By late afternoon on Sunday, August 27th, there were 2 ways out of several of the 3-story buildings at the Meyergrove Apartments at 4605 N. Braeswood — which back up to Brays Bayou in the southwest corner of the 610 Loop. There was rescue by boat (above) — from which you’d arrive to safety on a dry portion of the freeway:
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE LIQUID POO FLOWING ONTO COLQUITT ST. IN MONTROSE A reader wants to be sure Swamplot readers are alerted — as city inspectors, the HPD’s environmental division, and the property manager have already been, the reader says — to the “recurring” problem of raw sewage flowing out from the Takara-So Apartments at 1919 W. Main St. and into neighboring storm drains. The photo at left, taken on Monday, shows the sewage (“you can smell it”) along Colquitt St., pausing for a bit of sun on its way to lower-lying bayous and waterways. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
ACTING ON HER OWN, MAYOR WILL ALLOW FOOD TRUCKS DOWNTOWN Note: Story updated below. Hopes there wouldn’t be much opposition this time to changing the city’s fire and health codes to allow food trucks a few niceties such as the ability to park near seating for their customers (if not actually provide it) may have been dashed by objections aired by restaurant owners and the Greater Houston Restaurant Association at yesterday’s city council committee meeting, but Mayor Parker said she plans to go ahead and let propane-fueled mobile food units operate downtown anyway, by acting on her own — an administrative change that doesn’t require council approval: “Parker said she has received an opinion from the fire marshal’s office deeming propane tanks of up to 60 pounds safe for mobile food units in the downtown area. It was not clear Wednesday when that rule change would go into effect, though it is likely to be coupled with smaller, more technical regulatory changes to the food truck policy that the City Council could vote on as soon as this fall.” Update, 1:30 pm: A spokesperson for Mayor Parker tells Swamplot the fire department expects to implement the propane rule change, which would allow trucks in the Texas Medical Center as well as Downtown, sometime in September. Changing the rules to allow a food truck to park closer than 60 ft. to another food truck — another administrative change not requiring a vote from city council — “isn’t likely to be considered until the end of the year or early next year when other changes to the fire code are proposed.” [Houston Chronicle; more info; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Coreanos food truck
A Swamplot reader writes in with a report on the aftermath of last night’s collapse of a top-story section of the very long parking garage for the One Riverway office building north of the Galleria, on S. Post Oak just south of Riverway Dr. No one was hurt in the accident, which occurred before 8 pm, but abc13 reports that vehicles were still exiting the structure at that time. S. Post Oak Ln. is now closed to traffic while officials determine if the concrete structure is safe, and workers are already mourning the lost parking spaces.
A sharp-eyed reader has spotted what appear to be security cameras popping up on traffic signals at intersections in Midtown over the last couple of weeks. “I assume this is an extension of the downtown camera system that was announced in December,” notes the camera-watcher, who submitted these uh, surveillance photos of the installations at Gray and Bagby (top) and Webster and Bagby in front of the Capital One bank branch (above right). “They appear to be spreading south. Currently I see them on Gray and Webster. The intersections at Bagby got 2 cameras each. Microwave backhaul antennas are visible in the photos.”
COMMENT OF THE DAY: MAKING THE WHEELS SQUEAK “. . . It sounds like a total douche move, and I guess it is, but if the property really is blighted, you can use the City to coerce them to sell. Keep reporting the property to 311. Code violations are largely complaint based in Houston. so if people make a stink, the inspectors will be out there issuing red tags. Are there crimes occurring on the property? Report them to HPD and the Harris County DA. Graffiti? Report it. Get neighbors in on the complaints, too — the more the better. Keep at it. Eventually it’ll be such a pain in the ass for the owners to keep the property that they’ll be eager to sell.
Just be forewarned, it can be a long process. We were at it for over half a decade with a slum lord who owned most of a crimeridden, gang-infested, horrifically blighted condo complex. It wasn’t until someone found evidence of possible fraud on the condo HOA’s books — and he was looking at possible jail time — that he gave it up.
I know people will react angrily to what I’m saying here. It’s a really horrible thing to do — I admit that. But Texas Law doesn’t give us many other alternatives. And when it’s real blight — dragging down whole neighborhoods, costing the City tons of money and ruining our quality of life — most neighbors would argue that it’s worth it.” [ZAW, commenting on Comment of the Day: Prying Dilapidated Properties from Shy Owners] Illustration: Lulu
Following his report earlier this week on a newly proposed city program that would provide tax incentives for the redevelopment of dilapidated properties, the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris put together a couple of maps identifying all Houston structures with existing “repair, demolish, or secure” orders issued by the city’s Buildings and Standards Commission. The zoomable and clickable map of commercial properties — including apartment buildings of 4 or more units — is shown above. Properties marked with the pin-shaped tags had orders filed in 2013 or 2014. That means redevelopment of those properties would be more likely to qualify for the city’s new tax break — because in order to be accepted into the program, applications would have to be filed within a year of the property receiving a repair-or-demolish order. (The intent is “to prevent slumlords who have sat on shoddy buildings for years from qualifying,” Morris explains.)
The tax-break program isn’t intended to cover residential properties tagged with orders to raze, secure, or bring up to code, but Morris put together a second map showing residences of 3 or fewer units that had received the same kinds of notices from the city:
There are almost 6,000 miles of street in Houston, according to the Memorial Examiner, and now about a half a mile of one in Midtown can call itself remarkable. The Greenroads Foundation, which confers on streets a kind of LEED-like designation, gave its first formal props to a project in Texas to Bagby St. between Tuam and St. Joseph Pkwy., for the $9 million in improvements built along the 0.62-mile span the past few months.
Included in those improvements are bike racks, street furniture, wayfinding signs, wider sidewalks, and narrower, less harrowing crosswalks. (You can see in the photo above that these improvements don’t include burying utilities.) But the designation isn’t meant just to make the lives of pedestrians more aesthetically pleasing: LED lights were installed; rain gardens were put in to help with drainage; “fly ash” concrete, which reduces carbon emissions, was used where possible; and Bagby itself, with its potholes, patches, and cracks, was repaved atop what the Midtown Redevelopment Authority calls “newly stabilized materials” that are supposed to require less maintenance over the long haul.
Why is Houston the only major city in the country that bans propane-equipped food trucks from operating Downtown — and one of the few that prohibits all food trucks from serving near seating areas or even setting up their own chairs for customers? A few clues appear in Katherine Shilcutt’s fascinating account of Tuesday’s city hearing, during which council members expressed a few concerns: that food-truck purveyors might be selling “other items” on the sly, or that there might not be a sufficient number of city inspectors to police the existing fleet. But, Shilcutt reports, “The questions got even stranger when Council Member Andrew Burks began hinting at the possibility of terrorists using food trucks’ propane tanks as weapons, a comment that prompted laughter from the audience.”
The possibility of overfueled taco trucks blowing up Downtown Houston, however, wasn’t the only frightening specter Burks conjured up before the mostly mobile-food-friendly crowd: