Your Map to the Folks Who Wanted Out of the Houston Heights Historic District East

Planning director Marlene Gafrick’s recommendation that only one property be excised from just one of the 6 existing historic districts up for reconsideration (a 7th, Heights South, is going through the same process even though it hasn’t officially been approved yet) is just that — only a recommendation. Houston’s city council can still decide to alter the boundaries of any of those districts. And you can bet the maps provided by the planning department that show the repeal-survey responses and where they came from will be a major focus of attention as council members discuss the issue. Plus, hey — isn’t it fun to be able to see how your historic-district neighbors came down on the issue? Here’s the map for Heights East:


The planning department tally indicates that out of a total 780 tracts in the district, 193 repeal surveys were returned. That’s a 24.7 percent rate — if you’re just counting the tracts. But the new historic-district ordinance appears to put more emphasis on the number of owners than the number of tracts. For example, the threshold that would have triggered dissolution of a district is 51 percent of the owners of the tracts. Unfortunately, the planning department reports don’t give the percentage of owners of a district who indicated they wanted a repeal — they indicate the percentage of tracts whose owners wanted repeal, but they label that number incorrectly, as “Percentage Owners for Repeal.” (Department spokesperson Suzy Hartgrove tells Swamplot she doesn’t know why the percentages were labeled that way.)

Without knowing which owners own which multiple tracts in a district, you won’t be able to calculate the percentage of owners that indicated a desire to repeal a district — or determine how close that number came to the 51 percent threshold specified by the ordinance. Ownership information was included in the surveys that were sent to the planning department.

48 Comment

  • I don’t care if you’re for or against it, you have to admit that the whole process has been pretty shady.

  • It’s interesting how like-minded residents seem to be grouped in small clusters of lots. It would be even cooler to see some statistcal analysis looking for correlations.

    Perhaps those groups live in micro-cells where certain types of buildings exist or were destroyed, where they share economic status, or even their political affiliations.

  • Looks like most of the “repeal” lots butt up against “non-contributing” lots. Maybe owners of small bungalows that sit near non-contributing properties are expecting to have a hard time at resale? That’s my guess, since my bungalow suffers from that type of poor location, along with small size. That adds up to a much tougher sell with a very small buyer pool that will be looking for discounts.

  • Or if the non-conforming lot is a new house, the small bungalows next door being forced to stay as is might be a property rights and value backlash from their owners. A “they got theirs, why can’t I get mine” type of thing.

    Just my two cents.

  • This is just a dry run for this new type of Democracy. Next election cycle expect to see all people who don’t vote have their votes counted as being “FOR” Annise Parker. Given maybe a 20% turnout this will result in a comfortable 90% vote for the returning incumbent.

  • My own extremely unscientific and haphazard research leads me to believe that a fair amount of no votes came from people who own houses that would have been teardown candidates under the 90 day waiver. These people will not be able to cash out quickly for lot value when they sell. But we all have had to take one for the team in this. Otherwise, I see a fair number of properties voting for repeal who already had their chance to knock down a bungalow and build something big. Lastly, Emanuel Lutheran must still be hoping to knock down their church. I thought there was a deal to save it? Or maybe it fell through.

  • huh, you’d think this would be the type of information best kept private.

    i see some pretty sizeable blocks of noncontributors spread all throughout the area and it appears that repealers / non-contributors are a majority on manyy of the blocks in the area. based on the amount of non-contributing votes the whole thing seems off but i guess that’s where the whole single owner of multiple properties factor comes into play.

    regardless, anyone buying into the area should be wary as this doesn’t appear to be the most fair and equitable of solutions.

  • Indeed very unscientific.

    If your suggesting that most of the blue properties that wanted the repeal are “teardown” houses. That is a bunch of teardowns. With the new ordinance taht would mean that there would be a lot of houses that will most likely sit there and fall in to disrepair.
    Truth is, there are a bunch of people who don’t plan on tearing their house down, who just didn’t want the ordinance “take one for the team”? Maybe if it was done with actual community support and not in the underhanded rediculous way it was.

  • Here is a thought i had,
    I see a lot of non-contributing houses that didn’t repeal. I think that people in newer homes don’t care as much (non vote), because they are less likely to need to do repairs/reconstruction where the would really be impacted. A non contributing structures non-vote negates a contributing structures repeal vote.

  • I think the map would look very different if it showed a fourth color for those who did not return a survey at all.

    I would bet, and I would bet a large sum, that the map would be predominately whatever color is assigned to an un-returned ballot.

    There was not overwhelming support for this ordinance. The vote was rigged from the start to get the result that was achieved. A non-vote can never be counted as a yes in any legitimate process.

  • Caneco: Don’t start with the “sit there/fall in disrepair” myth. There are two properties in my neighborhood that would have been teardowns during the 90 day waiver that are currently being rennovated (with certs of appropriateness). Houses will sit on the market longer and people won’t get the same $ as they would have without the ordinance, but this idea that the Heights will become infested with abandonned and decrepit old bungalows is just silly.

  • Old school, I call it “sticking it to the lower-income homeowners.” Property taxes were already running them out, now they won’t even be able to make any of that money back, after paying those high taxes, when they sell. “Taking one for the team” only seems to apply to them. The rich got theirs, then changed the rules to benefit themselves again and will continue to get theirs. Who do you think is renovating those houses you are talking about now, the wealthy who can afford to. They can buy low and sell high once again.

  • What year built was used to determine contributing or non contributing, anyone know? Our entire neighborhood has made application to the NPS National Register and the year they go by is 1950.

    So, actually, all those non contributing structures may not be either tear downs or new construction. They could be houses that were built one year outside the limit that are still in very good condition and livable and whose owners simply wanted to repeal.

    Also, in our neighborhood’s case, a beautiful 1934 2 bedroom brick was remodeled (about 10 years ago) to expand the attic and create an additional bedroom. Because the roof line was altered, it is now considered non contributing. We have several homes that are now non contributing because they were allowed to do what they wanted with their own property, but you know what? They are still beautiful homes and are more liveable and this was done without a camelback.

  • Does anyone have any data on property price effects in an area that went from non-HD to HD because there seems to be alot of assumption that prices will fall, but I’d be interested to see what the real impact was.

  • Lost, I’ve followed the listings for Woodland Heights area 1,000+ sq.ft. 2/1 homes for years, so as to be ready for my property tax fight each year. Recent comparable sales have been averaging $40,000 to $60,000 less than my bank’s appraisal value when I refinanced in 2009.

    But the recession is still messing with the numbers for this type of housing too. I think it will be a year or two before we can see the real impact.

  • In Woodland Heights, there is roughly a $75k spread between a poorly remodeled 2/1 (5000 sf lot) and a 2/1 that is “perfectly” remodeled with a historical tilt. In fact, last year a stunning 2/1 on Omar sold in 3 days for some $365k.

    The poorly remodeled houses linger on the market; the good ones are still sold in a matter of days. People tend to form valuation opinions based on the houses that linger around and crowd the HAR listings.

  • Also, a few developers/investors in Woodland Heights that held 2/1 bungalows (that they were renting until the time came to demo and build a McWhatever) have been doing quickie clean-ups in the last year and selling those bungalows, and they generally are at the lower-end of the sales sprecturm.
    It is actually a little disturbing how many homes were “secretly” owned by Allegro et al.

  • Have any of you doomsdayers looked at historical districts in other cities? For all of you clamoring about property rights or the inability to cash out, you might be changing your tune in a few short years. In many places in this country, it’s neighborhoods like these that have protections that continue to be highly sought out and highly valued. I used to live in one. I bought when the neighborhood just became a historical district. 17 years later, my property was valued over 70% what I paid for it.

  • HA-HA! doofus, that’s funny. You do realize that adjusted for inflation your house only increased in vaule somethinng like 20% over that time, right? I’m not compounding that, just doing a quick calculation off the cuff, so it’s probably closer to 10% over 17 years. The Heights property values have been going up at 8%+ PER YEAR for almost 20 years!

  • Wait – I have a feeling that some citizens are going to be VERY UPSET to realize that the difference between a vote and a survey is that their neighbors get to know exactly how they voted and harass them for their decisions. There’s a reason for the secret ballot.

  • 1. It is far to soon to tell what HD status will do to property prices.
    2. “Contributing” was a judgment call made by knowledgable volunteers and basically meant something that looked close to original from the street or could be restored to original fairly easily. Since there were very few homes built in the Heights between WWII and the 1980s, the line was simple.
    3. If yard signs are any indication, many anti-HD folks live in the large new homes. I think they just want to see the continued eradication of small homes to make the area more uniformly wealthy.

  • Old School,
    You fool. I was mocking where you had stated it looked like a lot of “demo” houses were the ones that wanted the repeal. I also love your referencing of 2 particular homes being renovated in your neighboorhood. Do you want a cookie or something? There is a good chance those would have been renovated without the ordinance. There are at least 12 houses on my street that have been renovated in the past year and a half. These could have been demo’d, but they weren’t. Just because someone doesn’t like the ordinance doesn’t mean they want to smash every bungalow in the heights. Keep on supporting this bogus Ordinance though… instead of trying to come up with a good, community driven response.

  • Caneco: I can say with certainty that these two homes would have been demoed without the ordinance. Both came on the market after the moratorium. Both needed to be completely gutted. Both were on 6600 lots that could fit a 3500 sq ft home. And the reason the houses on your street weren’t demoed was because the economy crashed and no one could get funding for new construction, but could still get funding for rennovations. If you want to talk about fools, just look at the recent COA approvals from the HAHC. Plenty of rennovations and new construction is happening and getting approved without problems. All this ordinance does is keep people from going to extremes and demo-ing buildings that can be rehab-ed. If you think that is bogus, that is your problem. You had your chance to kill the historic districts and failed, even with the big realtor and builder dollars fighting the anti-preservation fight. Face the facts: People in the Heights want the ordinance. You can cry about wanting some special process, but the fact is that if it was really such a bogus ordinance, people in the Heights would have voted in droves to kill the districts. But they didn’t. That is because people are much better informed that the anti-preservationists think and weren’t fooled by the bogus lies about HAHC controlling landscaping, HVAC and paint color and the hottest neighborhood in the city falling into utter disrepair and being nothing but rentals and abandoned houses.

  • Northwood South, I do compare like properties, i.e. “poor,” though I prefer to call them Class C and below. And I do compare lot size, because with a Class C or lower, most of the value has always been in the land. I don’t include Class A (or even B) homes like the one on Omar when I compare, which I am now dubbing “HD-ready.”

    Recently, I’ve seen like-properties that would have sold in the $280,000s two years ago go for less than $250,000. Broke my heart after all the work we’ve done on our house. But it’s to be expected, if your value is in the land, and you can’t change what sits on it, the price has to come down.

    FYI: I prefer calling my home and those of my senior neighbors the “not ready for HD players.”

  • Unfortunately, the planning department reports don’t give the percentage of owners of a district who indicated they wanted a repeal — they indicate the percentage of tracts whose owners wanted repeal, but they label that number incorrectly, as “Percentage Owners for Repeal.” (Department spokesperson Suzy Hartgrove tells Swamplot she doesn’t know why the percentages were labeled that way.)


    She doesn’t know why? I know “spokespeople” only say what they;re told to say but does she really think eveyrone is that stupid?

    So how about someone coming up with the percentage of owners who voted for repeal?

    “Hi, ho, hi, ho, it’s off to court we go.”

    I think we need to change the city charter. So that those who get the city sued with their shenanigans have to pay the judgement themslves instead of the taxpayers.

  • Old School, You don’t know my street, nor do you know with certainty about those houses on your street, but much like your ordinance, you think your opinion is the majority of the neighborhoods. I DIDN’T have the opportunity to stop the Ordinance, because I’m in Woodland Heights. If you consider counting non-votes as votes a legitimate way to establish an ordinance I guess your right, the Non-Ordinance folks (we aren’t non-preservation) had their chance, albeit the chance was rigged, short noticed, during a holiday. How can someone who “cares” about the Heights so much completely screw 1/4 of their neighbors over and be happy about it? Self serving much?

  • Old School, at the end of the day the “big realtor and builder dollars” you talk about just couldn’t compete with the big taxpayer dollars and campaign finance dollars that the mayor was able to throw at the other side. Of course the fact that the administration stretched the definition of democracy to the point that we in the Heights never really actually got to vote on the issue certainly helped.

  • Jimbo,
    I would say they downright raped the definition of democracy. Your right, we never really had a vote, these kind of things need to have a clear community driven effort, which is definitely NOT what happened. I ain’t drinkin their kool-aid.

  • @Caneco:

    Speaking of drinking “kool-aid,” are you crazy? Raped the definition of democracy? We are talking about the historic preservation ordinance, right? There are real people dying, right now, in the streets for a chance at the democracy we enjoy (even the strain of “raped democracy” apparently found in the Taliban stronghold called the Woodland Heights). If drinking kool-aid will help bring the level of discource back to reality, I suggest you put the tea down and starting stocking up on delicious packets of grape and fruit punch flavored powder now. It isn’t too late.

  • Jimbo- Really? You’re saying that individuals in a few small neighborhoods who wanted preservation actually had more sway that the builders and developers? What are you smoking? If the Houston Builders Association objected to the ordinance it would NEVER have happened. Fact is, this issue is such small potatoes to the big money folks, they frankly, my dear, did not give a damn.
    Annise’s camapign finance records are on line – go look. She took tons of builder/developer money, as did council.

  • *gets popcorn*

    Raped democracy? Wow, this puts “300” to shame!

  • The bottom line is simple. There was never a fair vote…it is impossible to argue that a real actual fair vote took place. It is actually impossible. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, who believes that vote, or survey, was fair and not rigged to get the outcome they got is an actual idiot. Being an actual idiot if you believe the vote was fair is also a point that is not arguable.
    Any fair vote would have required a yes or a no from property owners. failing to return a ballot is not a yes in any legitimate voting process. The preservationist knew darn well that they could not win by actually getting a real vote, so they rigged it to look like a real vote.
    All this talk about realtor/builder money versus mayor/city money does not matter….money can only make so much of a difference. Billions go into presidential campaigns, and the results are still low voter turnout….A fair vote is all that was asked for, and it was not given because it would have resulted in a loss for the historic districts. That is the bottom line.

  • It’s very quaint to describe the pro-ordinance effort as a few individuals in a few small neighborhoods but the reality is that the pro-ordinance effort had the full backing and support of the administration. And then, just to be sure, they rigged the legislation so that we didn’t get to actually vote on the issue. Talk about a level playing field.

  • in regards to Dufus “I bought when the neighborhood just became a historical district. 17 years later, my property was valued over 70% what I paid for it.”

    17 YEARS and you only got 70%…???? I am just out of the historic district and in 5 years my bungalow and lots on my street are going for DOUBLE (100%) what I paid for my lot and the house!

  • Just curious – has anyone with all of this evidence of shenanigans called the 11 News I-Team? Or Local 2 Investigates? Or even better, 13 Undercover? Uncle Wayne would be chomping at the bit!

  • @Hellsing – it was not being hidden…it was done in the open with full knowledge of the consequence….The Mayor and her cronies actually tell people it was a fair vote though and that everyone had their opportunity to opppose it…which is “technically” true. If you could get 51% of people to have voted the districts could have been abolished. However, I would bet that 50% or close to it is the number of people who even opened the ballot, let alone returned it.
    News people do not care about that type of story. They want hidden drama, or better yet some kind of discrimination….

  • “However, I would bet that 50% or close to it is the number of people who even opened the ballot, let alone returned it.”

    Okay – call me stupid, lost or whatever, but if that many didn’t care to vote….not doubting anyone’s convictions as to what happened in the least, but was it lack of interest or a vast City Hall conspiracy? Putting the two together sounds like an odd coincidence or voter intimidation. Or were rumors abounding that a vote against wouldn’t count so don’t bother? All I know is that my brother got his mailing and returned it – end of story. No pressure one way or the other.

  • @ Mel… I guess it’s fine for everyone else to blow things out of proportion, but when I blatantly over exaggerate something you call me out. Sarcasm is lost on you I suppose. The ordinance was put in by force, without majority consent though…

    Oh and BTW, I am completely crazy. 100% of the rocker, and even I can see through the rediculousness of the way this was done. Go ahead though, and keep telling everyone “its no big deal” “take one for the team” “saving the neighborhood”. What you don’t grasp in your ignorance is that I fully supported all of the deed restrictions that were put in place in Norhill. They were community driven and done with majority support. If the “ordinance preservationist” really wanted to protect their neighborhoods, and had the support they/you claim, this would have been easy for all of the historic areas and not pissed so many people off.
    Keep your Kool-aid.

  • Caneco, what deed restrictions that were put in place are you talking about?

  • Evness,

    In Norhill the community set deed restrictions that prevented most of what the ordinance is supposed to prevent. Minimum lot size, minimum setback, max height, as well as several other restrictions. This is something that the majority had to agree on. The ordinance will not really change anything in that neighborhood, other than adding the additional hassle of going through the HAHC’s approval process.

  • Oy Vay!
    Accept it. Most people do not care.
    That is why voter participation was so low. People were not stupid or uninformed, they simply didn’t see how it mattered one way or the other.
    Furthermore, can anyone cite one other ordinance in which people were mailed a ballot so they could overturn it?

  • @ Finness

    How many other ordinances do you know of that remove private property rights from individuals who own them without compensation for the loss or the chance to opt out?
    I dont follow every action of the Council, so I cant give you an honest answer…but I can bet that it is probably a very low number, if you can find any others at all.
    I think most people would care if they were informed or if they fully understood it.
    The honest thing to do would be to show how many people voted for the ordinance instead of just saying not enough voted against it! I bet more people voted against it than for it.

  • Caneco, Norhill’s deed restrictions were put in place when the neighborhood was first established. The last update, I think, was in the early 1990s. If you’re talking about the minimum lot size and minimum building line restrictions, those are separate restrictions managed by the city, and implemented separately on a blockface by blockface basis.

  • This is a very good video on YouTube that describes the so-called democratic process devised by Parker and Co.

  • @Caneco, why so defensive?

  • Marksmu said:
    “How many other ordinances do you know of that remove private property rights from individuals who own them without compensation for the loss or the chance to opt out?”

    Millions in potential revenue/property value were lost when Houston decided to dramatically reduce the # of billboards. Same with most any eminent domain situations. When they widened the Katy, did any of those business owners get compensated for future lost profits? Of course not.
    Anticipated or hoped for value is the issue in the HDs; there is NO property suddenly valued at zero. This is about assumed future values.
    Maybe you own a fabulous piece of land worth potentially zillions and the city puts in a sewage treatment plant next door. Bummer. Investment is a crap shoot. It has always been thus.

  • Great video RHP. It does raise one other question that noone has asked about. Did the City assume that all of the Spanish speaking homeowners in the Heights were just uninterested in the historic district vote or did they just not care what that part of the community thought?

    For everyone who thinks the process was fair, imagine it the other way around, or imagine it attached to any other election, and then let me know if that is still what you think.