Comment of the Day: Saying Goodbye to the Sleepy Inner Loop

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SAYING GOODBYE TO THE SLEEPY INNER LOOP “This complaining about what urban core growth will do to traffic and parking (make it worse / more difficult) is long past repetitive. It IS the middle of a growing, thriving city folks. Easy traffic in areas like the Heights and Montrose was an accidental luxury offered as a result of those areas having stagnated at low densities for so many decades until they were rediscovered by the market at large. Having a good connected street grid helped too (compare to major thoroughfare-and-cul-de-sac suburbs where congestion is nightmarish as soon as the subdivisions and strip malls are finished). But now the urban core is desirable, more investment, more people with disposable income, and yes, cars. Are we somehow supposed to be different from congested Los Angeles (which has much better transit and pedestrian infrastructure, by the way)? Will congestion in our central neighborhoods hurt your fondness for Houston? I seriously doubt it. We’re a great city. And if it bothers you enough to leave, three others who are quite willing to live with the traffic will replace you. And if we ever improved walkability and transit service enough, it would be six more people.” [Local Planner, commenting on Stealing a Glance at Proposed Alexan Heights on Yale]

24 Comment

  • I left Montrose and Houston 6 months ago. So you must be very happy.

  • Here here! Someone needs to remind these fools that they CHOSE to live in the CITY! Maybe the traffic will be whats needed to convince people to give funding (rather than cut it) to rail and other mobility initiatives. Besides, who the hell wants to look at fenced overgrown parking lots and old dirty abandoned industrial properties? Since when is that better than new construction of any kind? We’re not talking about replacing historic houses or wildlife preserves here…..

  • A-freaking-men

  • The Fifth and the Third are always available if you want to live close to downtown without traffic.

    What people are really complaining about is that other people want to live in “their” neighborhood. And that’s a concern with a long and unpleasant history.

  • I completely agree. People who enjoy living in the city understand, or should understand, that there are trade-offs; and guess what? There’s a trade-off to living in Kingwood or Katy and commuting all that way to the city every day, too. But we’ve spent decades allocating resources to make those suburban/exurban residents’ lives easier through highway expansion while largely ignoring the transit needs of people who, shocking as it may sound, love Houston enough to actually *live* here. I hate traffic as much as the next guy. But when I park, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a nice walk. If you’re idea of easy living is never having to leave your car, then the suburbs are for you.

  • I think we need like buttons on here!

  • @Spoonman
    it’s not just that people want to live in their area, it’s that the area is changing. of course they want more people to desire their area, there’s no way they can sell their house at a humongous profit when they want to move without it being more desirable than it was when they moved it. The problem is, they don’t want to deal with the traffic and other headaches presented with more people wanting to be in the exact same place they are.

  • Unfortunatly the market in Houston bears the idiots market.

  • Unfortunatly the market in Houston bears the idiots wallet.

  • People just want some smart planning to try to mitigate the burdens of density. Developing new multifamily residential with no connection to retail or office just means that more people=more cars=more traffic with no alternatives. If you build up centers that combine residential, retail and office, then you at least give people the option to leave the car in the garage, which mitigates traffic issues, which allows for more density. It is kind of like packing a suitcase for a long trip. You will be able to fit more stuff in your suitcase if you think about how you pack it rather than just piling all your stuff into your suitcase and sitting on top of it while you try to smash everything together to get it to close.

  • Frankly, I agree with this. The grid system (if any) outside the inner loop is way too spaced out between intersections. I work in the energy corridor near Eldridge and Briar Forest and this place is a mess everyday (PITA getting to/from I-10 or Westheimer). I’d much rather be driving inner loop streets near my home than having to sit through 3-4 light cycles at intersections out here.

  • The problem is, much of Houston’s appeal is exactly what is being eroded by this thirst for density. If I wanted those features in my city, I would move to one of the many American cities that already has them&#151and in fact I lived in one (Chicago), didn’t like it, and chose to come back to Houston.

    In other words, if the future of Houston is to become an LA-style expensive, crowded mess, then I ought to move to LA and at least have some nice weather and geography.

  • Old School, it’s completely implausible that a center could house offices which everybody who lived there worked at, and stores which would satisfy the needs of people who live there.

    Buildings with a grocery store on the bottom floor are cool, but you can’t do that on every block because that grocery store is going to require a lot more people than one building will house.

    Even if people living in the building manage to work and shop there, those offices and stores require more customers and employees than will live there, so you’re just trading the cars of more residents for the cars of employees and shoppers.

  • “Will congestion in our central neighborhoods hurt your fondness for Houston? I seriously doubt it. We’re a great city. And if it bothers you enough to leave, three others who are quite willing to live with the traffic will replace you.”

    Why do people on this site need to be so snarky in their comments? It shows a true lack of understanding by someone calling themself “local planner” to NOT understand the basic processes of neighborhoods (thus the people living in them) to learn to live with changes happening around them and out of their control. As a “planner” (and I used to be a city planner) basic understanding of change and resistance is critical. This comment reminds me of listening to my parents as I was growing up saying “if they don’t like it here, then leave (speaking of the US). It is reversed NIMBYism.

  • @Spoonman: You sound like the NRA with the argument that if what you want won’t solve all the problems perfectly, we should just throw up our hands and do nothing. And you are also ignoring the fact that something very close to what you claim is impossible (work/shop/play) is going up in the Galleria. Mixed-use, new urbanism, and all that stuff is not a magic bullet that will turn the streets into grassy medians. They are wise mitigation measures that help maximize the number of people you can squish into a city without having streets that are impassible. The only reason we do not see that more in Houston is because it is cheaper and easier to put in a strip mall and a pencil box apartment with no retail than to do a large mixed use development. And that is what the legitimate complaint is. We are getting development that is near sighted, which will result in long term externalities for residents. We need housing, so the pencil box apartments are going up everywhere. We need more retail, so big lots are filled with strip malls and big boxes that can be put up cheaply and fast. Thus, we get density with all the burdens and none of the benefits. Eventually, the cities that are best able to maximize the benefits of density will win out over those who just react to demand and let the population try to figure out how to get through traffic.

  • EVERYONE: Perfect solution! Come out to the 5th ward. Cheap! Close to downtown/heights/montrose/midtown/etc.
    I’m going to start being a 5th ward cheerleader. Don’t leave me out there alone dang it! :)

  • Old School, and here I was thinking you had “gun-grabber” logic – you can’t solve the problem, so you want cosmetic changes that do nothing but make you feel good.

  • Cody, profit through pioneering in real estate ended with the discovery of the new world. These days in real estate it’s the 2nd mouse that gets the cheese from the trap.

  • @sjh: I am not trying to be snarky. I am just not willing to indulge people in a fantasy of preserving an urban environment that was temporary, as all city neighborhoods are (barring either San Francisco-style heavy-handed land use regulation, which will never – and should never – happen here, or rust-belt style economic stagnation). Congestion and parking demand are flaws inherently baked into the automobile system. They come with growth. Trying to protest and wish them away only delays the development of adaptive measures that help provide mitigation as traffic and parking degrade – measures such as complete streets, development codes that don’t inhibit pedestrian-friendly structures and site design, and improved transit service. The sooner the growing masses of urban Houstonians decide that we need to get to work on these things, the less time we’ll have to live with the inconvenience of growth without any options.
    @Spoonman, @Old School: You both have good points. No, retail and offices aren’t going to be everywhere and we would have to achieve much higher densities for most places to have a sufficient market within walking distance. And there are significant private sector obstacles, not to mention our public regulatory obstacles, to pedestrian-friendly design. But, any mix of uses (vertical or horizontal) that is set up to be walkable is a positive adaptive measure that benefits Houston as it grows and densifies. Our public policy should be encouraging it, not making it difficult.

  • “People just want some smart planning to try to mitigate the burdens of density.”
    Planning sounds like a great idea, until you realize who is doing the planning: the same geniuses that negotiated the 380 agreement with Ainbinder.
    Any time you hand over decision-making power to an authority figure, don’t assume they have the same priorities you do. Rather, ask yourself if you’d still be happy if that authority figure were venal, short-sighted and stupid, because more often than not, they are.

  • @ Angostura: Ouch! But, a valid concern.

  • Excellent point, Angostura – even if Old School’s fantasy mini-arcologies were a solution to the problem of traffic, the government would be incapable of enforcing their creation in a reasonable way.

    And a government that were capable of doing so would limit all growth to the extreme, like Philadelphia.

  • AMEN.Here in the Heights, we have lots of people who live to talk about what a cool neighborhood it is, then get upset that someone is building a midrise apartment or condo building because OMG, people want to live in that cool neighborhood. Well, that’s part of the deal.

    If you want to live in a city that has delusions of grandeur but is basically an overgrown small town, there’s Austin.

  • “If you want to live in a city that has delusions of grandeur but is basically an overgrown small town, there’s Austin.” Never have I heard truer words.