09/22/17 5:00pm

Unless there’s been some sort of re-inflation and relaunching regime in place in the meantime, it’s now been at least 4 days that an inflatable swan has been floating around the seasonal pond currently filling the excavated future construction site at 3300 Main St. in Midtown. Houston’s code enforcement building previously stood here; the site was later purchased by PMRG for the construction of a 336-unit highrise apartment tower. For now, though, it’s the domain of a twirling floatie: “It’s quite relaxing watching the wind blow it around and around and around,” reports the reader who snapped this shot of it this afternoon.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

The Pond at 3300 Main
09/22/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FLOODING IMPROVEMENTS “I have flooded twice in my home, once with 1 in. and then again in 2015 with about 6 to 8 inches. We rebuilt higher, and didn’t flood in Harvey, but I still wonder if I did the right thing. Basically I can say flooded, raised, didn’t flood — perhaps that’s a better story? Or even a better story is not near a major bayou.” [Bob Jones, commenting on When ‘Never Flooded’ Doesn’t Work] Illustration: Lulu

09/22/17 11:00am

A spokesperson for the Houston Housing Authority tells Swamplot the city agency is not and will not be enforcing the previously announced 5-day deadline for all residents of 2100 Memorial to move out with their belongings. A notice delivered earlier this week by the building’s owner, an affiliate organization of the agency, to all 188 residents of the low-income-housing-tax-credit senior living facility labeled the structure “totally unusable for residential purposes due to health and safety reasons” after it was discovered that floodwaters had damaged the 14-story former Holiday Inn’s fire, electrical, and water systems.

The move-out deadline has not been altered, but the agency says it “understands it will take time to pack and move so they are working closely with the residents to help move in an orderly fashion.”

The photo at top shows the setup for a well-attended emergency meeting held yesterday afternoon on the second level of the building’s parking garage. At the meeting the HHA’s Board of Commissioners approved a $250,000 loan to the building’s management for relocation expenses, which it will then ask FEMA to cover. The funds will provide movers at no cost to residents to help them relocate their belongings to available residences in “Greater Houston” it has identified: 230 tax-credit units with similar rules to those governing 2100 Memorial — or 250 affordable housing units of other types.

Residents who have already hired their own movers, the spokesperson says, will be reimbursed. The agency says displaced residents will be given preference in returning to the building when it can be determined to be safe.

Photos: Swamplot inbox (meeting setup) Realtor.com (building)

Sixth Ward Exodus
09/21/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MORE WEST HOUSTON FLOODS, THE MORE IT STAYS THE SAME “Why does it matter? Even after the flood, I am okay with them building there on private land. Flood risk is just one of a million things that you should look at when buying a home. Heck, even knowing what we know now, I might still buy there in the right situation. If I was looking to buy a home in that general area, and the only way I can get one is to build one on the far back end of the reservoir, I would still do it today. Even after we calibrate the models to include the recent rainfall events, we will still find that this is an outlier.” [Rex, commenting on How It Came To Pass That Hundreds of Families Purchased Homes Inside Houston’s Reservoirs; previously on Swamplot] Map of subdivisions in or along the edge of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs: ProPublica

09/21/17 1:00pm

The apartments inside 2100 Memorial are “quite hale and hearty,” a reader tells Swamplot — and were not individually affected by the flooding that caused enough damage to the building’s fire-safety systems to trigger a 5-day move-out notice to all tenants in the 14-story structure. That notice was issued Monday night to all 188 residents of the tax-credit elderly housing facility; prior to that, construction crews and volunteers had worked to mitigate the damage and help residents left for days without water and without easy transportation between floors. Above: a view of the first-floor hallway, lined with plywood. In the building’s computer room, the removal of wood paneling revealed wallpaper left over from the building’s days as a Holiday Inn:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Repair Zone
09/21/17 10:45am

Here’s a cruel twist on all those DID NOT FLOOD signs popping up in front of homes in Harvey’s wake — and perhaps a cautionary tale for potential buyers of some of them: When it was offered for sale this summer, this 3-bedroom 1957 home on Yarwell Dr. in Meyerland between Chimney Rock and S. Post Oak featured a proud NEVER FLOODED topper on its for-sale sign. But Hurricane Harvey permanently altered that situation. Reader James Thomson snapped this shot of the front yard on September 4th, showing the first part of the sign painted over to reflect the home’s new status. The property has since been taken off the market.

Photo: James Thomson

Meyerland
09/20/17 1:30pm

HOW IT CAME TO PASS THAT HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES PURCHASED HOMES INSIDE HOUSTON’S RESERVOIRS Many of the flooding victims upstream of Addicks and Barker dams learned for the first time that their homes were inside government-designated reservoirs only after rains from Harvey flooded their neighborhoods, reports Naomi Martin. How had they come to live there? “The corps didn’t feel the need to acquire all the land at the time the reservoirs were built, [the Army Corps of Engineers’ Richard] Long said, because that land was nothing but rice farms and fields where cattle grazed. It didn’t stay that way. In 1997, developers came before Fort Bend County government for approval to put subdivisions on the pastures. Aware of the flood risk to the area, the county was in a bind. It didn’t have the authority to prohibit development or establish zoning rules, said County Judge Robert Hebert, who has been in office since 2003. So the county insisted, ‘over great objection’ by developers, on including a warning on the plat, Hebert said. The county, he said, ‘felt it was a defect on the land that should be pointed out.'” The warning appeared as a small note on the plat document establishing some later Fort Bend County subdivisions, but equivalent declarations were absent on documents establishing nearby Harris County subdivisions. [Dallas Morning News] Aerial view of flooding in Canyon Gate, Cinco Ranch: Michael Fry

09/19/17 3:15pm

The 2 very different videos above give a taste of what the last few weeks have been like in Nottingham Forest, the Memorial neighborhood along the north side of Buffalo Bayou between Dairy Ashford and Kirkwood south of Memorial Dr. Nottingham Forest filled with water after Hurricane Harvey — and releases of water from the oversubscribed Addicks and Barker reservoirs. The first video, taken by Swamplot reader Gatewood Brown from a GoPro mounted on a kayak, shows portions of the neighborhood underwater during rescue operations 3 days after Houston was first hit by the storm. The second video was taken yesterday by reader Kyle Steck, using a mobile phone he carried while biking hands-free through Nottingham Forest’s now dry but extensively garbage-lined streets.

Videos: Gatewood Brown; Kyle Steck

Before and After
09/19/17 11:30am

A notice sent yesterday to all tenants of the 2100 Memorial senior-living facility just west of Downtown declares that the 14-story former Holiday Inn has been rendered “totally unusable for residential purposes” in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. All 198 elderly residents have been given 5 days to remove themselves and their belongings from their apartments.

The building is a tax-credit property of the Houston Housing Authority that includes both low-income and market-rate units. The notice, which came from V.J. Memorial Corp., a nonprofit entity owned by the authority, states that the company only recently learned that the building’s electrical and fire control systems were compromised by the flooding.

“Due to the damage and health & safety reasons, the building is uninhabitable and we must exercise our right under your lease to terminate the lease effective September 23, 2017,” reads the notice, a copy of which was obtained by Swamplot. A separate lease termination document sent in by a reader declares that “the damage to the Apartment is so extensive the Apartment has become as a practical matter totally unusable for residential purposes due to health and safety reasons. Furthermore, the damage could cause health and safety hazards to you and your family, if you returned to live in the Apartment in its present condition.” Residents have until 5 pm on the 23rd to get out: “If you do not remove your personal possessions by that time. we will be forced to remove your possessions and store them at a cost to you,” the document states.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Everybody Out
09/18/17 11:15am

The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.

The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Silt Deposits
09/14/17 4:45pm

One hundred seventy 3-to-6-year-old students restarted their school year at the Post Oak School in Bellaire this week in one very large classroom: the school’s basketball gym. Harvey flooded the lower school campus at Bissonnet St. and Avenue B in Bellaire with 4 inches of water throughout its first floor late last month. The result: 15 classrooms and other learning spaces were temporarily closed as a result of water damage.

Five elementary-school classes were moved to Episcopal High School, which is next door to the 54-year-old Montessori school. But the Post Oak School’s 6 separate primary-level classes are staying on campus at 4600 Bissonnet — only relocated into its largest available unflooded space. Over 3 days prior to the reopening, Post Oak employees, parents, and volunteers from Austin Montessori School set up a giant six-pack of Montessori classrooms using whatever undamaged furniture and materials they could find. And — as the video above shows — they filmed it all.

More views of classes, now in session:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

09/14/17 1:30pm

Construction began in June, but the new administration of Houston’s Ronald McDonald House chose this past Tuesday — 2 and a half weeks after water spilling over the banks of adjacent Brays Bayou made Holcombe Ave. in front of the property difficult to pass — to hold an official groundbreaking ceremony for its new 3-phase expansion and renovation project. The facility at 1907 Holcombe Blvd., which sits across the Texas Medical Center’s official southern border between Holcombe and the bayou just west of Cambridge St., serves as a temporary home for families with children receiving treatment for serious illnesses.

Now going up: a new 2-story bedroom wing directly to the west of the main building. A complete renovation of the 50-bedroom existing building — dubbed Holcombe House — will follow. The photo immediately above, taken from the third floor of that building, shows the construction site as it looked earlier this week.

The official rendering below is still being used to raise the $22.5 million needed for the project; it shows the new bedroom wing on the left and the existing building on the right:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Bedrooms Above
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  

09/13/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE EVEN BIGGER REASON HOUSTON MIGHT WANT TO ADDRESS ITS FLOODING PROBLEMS “People in Houston need to talk with people in other parts of the country to be able to understand the need for funding massive improvements in our flood control infrastructure. I had friends and family from LA to Philly telling me to get out of the city and come stay with them as soon as it was possible to travel out of the city. My sister even offered to drive her minivan over 1,200 miles to come rescue me. I still have family asking me whether they should cancel plans to visit over Thanksgiving for fear that hotels will be full and no rental cars are available. It is easy to get all worked up about taxes when you did not get flooded and go into the usual red state “don’t tax me, tax that guy behind the tree” mode. But much more is at stake for Houston than whether parts of the city keep flooding. We run the risk of being seen as a city that is not worth the risk for existing and prospective businesses. People in Houston are getting used to these flood events and are not pressed into action by aerial footage on CNN showing Buffalo Bayou turning into a raging torrent. But everywhere else in the US, people see that and are completely freaked out by it. If we continue with applying band aids and do not make any big dramatic moves to improve our flood control infrastructure, we will not only be risking future catastrophic flooding but will also be risking losing current and future business to cities that are on higher ground away from the path of hurricanes and tropical storms.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: Abandoned Neighborhoods Make Great Detention Ponds] Illustration: Lulu

09/12/17 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: ABANDONED NEIGHBORHOODS MAKE GREAT DETENTION PONDS “I grew up off Fairbanks/West Little York area. TS Allison was the third time Creekside Estates and Woodland Trails West II had flooded which meant those homes wouldn’t be insured for future floods. Both of those neighborhoods are almost completely gone now, mainly just streets people use to cut through. Even with all the new construction/neighborhoods built near Breen Rd, nothing around has flooded since. The south side of WTW where Gulf Bank runs through flooded twice in late ’90s, along with Philippine St. in Jersey Village. Neither of those areas have had a third flood event; not Ike, Memorial Day flood, Tax Day flood or Harvey could flood them. A huge reason why has got to be because old Creekside Estates and WTW II hold so much of the water that would’ve flooded them out that costly third time years ago. Sometimes you have to cut loose some fat for the overall good and I know it sounds heartless but I’ve seen it work. These very flood prone neighborhoods just have to be made into retention areas because it works.” [mas, commenting on How About We Don’t Sell People Homes in Areas That Keep Flooding, and Other Crazy Ideas for Houstonians To Discuss Amongst Themselves] Illustration: Lulu