Comment of the Day: The High Cost of Beauty

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE HIGH COST OF BEAUTY “. . . admittedly, i’d love to live in a much more beautiful city such as san francisco, paris, nyc, or any number of the hundreds of small quaint towns dotting the american landscape. however, i don’t want to spend 50% of my budget on housing and i want access to plenty of jobs. i choose to live in houston fully knowing that my living expenses support nothing more than a cheap, ugly and easy city to live in. i love houston because it provides an alternative. i can understand other peoples viewpoint, but me and tons of others don’t want to pay exorbitant living expenses just so you all can have better views on your way home from work or while you walk your dog in my yard, there’s tons of other cities that can provide that to you. this will all change as the city becomes richer, just wait and you’ll get your day, but for now let’s just accept the city we all choose to live in for what it is and revel in the benefits it provides now.” [joel, commenting on Comment of the Day: We’ll Do It Our Way]

27 Comment

  • Yes, Houston is a great place to live while you earn enough money to leave.

  • I live in Houston because it is the most beautiful city in North America, not for some silly job or cost of living.

    If I overheard someone in public call Houston ugly, fisticuffs would ensue.

  • I lived in one of those magical hundred-year-old houses in New England. You know, the ones that burn down in 20 minutes, are constantly drafty, have no closets, have electric/phone/cable/plumbing running in plain view, and none of the doors ever close. It did have a carved fireplace and gorgeous wood floors, mostly.

    Houstonian romanticize these things because they haven’t had to live in them. Most of them are crack houses, not Martha Stewart’s farmhouse.

  • It really amazes me when people claim that Houston is ugly . . . Every city has ugly and pretty areas including San Francisco, Paris, and NYC. The comment about the city becoming richer really makes no sense I mean come on Houston is the energy capital of the world oil and gas money is every where.

  • Everyone who complains about Houston can leave. Go live in Dallas. That will leave more Houston for me to love!

  • It’s not an either/or. We don’t have to accept ugliness for the sake of keeping costs low. All that beauty requires is some creativity, thinking outside the box. How much of our land did we have to give up to have those rows of live oaks around Rice University? How hard was it to NOT pave Buffalo Bayou, like we did all the other bayous? Nature will actually do most of the beautification work for free, if you let her.

    As for the built environment, buildings have a remarkable way of becoming more beautiful as they age – provided you don’t tear them down. New buildings can also be beautiful without being expensive… when Pennzoil Place was built in 1976, nothing like it had ever been seen in the Southwest, and yet it didn’t cost much more than a regular building. But the people who commissioned it cared about architecture.

  • Ive lived in Houston all my life and I get sick of people who say Houston is ugly. Don’t people count? Houstonians are the friendlest folks you could meet anywhere. If it’s so awful, why do folks all over the world want to live here? I’ve lived everywhere you can imagine and when I mention Houston, everyone I meet wishes they could come here and participate in our great town. I agree with the other posters. Leave if you’re so unhappy. And take the horse you rod in on, too.

  • I’ve lived in Houston for 30 years. It has taken me a long time to reconcile that! Every time I travel I’d come back and be annoyed for about 2 weeks that I lived here and not in one of those other “beautiful” cities. Compounding that, none of my family (on the East Coast) likes Houston or ever wants to come visit here. And I always felt like I had to apologize for Houston not being scenic or interesting or touristy.

    But not anymore! Like I said, I’ve reconciled that with the fact that Houston is a GREAT PLACE TO LIVE. Screw the tourists. We don’t have to apologize about living here. And there is no finer place to live than the (all too brief) green, flowery spring! (Then we dive into our homes for our AC’s !) And an added bonus, I don’t have to EVER worry about relatives coming to visit. ;-)

  • A lot of interesting generalizations in the comments above. I consider Houston ugly but it certainly has its benefits. There are always compromises to be made with any set of decisions and not everyone draws the line at the same point.

  • I love Houston, but its ugliness exists. Only part of it can be attributed to bad architecture, its featureless landscape must be given due as well. Would Paris or London be so lovely without their rivers and bridges? Would those townhouses in SF have as much charm without the hills and curvy streets? Can you picture Sydney with no aspect to it?
    The most beautiful neighborhoods in Houston have older houses for sure, but what really makes them beautiful is the old trees. Can’t build those.

  • I think that most of the folks who claim that Houston is great or those who deny that Houston is ugly, have never been anyplace else. They just don’t know any better.

  • I’d say Houston is in the middle, roughly.

    Our trees/foliage keep us out of the ugly category.

  • > It’s not an either/or. We don’t have to
    > accept ugliness for the sake of keeping
    > costs low.

    Good aesthetics is not a luxury, me thinks. The cost per individual is very low as long as everyone participates. And that is the core of the issue: Texas is too liberal to be beautiful — in the classical sense.

    I think we all pay a psychological price for mostly choosing the least expensive style. No one cares about strip shopping centers unless they are River Oaks, and when you don’t care about your environment it weakens the society.

    Therefore it is penny wise and pound foolish to accept ugliness.

  • Houston is beautiful and we all should have the wisdom to enjoy the beauty around us. Love the one you are with so to speak. Will keep you healthier. I grew up in a quaint little town in the Pocono Mountains of PA. BLAH! Houston is prettier on so many levels because of the opportunity, but mostly the many different areas of town and the many different people of different backgrounds. That is what makes Houston beautiful. Have you never stared up at the beautiful blue sky over us and not been in wonderment of the beauty and grateful you have 2 good eyes to see it? Sheesh – throw you a pity party. Poor you who has to suffer in such a horrible place to earn a buck. Smell the roses! Enjoy the beauty that is.

  • There is nothing unique about Houston’s ugliness. Houston did not invent the garden style apartments or strip malls. Houston is not the only place in the country with clearcut McMansion sprawl neighborhoods and cheap townhomes sprouting up in transitional neighborhoods. Houston is a very young city that has grown very quickly during a period when design and architecture succumbed to the vicious utilitarian designs that maximize profit. And to the extent design and architecture could deviate from the banal cut and paste designs, the projects were either stark modernist works or post-modernist designs that borrow from here there and everywhere, but leave you with a sense that archictecture just gave up as an art form. But the great thing about Houston is that it is not too late. Unlike many cities in the East that have been overbuilt to the square inch, there are tons of opportunities to redevelop many of the mistakes of the past into something more attractive and that serves the community better. But it will be up to the free hand of the market to deliver a better Houston. The same hand that slapped around the city and left it with many real estate black eyes.

  • Saying “Houston is ugly” is like saying “People from Florida are ugly”.
    There are ugly areas of Houston, and great looking areas of Houston. Just as people vary in any location.
    If you think Houston is ugly, you’re living in the wrong part of it. Try moving to a better spot. I love my little area of Houston and enjoy walking around our neighborhood on weekends with my wife…

  • I’d be a whole lot more willing to back civic beautification projects if I trusted our elected officials to have good taste. But I feel as though, if we tried, we’d only spend a lot of time and money to look like Dallas…replete with off-the-shelf designer bridges and whatnot in awkward places. And Houston is far and away the prettier city, even if there’s more litter here.

    One thing that we should do, though, is to relax the sign ordinances.

  • I’ve been asked many times if I plan on staying in Houston for the long term and I always have the same response:

    Is Houston the prettiest, most culturally stimulating, or most exciting city in the US? No. Is the climate the best? No. Are the outdoor opportunities the best? No, in fact they are virtually nonexistant. But there is no place that I have found that has the earning opportunities with the low cost of living that Houston has. You can make big city money with a podunk cost of living. And that is what will keep me in Houston for the long term.

  • But People from Florida ARE ugly.

  • > Is Houston the prettiest, most culturally stimulating, or
    > most exciting city in the US? No.

    Actually, I would answer that with “No, No, Yes”. Houston is an exciting place to be, because this is where everything is possible (in no small part because this is where the money is).

    Sure, all my old friends from NYC talk all the time about that modern place they will have one day, but here in Houston you can actually achieve that dream on a middle-class budget.

    > Is the climate the best? No.

    I have a stock answer to questions about Houston’s climate. I always say that Houston is just like NYC, in that there is a period of 3 or 4 months per year when the weather outside is unpleasant and people prefer to be indoors. The difference is the months: Dec – Mar for NYC, and June – Sep for Houston.

    > Are the outdoor opportunities the best? No…

    Au contraire, Houston is the best town in the USA, maybe the world, if you are a recreational soccer player. San Diego is a close second, but SD is much smaller and lacks the talent & facilities.

  • @ Walt: Someone once described Houston as “The Urban Path of Least Resistance.” It was intended to be a compliment to Houston’s low cost of living relative to income, and few amount of big city hassles for a large population, etc. I think that saying sums up your comment well.

  • @Patrick – I *love* the NYC/Houston weather comparison & hope you don’t mind my adopting it.

  • “cheap, ugly and easy ”

    I love it.

  • Born and raised in Houston for 60 years. It will forever and always be mediocre. I live on the beach in Mexico now and agree with my ex-landlord who moved to Sicily, re Houston: “I don’t want to die there.” Went sailing with a couple who are headed to the South Pacific yesterday. Why settle for mediocrity? Oh,it’s cheap.

  • @George Pitner. So move, if you are above “mediocre” Houston. Sail off elsewhere. Nobody’s making you stay, buddy.

  • George, love the comment, very to-the-point. That being said, I’ll choose Houston over NYC, try enjoying the tolls if you’re drive into Manhattan from the boroughs. Do you enjoy dodging the endless crowds on Broadway? How about hunting for subway token machines that work. It gets tired. Paris is beautiful but watch what happens to the metro at night, when ruffians troll and you’re defenseless. San Francisco’s homeless absolutely dominate parts of downtown, take the BART from the Haight-Ashbury into downtown and watch what happens. Oh yes, they’re people too (yawn).

    Houston has its problems, hurricanes, schools, debt, insane property taxes, etc. but I love things I can’t enjoy elsewhere, last night we had yet another free concert at Miller Park, today I enjoyed a jog and bike ride on the bayou, and this evening I’ll enjoy Chinese culture at a singing recital. All without tolls, trolls, entrance fees, and a heavy police presence.

    Will I retire here? Likely, I’m not a multimillionaire able to live on some riviera. Have I lived elsewhere? Absolutely, and I chose this place 13 years ago.