THE NEWEST PLACE TO GO DOWNTOWN A reader writes: “Until this morning I had never noticed this public restroom (really just a port-o-john with a thoughtfully labeled enclosure around it) downtown next to Tranquility Park at the corner of Rusk and Smith. Everybody knows that Swamplot is Houston’s most trusted source for breaking news about the city’s top cat 5 dump hotspots, so I figured I’d send y’all this update. I definitely feel sorry for whoever has to maintain this facility, but if the city has decided to provide a refuge for the park’s inhabitants in an attempt to discourage the use of secluded downtown doorways or parking garage stairwells, then I think it’s a great idea.” Photo: Swamplot inbox
CITY MAY SOON CAN RULES THAT FORCE HOUSTON FOOD TRUCKS TO SPACE OUT What makes Houston’s food truck scene so quirky, so scrappy, so outré? Well, it could be some of the wacky rules mobile food units are required to follow when they’re operating within city limits — to guard against terrorism, major explosions, and other all-too-common street-food hazards. Three such rules — the fire code regulations that mandate that trucks park no closer than 60 ft. away from one another and that propane-equipped vehicles stay out of Downtown and the Texas Medical Center, and the health code ruling that subjects owners of mobile food vendors to fines if they’re found parking within 100 ft. of any table or chair — could be going away soon, however. A task force charged with looking into the issue is recommending the city 86 those particular regulations but keep in place others, including the requirement to visit a commissary every day. A city council committee meeting this afternoon will be the first opportunity for public comment on the proposed changes; the city’s Laura Spanjian tells Culturemap’s Eric Sandler that she doesn’t expect to the Greater Houston Restaurant Association to object to the recommendations. [Culturemap; more info] Photo: UH
How do you feel about Houston’s airborne cancer hotspots? That’s easy! Just pick up a copy of the latest issue of Cite magazine and run your fingers over the top of it: Cite 93‘s front cover has been embossed with a map diagramming the area’s cancer risk. The places where airborne toxins mapped by the EPA are most prevalent are in the pits.
The mapped information here isn’t exactly fresh — it’s from the 2005 National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment, and the data only account for airborne known-cancer-causing toxins that are tracked by the EPA. Though it’s posted online, the map version isn’t exactly easy to find. But bravely thumbing his nose at Houston’s proud and longstanding tradition of hush-hushing location-based cancer hazards, Cite editor Raj Mankad gives Swamplot readers the secret recipe for finding the browsable map:
Royce White might never have suited up for the Houston Rockets, spending most of his rookie season toiling in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and — umm, tweeting, but it appears he has found a way to contribute to the city. Last week, White — who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder — announced that his foundation, Anxious Mind’s, which he started when he was playing college ball at Iowa State, will partner with Bee Busy Wellness Clinic to open a free mental health facility on W. Bellfort. The clinic will also provide dental services and primary care and will open this January inside the Rubik’s Cube-like former Frank Neighborhood Library at 6440 W. Bellfort, shown here, just west of Westbury and Meyerland. White played in only 16 games last season; he was caught up in disputes with Rockets management about travel arrangements — he hates to fly — and team doctors. In July, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The redo of this Chenevert St. warehouse is complete, Mayor Parker announced yesterday, and the Houston Center for Sobriety is ready to give drunk people a place to dry out. Next to the Eastex Fwy., the 84-bed center at 150 N. Chenevert will operate out of a 19,000-sq.-ft. building behind the Star of Hope homeless shelter, across from Irma’s Mexican restaurant on Ruiz and just a few blocks north of Minute Maid Park.
The restaurant dog ban is over. Ziggy’s Bar + Grill at 302 Fairview in Montrose, one of the first establishments to get involved in the Paws on Patios campaign begun last year, was the recipient last week of the first-ever city of Houston dogs-on-patios permit. Establishments that want to follow suit will need to maintain a separate self-closing doggie entrance gate to the patio, labeled with a sign identifying it as a “dog friendly patio”; keep hand sanitizer and disposable water bowls available; keep the patio free of visible “dog hair, dog dander, and other dog-related waste or debris”; and make sure restaurant personnel don’t pet or serve any four-legged customers. Owners are supposed to keep their pets on leashes and away from the tableware.
A reader sends word that a TABC alcohol-license notice posted on the side of the former Tower Theatre at 1201 Westheimer — where Hollywood Video was sent packing late last year — reveals the name of the old-style Tex-Mex restaurant former Houston Press food critic Robb Walsh and Iron Chef contestant Bryan Caswell will be inserting into the long-gutted moviehouse. As announced in the Press‘s food blog earlier this month, it’ll be El Real Tex Mex Cafe. Alas, no notice has yet been posted warning customers of the restaurant’s special featured ingredient:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: CLEAR LAKE CITY CLEANS UP NICELY “Is there a discount [for homes near chemical plants]? Hell yes! And it’s for lots of reasons: 1) real or perceived pollution, 2) real or perceived high crime, 3) low elevations, 4) higher property insurance rates, 5) fewer nearby white collar jobs, and 6) living there indicates to snobs that you’ve got a low social status.
Most of the discount is unwarranted, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look at Clear Lake City; parts of it are only about 1.5 miles from the nearest chemical plants. It was developed upon depleted oil fields and is adjacent to still-active fields. (It was developed by a subsidiary of Exxon!) It’s adjacent to an airport. It has a low elevation. But all that stuff is out of sight, out of mind, and so there’s no stigma.” [TheNiche, commenting on House Shopping in the Chemical Discount Zones: Finding Houston’s Less-Toxic Neighborhoods]