The Most Energy-Efficient Home in Braes Heights; The Scourge of the 12-Ft. Traffic Lane

Storm Clouds Over Downtown Houston

Photo: Jackson Myers via Swamplot Flickr Pool


20 Comment

  • That article from Architect magazine is a must-read, no matter what side you’re on. The author poses some very interesting questions that we need to answer:

    “How much can Houston grow without cultivating more of a walkable, urban ethic? How long can a city that is clearly becoming denser continue to be almost completely car-dependent? Can a city that doesn’t believe in zoning find a way to create streetscapes that are not lined with multilevel parking garages?”

    Also interesting is the viewpoint from national developers that Houston is rigged to favor local developers, which keeps them from building here.

  • No disinformation and propaganda from the Texas Lib-loon, please. Funny how I just passed a Planned Parenthood in Stafford on my way back from lunch that was open for business. Why isn’t it on their map? Hmmmm

  • 12ft or 10ft lanes, personally, I think 10ft lanes is a great start. reduced speed limits in all residential neighborhoods to 20mph. also make residential streets 1 way only. this would reduce cut through traffic, and make streets safer to kids in the neighborhoods.
    make the 12ft lanes 10ft and put real separated bicycle lanes on each road it fits on. done and done.

  • Pfft – duh, not every family planning clinic performs abortions, even for PP abortions account for only about 3% of it’s services.

  • @ roadchick: One very easy solution to the proliferation of parking garages and to the car dependency and walkability issues is to drop the parking requirement for office buildings (and most or all other land uses) in order to allow the supply and demand for parking spaces to find its natural equilibrium.

    If we find that fewer parking garages and expensive parking spaces begins to have the effect of displacing businesses to the suburbs and we think that this pattern is undesirable (which should not necessarily be a foregone conclusion), then the City and various TIRZs, Management Districts, and other entities can build public parking garages to design specifications that are compatible with public interests and in places that they deign to guide development toward.

  • Pffft…….”Lib-loon”? Really??? Are you an adult? Are you over age 15?

  • Instead of zoning/regulations cultivating planning and order, they could -and should- cultivate the non-zoned-ness and chaotic flavor in line with Houston’s pre-existing reputation.

  • Am I the only one who’s skeptical of narrower driving lanes? I mean really, has anyone else driven on the Greenbriar curve, where it splits off from Shepherd just north of 59? Those are narrow lanes and it can be pretty nerve wracking.
    I agree that the article from Architect Magazine is a must read. I do take issue with a few things in it though. First, we’ve got to get past the either-or answer when it comes to houses versus Walkability. Single family homes with back yards are still what most people want, but that doesn’t have to preclude walking. Look at Park Slope in Brooklyn New York: single family brownstones line the streets, many large and with back yards, but they’re on some of the most walkable streets in the United States. (And, incidentally, they’re some of the most desirable and expensive homes in New York City.) It’s even less mutually exclusive when you consider cycling. With the proper (safe) hike and bike path connections, any moderately dense single-family neighborhood can be bicycle friendly.
    Second, I’m not sure why we should be afraid of parking garages. At the risk of bringing up the old Swamplot cliche: just put first level retail in there, give it broad sidewalks; then dress up the facade. Voila, your parking garage now compliments an urban neighborhood. (You know, I said before that I don’t think we should scuttle Houston’s parking requirements, but I am totally in favor of allowing neighborhoods to pool parking, so instead of everyone having their own parking lot surrounding their building, they claim space in a garage and then patrons walk from there.)
    Finally, Houston has a split personality when it comes to density. Wealthy neighborhoods Inside the Loop are trying really hard to become more dense, and they’re succeeding in doing it in a way that makes them more livable. But areas like Gulfton and Westwood are still actually denser, and they suffer from very serious urban problems. People hate it when I say this, but if Houston is going to accommodate all the people who are moving here, we need to address those serious problems and turn those areas around.

  • @Pffft: according to the website of the Stafford Planned Parenthood, they offer abortion referrals but no abortions. You can see for yourself:—family-planning-4095-91650

  • I take similar issue with that Architect article ZAW. there’s a bit too much subjectivity tied into just why increasing alternate modes of transit and walkability should be so important to Houston when in reality, we’ve probably got bigger fish to fry. this city has much much bigger issues with education and in providing a competent, well-educated workforce than we do with walkability. Local Houstonians not having access to the same levels of education and schooling opportunities as our educated oil & gas migrants is shutting out most of the locals from taking part in the boom and hurting local employers. We also have much much bigger issues with mass transportation than we do with designing for alternate modes of transit throughout neighborhoods. i can think of more parts of this city where a bike ride or a walk is a more efficient commute than trying to step foot on a bus….and that’s not a good thing.
    i pay lots of money to live in the montrose because of it’s walkability, but in no way is this paid premium scalable to any other neighborhood in Houston for myself. this is simply the only part of town worth walking in for me due to the plethora of parks, museums and businesses that can’t be matched elsewhere. is Houston really losing out on all that much in that other neighborhoods aren’t as walkable? i doubt it and how much of that is due to income segregation rather than city development policies? I can think of lots of places in more walkable cities that I would not want to have to walk through because it’s just simply not enjoyable, the same for Houston. walking from the BART through the tenderloin in san fran is not a desirable choice, but one born out of economics.
    I quite like Houston the way it is now. walkability is a choice to be made in where you live, not one that’s mandated. you can’t say the same for most of the other cities currently standing in as pinnacles of walkability.

  • ZAW, I’m all for turning those areas around, I just don’t think id care to be urban pioneer to do it. Those areas have some serious violent crime issues. You’re right about the need for more mass transit, but as long as we have Culbertson torpedoing any rail on the Westside, it’s a dream. I’m not sure id ever compare any area in Houston to Park Slope. As you said it has great brownstones and is on the edge of Prospect Park, possibly the most perfectly realized park in America. I love my proximity to Hermann, but I certainly don’t want my neighborhood to become more dense, one Ashby Highrise is enough, thank you.

  • ZAW, re: your last point about density. It’s not just a Houston thing. Some dense areas are wealthy, some are poor. LIberty City is dense and poor, Brickell Ave. is dense and rich. Same dynamic works for Anacostia vs. Georgetown in DC. Sadly, there will always be poor areas of our city, and there will be wealthy areas. I’m not saying nothing can be done to make Gulfton better, but dramatically fixing up the apartments there runs the risk that rents increase, thus forcing out the current residents, and then where do they go?
    I do like the idea of neighborhood public parking garages that could take the place of required parking spaces for each business. Frankly, the Super Neighborhood by Washington Ave. should put this forward as something to do with in partnership with the city. Are there other cities that do neighborhood public parking garages? There are low cost ( relatively) city garages in downtown San Francisco, but SF is an outlier when it comes to public infrastructure spending.

  • That really was a great article in Architect Magazine. They nailed Houston, for better or worse. The images of the city showed us off well. I find it interesting that even the uber conservative Poe supports money for rail, while flat Earther Culbertson continues his crusade to block all rail on the Westside. It’s just shocking after Bush and Archer that the Westside would select such a Neanderthal to represent the distract. His is one of the wealthiest, most educated districts in the country and still this fool is sent back, year after year. You expect this from rural Mississippi, but Memorial??! It’s infuriating.

  • even if I agree with some points you make, your tone is often so disagreeable that I just can’t nod along with you.
    I don’t know much about Culbertson but why the constant odd attacks like “flat earther”? And what are you implying by saying he should be elected by “rural Mississippi”? And maybe if a bunch of smart wealthy people voted for him, they might know something you don’t?

  • Houston v SF seems one-sided…but the smart people I have met wouldn’t necessarily choose the place that has the nicest weather, they would choose the place that offers them the most chances to become successful in their chosen field via access to the ability to solve the tough and exciting problems.

    Silicon Valley, despite being very progressive and having over 50 years to change its ways, is still a bastion of anti-diversity and is rapidly getting worse. Calling it a gated community is an understatement – the privileged elites started invading the place in the 2000s – their great decade – and instead of making room for the next generation, have instead nominated themselves (surprise, surprise) to be the newly entrenched elites, rolling up the roads behind them, and ruining the place until it is worse than whatever they failed to build back East.

    What would motivate oligarchs to pretend to be technocrats and entrepreneurs? All else equal, why not use their considerable resources to change the world instead of playacting at something that fundamentally they have never been and can never be?

    Figuring this question out can really help Houston to the extent that it competes with SF on certain specific terms – namely, the entrepreneurial culture that claims to have energy in its sights. And finding holes in that culture – ie, the systematic exclusion of women and minorities – could be a step in the right direction.

    And finally, it should be noted that the future of Silicon Valley is really in San Jose because they don’t really have room to expand anywhere else. If Houston wants to, on some level, try to intercept some of the type of environment that future SF area engineer denizens will be living in, then parts of Houston would do well to emulate and improve upon present-and-future San Jose. At the basic level – the level of mass transportation – present-and-future San Jose is far ahead. Houston could catch up but should not wait to do so.

  • @Shady Heightster: What sets Houston apart is that the problems facing our poor, dense neighborhoods requir a bigger investment to fix than most. These neighborhoods were developed in the 1970s. They have superblocks with poor pedestrian access, few parks, and no access to the new light rail lines. How do we make those areas more livable, and thereby attract middle class and wealthy people back in? It’s not just a question of crime. There are serious questions about park access, access to fresh foods, Walkability, transit….
    To me, this presents a huge challenge to the City’s growth in coming years. It’s easy to make a neighborhood like The Heights, Montrose, EADO, or Eastwood more livable. The ingredients are already there. But the answers aren’t so obvious for places like Gulfton, or Greenspoint, or Westwood. Fortunately, Susan Rogers and her students are asking the tough questions. TIRZs and Management Districts have been established in many of these areas, so there is funding available to start to address the issues. But there’s a loooong way to go.

  • Cody, because even Poe, who is about as conservative as you can get is wise enough to not turn back federal dollars for his district. Culbertson is so blindly against mass transit of any kind that he actually turns down money for his district if it in any way is tied to mass transit, that’s not just lacking pragmatism, it’s obtuse. It’s short sighted and certainly not helping Houston’s traffic issues. His district has the gargantuan, perpetually clogged Katy Freeway backing up traffic thru his district like a blocked artery to the heart and his solution is to build more lanes. Where?? Bush and Archer were pragmatic Country Club Republicans who were smart enough not to make an abortion issue out of mass transit and not paint themselves into some absurd ideological corner over…traffic! I would never peg this district to have an East Texas Gohmert type Tea Partier as their Representative, I can assure you Bush and Archer are nor big fans of Culbertson. I understand not being a supporter of Light Rail but to be such a crusader against it and to try to derail the entire network, which most support, is just being an asshole. Like I said, even Poe isn’t that strident and obstructionist. It’s never a good thing to have a Representative from Houston actually refuse money for…..Houston. Yeah, I’m not a fan.

  • Matx & Houstonreader: Don’t ever believe the proven liars at PP.

  • The city will never be walkable until they revise the parking ordinances. How many parking spots are a restaurant in NY required to have per 1,000 sqft? Zero. How many parking spots does a bar in New Orleans or a community Grocery store have to provide their customers? Zero. 6th Street in Austin? Zero. Until this changes, we will not see change. It’s ludicrous that the parking ordinances in Montrose are the same as in Katy. If you wanted to open a market or a bar in a neighborhood, you’d have to buy the five tracts of land around them and bulldoze them, just to be in compliance with the city. The numbers simply don’t work.

  • The war on road width is to force slow-downs, which is where the real “safety” aspect comes in. Real highways with narrow lanes just become scarier, and some anti-personal vehicle moron doesn’t have evidence if you compare speed at 10 vs. speed at 12.