much of their soggy state. In total, reports the Chronicle’s Rebecca Elliott, about a third of the 1,760 homes in LID 19 flooded. [Houston Chronicle] Map of Riverstone LIDs 15 and 19: Riverstone LIDs

03/01/18 3:30pm

THE ARMY CORPS SAW ALL YOUR ADDICKS AND BARKER LAWSUITS COMING — 23 YEARS AGO A 1995 Army Corps of Engineers memo obtained by the Chronicle shows that the agency considered the possibility that dozens of lawsuits could be filed against it by flooded homeowners both upstream and downstream from the Addicks and Barker dams. “Given the nature of the expensive homes that would be flooded and the quality of legal representation these owners could afford, there is always the possibility of an adverse ruling,” but the likelihood of such an outcome would be low, it concluded. Those downstream from the reservoirs would have a weak case, the memo argued, because their home values benefit from the dams in the first place. And those upstream — inside the Addicks and Barker flood pools — would have to prove that flooding wasn’t just sporadic, but “frequent and inevitably recurring to amount to a taking of interest in property.” Regardless, says the document, “it would be prudent for Harris County to make sure owners, future developers, and future buyers are put on notice that they are in a reservoir.That didn’t happen. [Houston Chronicle; memo] Photo of Barker Reservoir Near Addicks Clodine Rd. after Harvey: Kyle Steck

12/27/17 2:00pm

Everyone likes a good comeback story: 2 N. Braeswood houses a few doors down from the West Loop are rising above their floody circumstances with the help of wood-framed columns placed below their foundations. The photos above show 4718 N. Braeswood, just outside the West Loop, lifted on stilts months after Hurricane Harvey showered it with attention. The house’s chimney has been removed, leaving a gap in its street-facing facade.

Two doors down, 4710 N. Braeswood now sits at a similar elevation:

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Stilted Homes
12/20/17 2:00pm

THE BATS OF WAUGH DR. HAVE MOVED DEEPER INTO MONTROSE During Hurricane Harvey, Buffalo Bayou rose above the Waugh Dr. bridge, killing off some of the 300,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that lived there. Others have found new residences:Some of the surviving bats have relocated to nearby buildings. Just take a sniff in any of the multi-floored parking garages lining the streets around the bayou, and you’ll smell their pungent droppings.” Now, Maggie Gordon writes, “In addition to a swarm of winged mammals flying out from beneath the bridge, smaller populations exit from nearby buildings. They join up with the bats from the bridge during their hunt, then return to their new homes for the night, before repeating the same cycle the next day.” [Houston Chronicle] Video: Ihadatt

12/08/17 1:15pm

WHAT IT TAKES TO JACK A HOUSE “Adam Bakir, a Houston builder and remodeler, does one or two home elevations a year. The job is akin to major surgery. Workers tunnel under the house, Bakir said, then raise the whole thing on jacks—the slab and the house that rests on it. Since Harvey, Bakir has received more than 20 inquiries about home elevation. If potential customers ask for a cost estimate, he’ll tell them: between about $75 and $100 per square foot. ‘If you have a 2,500-square-foot house, which is typical,’ he said, ‘the upper end of it would be about $250,000. The lower end, around $180,000.‘” [CityLab] Photo: Arkitektura Development

12/04/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE ONLY MACKIE AND KAMRATH HOMES LEFT ON THE TIEL WAY LOOP “. . . My husband and I drove around Tiel Way after the storm to check on all the MacKie and Kamraths. There were several homes on the street that flooded — and not just by a few inches but into their second levels. One of the things that make the Kamraths of this era (and really, many high-end midcentury homes) so gorgeous and unique is the abundant use of wood panels for all walls, doors, built-in storage cabinets and seating — everything. But it also makes them particularly expensive and hard to fix after extensive water damage. As Swamplot reported earlier this year, the home at 2 Tiel Way was bought with the intention to restore but had so much termite and water damage it would have cost double to restore compared to a full rebuild price. So that’s what they are doing: rebuilding the same house. . . . It’s a controversial choice but in my opinion it’s the best architectural conservation alternative to demolition. But not everyone has the resources to undertake something like a full architectural rebuild. So while the demo of this house, one of Kamrath’s finest, is certainly a punch in the gut . . . I get it. They probably would have saved it if they could. Tiel Way was the last concentration of MacKie and Kamrath’s great residential works, at one point having 7 homes on the loop. After this demolition we will be down to 2.5: the Gold Brick–awarded restoration at 67 Tiel Way (which thankfully, did not appear to have Harvey flooding issues), Kamrath’s own residence at 8 Tiel Way (definitely flooded, but appears to be safe at the moment), and the rebuild currently in progress at 2 Tiel Way. 48 Tiel Way won’t be the only midcentury treasure lost to Harvey, but it’s certainly one of the saddest to see go.” [Rabbit, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Tiel Repeal; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 48 Tiel Way: HAR

11/17/17 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT FLOODING ON THE WEST SIDE TOOK AWAY “Homes underwater for extended periods can be rebuilt, as long as they were not subjected to currents sufficient to cause major structural damage or foundation scour. They just take longer to dry out (ours took over a month). Like Local Planner said, in many of the flooded neighborhoods north of the bayou, original-condition homes had basically no value before the flood (i.e. they were being sold for lot value and torn down). The process is indeed accelerating, with new builds being elevated à la Bellaire and Meyerland. The big question mark for me is how much of a market there’ll be for $1+ million new homes in a potentially flood-prone area (even if your elevated home doesn’t flood during the next big one, you’d likely lose the cars in your non-elevated garage and need to be evac’d by boat). The market was soft in the Energy Corridor even before the flood. A new supply of high-end homes doesn’t automatically beget demand. Hopefully the new MD Anderson complex in the area will help (and potentially spur further diversification of employment in the Energy Corridor beyond oil and gas).” [Grant, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Memorial Glint] Illustration: Lulu

11/16/17 2:45pm

Teevee station KHOU is giving up on its 3.2-acre bayou-side home on Allen Pkwy. after repeated flooding and will soon be listing it for sale, according to a staff member’s Facebook post. The organization did file a permit for $594,740 worth of restoration work after Harvey between August and October, and hired 2 services to help with the clean-up — including Lewisville-based MrRestore, pictured above outside the building on August 30. Before Harvey, the studio enjoyed a 16-year dry run bookended by waters from Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.

The 52,000-sq.-ft. studio, home to Channel 11 for 57 years, took on 5 ft. of water during the recent storm, forcing its staff to relocate broadcasting activity 3 times within the same day: first to a second floor conference room, then 2 blocks east on Allen Pkwy. to the Federal Reserve Bank, and finally to Houston Public Media’s office on Elgin St. just off I-45, where the news operation has now been headquartered for just over 2 months. That co-location wouldn’t be permanent, KHOU meteorologist Brooks Garner reported last month, although he indicated at that time that the station had not as yet decided whether to return home or seek a new venue.

Photos tweeted out by KHOU reporters of their original home showed the building at 1945 Allen Pkwy. taking on water during the storm. Here’s what the lobby looked like:

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Anchors Away
11/16/17 11:30am

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s animated video (above) on the explosions at the Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby recounts the steps taken by the brave workers stuck in charge of the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. But a few angles less charitable to the company’s emergency planning effort aren’t included — possibly because they’d be a little more involved to animate. For example, the noxious fumes that emanated from the first fire, on the night of August 31, which according to a lawsuit filed later Arkema gave no warning about — and sent 23 people to the hospital, many of them vomiting and gasping for cleaner air.

And another detail: The remote detonations of 6 trailers containing unrefrigerated organic peroxides were carried out by the Houston Police Department’s bomb squad. “The entire police operation was conducted without warning the public,” write the Houston Chronicle‘s Matt Dempsey and Jacob Carpenter. “Until the documents were released earlier this month by the EPA, the public didn’t know who performed the controlled burn, or how it was done.”

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Reefer Madness
11/08/17 1:30pm

THE KATY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH A FLOOD POOL SECRET Some documents related to the Katy ISD’s 1998 purchase of the 15-acre site now occupied by Creech Elementary School at 4242 S. Mason Rd. have been frozen — in an attempt to preserve them, after they got flooded when Barker Reservoir got backed up after Hurricane Harvey. What those records might show, once thawed: some explanation for why school officials at the time signed a notice indicating they did not review a map filed with the county by Westbrook Cinco East LP (the developer from whom the property was purchased) that disclosed in a note that the land came with the risk of “extended controlled inundation.” Though several Katy schools sit on land near or in the Barker reservoir flood pool — the area expected to fill up with water when the dam is closed for a major flooding event — only Creech suffered major damage. All 800 Creech students are now attending classes at the University of Houston’s nearby Cinco Ranch campus while the school undergoes an estimated $5 million worth of repairs. The school district’s superintendent tells the Chronicle‘s Lise Olsen that he and other school officials were unaware that the school was built in the flood pool until they were contacted for her story. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, 4242 S. Mason Rd., Katy: Breta Gatlin

11/06/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: BEWARE OF NEIGHBORHOOD AVERAGES “Anything zoomed out to the neighborhood scale post-Harvey impact-wise waters down the data so much as to be useless. In the Knollwood-Woodside area where homes are “up ~3%,” it’s a mix of ~$800k newbuilds that mostly didn’t flood and ~$400-500k 1950s houses, some of which flooded and many-most that didn’t. That means any additional newbuild sale immediately skews the pricing average. What has already hit the market lately are mostly original homes that flooded, being sold as-is as teardowns (continuing the trend of the neighborhood), with lot-value on an upswing. I guess I presume all of Knollwood will be new construction in the near future, and almost all of ‘greater Braeswood’ being new construction soon, with everything getting higher elevations . . .” [juancarlos31, commenting on Harvey’s Effect on Housing Prices, Neighborhood by Neighborhood; Houston Press Stops the Presses; Astros Fans Flood Downtown] Photo of house for sale at 8311 Lorrie Dr., Knollwood Village: HAR

10/30/17 12:30pm

A LAKESIDE ESTATES HOME NOW WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN WATER Before the Army Corps of Engineers straightened the section of Buffalo Bayou between Hwy. 6 and Beltway 8 in the mid 1960s, the cul-de-sac at the end of Riverview Dr. in Lakeside Estates wasn’t just near the waterway, it was in it. But the “view” and “side” in the names the subdivision’s developers later attached to the property east of Wilcrest Dr. as they built on it didn’t hold: “When [Allen] Wuescher says he had 17 feet of water inside his house, it’s one of those things you have to see to believe. It is the fifth time in 26 months that his house flooded, and the third time his entire first story was destroyed by water deep enough for a diving board,” writes Meagan Flynn. “Since the home was built in 1979, homeowners at this address have recouped more than $850,000 in flood damage losses through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, at this point making the home more expensive to taxpayers just to exist than for the government to buy it and destroy it. It was appraised at $825,000 by the Harris County Appraisal District. The FEMA flood insurance loss payments so far don’t even include the extraordinary damage wrought by Harvey. And when we enter the home through Wuescher’s garage — which looks like a scene out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with the lights on and with mold instead of blood — it’s immediately clear that the house really is not a house anymore.” [Houston Press] Photo of 10807 River View Dr. living room: Realtor.com