Comment of the Day Runner-Up: Watch for Tomorrow’s Flooding Today!

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: WATCH FOR TOMORROW’S FLOODING TODAY! Homeowners in the area would be wise to keep a keen eye as to the elevation of the current Fiesta property, document with photos and watch as the builders elevate the ground of the property two or more feet above existing grade. This elevation of property will push water off the commercial property and onto lower lying homeowners and existing small businesses. I attended a talk this week with a flooding expert from Texas A and M who pinpointed development as the primary driving cause of Houston’s flooding. This was a highly intelligent and well regarded college professor and researcher. He says he gets phone calls from first time flood victims and always asks if anything was recently built in the area. Often they will say that a Wal-Mart or something similar was built immediately before their flooding problem started. This is real, everyone. Document your lawsuit evidence today.” [Tired of flooding, commenting on H-E-B To Scoot Groundbreaking Back to End of Summer Break, Scoot Building Up Toward N. Shepherd] Illustration: Lulu

46 Comment

  • You might be on to something, Tof…. Check out HEB’s latest rendering for the parcel:×675.jpg

  • “highly intelligent and well regarded college professor and researcher” is not a practicing and licensed drainage engineer nor a Public Works and Engineering drainage engineer. Many professors can’t design their way out of a paper bag…

    Read, carefully, chapter 9 of the City’s infrastructure design manual. Especially page 9-23, before wasting time and effort on a frivolous lawsuit.

    Last I looked, the old Fiesta site is entirely impervious.

  • @Timbergrove – as I explained in the original post, the argument is correct that the city will allow someone to build whatever they want on an impervious surface that is grandfathered. I do not need to read Chapter 9. I know this is allowed, unfortunately. However, when property is elevated it changes the entire equation when it comes to flooding. Chapter 9 is written by and for developers but adherence to city code does not make one immune to a tort lawsuit. And, yeah, flooding put a neighborhood is a massive tort and not frivolous at all. Sounds like “Timbergrove walker” is a developer engineer or someone on city hall.

  • *flooding out.

    I don’t live there so it would not be me getting flooded or suing as a result.

  • @Tired of Flooding
    The City no longer grandfathers impervious cover, if you’d read the suggested pages.
    Your argument about raising the site would only have merit if the site where in the flood plain and was displacing a floodwater volume. In this case, the site is not within the flood plain.
    You’ll have a very tough time, even with the professor in tow, to show a negative drainage impact to the neighborhood for this particular site, after it’s redeveloped.
    I’m not defending the developer, just pointing out current policy and some basic physics.

  • womp womp, comment of the day is fake news. et tu swamplot?

  • @TW, sounds like your issue is with the merit of the lawsuit and not about the physics so your snide swipe at the professor comes off as awfully petulant…to say the very very least.
    Obviously flash flooding in Houston outside of flood plains is a very real issue and concern, regardless of whether a court cares or not.
    Frivolous lawsuits may not get you anywhere, but there’s always the opportunity for public shaming later on.

  • @Timber. If you attended the lecture you would understand that flood plains as we use them are an outdated concept. The majority of residential flooding occurs outside a so called 500 year flood plain. You are contradicting yourself and muddling the argument when you say it’s already impervious cover but that the city doesn’t grandfather impervious cover (it clearly does in practice). The fact is this property will cause water to be displaced and the reality is the heights is experiencing lots of very high water in recent storms. I’m not the expert on the heights but White Oaks bayou has either breached or been close to breaching it’s banks in recent years.

  • The 500 year flood plain is an outdated reference point because most structural flooding happens outside any floodplain, 100 year or greater. Regardless of what is in the city code, elevation of commercial properties happens every time a new large commercial building is constructed. HEB can see how flooded the heights were in the last storm. They aren’t investing that money unless they are up high and pushing their water onto others. The Heights has lots of flood water as anyone can attest

  • Dude, it’s called The Heights because it sits on relatively HIGHER ground than the areas surrounding it….. It don’t flood…

  • This conversation reminds me of the one where somebody was claiming that taller buildings (that is, the difference between two stories and twenty) would induce additional runoff and flooding. This poster has made a similar error and is speaking in fast and loose terms and relying upon hearsay that I doubt that he or she fully comprehends. I would be willing to entertain the premise that flood plain definitions and delineations have validity and reliability problems, but that’s a much higher-level sort of conversation. I welcome it…but this person isn’t coming off as very credible. At all.

  • Structural flooding outside of the 100 year floodplain is a real issue, no question. The regulatory recourse is through the use of elevation certificates and insurance records. If it’s not documented it doesn’t exist.
    The current City policy, if Tired of Flooding (or any reader of this comment) would read it, does not grandfather impervious cover, but proactively requires a detention volume for redeveloped impervious cover. Read it.
    Tired of Flooding started this thread by suggesting lawsuits, to which for this particular site, would be frivolous, based on it’s historical lack of structural flooding. If it hasn’t flooded since it was originally developed,, how can it cause impact to neighbors, whatever height it is? FWIW, I’d shopped at this Fiesta for over 30 years…
    The professor’s lecture, viewed in context may be interesting, but to suggest that floodplain delineation, as currently used, is an outdated concept, is a pretty irresponsible statement.

  • @The Niche
    Thanks for a well reasoned comment. One of the better advancements to floodplain delineation and subsequent regulation for development in the floodplain is Harris County’s use of LIDAR mapping. As with anything, it has validity and reliability issues, but without it, the past mapping was comparable to an ape pummeling a tapir skeleton with a bone (2001: A Space Odyssey).

  • Did/does the Fiesta property flood when it rains? Can someone please explain how a property – which retains ZERO amount of rain water currently – would be adding to the water run-off to the surrounding area by elevating their building?

  • As a practical matter, it simply does not happen that adequate drainage gets added to many redeveloped properties. Many drainage engineers make their living essentially acting as lobbyists to argue for less drainage requirements in the permitting process. They find ways to skirt the regulations that exist even in city rules written by and for developers.

    RG Miller eningeering firm, for example touts its ability to “reduce detention requirements… increase developable land.” That’s on the web page of it’s drainage engineer.

    They said it right there.

    Working around the code is how many drainage lobbyists make their bread and butter. Saving costs by reducing drainage requirements. This particular firm does a lot of work in the city and is a firm that took a former industrial site (with gravel – not impervious cover – in many places) and turned it into an elevated commercial property – one of the biggest strip centers in the city… and you guessed it, flooding now occurs where it never did. There’s a big grocery store now on the lot, too.

    To the person who said the Heights doesn’t flood because it sits high, just do a Google image search “heights flooding twitter.” People who live there are posting images that contradict the claim and I have heard it from co-workers who have up late to work due to the flooding in the heights. Cars are getting flooded out every major rain since many houses don’t have garages. The Heights is in a very precarious position with the amount of water it gets. The bayou is at dangerous levels and street flooding is really bad there… already. Are people really denying this FACT?

    The people arguing against this point have all stated the previous lot is already impervious so it doesn’t matter If you elevate the whole property, but are now changing their tune to say the developer will be mitigating under city rules. Which is it??? Show evidence the developer is mitigating since I am obviously arguing with developers affiliated with the project.

    For the record, I believe new development should be allowed city wide BUT the city is just allowing this to happen with zero regional plans for the heights to accommodate more stormwater runoff. So, no regional plan and very likely zero onsite water detention. Maybe this HEB won’t push you over the tipping point (I hope it doesn’t), but y’all are seriously pushing your luck because once that tipping point gets hit, a solution might be 20 years away, or never as folks in meyerland are learning.

    The city doesn’t care about it’s homeowners. Just ask meyerland and the WOMH victims.

  • Progg – if the current Fiesta does not retain water, why is the HEB elevating? Think about that before rushing to conclusions.

  • Tired – I think that is a weak argument. Even if the Fiesta does not currently flood it would be a prudent move by HEB (based on all the things that TW mentions around other developers) to raise their building. A little extra dirt now is much easier than trying to counter flooding that may not yet exist but could later.

  • The City of Houston has a great GIS system called GIMS:

    Anyone can see where the floodplain is, and has layers for 2001 and 2008 ponding (in and out of the floodplain). Take a look at the Heights, and this Fiesta site (with these layers on). It paints a pretty interesting picture, as well cold hard facts, refuting Tired of Flooding’s argument. Too bad the graphic can’t be posted in this forum. The hard data shows the old Fiesta site doesn’t flood….

    I won’t defend RG Miller, saying that they reduce the detention requirements is misleading. Nothing gets permitted in the City without adherence to the drainage policy. The PWE engineer’s are actually pretty anal about it.

    Street flooding is not structural flooding. GIMS also shows the overland flow paths (typically the streets). For extreme events this layer combined with the ponding layer provides, again, hard data.

    The City (and County) actually does care and is prioritizing efforts to relieve some of the issues in the Brays Bayou watershed (Meyerland). But this is beyond the discussion in this thread.

  • So MH concedes that more flooding is likely and it is prudent for a big developer to push that water onto other people. Guys, “MH005” is clearly affiliated with this development. He didn’t disprove that the new development will contribute to flooding, but he sure revealed the mentality you will deal with as the heights densities. Just push it off on someone else.

  • Could one make the argument it is not impervious? Have you seen the lot lately? It’s a jungle.

  • @ Tired: I can’t speak for the others but I for one am not presently and have never been directly or indirectly affiliated with this project, any project in the Heights, or HEB. Your repeated speculation of the existence of a circumstantial ad hominem and a conspiracy does not make you any more credible.

  • These are all standard arguments that the drainage lobbyists make… right before you get flooded. Once the drainage engineers are correctly viewed as lobbyists for their clients seeking to reduce drainage requirements – regardless of flooding consequences – the picture becomes much more clear. The fact is that Houston flooding is caused by developments and the arrogant drainage engineers are desperately trying to salvage their reputations. But, if the drainage engineers are so competent, why is Houston flooding so badly caused by development? These drainage “engineers” are the bottom.of the barrel in the engineering world. They are like paint by number artists.

    @Niche – it was obvious during the liquor vote that petition solutions was flooding this website with paid trolls to ridicule the opponents.

    RE Project Brays – if the city cared about these homeowners it would just front the $46M since it has plenty of money for everything else. The city clearly doesn’t care about white oak music hall victims, nor does it.view anyone else as anything other than numbers on a balance sheet.

  • Ditto what Niche said. I am not presently and have never been directly or indirectly affiliated with this project, any project in the Heights, or HEB. I’m just a geotechnical engineer with an interest in real estate and Houston flooding

    It comes down to it that if there is not currently structural flooding in the area of the Fiesta and impervious cover does not change with the new construction on site, then the new construction is not likely responsible for the creation of future structural flooding. EVEN if they raise their building. Could structural flooding of lower lying buildings be worse if new construction is raised, sure, but the source of the additional water wouldn’t be the property owner that made no change to impervious cover and surface infiltration.

    Protecting your own investment is prudent. I don’t see it as passing the flooding buck to somebody else. I’ve been saying for over a decade (the last time I took a graduate SW flow class and modeled the Houston area) that Houston does need a more comprehensive SW management program. It is getting better, but until they take even more significant steps to manage development, I wouldn’t risk my own construction projects on the hopes and dreams that the guy down the block is looking out for my best interest when he builds his project.

  • MH – but you just conceded that this development could make things worse and you wouldn’t risk your development on hopes and dreams that the situation will get better. But you expext homeowners to do this? Without getting angry at the drainage lobbyists and the developers with the mentality of saying eff everyone else.

    Thank you for illustrating the mentality that is causing thousands of homes to flood in under 100 year storms. Your attitude IS the problem. Don’t you think a company like HEB has a responsibility to advocate for the communities they operate in. Or, as you basically said: everyman for himself.

    Welcome to the new dystopian Houston where drainage lobbyists keep collecting fees until the city hits the flooding tipping point.

  • Ditto what Niche and MH005 said. I am not presently and have never been directly or indirectly affiliated with this project, any project in the Heights, or HEB (I choose not to be an HEB customer, either). I am a civil engineer and am disappointed that Tired of Flooding has a low opinion of engineers. It’s that spiteful ignorance we encounter on a regular basis, unfortunately. Engineers do try diligently to solve problems in the public interest, vs. creating them intentionally.

  • CoH requires all new buildings to be at least 12″ above nearest sanitary sewer manhole OR crown of street. As a minimum. If there is sheet flow drainage, a new site could impact the immediate streets and adjacent properties. Our streets serve as stormwater retention and they are do flood, even in the Heights. If you have a lot of development and the new sites are all raised, it can change sheet flow drainage patterns. See Bellaire.

  • This is all interesting. Some things to note;
    The Heights at one time probably never flooded when it was developed in the 1890’s. I am sure the subsequent development around the heights and upstream now contributes to the flooding and/or ability of the storm drainage system in The Heights to adequately discharge the the storm water during peak flooding.
    As @Tired of Flooding mentioned do you think the new development of old and new properties follow the exact wording of the Infrastructure Design manual? The design requirements are already reduced through lobbying and comment periods when it was developed and then the requirements are interpreted down by the design professionals for the final product.
    New flood mitigation methods won’t help unless the bottleneck of the old infrastructure is updated to handle “today’s” flood requirements.
    The new HEB site could cause changes to previously the accepted drainage pattern. Your property could be victim to the new drainage pattern established.
    Overall, the continued development is going to change established and accepted flooding and drainage patterns. If you want change, its going to cost money. Either pay money up front for better infrastructure, or pay it later through lawsuits.

  • ToF- “Don’t you think a company like HEB has a responsibility to advocate for the communities they operate in”

    Sure, but to a limit. I do think that it is the responsibility of a development to not do harm to surrounding properties – through legal mandate or altruism. Unfortunately I just don’t always see that happening. So should a company like HEB advocate and be a responsible neighbor, yes. Should they independently take on neighborhoodwide flooding – nope. I certainly don’t think it would be fair for the new building to flood just so that HEB could suffer along with their neighbors during some possible future flood.

    An example of the problem from my hood the 005. New megamansion construction a few blocks away replaced a 1500sf footprint (pier&beam) with a 3000sf slab. They then ran all (10!!!) 6″ gutters directly to the street. This on a block where the streets ALWAYS flood during storms.

    Directly adjacent to my property a garden apartment complex was replace with townhomes and 90+% impervious cover with a direct connection to our already taxed stormwater system.

    That passed city muster. If I was planning a rebuild I certainly would plan that eventually ALL my neighbors will do the same.

    Each of these individual impacts get through the COH, but when combined they tax the system well beyond design. So I think it is prudent and good engineering to anticipate a continued lack of comprehensive planning when doing design. So Not every man for themselves, but expect the best and plan for the worst.

    But really, what could HEB do? They could add onsite detention to offset the volume of fill being used to build higher. I’m sure if the COH pushed them and relaxed some of the parking requirements detention could be a plausible solution. But I hope the neighbors recognize the move and don’t later complain about no parking.

  • I know this may rub a few people the wrong way but you lost me with the combination of “Texas A and M” and “highly intelligent and well regarded.”

  • ToF:
    “Progg – if the current Fiesta does not retain water, why is the HEB elevating? Think about that before rushing to conclusions.”
    So are you suggesting that the lot does retain water? Your answer is confusing on many levels. Please try to answer my question though (if you can).

  • So basically after a lot of huffing and puffing, the developer engineer types on this board now admit that the HEB is likely to increase the flooding threat in the heights. Thanks for being so truthful. That was refreshing. It would have been more so if it wasn’t like pulling teeth.

  • Tired of flooding
    June 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm
    So basically after a lot of huffing and puffing, the developer engineer types on this board now admit that the HEB is likely to increase the flooding threat in the heights. Thanks for being so truthful. That was refreshing. It would have been more so if it wasn’t like pulling teeth.

    Nope. I would not agree with that statement. A well constructed and designed development that takes into consideration drainage should have a net zero effect on flooding. Granted it could change surface water flow paths, but I would argue that would be minimal given the existing use.

    There are certainly some large developments out there that cut corners and are contributing to flooding issues, but I suspect that the sum of multiple smaller contributors is where the bulk of the flooding problems in Houston are coming from.

  • How long does it take for everyone to move away from Tired at a cocktail party?

  • ToF:
    Um, if that’s what you got out of all this discusion, sorry, that’s not necessarily the case. If it’ll unknot your undies, fine, belueve what you want. You are certainly not willing to look at this objectively.

  • FWIW, to further distance ToF from others at the cocktail party, the projected BFE at this site is about elev. 56. The site elevation is about 66. About a 10′ vertical difference…..
    I agree totally with MH005’s last comment.

  • I don’t typically go to cocktail parties with arrogant civil engineers so if they feel I would be bad company, that’s ok. The Skeletor-looking gentleman at RG Miller is certainly not someone I would want to interact with in a social gathering. When your company helps flood hundreds of houses, expect to catch flak. Or what about another drainage firm in Houston, Lockwood Andrews Newnam who is being sued in Michigan for causing the flint lead water contamination crisis there. I’m really missing out on the cocktail party invites! I sure would love to hang out with them.

    10,000 words later, after 4 plus rounds of residential flooding since 2015, the drainage lobbyists / civil engineering crowd still wants to say they are not at fault for any of Houston’s flooding, flooding which was recently scientifically proven to be caused by developments exactly like the HEB in the Heights. Ok guys, keep getting angrier and angrier but I’m just pointing out facts. This crew just seemed to get livid when I pointed out that following code was not a defense against tort lawsuits that could come from flooding out neighborhoods. Just circling the wagons is all.

    Have fun! About to head out for cocktails!

  • Oops, allegedly causing. They were alleged to have helped cause the flint lead water contamination by the attorney general of Michigan.

  • The concrete parking lot doesn’t and building doesn’t let water soak under either. It might be better if we build garages for this reason, too, so a lot of what would be parking can be used for preventing flooding by remaining in natural state with trees.

  • @ Truth: None of the “engineer or developer types” that have commented on here have denied that the flood maps are imperfect, that the issue is not complex and carries caveats, or that the system can’t be gamed. I have witnessed instances where the system was being gamed by the development community in ways not related to flooding, and it seems totally plausible that this is another area where there are problems. I have also been told about circumstances from sources that I trust where private interests have managed to corrupt the outcomes of an engineering design process as they’ve related to transportation infrastructure. What I want from you, if you intend to levy an accusation, is some details. Just because something is plausible doesn’t mean that it is true, and you seem to confuse those concepts.
    Furthermore…this isn’t at all like pulling teeth; that analogy as it is deployed usually sucks, but you have managed to increase the suckage to epic proportions. Now…personally, not being a technical expert in these matters, I’ve tried to keep my contribution at a high level. What that means in practical terms is that when you commit a logical fallacy, I call it out with all the bluster of a guy that took ‘Intro to Logic’ at a second-rate community college as a junior in high school many many many years ago. All this time later, that class continues to serve me well, and when somebody like me who is prone to long-winded pedantic rants is calling out your assertions on such basic terms and with truncated rhetoric, it means that you need to evaluate whether you’ve completely understood what you think has been said or whether you are qualified enough as a writer to communicate your thoughts without accidentally damaging your own cause.

  • NICHE – The drainage lobbyists have a track record of gaming the system endlessly. Your post helps prove my point, not refute it. Again, the developer engineer types on this board are upset because I suggested lawsuits against bad actors in their industry as a way to punish and deter bad actors for which you just admitted there are many. Why do they not deserve punishment?

    I’m not going to delve into specifics more than I did. You gave no specifics in your post. Very interesting how everyone seems to be admitting more and more as the post goes on. Keep sharing these stories of bad actors.
    One question though: why does Lockwood Andrew Newnam get public drainage contracts in Houston when they are accused by the AG of Michigan of playing a role in causing the Flint lead water contamination crisis? Sounds like a a group to stay away from, at least until there legal issues are resolved and we get facts of what happened in a court of law and a legal judgement.

    Look guys, the Heights flooding problem is going to increase substantially if the new rules bring in a lot of construction and no change in the status quo of doing things. That’s my last point. It’s a pretty obvious one and amazing that so many allegedly educated people in the engineering world can’t get it. These guys think they are God’s gift to the world and can’t ever be wrong even despite overwhelming evidence. I don’t plan to move to the heights so those folks will have to deal with it. Just giving them a friendly warning.

    Flood victims: don’t take this anymore. Keep calling these people out.

  • @ Truth: One more time, and this will be my last response to you…what I’m saying that is strictly plausible is being construed by you as a fact-based endorsement. There is a difference. Flying Spaghetti Monster is plausible, too, yet I’m not a Pastafarian. The people on here who you’ve accused of staging some kind of a thinly-veiled conspiracy have been uniformly willing to have a serious conversation about this issue and wholly acknowledge that the system is imperfect; that also is not an endorsement of the suppositions that you’ve engaged in. You are either willfully ignorant, so inept as to be beyond help, or not speaking in good faith. I implore you to research this issue in further depth and come back with facts and a technical vocabulary which will enable you to have a conversation about these facts. Until then, I am bowing out.

  • The bitterness displayed by posters here is amazing.

    Houston has a serious flooding problem caused largely by engineers and these folks won’t talk to you unless you have the right “technical vocabulary.” Who are these losers kidding? They aren’t my target audience. How arrogant of them to think so. Our flood czar might have the right vocabulary, but all he does is talk. He has no big picture solution to flooding except asking the state for a $46M loan when the city spends billions to lure sporting events. What a pathetic loser. Give us back your salary, Stephen.

    One Houston engineering firm openly advertises their ability to reduce drainage requirements.

    One Houston engineering firm is sued by the AG of Michigan for causing the flint water contamination crisis.

    Andy Icken slows down or kills meaningful flooding projects and the mayor picks him over his former chief of staff with a solid history of doing good work who said “either me or him” and Turner said “leave.” The campaign donors all want Icken because he will deliver them valuable building subsidies. So, of course our mayor protects icken.

    The engineer posters here have engaged in epic flip flopping. Let’s review:

    1) they say the HEB is sitting in impervious cover so it doesn’t matter what they do. Then they admit the elevation and flow changes can cause flooding.

    2) they say city code prevents any building adding to flooding. Then they admit that the lobbyists with civil engineering licenses can navigate around codes

    3) they say it’s reckless to say 100 and 500 year flood plains are outdated. Then they admit there are problems with flooding outside the flood plain (duh,most flooding occurs outside the flood plain). They also admit thst lidar is much more accurate than current methods. Obviously lidar is the future but the drainage engineers are still going to outdated 100 and 500 year flood plain maps to cover their shoddy work.

    They say the HEB won’t cause flooding. Then they admit it might cause flooding down the road.

    Basically they’ve agreed with or conceded ever point I’ve made.

    Drainage engineers trained in the US are fond of saying that what they build will fail at some point and that losses are inevitable. This is an infuriating attitude. This is NOT the attitude in Europe. In foreign countries, they view flood loss as a failure. Here the engineers just glibly admit that they will fail for sure.

    Our city is flooding because the flood prevention task is in the hands of corrupt politicians, developers, and engineers who couldn’t get accepted into more difficult paths than drainage engineering.

  • Where else but Houston, Texas could a profession called “drainage lobbyist” be a lucrative industry? If you want to build on every square inch of your commercial property in a city that floods because of commercial development, just hire a drainage lobbyist to push your project through permitting! Slimier than Bill Cosby’s criminal defense team, but they get the job done!

  • Tired of Flooding:
    Your last comment is so completely filled with inaccuracies, as to what had been previously discussed, that it’s dizzy. Enough time has been spent on tilting at your windmills…

  • Seems like flooding is just the latest excuse for the BANANA crowd

  • You would think these guys would propose an alternate theory for flooding. They haven’t. That must mean they don’t know or haven’t yet come up with a scapegoat to shift blame from engineers and city hall bureaucrats.