WHEN GOOGLE MAPS REVEALS YOUR HOME’S SOGGY SHAME “Google Maps has outed us as a city that floods,” laments meteorologist Brooks Garner, giving voice to would-be sellers of flooded homes worried that recent soggy aerial views will remain in the mapping system for years: “It should be said that legally, home owners must disclose if their home has ever flooded (or even if their property has flooded, while their actual house stayed dry). While that’s defeating enough to have to do, words are less influencing to a buyer’s decision than seeing an actual image of the inundated neighborhood. It arguably gives the impression that the water is still that high. . . . KHOU 11 has featured Realtors on our News at 4pm who’ve speculated that once people ‘forget’ about the floods, depressed home values in submerged areas will return to their pre-Harvey prices. (At least one realtor with that opinion was a victim of flooding himself, so I wonder if that fact influenced his statement.) . . . Here are several other ‘unfair’ things: Neighborhoods which experienced short-term flooding, but saw it subside after a day or two, were largely missed by the Google satellite update. They look high and dry. The only ‘tell’ in some is the trash which is piled high along the sidewalks. Drywall, couches, mattresses and furniture making up these walls of debris. It’s so extensive in places like Meyerland you can see [it] from space. In other areas like Hall Rd. off Beamer in southeast Houston, the satellite-update at time of this blog’s publishing apparently ‘missed’ the neighborhood and as a result, things look totally normal despite the huge mounds of refuse still present today.” [KHOU] Screenshot of Cinco Ranch on Google Maps: KHOU
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
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
Popular yet again in Houston: The DID NOT FLOOD sign topper. Here’s a new one spotted by wandering photographer Joshua House in front of the Covington Builders 4-story townhome development at 3821 N. Braeswood Blvd., one block north of Brays Bayou and a couple blocks east of Stella Link.
Where have you spotted signs like these in Harvey’s aftermath? Please send pics and coordinates to us. Swamplot wants to know what DID NOT FLOOD.
Photo: Joshua House
Above It All
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
HOUSTON’S NEW HIGH-WATER MARK It took a journey to the moon for Houston to become Space City, an NBA championship for it to become Clutch City, thousands of years of storm drainage for it to become the Bayou City, its emergence as a lower-cost alternative to New York, LA, and Chicago to become Discount City, an American League pennant run for it to become Crush City, a clever marketing campaign that plays on the city’s famous sprawl and lack of zoning laws for it to become The City with No Limits, and a Hollywood movie for Houston to become the preferred invocation preceding any declaration that “We’ve Got a Problem.” Now, amid the fluid aftermath of Harvey and the resulting flood of worldwide media coverage for the city’s latest historic high-water event, is Houston set to become known as . . . That City That Floods? “This ‘Houston Hang In There’ logo designed by Chad Ehlinger has become the go-to symbol uniting the city of Houston during this trying time,” reads a note posted last week to the Facebook page of Cactus Music, promoting the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with the mark, with proceeds promised to JJ Watt’s Houston Flood Relief Fund. (Hats with a similar charitable promise are available now too.) Like all great logos, Ehlinger’s badge of hope accommodates alternate readings: Is that a hand raising high the city’s initial in a defiant gesture of pride? Or someone hanging on for dear life as the floodwaters rise? If so, do we imagine the next step: a one-handed pull-up, lifting ourselves out of our predicament and into a drier future? What would it take for a new civic identity to emerge from the floodwaters — one that incorporates a more honest recognition of the city’s fundamental ongoing battle with drainage? A message of perseverance provides great cover. [Cactus Music] Logo: Chad Ehlingerm
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE GREAT RESETTLEMENT “I suspect you’ll start seeing ‘Didn’t flood in Harvey’ as a selling point in future real estate listings, which will drive up the land values, and drive the poor out to the flooded areas (which is par for the course). It’s no wonder that happened, though. Many of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston are also predominately minority. And the oldest neighborhoods (read, first settled) are the highest points in Houston. After all, who is going to settle in a lowland when the ‘highlands’ are still available?” [Chris C., commenting on Our Place Never Flooded] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: TRUST, BUT VERIFY “My home didn’t flood, though a few blocks away, others did. I wonder if we could get a ‘Certificate of Nonflooding’ or some such official thing. I always laugh when I see a home listing with the words ‘Never flooded, per owner.’ Yeah, right!” [Gisgo, commenting on Metro Back in Service; Public Health Threats; A 12-Step Program for Houston’s Flooding Problem] Illustration: Lulu
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, HOUSTON, YOU LOVABLE, MISIDENTIFIED SWAMP Possibly overlooked amid the Harvey hubbub: Yesterday was the City of Houston’s 181st birthday — or more accurately, the 181st anniversary of the launch of an advertising campaign announcing its establishment, pursued by the soon-to-be-city’s founding real-estate hucksters. “It is handsome and beautifully elevated,” the Allen Brothers wrote of the Houston they imagined in that ad, “salubrious and well watered, and now in the very heart or centre of population, and will be so for a length of time to come.” [Previously on Swamplot] Image: Houstorian
CALHOUN BANISHED FROM UH’S CALHOUN LOFTS A statement out this afternoon from UH: “The University of Houston does not have statues, memorials or monuments honoring the Confederate era. Calhoun Lofts were originally named to coincide with the name of the adjacent city street when the university began its aggressive residential expansion in the last decade. While the residence hall was not named in recognition of John C. Calhoun, in the wake of recent events, and out of sensitivity to our diverse student community the university has decided to change the name to University Lofts. The change will be made as soon as practical.” [Daily Cougar] Photo of Calhoun Lofts, 4700 Calhoun Rd.: Kirksey Architecture
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SECRET LONELINESS OF THE ‘CHEF’S KITCHEN’ “It seems like the standard marketing protocol in homes like this is to always refer to the kitchen as a ‘cook’s kitchen’ or ‘chef’s kitchen.’ Maybe I’m just being pedantic, but a home cook/chef really doesn’t need all of the bells and whistles (48-in. gas range with double ovens, huge built-in fridge, pot filler, 2 dishwashers, prep sink, wine fridge, etc.) to produce a great end result for (presumably) just their own family. It’s almost like saying, ‘If you don’t have a kitchen like this, you must not be a very serious cook!’ I know it’s just salesmanship, but rubs me the wrong way nonetheless.
That, and I think deep down inside that there might be a little bit of an inverse relationship between the price tag of the kitchen and the amount of cooking that actually gets done in them. It’s kind of like calling a four-car garage a ‘mechanic’s dream’ even though it’s really most likely that it’s going to be holding a couple decades’ worth of crap that no one wants to get rid of. Maybe a car or two.” [Balthazar, commenting on Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Eat in Kitchen] Illustration: Lulu
RICHMOND MANNEQUIN MANSION NOW HAS A FAN PAGE, REGULAR DRIVE-BYS, AND LOOKY-LOOS, BUT NO BUYER YET More than 3 million people have now viewed the listing for the 5-bedroom gated home at 4302 Colony West Dr. — a bit of an uptick from the 200 or so per week its real estate agent, Diana Power, says typically look up one of her less unusual home offerings. But this 2-acre property on Jones Creek has a bit more going on in its photos. Sandy Walsh, the Richmond jewelry and clothing designer and artist behind the tchochke-, mannequin-, and set-piece-stunt-filled 5-bedroom home, has now done 3 teevee interviews to show off her handiwork and stand up to viewer insults (“Don’t just hate it and think it’s creepy . . . take a second look.”); she’s also started a Facebook fan page for the property, which she regularly populates with jarring closeups of its done-up mannequin residents. Law enforcement officers, writes Chronicle reporter Emily Foxhall, have been alerted to “the issue of curious people driving past” the home. “It requires time to take everything in,” Foxhall notes. “Some potential buyers have wanted the mannequins included,” Powers tells her, “but Walsh does not plan to part with them all.” The asking price remains at $1,275,000. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of 4302 Colony West Dr.: HAR
The landscaping promised for the courtyard area that doubles as a driveway in back of the newly expanded and renovated home at 707 Euclid St. in Woodland Heights is now installed. We know this because a Swamplot reader was kind enough to send in the above photo of the scene. It provides an update to the photos in the listing (below), which show only unplanted planting beds in the driveway, before the most recent additions:
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The HAR listing for the home at 5116 Avenue H in the Second Ward, for sale for $99,990, identified the property’s subdivision as MEX Y CAN. Which seemed notable enough in the rapidly changing neighborhood for the curious name to appear as discussion fodder yesterday on Reddit. The subdivision name is accurate, appearing on county tax records: The property’s developer was required to give a name to the subdivision when the single 5,000-sq.-ft. lot on which it stood (at the time part of a subdivision named Engel) was divided into thirds last year, in order to allow him to sell off individually the 3 existing homes on the property. “Actually no one had any comments [on the name] at the time of replatting,” the developer notes.
MEX Y CAN, the name he assigned to the subdivision, “is for the name Mexican and (Y in Spanish) Canadian,” he explains to Swamplot. “The love of my life is Mexican and I am Canadian. . . . There is no other meaning or significance behind it.” The motivation for choosing this particular name? “Having myself, the love of my life, and our desire to be memorialized in the area for eternity like our love.”
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