Light Rail Construction and the Gorillas’ Last Stand

LIGHT RAIL CONSTRUCTION AND THE GORILLAS’ LAST STAND The latest idea from Metro: Create official signs, flags, and banners for businesses along light-rail construction routes, to show they’re still in business, and to guide cars into open parking areas. Only problem? “Some of the proposed flags would flutter afoul of the city’s newly tightened sign ordinance, which bans certain types of ‘attention-getting devices.’ City Council may have to approve a small change in the city’s sign law to allow temporary banners to stay up for longer than the allotted seven out of 30 days, according to city public works official Andy Icken. . . . The city’s new sign ordinance kicks in on Jan. 1. It bans the giant inflatable balloon animals and other eye-catching gizmos that you often see on Houston’s highways and roads. So enjoy the giant ‘For Sale’ gorillas while you can. Also, the dancing wind socks along the side of the road, the silver and blue streamers at car dealerships, and the other pennants, pinwheels and puppets meant to pull your gaze from the road to the roadside.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

21 Comment

  • My message to the giant inflatable gorillas, dogs and muscle men…good riddance!

    Those things are so trashy.

  • I’m watching progress on Harrisburg and am getting used to navigating around it by using Canal and Polk, which are secondary thoroughfares that parallel Harrisburg. I’m sure that many people are doing the same, dramatically reducing the traffic count in sections that are being worked on.
    ‘If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s there to hear it, did it make a sound?’

  • In a perverse way I will miss the “sui generis” inflatable county prisoner on the roof of James Bonds.

  • The stupid sign law needs to be repealed especially the new changes. I would gladly be a patron of businesses that stick the finger up on this ordinance.

    How petty someone must be to focus on an inflatable gorilla or other eye catching devices a “FEEL” they need an ordinance to take care of it?

  • Petty for not wanting your home to look like hillbilly heaven?

    It’s about time people of this city stood up and demanded change to the blight that is sadly so perverse here. Things like this have a negative effect on property values in this city, add to the overall poor image of Houston and, ultimately, lowers the quality of life for Houston residents.

    If the elected government of this city finally trying to clean up some of the visual blight of Houston is such a problem for you, I invite you to move to some unincorporated area out in the burbs. There you are welcome celebrate inflatable animals, large obnoxious signs and park your rusted out truck on your front lawn.

  • Yes,

    And those businesses and jobs will go to the unincorporated areas also where they have the freedom to advertise.

    I still don’t understand how an inflatable gorilla ruins your “quality of life.” Your life must be sweet if these things are such a concern to you.

  • I’m not sure that a migration of jobs to the unincorporated suburbs would be a measurable impact, but CERTAINLY there will be an adverse impact on sales tax collections within the City of Houston if businesses here aren’t allowed to advertise as effectively as businesses in neighboring areas. Auto dealerships in particular generate a high volume of tax revenues and use these mechanisms heavily.
    It’s just not wise fiscal policy for a City with a looming financial crisis.

  • It reduces property values which reduces the quality of life for residents of the city who own property.

    Your migration argument is ridiculous and could apply to anything. Public decency laws prevent movie rental stores from placing a huge picture of a topless movie star on top of their store. Are you against that regulation as well? Heck,

    I would imagine that would be a great, eye-catching technique for any business! But it is banned because it effects the quality of life of residents. Is that “petty?”

  • ARP,

    What is your evidence of this? I don’t seem to recall the home prices in Jersey Village plummeting every time the Joe Meyers dealerships put up all the stuff for their sales.

    In the end, you are basing this on feelings and emotions regarding the appearance. Hardly something laws should be based upon. And yes, I know we already have “stupid” laws that are based upon looks and appearances.

  • If the elected government of this city finally trying to clean up some of the visual blight of Houston is such a problem for you…

    Well they might concentrate on those tacky yellow signs all over Southampton and Boulevard Oaks if they want to clean up visual blight…

  • And if you are stupid enough to believe the city council passed this ordinance because of “quality of life” and all that buzz word B.S., then you haven’t followed this at all.

    The people that pushed for and promoted this ordinance are big campaign donors. They aren’t your typical civic association types that deal with local neighborhood concerns. The mayor put this up and the city council members that voted for this didn’t want to lose campaign cash. Something that is important if your are going to run for higher office.

    The other part of this ordinance is that it won’t do what it intended. All existing signs that are up aren’t coming down. A lot of businesses aren’t going to heed the ordinance either. But all that doesn’t matter, city council members and the former mayor can say they fought for “quality of life.”

  • Because most normal cities regulate this type of trash and have rules and regulations on architecture, signage, lighting and visual blight. And they have higher property values than we do because they are nicer, more attractive and visually appealing communities. You might call this “petty” but normal people take into account the feel and visual appeal of the neighborhood (among other things) when they choose to buy a house. You might enjoy the “trailer park” vibe but most people (including me) do not.

    And just because the initial law isn’t completely effective, that doesn’t mean this is not a step in the right direction. We can tweak the law to make it more effective. You, on the other hand, don’t want any action taken on this in the first place and, from your “stupid laws” comment, want to allow more blight and obnoxious (even obscene) garbage in this city. Thankfully, the city finally starting to turn away from the ideologues like yourself.

  • “And they have higher property values than we do because they are nicer, more attractive and visually appealing communities.”

    Houston has lower housing values because we have supply. We don’t restrict housing supply like most cities causing the price to go up.

  • @ ARP: Let’s say that your hypothesis holds true that signage laws within the City of Houston keep housing prices throughout the metro area suppressed as compared to most other major cities. It’s absurd, but let’s assume it to be true anyways. Why would you **WANT** to decrease housing affordability in the Houston area? That’d seem like a step in the wrong direction on many different levels. This should be something that we can all agree on, conservative, liberal, or independent.

  • Niche and kjb-

    First, I think it is hardly “absurd” that visual blight depresses property values. If you live in a neighborhood and a store owner places a giant inflatable gorilla on the roof of their building that you can see from your home, that is going to effect the price a potential buyer would pay for the property. The same would occur if someone put up a giant neon sign. A similar (but admittedly less dramatic effect) would occur if this type of clutter was found a block away , down the street or near one’s neighborhood. This is just common sense.

    Now to the argument that higher property values is a bad thing…well, again, that’s a new one. Communities with higher property values are more stable and more wealthy. It is a sign of the vitality of the community and a common economic indicator that the economy of a city, region, country is on the uptick. Compare Detroit’s property values to say, Seattle’s and you will see that property values and quality of life go hand-in-hand.

    Additionally, people that buy into communities with higher property values have a greater incentive to invest in the long term viability of the community and its quality of life because they have put more of their hard earned money into the purchase. This leads to a less transient community, better services, better quality of life, etc.

  • I started typing out a reasoned counterargument and got about two paragraphs into it before I realized that there’s nothing that I can say to a person that is satisfactory if that person is trying to compare the effects of policy on home values in Houston, Detroit, and Seattle. That person either doesn’t know the difference between correlation and causation or is arguing in bad faith and hopes that his opponent doesn’t. One way or another, that person isn’t worth my time.

  • Niche-

    If it isn’t worth your time, then why did you post anything in the first place?

    Anyway, as a final point on property values, I would point out that about a year ago many in Houston were pointing out the fact that property values were holding their value better in Houston and arguing this is a sign that the economy was fundamentally sound at that time. I believe such arguments were made on this very website.

    And I would agree with them, increasing and higher property values are a sign that the economy of the area is strong.

    Higher property values are a good thing, Niche, not a bad thing as you seemed to suggest.

  • And our property values remained strong despite the 800 lb balloon gorilla on a building. Imagine that!

  • They were still lower than other major markets, even after the crash.

  • Being lower and remaining strong are two different things.

    Our market may have overall lower property values, but they don’t fluctuate to the degree like other markets. Unless you are trying to flip a house/property or you see your dwelling as a purely investment tool, properties going higher isn’t a concern.

    Lower property values doesn’t mean the property is worse than than a similar property in another market. Many areas of the country you can purchase a house for $450k, and then come to Houston and get the same house in a similar neighborhood for $200k.

    You can also look at areas of Houston that have stringent sign requirements. Sugar Land is a municipal entity with stringent sign requirements. The property values for similar homes in similar neighborhoods throughout the region are about the same price. The Woodlands is an example of the development that has similar rules to Sugar Land. Their homes values aren’t much different than similar properties in the rest of the region.