12/22/15 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: IS HOUSTON ALREADY EQUIPPED FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL SPRAWL? mars-sprawl“What a waste! The coastal prairies will soon be gone and few will remember them. Everyone will say, ‘Well, Houston doesn’t have much in the way of natural environment anyway, but at least it has affordable housing compared to a lot of cities,’ and ‘Oh yeah, it is hot, but we stay inside most of the time, so who cares about the outside world?’ Maybe Houstonians should be the first to move to Mars or the Moon. (Hopefully) there aren’t any irreplaceable ecosystems to replace with big box stores, suburban homes, and highways!” [Duston, commenting on Houston Shifting to a Buyer’s Market; Making Way for the Lancaster Hotel Parking Lot] Illustration: Lulu

06/23/14 11:45am

M+A Architecture Studio, 5910 Grace Ln., Houston

CES Environmental Services Trucks, 4904 Griggs Rd., MacGregor Terrace, HoustonFrom a top-floor perch in their tiny, handcrafted, award-winning live-work compound at 5910 Grace Ln. (featured a while back in Dwell magazine), architect Mark Schatz and designer Anne Eamon had front-row seats to the ongoing smelly, toxic, and deadly shitshow that marked the over-the-back-fence tenure of CES Environmental Services, in its facility at 4904 Griggs Rd., just a mile and a half south of the UH campus. Among the joys they were able to plug their noses and record was this tableau from July 2009: “In the first photograph [Schatz] took of the scene unfolding below him, shot like all the rest with the eye of an architect, perfectly framing the site, the tank farm is to the left, and a worker races from the right to the warehouse, which has a smoking hole blown through the roof. In a subsequent photo, oxygen tanks are wheeled in. Then the oxygen tanks fall over. Then a forklift shows up, and a crew starts setting the oxygen tanks upright. All this time, while they go through this Three Stooges routine, their co-worker is lying inside the warehouse covered in burns. You can see the back of a metal cylindrical tanker truck in the photos. [Schatz and Eamon] learn later that the fatally burned worker had opened the hatch on the tanker and switched on his flashlight to peer in. A spark from the flashlight set off a flash fire.”

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Toxics by Design
03/13/13 2:00pm

GARBAGE PROGRAM STILL ‘ABSOLUTELY DOABLE,’ SAYS MAYOR PARKER So Houston’s “One Bin for All” idea didn’t win the $5 million grand prize in Mayor Bloomberg’s philanthrophic challenge — but it did tie for second. And that means $1 million will be coming Houston’s way, along with $50,000 extra for being so darn lovable and winning the “fan favorite” vote online. And what’s the city going to do with all this dough? The Houston Chronicle’s Carol Christian reports that the consolation prizes might be just enough to get the program off the ground: Though the idea to combine garbage, recycling, and yard waste into one big bin for mechanized sorting later has been around for awhile, Mayor Parker says, “This award will allow us the seed money to begin the process . . . We have thoroughly researched the technology. It’s absolutely doable.” Construction on a new sorting facility could begin as early as 2014, reports Christian. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner

02/07/13 11:00am

Invasion of the Art Snatchers: Carrie Schneider and Alex Tu, pictured above (though not in their everyday wear), are planning to reproduce the Art Guy Michael Galbreth’s “The Human Tour,” reports Houston Press‘s Meredith Deliso. As a UH student in 1987, Galbreth came up with the crosstown tour: a 40-mile, anatomically correct urban hike in the shape of a human figure.

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01/17/13 3:15pm

In Dallas, you have to keep at least 20 ft. between your chicken coop and your neighbor’s stuff. Here? It’s 100 ft. That’s why this map of the Greater Heights looks the way it does. Hens for Houston founder Claire Krebs, using GIS technology she learned as an engineering student at Rice, created a series of these maps (what she’s calling “policy-making tools”) out of HCAD data to show just how few Houstonians are allowed to keep hens — if they wanted, that is — because of a city ordinance requiring the 100-ft. setback.

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01/03/13 1:30pm

UP IN THE PINES TO STOP THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE Three hours north of Houston in Cherokee County, reports Brantley Hargrove, protesters interfering with a 485-mile section of TransCanada pipeline being built to carry diluted bitumen south to refineries on the Gulf Coast faced some resistance of their own: “[An] 18-wheeler bearing a cherry picker to pluck protesters out of trees slowed as it approached a shouting, sign-wielding crowd. Several young men leaped in its path. One fell beneath the truck. The others screamed and pounded the hood with their fists. A deputy rounded the front of the truck and drove the protesters back, loosing clouds of pepper spray. [A 75-year-old woman], standing off to the side of the road, caught a gust of the burning mist.” Separately, TransCanada’s website notes its plans for the Houston Lateral Project (shown in red on the map), a 47-mile spur that will come close to Beltway 8. [Houston Press; Gulf Coast Project] Map: TransCanada

08/26/11 12:20pm

In what appears to be a last-ditch effort to block construction of Segment E, the straight-throught-the-Katy-Prairie section of the Grand Parkway scheduled to begin construction this month, the Sierra Club has filed a new suit against the Army Corps of Engineers, the DOT, the FHA, the Texas Transportation Commission, and several public officials. But the lawsuit also focuses attention on the health of the Addicks and Barker Dams on Buffalo Bayou, which control waterflow through west and Downtown Houston. According to a July 2010 document unearthed by the environmental group this past March through an information request, the Army Corps has rated the status of both dams as “urgent and compelling” since September 2009; that rating indicates the Corps considers them to be 2 of the 6 most dangerous dams in North America.

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03/30/11 9:50pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND “Heard about it. Shouldn’t matter who the purchaser is, in fact, after reading your comments, it is probably more fair all around if they do not disclose who they are. Posters on this site are quite amazing. I am astonished daily in what they seem to feel they are entitled to when it comes to property owned by others. And how much Swamplot originators do to creatively stir the pot.” [LudiKris, commenting on How Does a Public Notice About ExxonMobil’s Giant New Corporate Campus Stay Under the Radar?]

03/29/11 12:51pm

A show of hands, please: How many of you knew about the public notice posted by the Army Corps of Engineers this January asking for comments on environmental issues related to the new 389-acre office campus that ExxonMobil plans to build for its employees north of Houston, just south of Spring Creek? If you heard about the permit application before the February 17th commenting deadline, please let us know — just add a comment to this story.

Why is Swamplot asking?

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10/02/09 3:50pm

DOWNTOWN’S PIGEON POOP POWDER KEG WILL NOT GO BOOM Swamplot reader ms. rosa reports on tonight’s scheduled demolition of the 1906 Savoy Apartments building (later the Savoy-Field Hotel) at Main St. and Pease Downtown: “Just spoke with Cherry [Demolition]. They will start tearing down the building tonight (Friday, October 2, 2009) at 7:00pm. It will not be imploded (as hoped!)” [Swamplot; previously]

09/24/09 11:17am

City officials have decided to give the owner of the original 1906 Savoy Apartments building on Main St. Downtown an extra week to knock down the structure before going ahead with their own emergency demolition plan. The building’s owner — listed in Harris County records as Michael Nassif — will now have until midnight next Friday, October 2nd, to have a contractor of his own choice begin dismantling the structure. If that doesn’t happen, the city-selected contractor will complete the demo that weekend — and leave the property with a lien for the $448,600 cost.

While negotiations have focused on how quickly work can begin, residents of the Beaconsfield across Pease St. may be more interested in how long the demo will take — and how it will be done. Architect David Hall, who has studied the building for several developers, spoke to abc13 reporter Gene Apodaca about the asbestos embedded in the building’s crumbling interior plaster:

“It’s full of environmental issues. There are pathogens that are a result of the pigeon droppings, there are areas of the building I measured where pigeon droppings were six inches thick,” said Hall.

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08/17/09 12:23pm

The old Bruce Elementary School on Bringhurst St. in the Fifth Ward — featured on Swamplot just last week and apparently just about ready to go up for sale — went up in flames last Friday night, reports our neighborhood correspondent. A story featured on Abc13 news says the building did suffer major damage from the flames, and makes it sound as if arson is suspected. Did any of the asbestos do its job?

Photo of former Bruce Elementary School, 713 Bringhurst St.: Vaughn Mueller

08/10/09 11:17am

Swamplot’s new “Bottom” of the Fifth Ward correspondent Vaughn Mueller reports from the site of the old Bruce Elementary School, where a sign indicates the property is for sale. A source tells Swamplot that a few details need to be worked out before it’s “officially” on the market, but an HISD web page provides some information about the property.

The school, which was closed at the end of the spring 2007 semester, sits along Cage and Bringhurst on the I-10 feeder road, and comprises a little more than 2 blocks. Mueller reports that the new Bruce Elementary (built by a 2002 HISD bond) less than a mile away on Jensen opened its doors in the fall of 2007.

Why the move?

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08/05/09 1:39pm

Good news for the residents of Grace Ln. who back up to that Griggs Rd. waste treatment and disposal facility run by CES Environmental Services! It’ll probably be a while before another thermal oxidizer ruptures and sends four-foot-wide metal pieces flying over their back fences again:

“I mean, this was metal that could have decapitated people,” [Grace Ln. resident and salon owner Kimberly Sadberry] said. “It was sharp. We had to put it on a dolly to take it back, it was that heavy.”

CES assured residents nothing like that would ever happen again, but less than two weeks later, another explosion occurred, she said.

Why the grace period now? Responding to complaints about intermittent explosions and noxious smells emanating from the plant — as well as the fiery death last month of a CES employee as he attempted to clean a tanker truck — police officers and federal agents raided the facility yesterday morning. And figuring out what’s really going on there might take a while:

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12/29/08 8:59am

HIGHER POWERS OF THE HOUSTON-GALVESTON REGION Environmental attorney Jim Blackburn gets religion: “At AA, they told me that that I had to admit that I was powerless over alcohol. They also told me that I needed to acknowledge a ‘higher power’ which was described as a power greater than myself that would provide me with spiritual strength sufficient to give me the ability to change. Well – I fought both concepts, particularly that of a higher power. It seemed like capitulation, that I had to return to the religion within which I was raised and from which I had fled. And then at a meeting one day, a young man said that his higher power was a METRO bus. The METRO bus as a higher power made me smile and it allowed me to loosen up and think more creatively. At this time, I was doing work on Galveston Bay and had a good feeling about the bay, so I chose Galveston Bay as my higher power, a truly life-changing event.” [Blackburn & Carter, via OffCite]