Comment of the Day: What Out-of-Town Reporters Don’t Understand About Houston-Area Development Regulations

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT OUT-OF-TOWN REPORTERS DON’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT HOUSTON-AREA DEVELOPMENT REGULATIONS “. . . I must LOL whenever I see one of these articles blaming our flooding on our lack of zoning, and as an example of our lack of zoning, the article will show some subdivision in Sugar Land or Katy. Last time I checked, neither of those places are inside the city limits of Houston. Also, don’t those subdivisions have zoning up the ying yang? . . .” [XCellKen, commenting on Harvey’s Record Rainfall; Crosby Plant Explosion Risk; A Ponderosa Forest Boat Ride] Illustration: Lulu

10 Comment

  • +1. New Orleans has enormous amounts of zoning rules and “community input” on development projects and it still floods.

  • The Quartz article only references lack of zoning as evidence of a pro-developer attitude that has let developers do as the please without regard for the flooding problems that result from losing wetlands and prairies without sufficient mitigation. It is a bit too wonky to expect a mainstream news outlet to make a definitive distinction between the lack of Euclidean or Form Based Zoning in Houston and the kind of land use restrictions and building performance codes that would relate more directly to flooding mitigation. Otherwise, the article is pretty spot on about pointing fingers at a very pro-development regulatory environment that is largely to blame for the mess we are in.

  • Yeah, screw those developers. Replacing all of those 60s and 70s era low density apartments with higher density apartments. Like the ones I can see outside my window. More people on the same space. Less of a footprint.

    Or perhaps you’re upset with those developers who knock down those aging shacks, er, those quaint bungalows in Cottage Grove, and replace them with townhomes. Yes, lets keep inner city Houston low density forever. All of those people living in those townhouses can live in SugarLand or Katy. And commute to work. Which last time I heard, contributes to CLIMATE CHANGE. Which makes storms like Harvey both stronger, and more frequent.

    And about all of those far flung low density subdivisions hither and yon. The ones which have sprung up recently, and have replaced wetlands with concrete. The ones located in KATY and SUGARLAND. Once again, may I repeat, WTF does that hafta do with the CITY OF HOUSTON ???

  • Agree.

    Nothing like people passing judgement on what they do not know. What works in other regions of the U.S. do not work.

    Do most people realize that forward thinking cities like Austin have pretty much banned storm water detention in many areas. They used to mandate these measures and realized it cause more problems. with flooding. That is a solution for Austin and parts of the hill country.

    Houston will have its own solutions. The last 20 years, much progress has been made to address flooding in the region. An event like this will propel the next 20 years of solutions. There will opportunities to remove old neighborhoods that will not be allowed to rebuilt due to current city ordinances. Theses areas will be prime spots to implement additional flood protection measures.

    As a community we’ve been doing this for years will great results. We’ll move forward and continue.

  • Because both sh*t and water flow downhill, it might be a good idea for the nation’s 3rd or 4th (I forget) city to have an ETJ over the vast suburblands. To know what’s happening and to have a say…

  • There are 35 communities in the Houston MSA that have zoning ordinances, some of which are fairly restrictive.

    They may or may not be to blame for a “pro-developer” stance but the fact is Houston houses more people more affordably in better quality housing than anywhere else in the country – and we should look at articles by people from places which can’t with a jaundiced eye.

  • Maybe it takes an outside point of view to provide advice as to what Houston needs to do regarding our flooding problem. We have been complacent as consumers and businesses; we like what we can get.
    We have tried low density housing with our suburbs spreading out from the center of Houston; filling in every nook and cranny with development. We buy into it without thinking of the consequences because it’s cheap.
    Maybe the solution is to remove the built environment from these natural drainage areas and increase the density in between. Add back the greeenspace that is cut down everyday for new development.
    How many times does a house have to flood before one realizes that maybe this is not a good place to live….you can rebuild but the “improvements” for drainage will not occur before the next flood happens it’s going to flood again.

  • It is really amazing to look at the total disaster that Harvey caused (And Ike. And Allison. And the tax day flood. And the memorial day flood.) and say to developers and regulators in the Houston area “doing a heck of a job, Brownie”. Developers and regulators built thousands of homes and strip malls all across Houston during the boom cycles of the 60s, 70s and early 90s that had completely insufficient stormwater drainage infrastructure. Regulators allowed people to build too close to flood zones and builders did not think twice about building right up to bayous and rivers. The response from regulators was to require better development practices moving forward in some areas and apply a few band aids in other areas. This lax development attitude worked for a long time because it helped keep housing relatively affordable compared to other large metro areas. But after Harvey, people looking to come to Houston will have to consider whether the affordable housing and economic opportunities are worth the risk of losing everything in another big flooding event. The reassurance that developers are doing a better job with new projects does nothing to allay fears that existing housing is prone to devastating flooding. Houston’s failed development practices are now an albatross around the City’s neck.

  • Is there a city that can handle +/- 40 inches in 3 days? Seems to me we need to redraw the flood maps before we start hanging developers. Growth for the city is great, but it needs to be done right. Our cities priorities has been out of place for some time. We have a very old infrastructure system and it needs to be addressed.

  • kgb434: “The last 20 years, much progress has been made to address flooding in the region. An event like this will propel the next 20 years of solutions.”

    Great job, Houston!