COMMENT OF THE DAY: SELLING THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW “Fabulous lot adorned with critters of all varieties, this property now features wild herrings, cranes, frogs, alligators and migrating herds of antelope during the rainy season. The home was originally built as an ark on pristine gathering grounds for pairs of animals to accumulate during the final days of destruction per sellers disclosure. Tall mature trees on property present amazing opportunity to cultivate your very own white dove habitat for olive branch collection.” [Toby, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Outdoor Dining Area] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT FLOODING ON THE WEST SIDE TOOK AWAY “Homes underwater for extended periods can be rebuilt, as long as they were not subjected to currents sufficient to cause major structural damage or foundation scour. They just take longer to dry out (ours took over a month).
Like Local Planner said, in many of the flooded neighborhoods north of the bayou, original-condition homes had basically no value before the flood (i.e. they were being sold for lot value and torn down). The process is indeed accelerating, with new builds being elevated à la Bellaire and Meyerland.
The big question mark for me is how much of a market there’ll be for $1+ million new homes in a potentially flood-prone area (even if your elevated home doesn’t flood during the next big one, you’d likely lose the cars in your non-elevated garage and need to be evac’d by boat). The market was soft in the Energy Corridor even before the flood. A new supply of high-end homes doesn’t automatically beget demand. Hopefully the new MD Anderson complex in the area will help (and potentially spur further diversification of employment in the Energy Corridor beyond oil and gas).” [Grant, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Memorial Glint] Illustration: Lulu
Teevee station KHOU is giving up on its 3.2-acre bayou-side home on Allen Pkwy. after repeated flooding and will soon be listing it for sale, according to a staff member’s Facebook post. The organization did file a permit for $594,740 worth of restoration work after Harvey between August and October, and hired 2 services to help with the clean-up — including Lewisville-based MrRestore, pictured above outside the building on August 30. Before Harvey, the studio enjoyed a 16-year dry run bookended by waters from Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.
The 52,000-sq.-ft. studio, home to Channel 11 for 57 years, took on 5 ft. of water during the recent storm, forcing its staff to relocate broadcasting activity 3 times within the same day: first to a second floor conference room, then 2 blocks east on Allen Pkwy. to the Federal Reserve Bank, and finally to Houston Public Media’s office on Elgin St. just off I-45, where the news operation has now been headquartered for just over 2 months. That co-location wouldn’t be permanent, KHOU meteorologist Brooks Garner reported last month, although he indicated at that time that the station had not as yet decided whether to return home or seek a new venue.
Photos tweeted out by KHOU reporters of their original home showed the building at 1945 Allen Pkwy. taking on water during the storm. Here’s what the lobby looked like:
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THE KATY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH A FLOOD POOL SECRET Some documents related to the Katy ISD’s 1998 purchase of the 15-acre site now occupied by Creech Elementary School at 4242 S. Mason Rd. have been frozen — in an attempt to preserve them, after they got flooded when Barker Reservoir got backed up after Hurricane Harvey. What those records might show, once thawed: some explanation for why school officials at the time signed a notice indicating they did not review a map filed with the county by Westbrook Cinco East LP (the developer from whom the property was purchased) that disclosed in a note that the land came with the risk of “extended controlled inundation.” Though several Katy schools sit on land near or in the Barker reservoir flood pool — the area expected to fill up with water when the dam is closed for a major flooding event — only Creech suffered major damage. All 800 Creech students are now attending classes at the University of Houston’s nearby Cinco Ranch campus while the school undergoes an estimated $5 million worth of repairs. The school district’s superintendent tells the Chronicle‘s Lise Olsen that he and other school officials were unaware that the school was built in the flood pool until they were contacted for her story. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of flooding at Creech Elementary School, 4242 S. Mason Rd., Katy: Breta Gatlin
A LAKESIDE ESTATES HOME NOW WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN WATER Before the Army Corps of Engineers straightened the section of Buffalo Bayou between Hwy. 6 and Beltway 8 in the mid 1960s, the cul-de-sac at the end of Riverview Dr. in Lakeside Estates wasn’t just near the waterway, it was in it. But the “view” and “side” in the names the subdivision’s developers later attached to the property east of Wilcrest Dr. as they built on it didn’t hold: “When [Allen] Wuescher says he had 17 feet of water inside his house, it’s one of those things you have to see to believe. It is the fifth time in 26 months that his house flooded, and the third time his entire first story was destroyed by water deep enough for a diving board,” writes Meagan Flynn. “Since the home was built in 1979, homeowners at this address have recouped more than $850,000 in flood damage losses through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, at this point making the home more expensive to taxpayers just to exist than for the government to buy it and destroy it. It was appraised at $825,000 by the Harris County Appraisal District. The FEMA flood insurance loss payments so far don’t even include the extraordinary damage wrought by Harvey. And when we enter the home through Wuescher’s garage — which looks like a scene out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with the lights on and with mold instead of blood — it’s immediately clear that the house really is not a house anymore.” [Houston Press] Photo of 10807 River View Dr. living room: Realtor.com
That’s not a retention pond pictured near the center of these aerial shots highlighting the vacant lot at 12906 Memorial Dr. — or at least that wasn’t its original main purpose: It’s the Sam Houston Tollway, shown filled almost to the brim after Hurricane Harvey flooding. “Lot has been cleared and is ready for construction,” declares the listing description for the featured 11,760-sq.-ft. vacant property, one house away from the corner of Memorial and Beltway 8. It’s now marked down to $505,000.
The only photos of the lot included in the listing are drone views that include the adjacent Memorial Dr. underpass, shown in its full-of-water configuration:
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Where the Water Goes
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A WATERSHED APPROACH TO PAYING FOR FLOOD CONTROL “. . . I think that if we are going to be realistic about the way that we finance flood control, that the core of such a plan needs to take a page from how flood insurance gets underwritten. Everybody pays a property tax to a watershed-specific flood control entity, but that tax is adjusted based on the elevation of their first-floor living area relative to the Base Flood Elevation. If you’re more than a few feet above it, your tax is very low. If you live more than a few feet below it . . . you’re probably going to pay so much in taxes that it’ll become immediately economic to raise your structure or demolish it. Right away, the inventory and value of property subject to flood risk is reduced; and what’s left that is tolerably at-risk pays for its own reduced need for risk mitigation. And . . . if we’re too gun shy to pull the trigger on a plan like this, which would totally wipe out a lot of people’s equity in vast swaths of real estate, okay well that’s where people not at very much risk should be expected to pay more taxes even without receiving very much in the way of benefits. Yeah, I’m basically proposing Obamacare for flood control in Houston, but only as a humane alternative which reveals a startling truth: that the big money for this sort of thing is unlikely to come from up on high, from the feds or the state government (and it shouldn’t IMO). Financing this stuff locally is going to hurt. One thing is very very clear: whatever kinds of administrative bodies are created or re-jiggered to deal with this issue have got to address legacy development first and foremost. We need a plan to cope with what is already on the ground. This is not something that we can just build ourselves out of, going forward, with stricter rules for new development, feel the catharsis, hold hands and sing Kumbaya, and call it a day.” [TheNiche, commenting on An 8th Wonder Distillery; New Bridges for Brays Bayou; How Apartment Buildings Get On Your Nerves]
ADDICKS AND BARKER RESERVOIRS ARE NOW COMPLETELY EMPTY AND READY FOR THE NEXT FLOOD All water stuck behind the Addicks and Barker dams has now been released, the Army Corps of Engineers announced late yesterday. That means that for the first time since Hurricane Harvey-triggered rains began filling the 24,520-acre reservoirs, they are now dry and available for use again as parkland. The last bits of water actually left the Addicks and Barker reservoirs last Thursday, October 12th, and Friday the 13th respectively; the announcement was delayed, a public-affairs officer tells reporter Amelia Brust, in order to “receive legal guidance.” The Corps, writes Brust, “is now a defendant in multiple lawsuits brought by surrounding property owners who say their homes and businesses were flooded as a result of the dams’ releases.” [Community Impact] Photo of American Shooting Centers and Millie Bush Dog Park off Westheimer Pkwy. in Barker Reservoir, flooded after Memorial Day, 2015: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [license]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT YOU’RE SEEING AND SMELLING IN FLOODED APARTMENTS “I have a question regarding the apartments in Kingwood. There is a statement in the letter from the apartments indicating that there is a clear difference between mold and mildew. I understand it as they are both one and the same when it comes to interior livable spaces. If it smells and-or is visible you have a problem irregardless of the classification of mold or mildew.
Is this not correct? Is there a legal distinction per Texas Law? Can someone please chime in? Thanks.” [It Smells, commenting on The City That Will Be Building and Rebuilding Forever; Houston’s Long Amazon Odds; The Latest Poke Place] Illustration: Lulu
SURVEYING THE SOGGY AFTERMATH OF HOUSTON’S ULTIMATE HOME-TOUR TEST Talk about timing: The Rice Design Alliance’s annual home tour this past March opened to inspection 6 structures built in Houston floodplains with some sort of strategy to make it through a major water event. How’d these properties survive the cataclysm that followed only 5 months later? A 1965 Meyerland home on the tour by Houston architects Brooks and Brooks one block north of Brays Bayou was damaged, Jack Murphy reports. And his follow-up story on the RDA’s H2Ouston tour includes no word on the Harvey experiences of François de Menil’s 5-story Temple Terrace townhome or the 3-story butterfly-roof home on Logan Ln. backing up to Buffalo Bayou Taft Architects built in 1996. But 2 more recently built homes on the tour — 2-story structures by architects Brett Zamore in Linkwood and Nonya Grenader in Shirkmere survived without much more than messes in their garages (and a flooded-out car), according to Murphy. Then there’s the Sunset Coffee Building fronting Buffalo Bayou Downtown, which serves as the offices of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, and which in its recent redo by Lake Flato and BNIM (pictured), was designed to take on water: “All sources indicate that the design performed as anticipated. . . . The staff moved exhibit materials to the second floor and secured the elevator on an upper floor. But there are always issues. The grease trap filled with water, thermostats need to be replaced, and the elevator shaft had five feet of standing water at the bottom, causing electrical issues. Security cameras mounted on the building filled with water and malfunctioned. The fire alarm went off for four days, making the area sound like a war zone, even catching the attention of a CNN reporter. Still, water didn’t crest into the offices on the second floor. (It was almost this high during Allison.) Shortly after the waters receded, the building was habitable again.” But this sort of resilience wasn’t just added to the building by its renovators: “The BBP’s Rebecca Leija and Anne Olson told me their insurance adjuster said the Sunset Building, built in 1910, was well-suited to handle floods due to its height and angle relative to the bayou. Sure enough, in plan the building is set at an angle to the bayou’s flow, presenting a corner to floodwaters rather than a flat face. And, its east façade breaks slightly, perhaps to further reduce the surface area ‘seen’ by floodwaters and therefore reduce their force on the walls and foundation.” [OffCite] Photo of Sunset Coffee Building renovation: Adam Williams
WHAT MAKES WEST HOUSTON THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE OF REAL ESTATE DISCLOSURE “None of the more than half a dozen residents interviewed by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica after the floods said they knew they were living inside Addicks or Barker — many of their neighborhoods are several miles away from the dams. Several local officials — including Houston’s ‘flood czar’ and a neighboring county executive — said they had no idea the neighborhoods had been built inside the flood pools. Several real estate agents said they didn’t realize they were selling homes inside the pools.” This from the latest exposé on how 14,000 homes came to be located in designed-to-flood areas inside the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. First, the good news: Of those 14,000 homes, only 5,138 of them flooded this time! Among the many additional OMG-worthy revelations from this latest report from the crack Houston-flooding investigations team of Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, and Al Shaw: Of those homes built inside the reservoirs, at least 4,000 of them were built after Tropical Storm Allison hit in 2001. That’s interesting to note, considering that a Harris County Flood Control District report published in 2003 warned that as many as 2,000 acres of private land inside the reservoirs might easily have flooded in that storm if the rains had fallen in a slightly different location. Also included: this little glance at the area’s real-estate future: “One five-bedroom home in Lakes on Eldridge . . . was listed for $678,000 about two weeks before it flooded during Harvey. The seller’s agent, Moira Holden, tried to put a positive spin on things when she updated the online listing that decreased the asking price by $10,000. ‘Unfortunately this stunning home did flood and is being refurbished to the highest spec!’ it says. ‘Fabulous chance to choose your finishes!‘ When asked if she would disclose to potential buyers that the home was inside Addicks Reservoir, Holden didn’t have a clear answer. ‘I will obviously disclose whatever we are required to disclose,’ she said, pointing out that the home wasn’t in a floodplain. ‘I would hope that the buyer’s Realtor would do their due diligence on that.'” [Texas Tribune; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 13119 Shermons Pond, for sale in Lakes on Eldridge: HAR
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A BETTER IDEA FOR WHAT TO DO WITH THE SPACES UNDER FREEWAYS IN HOUSTON “. . . This gave me an idea. That land under freeways isn’t good for retail or anything inhabited. But it could be a perfect place to dig down and create auxiliary stormwater detention facilities.
Yeah the water will be filthy, like your friends bikes usually are, but floodwater usually is. And as auxiliary detention they would only be used in extreme rainfall events (once or twice a year during so-called ‘hundred year’ storms).” [ZAW, commenting on Comment of the Day Second Runner-Up: Things To Think About Before You Start Planning Under-Freeway Developments] Illustration: Lulu
HOUSING AUTHORITY: OUR FLOODED CLAYTON HOMES DEVELOPMENT WAS GOING TO BE DEMOLISHED ANYWAY A new statement from the Houston Housing Authority provides a little more background on its decision to demolish 112 of the 296 units at the authority’s Clayton Homes low-income housing neighborhood just east of Hwy 59 at the northern tip of EaDo. The homes were deemed “uninhabitable” after flooding from Hurricane Harvey triggered mold and other health concerns: “HHA decided demolition was the best course of action for the damaged units since the entire property is located on land acquired by eminent domain and will face eventual demolition for TxDOT’s I-45 freeway extension. When the remainder of Clayton units are demolished in a few years, the remaining residents will either be relocated to another public housing unit or receive HCVs.” Housing Choice (formerly Section 8) Vouchers — along with moving assistance and payments — are also being provided to residents of 82 out of the 100 units at another Housing Authority development, Forest Green Townhomes at 8945 Forest Hollow St. in northeast Houston, which the authority today announced had also been rendered unlivable by the storm. [Houston Housing Authority; previously on Swamplot] Photo of pre-Harvey Forest Green Townhomes: Forest Green
COMMENT OF THE DAY: DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU ABOUT THE WHOLE MOLD BUSINESS “So for homeowners you just cut the sheetrock, and rebuild all of the stuff at 3 feet and go down the road? My feeling is that every house that flooded has some trace of E. Coli and mold. Pretty soon you’ll see mold lawyer commercials suing every contractor that worked in these places. Doctors will soon get in on the action too. Hell, back in 2000 when mold lawsuits were born my framer had a magnetic door sign for ‘mold testing and remediation’ in the back seat of his pick-up. Get ready for it again.” [Sporey McGee, commenting on Housing Authority Ready To Demolish More Than a Third of Clayton Homes After Harvey Flooding] Illustration: Lulu