09/14/17 11:00am

WEST HOUSTON CAN NOW FLUSH IN GOOD CONSCIENCE When last we (and the aircraft supplying aerial images to NOAA) left the West District wastewater treatment plant along Buffalo Bayou just outside Beltway 8 at the flooded southeast corner of Memorial Glen, it looked like this: shut down and surrounded by muddy floodwaters sorely in need of its services. That was September 3rd. As of this morning, the city’s Office of Emergency Management reports, both this plant and the one on Turkey Creek off Eldridge between Briar Forest Dr. and Memorial have been restored to full operation. This means persons in ZIP Codes 77024, 77041, 77043, 77055, 77077, 77079, 77080 and 77094 who had been following guidelines to limit their water use are once more free to shower, flush, brush, and otherwise send wastewater down their drains without special consideration of the consequences. [Alert Houston; previously on Swamplot] Aerial image of West District plant from September 3: NOAA  

08/30/17 10:30am

STUFF YOU PROBABLY SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE ADDICKS AND BARKER RESERVOIRS Lived in Houston for years but still coming up to speed on how the Addicks and Barker dams are supposed to work — just as the reservoirs reach to their highest-ever levels? This brief explainer from Kiah Collier and Neena Satija of The Texas Tribune Al Shaw and Lisa Song of ProPublica should overfill you with info: “As of now, the Army Corps says there’s enough excess water in the reservoirs that some of it will flow around (not overtop) these auxiliary spillways. . . . The Army Corps can’t say exactly what areas might experience additional flooding, but local officials listed 53 subdivisions in the Addicks watershed and 40 in the Barker watershed (shown in brown in the map above) at high risk of flooding. Jeremy Justice, a hydrologic analyst at the Harris County Flood Control District, said two subdivisions near the Addicks reservoir—Twin Lakes and Lakes On Eldridge—are particularly vulnerable to flooding from the Addicks spillway. Those homes ‘probably should never have been put there,‘ he said.” Thousands of homes around the reservoirs have now flooded — some because they’re close to rising bayous, and some because of bad neighborhood drainage, they write. “But many are flooding because they are in an area that the Army Corps actually considers to be inside the reservoirs. (See map.)” [Texas Tribune; ProPublica version with linkspreviously on Swamplot] Map: ProPublica

08/29/17 10:30am

The map above outlines the actual locations of neighborhoods designated by officials yesterday as being at risk from flooding over the back sides of Houston’s dual Buffalo Bayou reservoirs — in advance of actual spillovers, which began last night and continued this morning. The map was put together by Chronicle data reporter John D. Harden, using information from the Harris County Flood Control District. Zoom in and you can identify specific streets and neighborhoods on the upstream side of Addicks (in red) and Barker (in blue) reservoirs.

Names of the affected neighborhoods are listed on the map’s fly-out panel, available by clicking on the icon at the top left corner of the map. Click on the icon at the top right corner to enlarge the map if you need to.

To lessen the risk of flooding to these areas, officials have been releasing water out the other end, through the Addicks and Barker dams into Buffalo Bayou — possibly (depending on bayou water levels) endangering neighborhoods and structures downstream.

Map: Houston Chronicle

01/29/16 9:45am

WHICH CAME FIRST: THE TRAFFIC OR THE FREEWAY LANES? Sam Houston Tollway Overpass Over Katy Fwy., Houston“Population growth doesn’t happen independently of transportation infrastructure—it’s profoundly shaped by it,” writes Daniel Hertz over at City Observatory this week. Hertz’s commentary comes in response to pushback following an article in which the blog weighed the outcome of the Katy Freeway’s 2008 expansion (calling out 30- and 55-percent increases in morning and afternoon commute times between 2011 and 2014). Pro-expansion readers purportedly commented that while travel times along the corridor did actually get worse, those same slowdowns would have been even stickier had the expansion not taken place when it did.  But that’s backwards, argues Hertz, or at least a simplification: “In fact, research dating back at least to the 1950s has found over and over that highway construction in the urban periphery is associated with more housing construction there—and the depopulation o[f] urban neighborhoods. . . . Part of the way that highways fill themselves up with cars is by creating demand for housing near them.” [City Observatory, previously on Swamplot] Photo of I-10 West: Andres Lombana [license]  

01/21/15 11:30am

Proposed West Houston Mobility Plan Major Thoroughfare Plan

Proposed West Houston Mobility Plan Major Thoroughfare PlanThere’s a rather bold new plan for 2 of the Houston area’s major parkland reserves hiding in an image included in an almost-final draft of the West Houston Mobility Plan being prepared by the Houston-Galveston Area Council for submission to TxDOT. A new roadway connecting Briar Forest Dr. to Highland Knolls Dr. through the heart of 7,800-acre George Bush Park is shown in a proposed major-thoroughfare plan for the area. (See segments in blue in image above.) A segment of Baker Rd. is also shown linking to the new parkway. And north of I-10, a similar major roadway is seen connecting Hammerly Rd. to Patterson Rd. — through the Addicks Reservoir.

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Connecting Briar Forest Dr. to Highland Knolls
06/25/14 10:15am

AEREO’S HOUSTON TEEVEE SERVICE LIKELY A BUST AFTER THIS MORNING’S SUPREME COURT RULING Cyrus One West Houston Data Center, 5150 Westway Park Blvd., HoustonSo which West Houston data center is the one crowded with all those tiny Aereo antennas on its roof? The secret location shouldn’t need to stay secret for much longer, since the Supreme Court issued a ruling this morning essentially declaring the company’s service — which grabs TV signals from local broadcasters and streams them over the internet to subscribers for a fee — to be illegal. In a 6-to-3 decision (with dissent, notably, from the judges generally considered the most conservative), the court declared that Aereo functions similarly to a cable service, and should be subject to the same regulations, copyright laws, and fees charged by television networks. Aereo currently operates in Houston and 10 other cities. [USA Today; previously on SwamplotPhoto of Houston West Data Center (probably not the Aereo location) at 5150 Westway Park Blvd.: CyrusOne

05/09/14 1:00pm

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Tilt Creep? The saw-toothed roof of a 1977 Walkers Mark townhome located south of the Energy Corridor and west of Wilcrest Rd. appears to have slanted some of the interior’s fittings as well. If so inclined, grab a protractor and explore all the angles on this property . . .

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The Jagged Edge
04/23/14 10:15am

TURNING THE FERAL HOGS OF BARKER AND ADDICKS RESERVOIRS INTO PORK CHOPS FOR THE NEEDY J&J Packing Co., 35602 West Hwy. 90, Brookshire, TexasYesterday county commissioners approved a 1-year contract yesterday with Brookshire’s J&J Packing Co. (pictured at left at 35602 W. Hwy. 90) to slaughter and butcher feral hogs found damaging sports fields and other facilities in and around West Houston’s George Bush Park and Congressman Bill Archer Park and turn them into meat for area food banks. Harris County precinct 3 employees will now be responsible for trapping the hogs and transporting them to the Brookshire plant for processing. “The plan is to trap the varmints in four, 4-acre fenced structures — two in each park — where they can survive for up to several weeks, having grass, water and room to move around,” writes Kiah Collier. “The larger traps will be more effective than smaller ones employees have been using, [Precinct 3 special activities coordinator Mike] McMahan said, because the pigs do not realize they are in a trap and are less likely to panic and warn others. ‘Pigs become very aware of those situations very quickly,’ McMahan said. ‘Pigs are very smart animals.’ But a wildlife disease biologist tells Collier that similar plans tried elsewhere have turned out to be very expensive, and that there are disease risks: “It’s great publicity while it works,” says Brian Mesenbrink with the Texas offices of the USDA’s Wildlife Services, “but the minute something goes wrong, the minute somebody gets sick, there’s going to be all hell to pay. No one thinks about that going into it. They just see the fuzzy and warm side of it.” [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: J&J Packing Co.

04/04/14 1:45pm

THE TOP SECRET WEST HOUSTON ROOFTOP CABINETS GRABBING HOUSTON TV SIGNALS FOR INTERNET STREAMING Cyrus One West Houston Data Center, 5150 Westway Park Blvd., HoustonChronicle tech reporter Dwight Silverman tours the rooftop base housing tens of thousands of tiny, dime-size antennas used by a New York-based company whose business model of capturing local TV, storing it on DVR servers, and streaming it to customers, is headed for a Supreme Court showdown: “Aereo’s local operation is located in a data center in west Houston. (I can’t say more than that – not because of Aereo, but because the data center is very security-conscious and keeps the location secret to protect other customers.) The location was picked partly because TV signals for most of Houston’s broadcast stations are strong there. The antennas are stored in cabinets mounted on a platform on the center’s roof. To get there, you must climb about 20 feet up a vertical ladder (after receiving a detailed safety briefing) and exit through a hatch onto the roof. The two cabinets each have a locked door that provides access on one side. Open them, and you can see long circuit-board racks, each about 14-16 inches long, that hold the antennas. Below them is equipment that converts the radio frequency signals to MPEG-2 video. The back side of the cabinets have what [Aereo founder and CEO Chet] Kanojia described as ‘RF transparent windows,’ made of a material that lets TV signals penetrate easily. The converted MPEG-2 video is fed via 10-gigabit fiber-optic cables to a set of servers in the floor below the roof. Aereo has a relatively small space in the data center, but still has plenty of room to add more servers. A rack of transcoders convert the MPEG-2 video into MPEG-4, which is more easily streamed over the Net. Two racks of hard drives, each with 3 terabytes of storage and spinning at 7,200 RPM, stores the data. Aereo saves each customer’s signal to the drives, even if they’re watching live, which is what allows its users to pause and rewind live TV. The drives also store recorded shows, with the amount varying based on whether a customer has the $8 or $12 Aereo plan. When someone wants to watch a show, it’s streamed out through the data center’s big fiber-optic connection to the Internet.” [TechBlog; more info ($)] Photo of Houston West Data Center (probably not the Aereo location) at 5150 Westway Park Blvd.: CyrusOne

03/01/12 11:55am

A RANCH-THEMED DEVELOPMENT FOR HOUSTON’S LAST RANCH? Lisa Gray tries to find out why the owner of the 19 acres at the northwest corner of George Bush Park that constitute the Marks LH7 Ranch has requested that the Texas Historical Commission remove the landmark designation on the grounds of Houston’s last remaining undeveloped ranch: “‘The property hasn’t been maintained for decades,’ explains Mark Wolfe, executive director of the Texas Historical Commission. ‘The buildings are so badly deteriorated that the owner says the property is a public nuisance, that it could hurt people who come onto the property.’ The development that would take the ranch buildings’ place, Wolfe says, would have a ranch theme and interpretive signs. The developers might reuse artifacts from the ranch, such as a windmill. And the ranch buildings would be painstakingly documented before they’re demolished. . . . I called Milo Marks to ask about his plans. ‘We’re working on a project,’ he said. ‘I’ll just wait to talk until May or June. Thank you!’ And with that, the phone went dead.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Louis F. Aulbach

02/22/12 11:02am

A reader catches workers installing the rising-sun Del Taco logo yesterday on the new fast-food joint going in at 8910 Westheimer, on the northwest corner of Fondren. Houston’s first Del Taco in a long long while is expected to open there “soon,” according to the installation crew.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

09/07/10 3:42pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RACING AHEAD “Dunno about demolishing before [a] permit is issued. But I do know that when they took down the Nissan dealership on the Katy Freeway a year or so back I was able to look at the already demolished and cleared site on StreetView the day the permit came up in the Daily Demo Report. So it certainly happens.” [Jimbo, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Chelsea Place Lately]

08/31/10 4:16pm

Reopened yesterday at 12151 Westheimer between Dairy Ashford and Kirkwood: Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli, which crossed the street after 27 years to be closer to Arpi and Zohrab Tcholakian’s flagship (and 2009 Swamplot Award-winning) Phoenicia Specialty Foods store. The new 6,000-sq.-ft. space at the front of the shopping center will still feature shawarmas and salads, but mixes in a new Phoenicia-branded coffee house — and gelato, in classic flavors like Pistachio & Orange Blossom and Cardamom Turkish Coffee. A new Phoenicia Specialty Foods location — in the ground floor of One Park Place across from Discovery Green Downtown — is scheduled to open later this year.

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03/18/09 11:32pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE GREAT WEST HOUSTON DIVORCéE BELT “It basically runs in between Beltway 8 and 610 and is crossed by the likes of Westheimer, Woodway, Richmond, Bissonnet et al. Basically these people met in drunken stupors along the Richmond strip in the early 80s at those cheesy night clubs; tried to make lasting marriages but eventually divorced; and then bought homes and patio homes close but not too close to their old stomping grounds. Incidentally, many of them work non-descript office jobs at middle market companies in the Westchase district and raaaaaave about the tres leches cake at the Churrasco’s out there on Westheimer. Yay Divorcee Belt!” [Bobby Hadley, commenting on Neighborhood Guessing Game: Blue Check]

02/25/09 11:35am

“What I see on my bike rides,” writes 2-wheeled real-estate observer Lou Minatti, “is that construction has ground to a halt in Katy.” A few more louminating observations on the cycles of West Houston real estate:

The main upscale neighborhoods in the Houston metro area lie between downtown Houston and Katy, in the corridor south of I-10 and north of Westheimer/FM1093. Houston residents know what I am talking about. That narrow 30 mile x 8 mile corridor contains the trendy new “lofts” near downtown, expensive new condo towers in the Galleria area, River Oaks, Memorial, the Villages and Cinco Ranch. . . .

Me? I live north of I-10, the crappy side. It was a nice quiet place when we moved out here in 1995. It’s still an OK place, no real problems. But property values have been flat since 2000. The houses on this side of the freeway are between $100k-$150k. Here’s the thing: Long-time readers here have seen my videos and have seen the inventory and foreclosures from my bike tours. The new houses in these videos [both featured in this Swamplot post from last fall] have all been sold, and this is AFTER the shady lending was stopped. I did a video update three weeks ago [above] and didn’t post it on YouTube because there’s almost nothing on the market! In my subdivision of 900 houses there are two houses for sale and one foreclosure. That’s it.

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