COMMENT OF THE DAY: WOULD MAKE A MORE PROPER HOUSTON WELCOME “All that said, I still regret that we didn’t put up two enormous inflatable gorillas, standing on either side of JFK Blvd., like the statues of [Isildur] and Anárion flanked the river Anduin in The Lord of the Rings.” [RWBoyd, commenting on Here’s Your Splashy New Welcome Sign, Houston]
REVENGE OF THE BLOWUPS A small fire at a new strip center on Cullen Blvd. just south of the Beltway early this morning is being blamed on a giant inflatable gorilla on the roof. “Houston Fire Department District Chief Fred Hooker says some type of a ‘blowup doll’ was on the roof, the item deflated and landed on some lights, leading to the fire. Fire authorities say two stores suffered minor water damage.” A new Houston law banning inflatable signs took effect at the start of this year. The strip center was just outside city limits. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]
LIGHT RAIL CONSTRUCTION AND THE GORILLAS’ LAST STAND The latest idea from Metro: Create official signs, flags, and banners for businesses along light-rail construction routes, to show they’re still in business, and to guide cars into open parking areas. Only problem? “Some of the proposed flags would flutter afoul of the city’s newly tightened sign ordinance, which bans certain types of ‘attention-getting devices.’ City Council may have to approve a small change in the city’s sign law to allow temporary banners to stay up for longer than the allotted seven out of 30 days, according to city public works official Andy Icken. . . . The city’s new sign ordinance kicks in on Jan. 1. It bans the giant inflatable balloon animals and other eye-catching gizmos that you often see on Houston’s highways and roads. So enjoy the giant ‘For Sale’ gorillas while you can. Also, the dancing wind socks along the side of the road, the silver and blue streamers at car dealerships, and the other pennants, pinwheels and puppets meant to pull your gaze from the road to the roadside.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]
Yesterday’s City Council vote wasn’t even close — which means that Houston will no longer allow “attention-getting devices” on commercial property, effective January 1st of 2010. The ban excludes fake quoins, oversized Alamo-shaped parapets, and strip-mall turrets, but it pointedly includes the inflatable menageries that are so much simpler to put up and take down.
Houston sure knows how to destroy its architectural history! In honor of the passing of this singular era, which exhibited such a flowering of the local decorative arts — and in advance of the less-than-spectacular demolitions that are soon to follow, Swamplot presents this short photo salute to Houston’s soon-to-be lost commercial landscape:
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First, they came for the giant apes!
Houston’s City Council may vote today to ban the use of inflatable cartoon characters to draw traffic to local businesses. A law that’s already on the books requires permits for these “attention-getting devices,” and restricts their use. But there’s no money to fund enforcement.
The new law would prohibit more than just large blowup animals:
If approved, the ban also would prohibit flashy and motion-driven devices, such as dancing wind puppets, spinning pinwheels, pennants, streamers and strobe and spotlights. . . .
[Balloon vendor Jim] Purtee said his clients report sales increase 30 to 100 percent in the weeks after installing a giant balloon. “You can’t ban balloons without banning car wraps, those planes flying over Houston with trailing banners or people standing on the corner in a clown costume,” Purtee added. . . .
Officials said holiday displays and residential lawn decorations would be exempted from the ban. The prohibition would apply only to attention-getting devices used for commercial purposes.
That troubles Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck. She asked how the city would distinguish between attention-getting devices and the holiday lights, bows and sparkly stars installed in Rice Village and the Galleria area.
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