COMMENT OF THE DAY: UNINCORPORATED HARRIS COUNTY OUGHT TO START INCORPORATING
“Since the population is booming in unincorporated Harris County, it may approach a tipping point where the representation may need to be increased on the Commissioners Court. As it stands now, there are 4 Commissioners plus the County Judge, a total of 5 elected officials for this burgeoning population. Conceivably, we could have 8 Commissioners plus the judge so that each ‘slice’ of the county could be fewer people and theoretically, there would be more responsiveness from the county office to a given resident. That being said, I don’t mind more townships or small cities being created to mop up the unincorporated areas so that each burg could work to benefit its taxpayers. Basically, a divide and conquer approach (or ‘zone defense’ if you want another metaphor), but to provide responsive, efficient service to its own residents. There is only so much that the county can do when it has to cover the whole of Harris County.” [Wolf Brand Chili, commenting on The Astonishing Rise of Unincorporated Harris County] Illustration: Lulu
PEARLAND, CITY OF 3 WALMARTS Ahead of this weekend’s local runoff election, the Christian Science Monitor delves into the rapid growth and demographic shifts in the “dumbbell-shaped suburb” of Pearland — and how a few candidates for municipal office are approaching it: “Its diversification is largely a result of [Houston’s] inexorable sprawl . . . where residents keep moving farther out in search of lower-density living.” Pearland now ranks as the nation’s eighth-fastest-growing city, but Houston’s only second-most-diverse suburb, where, writes Simon Montlake, as many as 75 languages are spoken in local schools, but residents refer to the eastern-most Walmart in town as the “white Wal-mart” — “because of who shops there – and who doesn’t.” At a forum held in the Bella Vita Club at the center of the age-restricted Bellavita at Green Tee community off Scarsdale Blvd. just east of the Golfcrest Country Club, a middle-aged woman wants to know how candidates plan to draw together what she sees as the “two cities” of Pearland. “Pearland is solidly middle-class,” Montlake notes. “A starter house costs $140,000, and median household income is $97,000, much higher than in Houston. But newcomers rushing to downtown jobs barely brush shoulders with the mostly white retirees who tee off on the golf course weekday mornings or the older families that work and play near home.” [Christian Science Monitor] Photo of Bella Vita Club: 55places.com
Have you seen this video (at top) from the city’s planning and development department? It’s silent, several years old, and not the flashiest portrait of Houston available on YouTube. But in a compelling series of images, it shows how mightily the city’s official boundaries have grown — simply by tracking Houston’s annexation history, decade by decade.
But now there’s a more active way to appreciate Houston’s historically bulging waistline — one that could even help increase your own in the process (depending on your choice of beverages). Each of the 5 laser-cut acrylic coasters in Data Design Co.‘s limited-edition set (shown in the photo above) is etched with an outline of this ever-expanding city at some point in its history. Designers Brian Barr and Matthew Wettergreen had the sets manufactured in Houston by Post-Studio, and are now offering them for sale for $60. Buy a set, and try one beverage on each over the course of an evening of thirst-quenching, and you’ll allow yourself to drink in a progressive view of this city’s expansive growth.
Sure, drone footage is great. But how often do you get to see 3 flying laboratories survey the breadth of Houston’s sprawl from this high up?
The trio of WB-57s shown surveying a hazy Houston in the video above are based at Ellington Field. The fleet is part of NASA’s WB-57 High Altitude Research Program, which regularly conducts scientific research and testing. Among its missions: mapping, collection of cosmic dust, support of rocket launches, and flights over hurricanes, including recent storms Joaquin and Patricia. Eerie faded-Emerald-City scenes of Downtown, the Galleria, the Med Center, and other vertical standouts unfold beneath the wingtips. The flight, which took place before Thanksgiving (but for which footage was only posted to YouTube this week) marks the first time since the early 1970s that 3 WB-57s have flown together.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW IT WORKS IN HOUSTON, THE FREE ENTERPRISE CITY “. . . That is, and always has been, Houston. That unruly sprawl, those cookie-cutter suburbs, generic strip malls, traffic congestion, that all existed long before the Beltway was built. I grew up here, in a cookie-cutter suburb called ‘Sagemont’ located next to a 2 lane stretch of blacktop named ‘South Belt.’ My dad grew up in a cookie-cutter suburb 10 miles closer in, filled with generic strip malls, just outside what would become the 610 Loop. Today I live in another cookie-cutter suburb farther west, about half way between 610 and the Beltway. Still lots of congestion, sprawl, strip centers, etc. This is Houston, baby.
And just about everything in Houston exists because some powerful person (not necessarily a politician) owned tracts of land. All of those hip dense neighborhoods? They were empty fields that some speculator bought for next to nothing, then bribed . . . er, influenced someone in government to build something, often with tax dollars. That’s how things get done.” [Memebag, commenting on Driving Beltway 8, in Order To Read Houston in the Original] Illustration: Lulu
DRIVING BELTWAY 8, IN ORDER TO READ HOUSTON IN THE ORIGINAL “To get a full sense of the place,” writes Cort McMurray, every Houstonian should travel Beltway 8’s full 83-mile circuit. Until you can find the time, though, his tour narrative may have to suffice: “Keep going. You’re not even halfway around. There are more factories, and more office buildings, more new construction, more traffic. There’s a steak house, built to look like Sam Houston’s Huntsville home, evidence that if you give a Houstonian a little time and a little encouragement and the right financing, a Houstonian will create something ridiculous, and the horse track, where nothing ever appears to be happening. Near Bush Intercontinental, you’ll endure Roadwork Purgatory: orange cones and narrowed lanes and blinking signs, and no evidence of any work being done. It’s been that way for 19 years.
East of the airport, the Beltway crosses vast swaths of tract homes and the strip centers and megachurches that inevitably follow them, funneling you toward the Jesse Jones Bridge, standing like the skeleton of some humongous sauropod, head forever bent to the Ship Channel, nosing about for some seaweed.” [OffCite] Photo of Steamboat House Steakhouse: Tomball Sesquicentennial Promenaders
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SIGHTS ON AND OFF THE MEMORIAL DR. STRIP “. . . The whole thing of having this parkside expressway that drops to 35 and morphs into a suburban strip for all of 1/4 mile before resuming high-aesthetics high-speed is wonderfully convenient. Your last chance gas, your breakfast tacos and kolaches, your late-night eats . . . it’s all right there, no mucking about with U-turns or feeder roads required.
And no, this stripmall won’t be a huge visual contribution . . . but who cares? The views just 100 yards to the south are about as aesthetically pleasing as one can find in our fair city, and after all, isn’t that what matters? So much discussion of the urban form boils down to complaining about what we see from our car windows. But if the view from home and office is nice, isn’t that really what matters?” [Purple City, commenting on How a Stretch of the Memorial Dr. Strip Earned Its Newest Strip Center] Illustration: Lulu
And now, a new 5-story apartment complex that’s outstanding in its field. Which is directly across I-10 from BP headquarters, and just south of the Addicks Reservoir. The reader who sent in this photo (showing the building at 13710 Park Row Dr. right in the center of the image) dubs it “Houston’s loneliest apartment complex.” But not for long — right?
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PROBLEMS SPRAWL SOLVES “. . . the concern about cities expanding out into the suburbs is about worker mobility and our ability to fund adequate infrastructure. That’s great if the woodlands, katy, and sugarland could become real functioning cities comparable to that of Houston. However, it’s unsustainable if you have poor transportation options affecting the supply of qualified labor and an undiversified industry base that leads to boom and bust cycles. We can barely afford Metro’s reach in central Houston and with more low-income workers being pushed further from the city’s core we will continue to lose workers from our supply of labor.
I love Houston the way it’s always been though. having multiple office centers spread across town helps keep housing demand distributed across a wider area rather than turning the central part of town into an enclave for well paid dual income families only. Allowing land to continue being gobbled up further and further out allows for affordable housing for new residents increasing our supply of labor. Anything that helps cities expand, even if endless suburban sprawl, and make better use of their existing resources and infrastructure is a positive to me.” [joel, commenting on Comment of the Day: West Houston’s Plan for Suburban Domination] Illustration: Lulu