COMMENT OF THE DAY: FLOODING IMPROVEMENTS “I have flooded twice in my home, once with 1 in. and then again in 2015 with about 6 to 8 inches. We rebuilt higher, and didn’t flood in Harvey, but I still wonder if I did the right thing. Basically I can say flooded, raised, didn’t flood — perhaps that’s a better story? Or even a better story is not near a major bayou.” [Bob Jones, commenting on When ‘Never Flooded’ Doesn’t Work] Illustration: Lulu
A spokesperson for the Houston Housing Authority tells Swamplot the city agency is not and will not be enforcing the previously announced5-day deadline for all residents of 2100 Memorial to move out with their belongings. A notice delivered earlier this week by the building’s owner, an affiliate organization of the agency, to all 188 residents of the low-income-housing-tax-credit senior living facility labeled the structure “totally unusable for residential purposes due to health and safety reasons” after it was discovered that floodwaters had damaged the 14-story former Holiday Inn’s fire, electrical, and water systems.
The move-out deadline has not been altered, but the agency says it “understands it will take time to pack and move so they are working closely with the residents to help move in an orderly fashion.”
The photo at top shows the setup for a well-attended emergency meeting held yesterday afternoon on the second level of the building’s parking garage. At the meeting the HHA’s Board of Commissioners approved a $250,000 loan to the building’s management for relocation expenses, which it will then ask FEMA to cover. The funds will provide movers at no cost to residents to help them relocate their belongings to available residences in “Greater Houston” it has identified: 230 tax-credit units with similar rules to those governing 2100 Memorial — or 250 affordable housing units of other types.
Residents who have already hired their own movers, the spokesperson says, will be reimbursed. The agency says displaced residents will be given preference in returning to the building when it can be determined to be safe.
The apartments inside 2100 Memorial are “quite hale and hearty,” a reader tells Swamplot — and were not individually affected by the flooding that caused enough damage to the building’s fire-safety systems to trigger a 5-day move-out notice to all tenants in the 14-story structure. That notice was issued Monday night to all 188 residents of the tax-credit elderly housing facility; prior to that, construction crews and volunteers had worked to mitigate the damage and help residents left for days without water and without easy transportation between floors. Above: a view of the first-floor hallway, lined with plywood. In the building’s computer room, the removal of wood paneling revealed wallpaper left over from the building’s days as a Holiday Inn:
Here’s a cruel twist on all those DID NOT FLOOD signs popping up in front of homes in Harvey’s wake — and perhaps a cautionary tale for potential buyers of some of them: When it was offered for sale this summer, this 3-bedroom 1957 home on Yarwell Dr. in Meyerland between Chimney Rock and S. Post Oak featured a proud NEVER FLOODED topper on its for-sale sign. But Hurricane Harvey permanently altered that situation. Reader James Thomson snapped this shot of the front yard on September 4th, showing the first part of the sign painted over to reflect the home’s new status. The property has since been taken off the market.
HOW IT CAME TO PASS THAT HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES PURCHASED HOMES INSIDE HOUSTON’S RESERVOIRS Many of the flooding victims upstream of Addicks and Barker dams learned for the first time that their homes were inside government-designated reservoirs only after rains from Harvey flooded their neighborhoods, reports Naomi Martin. How had they come to live there? “The corps didn’t feel the need to acquire all the land at the time the reservoirs were built, [the Army Corps of Engineers’ Richard] Long said, because that land was nothing but rice farms and fields where cattle grazed. It didn’t stay that way. In 1997, developers came before Fort Bend County government for approval to put subdivisions on the pastures. Aware of the flood risk to the area, the county was in a bind. It didn’t have the authority to prohibit development or establish zoning rules, said County Judge Robert Hebert, who has been in office since 2003. So the county insisted, ‘over great objection’ by developers, on including a warning on the plat, Hebert said. The county, he said, ‘felt it was a defect on the land that should be pointed out.'” The warning appeared as a small note on the plat document establishing some later Fort Bend County subdivisions, but equivalent declarations were absent on documents establishing nearby Harris County subdivisions. [Dallas Morning News] Aerial view of flooding in Canyon Gate, Cinco Ranch: Michael Fry
It’s coming a little late for many homes in Meyerland, but excavation crews are once again at work widening the segment of Brays Bayou just downstream of that flooded neighborhood. Work on the segment between Buffalo Speedway and S. Rice Ave.began this past summer. The widening is a part of the decade-plus-old Project Brays, begun before but accelerated as a result of flooding during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
Water levels on the bayou have returned to a manageable level; this photo, sent in by a Swamplot reader, shows an excavator at work on its south bank just west of the inlet between Timberside Dr. and Bevlyn Dr.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: DISASTER EVICTION DISASTERS “This just brings into focus how landlord tenant law is totally inefficient when it comes to natural disasters. When a landlord cannot repair the leasehold in a timely manner, they have no choice but to terminate the leases. While it certainly makes sense that you would want to free people from having to pay rent on a residence that was not habitable, the unintended consequence is that people are uprooted from their community and scattered about the city with little chance of returning to their homes. Likewise, landlords are forced to empty out their premises and pray that they will be able to fill up their building once renovations are completed. Why not give the landlord the option to obtain temporary housing for tenants and keep the lease in place. When repairs are complete, the tenants can move back in without worrying about breaking a lease and do not have to compete with other tenants for space. Tenants could keep their address, which is very helpful for getting credit.” [Old School, commenting on Residents of 2100 Memorial Senior Highrise Now Have 5 Days To Move Out of Their ‘Uninhabitable’ Apartments] Photo of fire-safety warning sticker at 2100 Memorial: Swamplot inbox
The 2 very different videos above give a taste of what the last few weeks have been like in Nottingham Forest, the Memorial neighborhood along the north side of Buffalo Bayou between Dairy Ashford and Kirkwood south of Memorial Dr. Nottingham Forest filled with water after Hurricane Harvey — and releases of water from the oversubscribed Addicks and Barker reservoirs. The first video, taken by Swamplot reader Gatewood Brown from a GoPro mounted on a kayak, shows portions of the neighborhood underwater during rescue operations 3 days after Houston was first hit by the storm. The second video was taken yesterday by reader Kyle Steck, using a mobile phone he carried while biking hands-free through Nottingham Forest’s now dry but extensively garbage-lined streets.
A notice sent yesterday to all tenants of the 2100 Memorial senior-living facility just west of Downtown declares that the 14-story former Holiday Inn has been rendered “totally unusable for residential purposes” in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. All 198 elderly residents have been given 5 days to remove themselves and their belongings from their apartments.
The building is a tax-credit property of the Houston Housing Authority that includes both low-income and market-rate units. The notice, which came from V.J. Memorial Corp., a nonprofit entity owned by the authority, states that the company only recently learned that the building’s electrical and fire control systems were compromised by the flooding.
“Due to the damage and health & safety reasons, the building is uninhabitable and we must exercise our right under your lease to terminate the lease effective September 23, 2017,” reads the notice, a copy of which was obtained by Swamplot. A separate lease termination document sent in by a reader declares that “the damage to the Apartment is so extensive the Apartment has become as a practical matter totally unusable for residential purposes due to health and safety reasons. Furthermore, the damage could cause health and safety hazards to you and your family, if you returned to live in the Apartment in its present condition.” Residents have until 5 pm on the 23rd to get out: “If you do not remove your personal possessions by that time. we will be forced to remove your possessions and store them at a cost to you,” the document states.
The District at Washington Apartments at the corner of T.C. Jester and Schuler in Cottage Grove now feature apron-like attachments of plastic sheeting meant to provide cover to select masonry-stucco intersections on the façade. The reader who sent the photos to Swamplot says the tarps have been up for a few weeks now, and that repair work appears to be underway:
Popular yet again in Houston: The DID NOT FLOOD sign topper. Here’s a new one spotted by wandering photographer Joshua House in front of the Covington Builders 4-story townhome development at 3821 N. Braeswood Blvd., one block north of Brays Bayou and a couple blocks east of Stella Link.
The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.
The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:
Residents of the 79 apartments in the Hogg Palace Lofts are expecting air conditioning in their units to be restored sometime today — for the first time since power went out early on the morning of August 27th. At a meeting earlier this week, attorneys for and representatives of the Randall Davis Company told tenants of the 8-story building at 401 Louisiana St. that they were aiming for Friday for the AC to be turned on, though could not guarantee it — but that work would continue over the weekend if it couldn’t.
A somewhat parallel sequence of events played out after the promised trailer-mounted Aggreko 1 MW generator pictured above was parked along Preston St. in front of the building last Friday; difficulties in connecting it to the electrical system — including a hunt for the unknown owner of a white BMW parked in a tenant spot in the parking garage that stood in the way of a hook-up — delayed the restoration of electrical power until Monday.