Comment of the Day: Who’s Making Carrion of Houston?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHO’S MAKING CARRION OF HOUSTON? “I love reading comments from our real estate investor and developer friends who do not see or understand the value in salvaging older homes/buildings. I also love reading their complaints about COH’s minimal/laughable pro-development ‘restrictions’ as some sort of tool of communistic oppression. I guess if I agreed the profits and bottom line of real estate investors/developers are more important than the quality of life of every single other person in Houston, I could possibly see their points. However, because I don’t care about their profits or their bottom line, I don’t see their points. Instead, I see these people and their friends as vultures, slowly picking away at the bones of our city. My community does what little it can to swat away the vultures, and I am heartened to see others in other communities doing the same, but unless the City’s short-sighted attitude toward development at any cost changes, we can count on ‘development’ eroding the rest of the inner loop.” [mel, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Qualities That Make Houston So Special] Illustration: Lulu

91 Comment

  • Oh brother.

  • Given the same facts in evidence, the opposite can be argued as true… Developers and investors would not be able to profit unless they provided a product the vast majority of citizens wanted. They cater to wants and needs and even wild desires of people who live or will live in Houston. In short they are Improving the quality of life.

  • Having a problem with development inside the loop must be worse than being a homophobe in San Francisco or San Antonio. BUILD BABY BUILD!

  • Commonsense, your name says it all.

    But shh…don’t ruin Mel’s idyllic and naive misconceptions of how and why market economies actually produce the most efficient outcomes.

  • The problem with comments such as mel’s is that they are expressed in gross generalities, leaving us to wonder just exactly what quality of life is being eroded. Surely, it could not be the quality of life of the thousands of people who move into these developments, enjoying a shorter commute, our wonderful parks, museums and restaurants and bars. Surely, it is not the neighbors, who get to enjoy the city amenities that are built or maintained with the taxes raised from these new developments.

    No, it must be someone else. But who? That’s just it. They never say. Because if they actually got specific, they would leave themselves open to counterpoint that many (or most) of these developments actually improve quality of life for the masses.

  • Quantity of life is not the same as quality of life

  • I agree with Commonsense. Mel, again we must ask, what was located where your residence is now? I guess it was ok for your developer to fill a need that suited you (and increase density from the vacant land it once was), but alas – no one else should be able to. We must have increase density! We can’t keep building to close the gap between Houston and San Antonio, Dallas, Austin etc. I am not a developer but I do welcome the midrises and high rises.

  • Houston needs to look to cities people love, like San Antonio, New Orleans, San Francisco etc. If you speak to people in these cities, they go on and on about their love for their city and speak of the beautiful historic buildings and the quality of life that comes with living around beautiful old buildings, one the other hand if you speak with people in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, etc all they speak about is how they can’t wait to leave. Houston’s economic might is the envey of many cities to be sure, but no one really wants to move here because the city has a horrible reputation for its lack of zoning, it’s complete disregard for its history, it’s growth at any cost attitude, and its complete disdain for preservation of any kind. Growth at all costs is no way to become a great city, great cities are defined by their respect for their history, until Houston recognizes that fact it will continue to be a place where people work but wish they lived elsewhere

  • I love how people define quality of life for me, like mel. and sometimes profits are important, if say you are needing to sell your home, and the price dropped underneath the value of the mortgage because it is now historically zoned. the true negative effects of the restrictions will never be known – because the affected may not afford internet or the means of communicating said effects, anymore, due to the restrictions. mel seems to be in an enviable position of not being affected, and yet seems to have a strong opinion. how lucky.

  • Where one person sees bones being picked by Vultures, I see a city that is becoming better and more interesting every day. The number of truly cool places to eat, drink, shop, that I can walk to from my Inner Loop neighborhood has increased by, conservatively, a factor of four in the last ten years. The 1920’s bungalow that I remodeled a few years back has more than doubled in value. Yes, some houses have been torn down, and some of them shouldn’t have been. On balance though, I am very glad that I moved back here after school.

  • Those that can’t wait to leave are being run over by those who can’t wait to get here. The physical proof is everywhere.

  • Wasp — trolling again I see . . . .

  • Our history, including most of the urban core, is primarily small bungalow houses that don’t meet the needs of today’s families, deteriorating wood shacks where the working class traditionally lived, and drab strip malls with unlandscaped parking lots. Yeah, let’s recognize this history by preserving it! Umm, no thanks.

    If our overall quality of life was being ruined by redevelopment, there wouldn’t be people paying the increasingly high $ to live in the new stuff that replaced the old stuff. Too bad for the folks who preferred the old environment, but the market – through “revealed preference” – says that overall quality of life in redeveloping areas is increasing, not falling.

  • Houston has improved. I moved here a couple of years ago, and when friends from DC, NYC, Chicago, and SF ask me if Houston Sucks, I say, “no, but you have to get used to it.” It’s in my opinion, that with the inner loop increasing in density, additional usage of mass transit, and free market growth— Houston will be awesome (or rather, more awesome) in 20 years or so.

  • The developers and investors are sure lucky to have all you lemmings defend them in the swamplot comments.

  • Wasp, it’s no coincidence that Houston has one of the least restrictive local governments of any of the cities of its size, yet far and away the strongest economy.

    It’s simple economics, overregulation stifles growth. Houston’s much-derided lack of zoning allows local businesses to more quickly adapt to changing demands by residents.

  • What irks me is how polarized these debates become. To Mel, developers can do no good. To commonsense and his ilk, they are saints and Ghandis who should be beatified by the Gods of Capitalism asap.

    No. Houston is a mixed picture. We’ve had plenty of development that has stimulated the economy and allowed new residents to find housing. But this has often come at a cost–to historic neighborhoods, to affordability, etc.

    On the whole, what’s happening in the developing world right now is just ok–not great, but not terrible. Stylistically kind of a nightmare, but the quality isn’t as bad as it used to be and the city is growing. Of course, I feel a personal pang of regret when a 1923 bungalow is torn down and a beige brick box with Spanish Mission frippery is put up in its place. I wish we had stronger regulations to prevent that.

    Luckily, Houston has moved beyond the wild west days of the 1970s and 1980s, when terrible, windowless tinderboxes replaced much of the historic fabric in the inner loop. At least now there’s some modicum of a standard, and a bit of quality. But what I find puzzling is how some on this thread seem to want to allow developers to do anything they want, without oversight.

  • Well Mel you tried, your comment was well thought out and spot on, I appreciate you making an effort to educate. A real cry in the dark on Swamplot these days. Oh and for the record San Antonio passed the pro gay ordinance 8-3, it wasn’t even close, most of the people in descent were not even from San Antonio, they simply came in to try to dim the star of the up and coming Mayor of San Antonio, but as you can see hate didn’t win in San Antonio, a city which I can attest is far from anti gay

  • I don’t see having an opinion other than some other in decent of the Comment of the Day is “trolling”. I support the comment of the day I’m in full support! How is it trolling to agree with the comment? and if anyone is Houston Proud it’s me, I care about the history of the city and I want it’s history preserved. We all have the right to our opinion.

  • Of course you don’t respond to any particular comment or question thrown your way, mel. You just pull out the “big business = bad” mantra and label these comments as being from shills for the evil developers.

  • I’m disheartened at the sentiment here. Yes, the Inner Loop needs more density; I think we can all agree on that. But why do we have to build multifamily structures or high-rise commercial buildings right smack in the middle of established single-family neighborhoods, where the homes are well-maintained or remodeled? Or built with absolutely zero setback from the street and neighboring homes?

    You can blithely say that it’s all wonderful, but how would you like it if they decided to build a 17-story office building right next to your 2-story house, or if your shiny new townhouse or apartment is next to a longstanding mechanic shop or ice house that you will then try to shut down? You’d be screaming NIMBY with the rest of them.

  • Did I miss something? What does San Antonio’s expansion of benefits to the gay community have to do with this thread?
    Back to the topic at hand, it is lamentable when architecturally significant properties or iconic places are bulldozed but, by and large, much of what is levelled is not quality architecture–it wasn’t when it was built and it isn’t today. Cities do not exist in a vacuum. People’s needs change,priorities change and as cliche as it sounds, time marches on.

  • I don’t personally know anyone who is dying to leave Houston. I love big cities. I’ve been here 25yrs and could live anywhere I choose. I choose to live here because Houston is vibrant, dynamic and cool.

  • What’s there to respond to KT? Do you have a specific question for me? I think my comment was pretty clear.

    Sad to say that I do have a full time job, so I don’t have the freedom to lurk the comments all day, disagreeing with other people’s opinions.

  • Keep fighting the good fight, Wasp.

  • Comment 22, I’d like to introduce you to comment 3.

  • @Roadchick

    They build a 400-unit building right smack in the middle of an established neighborhood (I can think of the two wealthy ones in particular you specifically have in mind) because there it is such a nice area that 400 people want to live there instead of third ward or by Hobby Airport. People want to live and work in nice areas. Make sense? It is a city. I think if developers saw potential in existing properties to meet the goals of what they want then they will use it, but why force themselves to make lemonade out of lemons when they don’t need to.

  • Let San Antonio, San Francisco, Boston etc. be historic. Houston is futuristic.

    Backwards is more like it.

  • Some of y’all act like you’ve never been to another city…..

    Houston looks cheap, from the partially built sidewalks, lack of zoning, telephones, and lack of green space outside of the loop.

    We allow developers to be cheap and they oblige. We’ve had a strong economy and adding a million people a decade since 1990 and on pace to do so. Why are we acting like we have to beg for developer to build? That is not the case…..

  • ….to add to that. Houston certainly has a gritty image and edge that is nice, from my perspective. However, Austin and DFW just looks more “put together”. They’ve had the same type of growth, yet their ordinances and zoning isn’t turning away developers at all.

    What gives swamploters? Is it Houston’s more blue collar demographic? Or have we been duped by developers who just want to increase their bottom line by passing costs along to Houstonians?

  • SO dramatic!! This age old argument is simply that. Old. Just be happy that things ARE being transformed and that things are being developed pretty well in terms of quality of life and betterment of the neighborhood. Better than the past. The City has made SO much progress in comparison to previous years. Be thankful for what you’ve got. Save the pissing and moaning for when its needed or nobody will listen when the time comes that it is truly needed. They will be like, oh, dont listen to that guy. He’s always complaining. Even when we completely transformed that side of town that was laden with people walking the street and selling drugs. Even when all those vacant and rusty warehouses got torn down. Even when we just pumped nearly $100 million dollars into parks and bayou beautification. He doesnt know what’s good for him. He just complains for the sake of complaining. Why should such any person, especially that person, be allowed to restrict others from doing what they believe is good for the world. To not allow them to pursue their dream, even though they have the means to do so?? “Whats good” for you and I is really just a matter of interpretation. This universe is constantly changing. If you dont like the change, move to another part of the universe. The moral of the story is mind your own business. It takes alot of balls to go out there and build something. Free enterprise is what made this country great. Down with socialist bastards!

  • Being futuristic and being historic are not mutually exclusive, thinking they are is the crux of the problem in Houston

  • Droves of douche-bags moving into the neighborhood… that really improves the quality of life.

  • @ Mel, et al.: To echo the comments of others, its worth pointing out that nearly any house that you might consider historical today in Houston was once just a crackerbox with generally limited vernacular embellishment. What was built back then, as now, was made to appeal to a wide audience within a particular price band. And it got built by people that were squarely interested on their own bottom dollar.

    So to criticize the things that self-interested developers do now to redo the work of an equally self-interested generation of developers that made your “quality of life” possible…it just seems really hollow.

    If you want to understand how and why developers recycle a neighborhood, you should ask your former neighbors why they sold their old crackerbox and your new neighbors why they bought their new crackerbox in its place. The developer is only a middleman; your real agent of change is the consumer.

    That said, something tells me that your disdain for change has a lot less to do with changes in the physical artifacts of a neighborhood than with discomfort with respect to the neighborhood’s changing sociological composition. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you agreed with me, btw. I can completely understand not wanting to live among a bunch of twits that dwell in townhomes and McMansions. It’s just that I’m trying to help you maybe clarify your thoughts or find a voice rather than come off as a selfish goon and a polarizing foil to Commonsense.

  • Every relative or friend of mine who has visited from another city comments similarly on Houston:

    “It has a dirty, third world vibe.”

    This was true for me when I first came here. Houston is ugly. It’s dirty, muddy, with broken pavement and cheap architecture and badly maintained infrastructure. Even its proponents talk about how ugly it is. It doesn’t look like most other American (or even Texan) cities. I go to Austin or Dallas and think “wow, everything’s so clean, so well-maintained.”

    Houston is just badly maintained. This isn’t a value judgment–I think the lack of maintenance makes it kind of interesting.

  • Dom- you hit the nail on the head. The city has been duped. (Un)fortunately the greed has gotten so out of hand that certain of our communities are starting to take a stand. For this City, it has to get bad before we demand and then get better. It’s gotten bad. So let’s demand (and get) better.

  • We’ll see how these thousands of misplaced high rise “luxury” apartments play out over the next decade. Anyone notice that HOME OWNERS are headed to the new “planned communities” outside Houston? Hmmm….eroding our tax base? Do you really think all these people that rent are invested in Houston? Don’t see too many of these folks supporting Houston’s symphony, the opera, or parks. They’re here only for the job; the economy is due to unconventional energy plays. Houston’s NonPlanning is creating a chaotic ugly city and a ghastly quality of life, HINDERING economic development.

    Recent college graduates from Houston that went away to school and chose to come back? Think about it…brain drain They’ve found better places to live. Houston is a soulless city full of swaggering, barely educated people.

  • I don’t want to debate all the pros and cons of big business/bottom line vs historic preservation. My issue (admittedly a selfish one) is that with all of the new inner loop development I’m slowly being priced out of a decent place to live. My apt rent has steadily increased simply because new midrises were built around me suddenly making my neighborhood more desirable(translate-more expensive). No suggested solutions just whining.

  • I think the government should focus on adding parks, which lately seem to be development magnets. Getting the rest of the LRT taken to completion as fast as possible should also be a priority.

    I say this because I believe the guiding principle should be maximizing tax base increase while minimizing the amount of tax base decrease given up to get that. In other words, increase aggregate tax base not just increase the tax base on a specific plot of land.

    In practice I think this means building densely in seriously underdeveloped areas, not ones that are already established. The way to induce this is via parks and LRT as well as whatever additional political-financial structures are invented eventually in addition to TIRZs and superneighborhoods.

  • From mel: The developers and investors are sure lucky to have all you lemmings defend them in the swamplot comments.
    Maybe because people who develop properties for people to live in (“developers”), and people who invest and risk their own hard earned money in our neighborhoods (“investors”) are not the devils you make them out to be?
    I’m an “investor”. Shoot me right? I buy crappy places and make them nice. Just bought a few buildings in 3rd ward that were a falling-down mess and put gobs of money into making it better for the neighborhood. I hope to make as much of 3rd ward as I can better. Investing my own capital to do so. Will I make a few bucks in the process? Sure. Is that a bad thing? I hope not. I don’t risk my money and spend my time to get the fresh air.
    And I get plenty of push-back from the city as is when I fix up the place — I don’t need more of it, thanks. Let those that do, do. Talkers and air chair activists can put up, or stay out of the way. If you can do it better, come jump in the pool.

  • Requiring developers to play by a set of rules is more than just saving an occasional historic building. This might not have been explicit in Mel’s comment, but we as a city and the people who live here and pay the taxes should require that the developers give more than just the minimum. How about sidewalks for everyone? How about parks? Maybe some streets that don’t flood? Maybe some trees, as I have heard the sun can be hot here, and the pollution bad? Instead of tax breaks, how about using our leverage as a city to create an actual quality of life for the people who cannot afford a mansion in river oaks. Maybe even require some planning and funding for mass transportation. We can keep kicking the bucket down the road, but eventually we will need these things and instead of the cost being shared equitably, it will be the taxpayer who has to pay for all these necessities.

    Well, I suppose like any other problem, only education of the people willing to have an open mind will fix this city. There is enough money to go around for everyone and provide the amenities for everyone, but it just takes education. Plenty of other cities do it and benefit. Businesses come here because they know they can take advantage of the less educated and keep all the money they would have to spend so instead they can live in nice neighborhoods with all the amenities.

  • Houston has become the sophisticated, elegant city it should have been many years ago. I build townhomes and decorate large homes. I moved here when I was 23 and I can tell you we’ve diversified our city, we’ve planted thousands of trees and dozens of parks. We’ve past Dallas and Austin two times around the track because we are truly an International city now. We have all the major arts organizations here a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, improved roads and esplanades and much better quality architecture. Oh yes, there are some ugly things and bad people I’m sure but we have no need for them anymore and soon they’ll be gone. I embrace Houston. I could live and have lived in all the major cities in this country and I’m always most at home where the South stops. Houston. Love it or leave it.

  • Really? That’s the suggestion? If you don’t like the way your neighborhood is changing, just move? What Bullshit! If you love your neighborhood don’t move, fight! The bullies on this thread are ridiculous. Read all the comments about how to new Houstonians or outsiders the city is ugly and haphazard and dirty. That should give anyone who cares about Houston pause, instead to people on this thread it’s like, well fine don’t move here or visit. That attitude is nuts, and really bad for the future of Houston. The city lets developers build anything anywhere and as cheap as they want. It’s ruining the city, frankly and it does make the city ugly to outsider (as well as insiders). Houston had pretty areas: Hermann Park, Memorial Park, River Oaks, Rice and what do they all have in common? Those areas are planned and have by restrictions, that’s why they are beautiful and an aberration to everything else in town

  • All I hear from the “anti-develoeprs” is blaha blah blah, waah waah waah. As a member of the developer community I don’t listen to people like that, the law is on our side, the elected officials are on our side, the free market is on our side, the customers are on our side, logic and reason are on our side. All the other side has is personal feelings and emotions, and those don’t carry much weight with anyone.

  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I shudder to think about the kind of people who develop property in Houston. These people don’t care at all about the city, it’s just build fast and as cheaply as you can to be ahead of the coming bust. Who cares if it’s crap and you flood the market and it all becomes ghetto for the gangs, over made my money and I live in the zoned Memorial Vilages. They’re like slum lords who should be forced to live in these shitty properties as they deteriorate and become crime ridden shit holes. SW Houston exhibit A.

  • Mel, I can see where you’re coming from. But insensitive developers are only the most visible of the forces wrecking the character of our neighborhoods. It’s really not fair to single them out; nor is it an effective way to protect neighborhoods from unwanted development. So who, or what else is driving unwanted development?
    – Growth of course, and the fact that people want to live Inside the Loop. But if it were just about growth, you’d see much more development on vacant lots and less in the neighborhoods.
    – Architects. This might be strange to hear from an architect, but too many of my colleagues allow themselves to fall in behind their developer clients without ever trying to lead their clients to better, more sensitive design. On a related note, we architects are in many cases relinquishing control of the site selection process at a time when we should expanding it.
    -Land Speculators. There are thousands of small-timers who view real estate as a get-rich-quick-scheme; and they’re bad enough. The really awful ones are the bigger guys who buy up good building sites, jack up the price to where developers can’t get their proformas to work, and in so doing push those developers into our neighborhoods. (If you can’t tell from my wording, these guys are the real villains IMO, and I’ll bet developers would agree)
    -Big pieces of land. Most of the developers in Houston are after smaller pieces of land to do smaller-scale projects. Most of the sites that we look at and say “why dont you guys develop over there?” (beat up apartment complexes, old warehouses) are just too big. Our neighborhoods have the small lots the developers want.
    Dysfunctional Deed Restrictions. Generally speaking, the older the neighborhood, the weaker and harder to decipher the deed restrictions – and since redevelopment these days is centered on Houston’s oldest neighborhoods, this is troubling. An even bigger problem is that it’s often hard to tell where the deed restrictions stop. So you may have one side of a street covered by deed restrictions while the other side isn’t. In these cases, deed restrictions really give no protection.
    I bring these things up because we cant protect our neighborhoods by yelling at developers. Neighborhood groups (civic associations, HOAS) need to decide what they really want, communicate it, and work WITH developers to make it happen. It’s a lot easier to do if you understand what’s actually going on.

  • @WASP, I like colorful hyperbole as the next guy, but I say poppycock. I build only what the customers will buy and as much as customers will buy. As cheap or as expensive as the certain market demands. Healthy competition increases quality, if my competitor puts in Viking appliances, I either have to match or outdo him. Nobody can predict what will or will not become the ghetto, those factors are always out of developers control (oil crashes, hurricanes, white flight, etc.). In a nutshell, I care, I build exactly what people want.

    And yes, I live in Memorial Villages because I chose my neighborhood wisely based on steady and increasing property values, deed restrictions, and a rambo-like police force. There are plenty of neighborhoods with deed restrictions, choose them, don’t buy a falling down bungalow in a non-deed restricted neighborhood and then complain someone opens a beer joint next door.

  • Commosense is right. While he and his friends laugh all the way to the bank, the COH and swamplotters chear them on like conquering heroes.

  • Wasp! “Just because you can…”, how funny you said that- it’s my internal response each time these vultures tell us “the law is on our side, the elected officials are on our side”, blah, blah, blah. Sure funny how many comments my opinion, which “doesn’t carry much weight”, generated.

  • I am less than convinced by the line of argumentation being presented here. Ok, so with minimal government it all falls on the developers. I get that. But how does that help your case if the quality of life is this bad (in the relative sense)?

    Places with better quality of life – are their developers just better people? Is that really the case you are all trying to make? Or are you willing to acknowledge that good or bad the government has a role in at least some part of this?

  • ZAW, many of the vacant lots are either in an area where no one with money wants to live, or are held by someone with an inflated sense of just how much the property is worth. Others are tied up in 50 years of unprobated heirship issues. There are reasons why you see large, $750k houses being built in Garden Oaks and the Heights and not in Ryon (Hardy and Collingsworth area). If people wanted to live in areas like Ryon, where properties are far less expensive, the developers would be all over it.

    As for Mel’s original complaint and desire to force redevelopment of existing buildings, that stance completely ignores the economics necessary to succeed. No developer is going to renovate and redevelop at a loss, regardless of the desires of the public. And those old buildings, especially the ones with more than 5 floors, are very hard to retrofit to codes governing life safety, ceiling height, etc. That was the case with the old Jeff Davis hospital on Allen Parkway – it was built in such a way to make renovation to current standards nearly impossible.

  • Yes, like lemmings to the Sea, Mel. When we moved back to Houuston I really thought about just picking West U or the Villages and be some with Houston, but I’ve never liked those neighborhoods, the villages are a sea of inane cul de sacs searching for some character and West U is McMansions squeezed onto paper thin lots meant for 40’s middle class tract homes so I chose Southhampton, its always been my favorite neighborhood and I’ve become active in trying to save the area from unscrupulous developers (oxymoron I know). ZAW is right as always you have to change things neighborhood by neighborhood.

  • Uh, dozens of parks? Esplanades? No new parks. Esplanades from the early 1900s and haven’t been maintained since. Face reality. This city is a dump. Provided by your City of Houston Administration and your tax dollars. Oh right, tax dollars are going to the Fireman’s and Police pensions.

  • Commonsense is no hero; he is a partisan troll that inadvertently does more damage than benefit on Swamplot with respect to his own self interests. Although…at times I’ve been tempted to believe that he is a mole, riling up people that would then be inclined to turn around and take political action.

    But I could say the same for you too, Mel.

    The rhetoric on here gets pretty acrid (and it doesn’t help that the Swamplot writers seem at times to enjoy baiting the worst offenders). There are a lot of people that are willing to raise and address substantive concerns, to examine underlying causes; and then there are people that lazily bash the issue to death with empty and cliched bitching.

    ZAW, I’m going to use you as an example of the converse. You and I have very different perspectives, but we are often capable of having productive and informed debate. I’d like to thank you for that. I’m sure that our discourse doesn’t generate as many pageviews though.

  • Zaw- the other day, I read a comment complaining about unfair it is that investors like him have to comply with building codes and regulations and another complaing about how there just isn’t enough profit to be made flipping historic-designated properties and that he or she should be able to tear them down because it is cheaper to just build new. In response to that, I wrote my ranting comment. I did include real estate investors (as well as COH’s complicity in this whole mess with its failures to enforce or give teeth to what little weak and often ignored developer-friendly “restrictions” we have in place) in that anti-vulture rant.

    I hear what you are saying (or rather read what you wrote), but architects aren’t the ones converting single family residential neighborhoods into overpriced and cheaply built beehives.

    And yes, I am overgeneralizing- I am sure there are “good” developers and investors out there who actually have pride in their work, create a quality product and add to the surrounding community.

    Anyway, I am tired of watching the “bad” developers clear an affordable single family residence off a single lot and then cram onto that same lot as mant $500k+ four story cardboard townhouses as physics will allow. I am tired of these same developers whining about the minimal restrictions we have in place. And I am tired of the attitude of, “You don’t like that I am turning your community into my profit center? Move to the Woodlands”.

    Also, I mispelled cheer above and probably lots of words in this comment. Oops.

  • Mel, I’m gonna take a wild guess and assume you used to happily live in Windsor Place apartments paying $275 a month in rent for 20 plus years. Then HEB showed up and built a beautiful Lake Flato designed much needed grocery store. Unfourtantey they bulldozed your rented home and a lot of beautiful trees in the process.

    Mel, I suggest you find a cute, historically significant small apartment complex and buy it. Something like Isabella Court on Main Street or one of those cool small 20 unit mid century moderns on Branard street in the Montrose. Do it, then you will control your historic destinity. Build a community of like minded individuals and you can be the boss and the landlord. You will be the king! You can live there forever and never sell to a geeedy developer. That’s the American dream right?

    That’s what I’d do but something tells me you’re just trolling and looking for attention. All talk and no action.


  • We received a 30 day notice last month to move out of our duplex when the grown-up River Oaks children of our longtime landlord inherited his properties. They have tried several stunts in the last couple weeks to shooo us out early – even had Urban Living, the prospective buyer, give us a call to lean on us a little.

    Sounds like vulture activity to me… or what would you call it?

  • @markd, it all depends what your lease agreement says. If you still have a long time left on the lease and no “sale to 3rd party” clause then it’s a douche move on their part. If you’re on a month to month or have the “30 day to move out if we sell clause” then, well, gotta move, Kemosabe.

  • @markd

    It’s called living in a housing bubble. If they are too impatient to wait 30 days then something somewhere is out of whack.

  • Markd- sounds like vultures, er, free market community improvement.

  • Mel – I feel your pain. Cramalot development really is distasteful. What’s ironic is that to accommodate more newcomers, they’re destroying the very thing that makes the neighborhoods so attractive to newcomers – their character and history.
    This is why I lament the weakness of architects. Developers understand the numbers. They know what to pay for a piece of land, what to pay for the building and what to put into it, and they know what to sell the units for. We architects studied know how to design and build. But we also study history and urban design. We know what makes a good neighbor and we know how to get there. The touble is, too many of my colleagues just sit back and do whatever their clients tell them. They don’t lead their clients to be better neighbors.
    Commonsense – you can’t be 100% sure what areas will become slums and what areas won’t, but if you know what to look for, you can certainly have a good idea which ones stand a better chance at becoming slums. I think you know this, even though you would deny it – after all, by your own admission you very carefully chose to live in one of the Memorial Villages.
    That said, I have a question that I’ve been meaning to ask a Cramalot Developer: in 15 years, when nobody wants stainless steel appliances and nickel fixtures; when granite countertops have fallen out of favor – what do you think is going to happen to your developments? Aren’t you just a bit scared that people will start to see the real problems with these houses? The dizzying array of stairs. That odd little bedroom next to the garage on the ground floor. The lack of a yard. The fact that the master bedroom windows look out onto the neighbor’s hardiplank…. And if people start to see these problems, are you at all worried about what happens next?

  • Everyone agrees developers are only going to build when they won’t lose money and they generally play by the rules. The issue will always be the rules. Unless we make rules that support a better quality of life for everyone, then we will have an ugly city. The average person doesn’t have a choice to not “buy a falling down bungalow in a non-deed restricted neighborhood”. The average person has to buy from what exists. The market is created by the rules, not the consumer.

    The tough part is getting the elected officials to be a government for all the people and not for the people with the money. How you change that is the real question.

  • Thanks for the input, kids… just to clarify we were on month-to-month, with no clauses having to do with selling the property (I been here since ’01, neighbor lady been here since about ’85).

    The old man (RIP) was all about acquiring property, not liquidating property. I agree something is whacky about the urgency to get us out… but who knows with River Oaks grown-up children.

    I do know since Urban Living called me with their “suggestions”, I have seriously considered becoming a squatter, at least for awhile.

  • @ZAW, if stainless steel and granite go out of style it’ll be no different than the yellow and orange appliances of days past, the new homes will be built with whatever the new trends are and the old homes will be remodeled. If not remodeled they’ll hold out until the land becomes more valuable than the structure and then demolished. There’s nothing to fear or worry about, that’s how the housing cycle works.

    I still don’t get you question about knowing what will or will not become slums. If it’s already slums, then if I’m building in the area, I’m betting that it will improve. If it’s not slums now, how is me building a new home there will change it 20 years down the road? If anything it will improve it.
    It’s not like places become slums overnight, it takes decades for many various reasons.

  • @ZAW, PS. Blame all the weird stairs and bedroom locations on the architects, not the developers. Also, most architects are not AIA architects at all but “Home Designers” which is a word for a glorified draftsman with AutoCAD. In all honesty, the architects are way too low on the development totem pole to dictate anything to anyone.

  • #63- realizing we have a problem is the first step. Making the mayor and city hall realize they have a problem at the voting booth is next.

  • I disagree, I think the most successful developers: Hines, Randall Davis, do listen to their Architects. I’m sure the slum lord types and the quick buck vultures don’t listen to suggestions from anyone, it just build as cheaply as I can get away with. A developer that has disdain for the field of architecture is a developer who himself should be in another field. Good Comment Mel, you may break some Swamplot record for comments;)

  • So mel, doses that mean you support restrictions on tearing down existing structures, requiring that they be renovated within the existing footprint? Who decides whether a structure can be renovated economically? Does that matter to you? Shouldn’t your beef be with the consumers who are buying the “junk” right and left, not the developers who are building what the public wants?

  • @markd, well, if you were on month to month, I don’t see what’s so shocking about the owner’s actions.

    Having said that, since UL guy is mega douche, I think it would be hilarious if you try to squat.
    But it might not be as easy as you think because the property is going to be demolished. Because it will no longer be a rentable building, he’s not bound by certain real estate laws. Expect the water and sewer to be disconnected, no power to the comlplex (even if you try to keep your own service). If he really wants you out, he can come in and remove all the doors and break out all the windows and at the end of the day when bulldozers show up, there will be a couple of constables to remove you by force.
    But if you try, I think it would be hilarious and I’d love to hear about on Swamplot.

  • “The tough part is getting the elected officials to be a government for all the people and not for the people with the money. How you change that is the real question”.

    This statement is the crux of this thread. Developers cram townhouses on a lot because there is nothing stopping them from doing so. This City is gutless when it comes to regulations however mild they may be and the fear that development will move elsewhere is asinine. My God, look at San Francisco–development still happens because the market forces are there.

    It is beyond time to demand change and that means beating up Annise or her successor until he or she cries uncle.

  • And of course by beating up, I do not mean physically………

  • Commonsense – your answers speak volumes to your approach towards building. And honestly, it’s one that makes me shudder.
    It’s not just that you have such a negative view of architects, when a good architect would help you build better projects, for less money. It’s that you honestly don’t care what your developments be look like in 15 or 20 years.
    That’s the attitude that gave us Gulfton and the FM-1960 corridor. More than that, you might be in it short term, but the people who buy your houses are in it longer term. 5 years is the bare minimum to break even on a house you live in. 10, 15, or 20 years is better. A lot can change in a neighborhood in 20 years. And nobody wants to buy property in a neighborhood that’s at risk of changing for the worse.
    As I’ve said before, you know this – or you wouldn’t have bought your own home in one of the Memorial Villages. It’s shocking to me that you don’t expect the people buying your houses to know it, too.

  • @commonsense –
    property will not close unless vacant…

  • It really does begin at City Hall. It will be extremely diffult to change Houston’s Laisez-faire attitude, the city is bizarrely proud of its lack of zoning and its almost non existant rules of development. People have been brainwashed to believe that Houston can’t grow if these rules are changed, that somehow the city will be transformed into Detriot over night (a city ironically very well laid out and planned). This of course is ridiculous but that’s what the power brokers here will lead you to believe and why wouldn’t they, the city has been their Laboratory for years and look that they’ve created….Frankenstein

  • @markd, in that case you’re in a much better position. It may take up to 6 month to evict a person depending on how you fight the system. I think they’ll probably throw some money your way quickly.

  • Developers in Houston have woken up a sleeping giant. The people in River Oaks and Southampton make the rules, they ARE Houston. I have to hand it to Hines, they really tried to slide their tower in under the wire and placate the River Oaks establishment instead they infuriated them because these are some of the smartest people in Houston they knew Hines was just looking for PR cover, now everyone is upset. Look for major changes in rules in the next 5 years, messing with Southhampton was one thing but River Oaks?…. Not smart

  • Ross- I assume your question was rhetorical, but just in case, I support historic preservation and the historic commission.

  • Ross, I have no beef with the poor souls that purchase and inhabit these townhouses/condos. My issue is with the developers who put them there. Also, its a fallacy that the “market” demands expensive but cheaply constructed ugly homes crammed onto matchbox lots. Low stock in a hot housing market is the cause and probably the effect.

    Commonsense- agreed on urban living. Interesting that their name is mud in developer circles, too.

    Markd- forcible detainer is your friend.

    JT – agreed. Also, the city is afraid of bankrupting itself litigating against developers. I’d love to see some quid tam actions brought- that is if the city building codes, permitting and historic district regs actually had some teeth.

  • Commonsense has a truly toxic worldview.

    His Texas cowboy approach is what gave us the very worst developments in Houston. If Houston has a bad image nationwide (and it does!) it’s because of people like commonsense.

    Luckily, Houston’s moving beyond his narrow, selfish view. People are wanting more walkability, a more livable city, and better quality. I sincerely hope his type of developer gets railroaded out of town or goes out of business. We need to demand better quality from our developers.

  • To repeat: Most agree that Houston’s best, prettiest, and most desirable areas include Hermann Park, River Oaks, Rice (Southampton, Shadyside, etc), Montrose, Woodland Heights, etc; and what do they all have in common? Those areas are planned and mostly have deed restrictions (regulations) in place.
    The most desirable cities (based on the price of real estate), NYC and SFO are the two most heavily regulated and restricted building environments in the country. Yet, many Houstonians and “developers” like Commonsense swear that restrictions and regulations will stifle and kill development. Someone please alert the developers in NYC that the $3000/Sq ft they are getting for condos is a myth. Houstonians are suckers, the “no zoning/planning is ideal mantra” is a farce, and developers do indeed laugh all the way to the bank at Houstonians’ ignorance.
    By the way, I’m all for density, especially inside the loop where thousands of plots sit empty or underdeveloped. My issue is with the sloppy, careless, and unplanned nature of the development here. The COH can’t/won’t even try to coordinate major projects from block to block leaving us with disjointed sidewalks, a mishmash of utility poles, and an almost laughable number of curb cuts on every block. Street-level retail for two blocks, then none for three blocks, then one, does not a walkable cityscape make; but it’s what we allow.
    It would cost many of these developments less than 1% to coordinate these things better, but they don’t have to (like they do in most major cities) so they don’t. Instead, taxpayers pick up the tabs through CIP bonds when the COH goes in to correct these problems in 20 years – if ever.
    For instance, if developers had been required to invest in more infrastructure in the Washington Ave area to aid in rebuilding the streets, adding sidewalks, burying utilities; the cost of homes may have increased 5%, which would not have affected sales one iota. The result would have been significantly more livable and beautiful streets and neighborhoods AND increased property values for buyers and developers.
    Instead the area is an ugly, but convenient to downtown mess and the COH will eventually spend many times more in CIP funds to do these same things many years from now.
    Planning is not a bad thing.
    Houston is short-sighted, poorly managed, and wastes almost every opportunity to make itself better at the lowest cost, which isn’t good for anyone’s investments long term. This latest energy boom won’t last forever, and we’ll be left with the crap we’re building now.

  • Speaking of Urban Living, I feel for the homeowners on Peden at Taft, I think I counted four, new UL signs – each with a different UL “shell” company touting a new development – that should be 12 new garages of Range Rovers by my calculations.

    Six to 9 months of misery awaits the nice bungalow sandwiched in between.

  • @Mel, @Commonsense, thanks for the inputs… I guess UrbanLiving does live up to their D-bag reputation.

  • SIlly, @MW, you still don’t see it. If people want walkability, livable city, ground floor retail, I AM building that. Where they want it, we build it, where they don’t want it we don’t. If you live in an area where majority of people don’t want it, then it doesn’t get built and no amount of regulation can force something onto a market that doesn’t want something.

    There’s not a person, group, or entity in existence that has the skills, experience, and qualifications to regulate a “perfect city”, that is why organic growth (with successes AND failures) is the best self correcting system in existence.

  • If planning and land use restrictions are so bad, and would wreck havoc on our free market system, why do master planned communities like The Woodlands, Kingwood, and others survive and thrive?
    Today’s headlines says that 8 of the nation’s largest master planned communities are in metro Houston. You could argue that their popularity is because some people don’t want to live in the chock a block developed city proper.

  • I am FOR master planned communities. People chose to build them, people choose to buy in them. They come wit their benefits and their downside, but once again, it’s a matter of choice. The only problem I have is people who deliberately chose not to live in a deed restricted community and then spend years of bitching and whining about every thing that goes on there.
    Want restrictions and architectural control, move to a master planned community or one with at least deed restrictions. Want the urban grunge, weirdos, and spontaneous development, pick any number of inner city neighborhoods.

  • #54, why wouldn’t tax dollars go to Police and Fire Pensions ?

  • @WASP & @Mel,

    I truly feel sorry for you both, and those that must endure your negativity on a daily basis.

  • This thread is probably pretty much done, but here’s my 2 cents. Yes, Houston has a large amount of ugly: power lines, more power lines, streets that will destroy your car’s suspension or break your ankle, ridiculous insertion of contemporary construction adjacent charming 100-year old homes – as a New Orleans real estate agent asked me a few years ago touring the Heights and Montrose areas ‘What the f#%k is this?’ We’re like the ugly brother or sister with a great personality. Creative, friendly, but, folks, we are still ugly.

  • Thanks, comment 88. I appreciate the baseless attack. I can only assume you took my post personally.

  • Comment #81, Jon, sums it up pretty well.

    The general public is lead to believe they cant afford the nicer planned areas. However, when the costs are shared properly it is not a lot more and I think most people would chose that option, but it is unfortunately not an option to most people.

    There is nothing more anti-american than saying “if you don’t like it, move.” How about “if you don’t like it, change it”?