Three New Historic Districts Approved

THREE NEW HISTORIC DISTRICTS APPROVED Glenbrook Valley, Heights South, and the Woodland Heights are the city’s newest historic districts, after city council voted to approve their long-lingering applications this morning. The votes were 9-5 for Woodland Heights and Heights South, and 10-4 for Glenbrook Valley. [Previously on Swamplot]

62 Comment

  • Big fan of government strong-arming of the majority, huh, Mel?

  • Dave,

    Not particularly, why do you ask?

  • So despite the fact that after “reconsideration” only 45% of the property owners in Glenbrook Valley approved the designation, 10 city councilmembers said it didn’t matter? 10 city councilmembers and the mayor.

    “Don’t blame me I didn’t vote for her…”

  • They’ll be sorry. Wait until they try to sell their property.

  • They’ll be sorry. Wait until they try to sell their property.

    I wonder how well they’ll really be able to enforce the historic designation. I think it will be a toothless designation in an area where non-english speaking residents routinely build non-permitted structures.

  • Im with Mel… Viva la Revolucion!

    Down with free property! Property is theft!

  • Lost_In_Translation:
    I wonder how well they’ll really be able to enforce the historic designation. I think it will be a toothless designation in an area where non-english speaking residents routinely build non-permitted structures.
    What are you talking about?

  • Sounds like sour grapes to me. If you don’t like it MOVE TO THE WOODLANDS! Ha!

  • I am sandwiched between two houses in the Heights that are in need of significant renovation. Without the ordinance, they would be bought up by builders and torn down (it is happening down the street, outside the district). The result would be having 2+ story houses bookend my bungalow, sending my property value down to lot value, regardless of the thousands I spend to upgrade and maintain my historic home. With the ordinance, these houses will be renovated (one is an outstanding craftsman that is stuck in rental mode) and will enhance my property values.
    Living under the ordinance won’t be fun or easy. Government bureaucrats will screw things up and need to be slapped into line from time to time. But the predictions of real estate armageddon are just bunk. On one street in my district, there are currently five bungalows that are being renovated. All commenced work after the more restrictive ordinance passed.

  • Cool!! I agree with Old school – whose property rights are stronger, the prospective builder or the current resident who has invested a small fortune into an existing home? If I’m searching for a property to build on and I see something in a neighborhood with an ordinance that I don’t want to comply with, I will know to LOOK ELSEWHERE. I don’t quite understand why people seem to be under the impression that Houston is roughly the size of Greater Tuna. Don’t like the protected Heights? Drive up N. Shepherd a mere few blocks and spend less money on a larger lot! Build whatever you want under three stories!

  • I think your prediction on your homes value going down with the two bookends is also bunk…

  • Woodland Heights has had protection for over a year now – during that time ZERO applications for COA were turned down. During that time our values went up 9%. Demolitions will still be allowed however what will go in their place won’t be some oversized behmoth that screams “I HAVE MORE MONEY THAN YOU BUT I CAN’T AFFORD WEST U”

  • Old school, you don’t “deserve” a return on your investment. If restored bungalows aren’t what people are willing to buy on your street, then you will lose money. Luckily I assume you restored it for your own enjoyment rather than to sell.

  • Hellsing:
    Cool!! I agree with Old school – whose property rights are stronger, the prospective builder or the current resident who has invested a small fortune into an existing home?

    The resident’s property rights are stronger because he owns the property, the prospective builder has zero property rights because he doesn’t own the property. If you are trying to imply that our property rights got stronger because we lost some of our property rights to an unelected board then I think you need to check your logic. And then to suggest that people should just up and leave their homes if they don’t like the rules that were forced on them – that is moronic.

  • Actually, Callaway, moving is EXACTLY what I intend to do, just as soon as I can get my halfway renovated house in presentable shape. This permanent restriction on my renovation is already costing me tens of thousands of dollars. I have no intention of staying to watch the loss increase. I just hope I can find someone with the same perverse logic as old school.

    I have fought this incredibly shortsighted and poorly written ordinance for over a year, suffering through ignorance and outright fabrications by its proponents, redtags by inspectors of work that they had previously greentagged, loss of time from work. No more. I will leave this disaster to those who created it.

    Tis a shame. The Heights used to be a decent hood. Oh well. Hello, Eastwood!

  • Long live historic structures! Congrats to the city for looking into the future by preserving some of its past.

  • Three more areas come under the heel of the jackbooted thugs of the HAHC, who think their judgement is far better than that of the property owners. Once again, the control freaks who can’t stand the thought of their neighbors enjoying their property in their own way win. It’s another sad day for anyone who believes in freedom.

  • Any those homeowners should be able to democratically vote on issues that drastically change the rules of the neighborhood.

  • why a city would choose to curb growth and impact the housing needs of future generations is beyond me. There are a vastly larger number of groups than simply “prospective builders” and “owners looking to preserve what they bought into” and this will impede on many of those other groups property rights. nothing is ever black and white but that’s all these historic district fights break down into which tells they will cause many troubles in the future.

    as a citizen of this city i don’t like it, there’s no shortage of quality neighborhoods that preserve what the heights has (just absent older homes requiring costly upgrades). if the demand is for outrageously sized/priced mansions back to back them let them build it, there’s a lot of poor folks and schools in this city that are in dire need of additional city property taxes and i fail to see why a bunch of upper middle class folks have a right to deny that because they believe they’re owed the right to preserve what they bought some 80 years ago. that’s just not how society works, let the market do it’s job and provide growth for the city. let’s not forget we’re talking about neighborhoods in the center of the 4th largest city in america and is one of the fastest growing. i’d say embrace the growth while it’s there or you’ll find it missing when you want it.

  • I have heard Old school’s argument over and over and I just don’t buy it. What has been missed is that most of the larger homes are not initiated by builders, they are initiated by consumers that purchase a lot with the intent of tearing down, and THEN hiring a builder. This is about supply and demand and lifestyle, not about developers. At least this is the case in Heights proper.

    You will now see less families, more younger couples, alternative lifestyle couples, and empty nesters move into the area. The city has simply managed to regulate the type of buyer looking to purchase in the Heights. Values will rise per sq ft, but will drop, or grow at a lesser rate for overall sales price.

    And regardless of what side of the issue you are on, it is way to early to celebrate, or drown your sorrows, this is heading to the courts for round 3.

  • I feel sorry for the underserved residents in Glenbrook Valley who truly did not understand what they were signing.

    We’ll see how they feel about their councilman come election time.

    Parker and her puppets. A real shame.

  • also, the heights is not historic houston, it’s just somebody else’s history. houston’s history is long gone and honestly wasn’t really worth preserving considering the time period and incomes of the time.

  • Watch out Eastwood…here comes DAVE!!!

  • Spoonman: people are very much willing to buy restored bungalows on my street as long as they aren’t pinned between two giant new builds. And if I don’t deserve a return on my investment in the historic character of my neighborhood, then the guy who lets his rental houses fall apart certainly doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for doing so by being able to tear down and sell the lot to a builder.

  • Callaway, where did I say that current residents should leave? I said it could be a consideration BEFORE someone buys into a neighborhood.

    “The resident’s property rights are stronger because he owns the property, the prospective builder has zero property rights because he doesn’t own the property.”

    I agree, but once the sale is closed, look out. Ashby Tower, anyone? Han’s Beer Haus?

    “If you are trying to imply that our property rights got stronger because we lost some of our property rights….”

    Um….what? I’m not picking on you, but I apparently wasn’t clear if I gave that impression.

    Isn’t the creation/enforcement of deed restrictions for individual neighborhoods a major argument against zoning? Don’t deed restrictions dictate a property owner’s choice as to what he/she can or cannot build? How about paying to belonging to homeowner’s associations that threaten fines if the grass isn’t mowed to a certain height or the garbage can is peeping around the corner of the garage? Those sound comparably totalitarian to what historic desigations are predicted to become by some to my simple mind, but maybe I’m missing something here.

  • Even if the argument that well maintained shacks “bookended” between two newly built homes goes down in value is true (which I dont believe is true) – the overall value of the property will still go up.

    The increase in lot value will offset the decrease in the value of the shack.

    I bought a house in what is now a historic district with the intent of eventually destroying it and building a house that is comfortable to live in…that ability is gone now…I am now stuck with a nice large lot that I can build only a very small, very expensive per sq/ft home on, after a lengthy battle to even be able to destroy the pre-manufactured dump that already sits on it….that costs money.

    All these things cost money, therefore the property is worth significantly less as a result of the ordinance….the ordinance is such a scam its not even funny. Shame on everyone who lied and stole from their neighbors!

  • “…more younger couples, alternative lifestyle couples, and empty nesters move into the area.”

    “…well maintained shacks…”

    Before I retire with my popcorn to watch,considering how many have been rendered undesirables with just those two statements, would some sort of grandfather clause with a purchase/ownership cut-off date ever be considered for people in Marksmu’s situation?

  • …loyal willingness to say black is white when party discipline demands this. It also means the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know black is white, and forget that one has ever believed the contrary.” George Orwell decribing meaning of blackwhite (Newspeak term from 1984)

    I guess in the Heights we will all use Newspeak now…or at least be familiar wiht the term “Doublethink”

  • “people are very much willing to buy restored bungalows on my street as long as they aren’t pinned between two giant new builds.”

    Then I guess you should buy the properties on either side of yours so your house maintains value. Otherwise it’s not your business.

    “And if I don’t deserve a return on my investment in the historic character of my neighborhood, then the guy who lets his rental houses fall apart certainly doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for doing so by being able to tear down and sell the lot to a builder.”

    Correct, neither of you are entitled to the value of your properties going up or remaining flat.

  • Meanwhile downtown another truly historic building lies in a pile of rubble. The latest of quite a few. So much for “historic preservation.” And for those who claim to be historic preservationists…

  • LOL at all the property rights folks who have moved here from It would be one thing if you were making sense. But, the idea that a historical district designation in a HIGHLY desirable location would lower your property values is laughable. The evidence isn’t on your side. And, the notion that most of the new homes in the greater Heights are are being built “custom” by their owners is almost too stupid to even comment on. The only people who will be hurt by this are the McVictorian builders who have flooded the market.

  • Hellsing – You are right, that was Mel that told me to move out of my home, not you. I am in Woodland Heights so an Ashby Tower could have never gone in our neighborhood to begin with because we already had deed restrictions. Deed restrictions are great because you know exactly what you get when you buy the house. Or if your neighbors want to add deed restrictions when you own the house you can opt out. Nothing is forced on you without your consent. The problem with the historic designation for these three areas is that it was forced on the neighborhood without majority support and city council can change the rules whenever they want.

  • From doofus:

    “The only people who will be hurt by this are the McVictorian builders who have flooded the market.”


    They will not be hurt at all – they will just start building McCamelBacks, those hallmarks of historic development.

    And I bet there is a council member or two that hopes your are right that only builders will be hurt – I bet they have their fingers crossed that Parker has their rears covered.

  • Sorry Callaway – only parts of Woodland Heights (which is comprise of over 56 subdivision) have deed restrictions and quite a few properties opted out or were excluded from the deed restrictions. So although you think an Ashby can’t spring up – the building
    currently being built behind Someberger could be built in parts of Woodland Heights.

    BTW the Historic District only applies to the Woodland Heights Subdivision and even in that small area (approximately 420 homes) there some block faces were not included.

  • When you are bookended, the value of the lot is all that goes up. Every penny you spend trying to make your house nice goes down the lot value drain. Your house is just waiting demolition.

    And did Omar just argue that the Heights will fill up with gays with the Historic Ordinance? What’s wrong with that?

    The family issue is more realtor bull. New 3500 sq ft houses have been approved by the HAHC. I live happily with a kid in a tiny bungalow as do many others. In fact, my sq footage would be considered enough for a very wealthy family of five in Manhattan. At any given time, there are plenty of big houses in the Heights for people with families. In fact, there are some 30 odd new houses going in where Cooley Elementary used to be.

  • +1 to Sharon, she is right. Did everyone who does not live in the now protected portions of the Heights run title on the houses next to, behind, catty-corner and across from theirs before they bought? Like Callaway, I wrongly believed that because my house was subject to Deed restrictions, so were all the others. Boy, was I wrong.

  • The main question is how did the council approve Glenbrook if they only had 45% supposedly? I love historic architecture so I am selfishly happy for those nabes, especially Glenbrook, which is surrounded by examples of neighborhoods where anything goes. I can empathize with those who resent historic districts being imposed upon them too. I would probably be one of those if I weren’t such a fan of old houses.

  • Long live historic structures … unless they happen to be prospective parking lots for wine bars. In which case knock ’em down quick right Mel? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • #40-Dana-X,
    Go back to June 23 and Gus’entry on ‘Inside the Historic Battle for Glenbrook Valley’ and read the piece in the Houston Press.

    Why the city did not recognize the fact that so many folks had been coerced by some folks who apparently did not mind lying to get what they wanted is or should be criminal.

    I hate it when folks (like that realtor) move into an area and immediately think they know what is best for the entire neighborhood. Then he pushes rules and regulations on folks who have lived there for 30-40 years who clearly don’t need or want his interference and bam! they get blindsided.

    If a neighborhood has good deed restrictions, which Glenbrook does, why do they have to strong arm old folks there?

    I’ve just gotta believe in karma. He will get his. Hopefully sooner than later.

  • Dave, Eastwood called and wants to know what’s taking you so damn long. We’re beginning to think you actually hang out at wine bars.

  • Jimbo, I was sad to see the parking lot. It is right next to someone’s house. I felt for the homeowners. Everyone was so excited about the new bar, but i was concerned for the people who live there. But apparently the people on 8th are cool with what is going on. I am glad for them.

  • Where are the maps of the new historical districts? Any links? Thanks.

  • Sharon,
    The majority of the neighborhood (WH) is protected by a combination of Deed Restrictions and Minimum Lot Size restrictions. The Ashby Highrise would take up 7 lots and the apartments behind Someburger take up 4 lots. The chance of a developer buying up 4 adjoining lots without deed restrictions in the Woodland Heights subdivision is minimal. But it might be possible; I don’t have a list of the properties that opted out. But the historic district doesn’t completely protect against everything either. Any property that is less than 50 years old can get a certificate of non-designation and then they can build anything they want. The point is that deed restrictions are preferable to the historic district because you don’t take anyone’s property rights without them allowing it. But the thing that really gets me about this is that it was passed with less than 50% support. If more than 50% of my neighbors supported it then I would be a bit more resigned. I am sure you would be a bit upset if a future city council decided to remove the designation despite a clear lack of support to do so.

    OmarMan –

  • It’s not their house that is being knocked down though is it. The bungalow that will be razed is currently between them and the commercial space. If you believe that this unnecessary demolition is OK then how can you turn around and tell someone else that their unnecessary demolition is not OK?

  • So just for my edification, was Glenbrook 45% yea and 55% nay? Or was it 45% responded “yes”, 40% (or some other figure less than 45%) responded “no” and the remainder couldn’t be bothered? If it’s the latter, well….I’m a big believer in the “don’t vote, don’t bitch” philosophy. Is there a breakdown published anywhere?

  • Jimbo, was your post intended for me? I am having a hard time following the point you are attempting to make. Again, I felt bad for the people who are going to live right next to a parking lot. However, they came on and told us that they are fine with it, so I am glad for them.

  • @Hellsing, #48

    On the June 23 Glenbrook thread here on Swamplot, there’s a link to a Houston Press article about all this hoopla in Glenbrook Valley.

    In the Press article, it’s stated that in December ’10, 155 support retractions were collected and delivered to the city. That figure put the “for” group 6 percentage points below the required 51% number for approval. In spite of this Gafrick recommended that the council go forward and approve.

    Bradford spoke out that he was not comfortable with that but apparently, the other puppets were.

    How does this Gafrick woman have that much pull? Is council afraid of her?

  • must get oven mitts, my mouse is so hot from reading all this!

  • The point I was trying to make, probably pretty poorly, was that in order to accomodate this parking lot an original heights bungalow will have to be demolished. I am confused as to why you feel it is acceptable to demolish bungalows to build parking lots but not acceptable to demolish bungalows to build bigger homes.

  • Jimbo, where and when did I ever say it was acceptible to demolish a bungalow to accomodate a parking lot? Those are words you will never hear from my lips or read from my keyboard. You have read waaaaay to much into my post. Here’s my point, again: golly gee, I sure do feel bad for the folks who now get to live next to a parking lot. Oh, but wait, they don’t seem to be fine with it. Bully for them!

  • Whoops… I just caught a typo as I hit “send”: They seem to be fine living next to a parking lot.

  • How does this affect empty lots and what can be built on them? Also, does anyone know when this goes into effect?

  • Wasn’t the vote for Glenbrook Valley one of the more lopsided in favor of all the historic district votes? I don’t remember all of them. Mike Sullivan voted against the Heights districts but voted for Glenbrook Valley. A few council members that voted against Heights east and west in the previous votes favored Glenbrook Valley’s designation this go round. Is all that due to some super political pull situation that some people in SE Houston have with council or the Mayor? That doesn’t seem just real plausible. Clearly a number of council members who voted in favor of GV have had no problem standing up to the Mayor on the previous votes & would do so again, so just saying she made them go her way seem unlikely. So what gives? If you read the Houston Press article or if you had seen some of the tapes of the city council pop offs, it becomes obvious that in Glenbrook, moreso than the Heights, the opponents went a little too overboard with all sorts of high-drama accusations. In the article it appears at the end most of the accusations didn’t stick. Ultimately I think this strategy back-fired on them (those opposed to the designation) and caused them to lose credibility. The validity of what they turned in, or produced, or their argument obviously lost credibility too. That apparently affected the outcome, a lot.

  • Guest, much of the behind the scenes talks with members of council indicated extreme displeasure with how the whole thing went down, from the sliding in districts at the last minute, to using ineligible properties to increase “support” to the “surveys” that did not allow a yes or no vote, only a no…

    However, what councilmembers say in private and how they vote in public can make you scratch your head and ask WTF? That is the situation here. Certain council members are attempting to curry favor with the mayor, prompting their yes vote, even though they claim to be supporters of property rights, and dismayed that there was less than 50% support in all 3 districts. A couple of council members inexplicably changed from No votes on 2 Heights districts to Yes votes on Heights South, which displayed the most consistent opposition throughout.

    Pointing out the problems did not backfire. There are simply a few council members who voted against their stated positions for reasons that have not been publicized. Knowing how hard the mayor wanted these districts, and how hard she pushed behind the scenes, it is easy to make that link.

    Dennis, we’ve been under these rules for 13 months already. The vote simply made it permanent. Empty lots have a decidedly easier road, and you can see it in land prices. Empty lots are often worth more than those with bungalows, since we can do so little to our homes under this ordinance.

  • I have absolutely no doubt that some folks in GV who are not native English speakers were coerced. And I’m also quite sure that those pushing for the ordinance would use any means possible to get what they wanted.

    I’ve asked the question before and not gotten an answer. What happens when grandma cannot afford to make the repairs to her house according to HAHC rules? Who pays for it?

    Oh, I forgot, the hell with grandma, right?

  • As a fourth-generation homeowner/resident of the Houston Heights, I applaud the historic designation for Heights South. There are plenty of places for those of you who consider my circa 1901 Queen Anne cottage–featured in three magazines and on two Heights Home Tours–to be “a shack” to live. In fact, all but 3% or so of the City of Houston is available to you to build whatever you want. There are few options for those of us who prefer to historic architecture. I bought a rundown cottage, lovingly restored it (and saw taxes value rise 400% in 20 years)…only to have the value plummet 30% overnight thanks to the oversized McMansion plopped down next door. Darn right I voted for the Historic District.

  • BTW for those of you who are in Woodland Heights and think those deed restrictions are doing you a whole lot of good – just a little history lesson. In the past the Civic Association had to go to the mat twice to enforce the deed restrictions (now if you don’t have a board that wants to put in any time to these kinds of activities you are really in trouble) The first was a builder who just refused to comply – 5 houses went up that and the civic association had to file suit – $30,000 later and finally he stopped. Another instance was when a board member told a potential buyer that a certain tract of land was deed restricted. Law suit against the board (watch people leave at that point) and what came out of that was no green card (USPS card that confirms that a person has received a piece of mail or at least attempts to deliver have been made) and therefore no proof of notification and therefore POOF no deed restriction enforcement. Youch.

    So yes the majority, 1526 homes our of 2331 Woodland Heights are under the umbrella of deed restrictions. Of those 1526 only 491 have cards. Now one subdivision may not have required green cards because it was a “re-up” but that umbrella has a LOT of holes.

  • Mel. Maybe I read this post wrong but I got the impression from this that you felt that the provision of the parking lot was more important than the bungalow that will be demolished to accomodate it. Remember that the people who are fine with the prospect of living next to a parking lot currently live next door to a bungalow.

    From Mel:
    Jimbo, I noticed that. Apparently the neighbor house is fine living next to a wine bar. I am relieved for them. I am sad for the little bungalow, but I am more concerned about the traffic issues on Studewood and the cross streets.

    June 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm

  • Sweet Cynic, I would LOVE to see where the value on your property went down 30%. Please provide proof of that! I am currently calling BS.

    I have not seen any property in the heights (prior to the ordinance) decrease in value…if the improvements went down in value but the land went up enough to counter that drop, you have no argument…$300K is $300K whether or not its 100dirt, 200 house, and or 200 dirt, 100 House

    Feel free to provide an address, HCAD will prove that you have likely told a half truth, or an outright lie.