Menil Collection Wins Special Approval from City of Houston To Pave Less

MENIL COLLECTION WINS SPECIAL APPROVAL FROM CITY OF HOUSTON TO PAVE LESS Planned Changes to Menil Collection, Showing Boundaries of Special Parking Area, Montrose, HoustonWith the approval granted by city council today, the 30-acre campus surrounding the Menil Collection now qualifies as Houston’s first-ever special parking area. The new status will allow the Menil to provide just 1.8 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. of gallery, bookstore, and classroom space within the district, rather than the 3 per 1,000 sq. ft. normally required under city ordinances. The rules would apply on the blocks bounded by W. Alabama, Mandell, Richmond, and Yupon and Graustark. A plan delineating these boundaries included in a parking study conducted for the Menil (above) shows — among other additions provided for in the institution’s new master plan — a new park on the middle portion of the site of the Richmont Square Apartments, immediately south of the Menil Drawing Institute, now under construction along an eastward extension of W. Main St. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Plan: Lockwood, Andrews, and Newnam (PDF) 

64 Comment

  • GOOD! Better would be to let people decide how much space they want for parking — but at least this is a step in the right direction.

  • Oh great, more of these “urban types” trying to create hassles for all of us that have to drive in to town to see all of the things Houston has to offer. Look parking rules were created for a reason, and that reason was to benefit the most convenient mode of transportation to get around this city. I choose to live in Houston and not New York, San Francisco, or Chicago because I enjoy the freedom having my own car provides. I get ‘being urban’ and walking places is the new “in-thing” but this is TEXAS, it will never happen here and we like it that way!

  • It is nice to see this Menil campus and the MFAH campus inching toward each other. Easily less than a mile on foot. It would be great to see one more large art/museum/gallery space between them on Montrose Blvd. When combined, these make a world class arts destination unique to Houston.

    Now close your eyes and imagine if that CVS on the corner of Montrose/Richmond could be bought out by either one of these museums……

  • Oh great, more of these “suburban types” trying to tell us urban types how it should be. You choose to live in the suburbs with your acres of parking lots and cul de sacs and chain stores and tract homes. We choose to live in a denser albeit quirkier environment. It’s a trade off. Quitcherbellyaching! –at least you can drive in to the new inner loop Olive Garden on 59 and have 500 parking spots from which to choose.

  • Dan, you and yours probably ARE in the majority– and you can have the whole damn rest of the city.
    Just let us have our little pocket of walkable cool stuff and you can drive around the perimeter.

  • So wait. How is a “Special Parking Area” different than a Parking Variance? Is it a new name for the same thing? Different procedures?
    I still think we should have Parking Districts that work like MUDs and LIDs – where a non-profit is set up, builds a garage, and people in the district pay to use spaces there to meet their parking requirement. All of these programs seem to be leaning towards that, but it’d take the State passing legislation to get it done.

  • Truly, we must have entered revolutionary times in Houston. What’s next? 1.6 car spaces per 1000 sq. ft. for some new project in Midtown? Unthinkable!

  • Glad to see this happen. Just wish the process wasn’t so cumbersome. I’d like to see more incentive for developers to build independent parking structures so as to allow unaffiliated retail and restaurants to avoid providing their own on-site parking.

  • @Dan Scott Nice One Tree Hill Reference Bro!

  • Funny how they’ll spend $ in lobbying to get this and instead not erect a semi-decent pre-fab garage like UST did. But “they are non-profit” etc. That is BS. What is happening now is *not* was Dominique wanted. It’s BS. It’s not the nestled community she wanted; they are acting in the utmost divisive means against that. There is no parking. Museum Visitors have to utilize parking that area residents *NEED*. This is not “we menil want to be your friendly neighbors”. It’s “we’re menil and we can get away with just whatever we like (oh, and we’re a poor non-profit… etc)” BS.
    Sorry, Cody: I predict that, so they can reclaim the ability to PARK, the area residents will request permit street-parking, get it, and, you know what? Nobody and not anybody will be happy nor gain from the Menil’s stupid and mislead master-desire to withhold accommodating reality.

  • @JT: the trouble is that you urban types have a monopoly on most of the cultural and entertainment venues. Museums, galleries, theaters, opera, symphony, baseball, football, soccer, zoo, aquarium…. So us suburban types often come in to town to partake in those. And when we do, thanks to Houston’s general pigheadedness about transit, we need to park our cars.
    Ever try to go to Zoo Lights? Nightmare if you don’t arrive early.

  • For the people who are complaining (ahem, Dan), the Menil has more than enough parking, not that one singular lot on W. Alabama. The campus is extremely large, and god forbid that you have to walk a few blocks from your car to any of the area buildings.

  • Hey suburban troll: you aren’t required to have good bike racks and transit options out in your blasted wasteland to allow me to comfortably visit you. We aren’t required to accommodate your single-occupant mobile living room in here where the nice things are. Seems fair to me.

  • “Houston’s first-ever special parking area” …but we don’t have nor voted for zoning right?!?!?!

  • ZAW: “Ever try to go to Zoo Lights? Nightmare if you don’t arrive early.”
    Not really. I walk to the rail station by my house and zip on down there. :) but seriously, lots of ways to avoid trying to park at Herman. We never drive there.

  • That’s what the City is calling it now.The bureaucracy keeps morphing !!! Kill it before it eats the whole county !!!

  • These special parking area, claim the street area, in order to meet city requirements.
    So, if a neighborhood, wanted to get permit parking, those streets in the SPA, are all ready taken.

  • Just don’t pretend to be a good person, Sid, when you hog all the nice stuff and refuse to let other people use it. And please, please, at least try to understand what’s going on in cities. We’re building beautiful walkable urban cores (which I’m all for), but for whom? All of our efforts at Complete Streets are confined to rich urban neighborhoods. The rift between the haves and the have-nots is growing; not just in terms of wealth but in terms of urban environment. Homes in walkable neighborhoods are increasingly out of reach not only for the poor, but for middle class families as well. And this isn’t just happening at the urban core. Prices for condos in walkable, suburban places like Sugar Land Town Center are astronomical.
    Now let me clarify. I am NOT a proponent of surface-lot parking. It’s hot, it wastes land, and it’s antithetical to a functioning, walkable neighborhood. The right answer, as I’ve said over and over again, is communal PARKING GARAGES!

  • Menil has tons of street parking so it’s not a problem, but we shouldn’t want to eliminate the parking requirement altogether. Perhaps lighten the restrictions and allow more to get by without, but this path quickly leads to permitted parking for neighborhoods which is not a desirable solution anymore than 3 per 1,000sqft is.

  • oh Cody, if only we could all be rich enough to live in-town and be zoned to good schools.

  • I like the plan as it allows the residents to participate in their area’s development.
    The City is clearly trying to allow this type of parking allowance so that a more “urban” setting can develop but it won’t happen in areas where lots of NIMBYs live as they’ll protest the idea of more “strangers” parking on their streets. So the dense areas will become a bit denser and the single family nabes will become a bit more suburban with their big parking lots, except in rare areas like where the Menil is and they own 80% of the land. It will also allow for quicker gentrification in areas like the East End around between Harrisburg and Canal where it’s single family but isn’t a NIMBY haven.

  • LOL, lets continue to reduce parking in the name of urbanization but not work on mass transit and see how far we get. Houston’s transportation situation is laughable and everyone screaming for more walkable neighborhoods seems to forget that a large percentage of the people that patronize these areas still have to drive there. Parking is already horrendous in Montrose……. Living in the Museum District and driving to Montrose is a mess sometimes just looking for parking.

  • Yes, sounds like the residents of the neighborhood who are close enough to walk want the museum all to themselves. This is pretty exclusionary even to other inner loopers. Put a garage in their, tuck it away discreetly and let people bring their kids on the weekend from all over town. The museum will otherwise have to take street parking which the neighbors will then try to get turned into permit only parking, preventing millions of people from enjoying this. Just be responsible and put in a garage.

  • As long as this “Special Parking Area” precludes the ability of residents within it to receive permit parking, I’m all for it. Increase the utilization of street parking, and reduce space wasted on huge parking lots.

    IMO, resident-only permit parking has no place in Houston. 99% of residential areas in Houston have garages, or at least off-street parking available, so what justification do residents have to claim that on-street parking is “theirs”?

  • This is a weird debate. I’m a big fan of sprawl, but it doesn’t make sense to impose sprawl (in the form of subsidized parking that encourages private car use) on areas that are becoming more dense. People in the outer ring are upset that people in the middle aren’t guaranteeing them a place to park near the central attractions, but those central attractions exist in part due to density (and fewer parking places) in the middle.
    The other weird part about this debate is that I don’t see parking being a big problem at the Menil, even with the new “special parking area”. It’s just not that popular a destination for drivers most of the time. Are y’all just bored at work and looking for something argue about?

  • I used to walk daily in that area 20 years ago– most homes have a driveway–even the new ones I’m sure, if not a garage–there were very few residents parking on the street (a friend and I used to walk for exercise around 5:30 / 6:00 am, so it wasn’t like most people were out and about at work yet). The residents are not trying to exclude non-residents–I’m sure they would love to have street parking available on weekends and evenings when they have guests.
    Parking garages and better public transportation to and from the outlying parts of the city and burbs would be ideal.

  • I don’t recall suburbanites lobbying TXDOT or their elected representatives to include commuter rail in the 290 expansion plans. Also, judging from the results of the Montgomery County road bond election, many suburbanites don’t want wider roads to make their commute easier either. So please don’t complain when the city you don’t even live in doesn’t require a (somewhat sparsely attended) museum to have acres of parking for people to drive 30 miles to in their personal vehicle.

  • Memebag, I can’t think of a single in-town central attraction that has been a result of increasing density. What ones are you thinking of? They were all placed their due to accessibility (central part of town), not density. You can’t now turn it around and say that these central attractions are only getting better due to surrounding density with complete lack of regard as to accessibility. This conversation isn’t about the Menil at all, but about where it could lead to with those living near central attractions thinking parking minimums have no place in an urban society. For restaurants, bars, retail and the like I’d totally agree with you, but not any organization that receives any form of grants, funding or special tax priviliges from the city such as Menil and all other museums do.

  • I was surprised that there wouldn’t be adequate parking once Richmond Manor is down; it seemed to me there would be plenty of room off Richmond for parking. And, a parking lot doesn’t have to be solid concrete; it can and should be permeable.

  • For all the people speculating about whether the residents will be awarded permit parking – all those residents (90%) are renting from … THE MENIL FOUNDATION. so… probably won’t be a problem

  • The debate isn’t just specific to the Menil, its about the potential ramifications / future use of these “special parking areas” that are burdensome to others that don’t live in the immediate area. Houston is an auto based city, and reducing parking requirements isn’t going to magically change the fact that people need/will/desire to use cars in this city. Mass transit will help but I’m sure people will complain about that altering their neighborhood next. This isn’t also confined to suburbanites either, people living in the loop outside of this area will be affected as well.

  • Memebag: you’re assuming that car=sprawl. I’m not sure that’s the case. I was astonished to discover that there are actually more places to walk to from our new house in Sugar Land, than there were from our house near Westbury in Houston. I kid you not. We can walk to a pet store now, a Chinese restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, a pizza place, Kolaches, several fast food joints, our bank, a drug store, a gas station…. The list goes on. My wife and I partook in one too many Margaritas at supper on our last date night. We walked home! Just like we used to when we were dating and lived in Montrose!
    I can’t help but think how amazingly awesome it would be if I could also walk to a commuter rail station, and take the train in to Houston! But, barring that, I’ll take the next best thing, which is to drive into some walkable part of Houston park our car, and spend the day. If only the people living there would let me park, instead of passive-aggressively making it clear suburbanites like me aren’t welcome.

  • Somebody was complaining about driving from the Museum District to Montrose. You know that’s a 10-15 minute bike ride at most, right? If it’s raining out and you don’t want to bike in the rain, well, you’re in luck because that keeps a lot of people from driving too.

    If you *need* to drive somewhere because you literally can’t walk or bike, good news again, you can get a handicapped parking tag that will allow you access to many exclusive parking spots.

    We need more of these special parking zones, not less. Any parking ordinance that causes there to be oceans of empty concrete parking lots all over the inner city at any point of day or night is absurd. There are places that need more parking, yes, and I hope the city can make it easier for businesses to share and co-fund parking garage space. I sometimes drive to a lot of silly places too, like East Downtown or Montrose from Cottage Grove. I just don’t freak out when I can’t find a parking space within 20 yards of my destination.

  • Joel: my house in Montrose cost about what a nice house in the burbs would cost. And the first place I bought in Montrose (Townhome) was less than a modest single family outside the loop. Because to be that was a good trade off. I gave up a big house in the burbs to live where I wanted to live. Downside is my house has only 1.5 baths and needed some work as it’s 100 years old. But yeah, I get to walk to places so for me it was worth it.
    And my kids are not quite school age but I never considered Montrose to be zoned to gret schools? Maybe I’m wrong there.

  • Laughable – I’ll agree with you on your point about this NOT being a suburbs vs inner-loop issue. I used to live in West U, and I’d occasionally walk to the grocery store or bike to Rice Village (or use the bus when my truck was in the shop), but the other 99.3% of my trips, even those within the loop, were by auto. I imagine that the same can be said for all but most-dedicated urbanites inside the loop. In fact, even if our public transportation infrastructure was far better, and our traffic was far worse, I’d venture that the vast majority of folks would still drive.

    I’ll also agree that there are plenty of places (entertainment districts, etc) where street parking won’t cut it, and where minimum parking requirements serve a valid purpose of minimizing time that patrons need to waste circling the streets to find a parking spot. If it’s parking lots/garages vs permit or metered parking, I’ll take lots/garages any day. But in this application (a museum surrounded by a residential area where nearly all residences have off-street parking), I’d argue that this parking area was a bright idea that effectively provides plenty of museum parking at the lowest opportunity cost.

  • @joel: I didn’t say “increasing density”, I said “density”. All of the central attractions exist in part due to the density of the middle of Houston. That density provides customers. Less density, fewer customers, fewer attractions. And no one is advocating “complete lack of regard as to accessibility.” The special parking area still requires 1.8 spaces per 1,000 sq ft.
    @Laughable: People inside the loop (and inside the Beltway) have more access to mass transit. If you live in the Heights, lets say, there’s a bus that runs every 20 minutes to Richmond and Mandell. There are even buses from Westbury (aka the Bestbury) on a reasonable schedule. If you want to go to the museum and there’s no place to park, please take the bus.

  • @ZAW: I’m not assuming “car=sprawl”. Sprawl on the scale of the Houston Metro Area depends on a large automobile infrastructure. You could probable get something similar with mass transit, but it would be very, very hard. Your example of the walkability of your part of Sugar Land isn’t relevant, other than the fact that if all of the destinations you can currently walk to would be harder to reach if they offered more parking.

  • No self-respecting inside-the-looper will take a bus (this isn’t sarcasm). Light rail is the only viable option and it’s not going to happen. As someone stated above, build vertical, not lateral re parking. This isn’t hard folks.

    Biking 10-15 minutes? Maybe 2-3 months out of the year. We’re not a city that is amenable to biking/walking due to the climate. Get real.

  • You could get sprawl on a rail-scale. Study history, Memebag. New York City at the end of the 19th Century was the poster-child for rail-driven urban sprawl. New Orleans, too. And Boston. Most big cities that experienced growth at the end of the 19th Century, experienced rail-driven sprawl.
    The point about Walkability is an important one, too, because parking doesn’t HAVE to prevent walking. If the parking lots are properly designed, and smart use is made of garages, parking can easily be tucked away, and not in the way of a pleasant walkable environment. Of course it’s a big adjustment from the seas of parking and big box stores that have come to define most of Houston, but it’s not a totally unrealistic thing. City Centre. Sugar Land Town Center. Market Square in The Woodlands: they’ve all done it.
    The shopping center near our new home is a little unique in that it’s on a very long,skinny piece of land, which means wide, shallow parking lots – and that seems to work for Walkability, too.

  • @ZAW: I have studied a bit of history. Sprawl is almost as old as cities are. The Romans had sprawl without cars or trains. But none of that rail driven (or cart driven) sprawl comes close to what Houston has achieved. We’re the kings of sprawl, and we couldn’t have done it without our cars. The sprawl around all of those other places would feel claustrophobic to us.

  • As the Minil owns ALL the property in that area they could opt to take the streets private and do what they want anyway.

    Think, people, think!

  • To address those that have asserted “there’s plenty of parking” and to tie into the SPA “area” ergo can’t permit. I am referring to not just the so-called Menil Campus, but around it, too. I suppose 100% or nearly of the households/etc. in the SPA are Menil-owned. And Menil rents multiple properties outside of that– like on Branard and Sul Ross. On the other side is UST which saturates the streets from August through May. So, here it is: you have all of the Menil residents and their guests parking (in their driveways and in front of their homes). You have UST students taking up whatever’s left. Then you have all of the visitors that cannot find a spot in the tinsy-tiny lot on W. Alabama and parking on the streets. And then so they park on Branard and Sul Ross and W. Main. And add Lowbrow to all of this… there simply really isn’t enough parking in the area NOR around it. What will happen is not Menil residents agreeing to permit parking– it’s the adjacent areas that will. The areas that are not in the SPA. So, the SPA is Menil’s effort to do anything but the right– and simple– thing. The Menil’s have been questioned by the civic association and refuse that a garage is remotely possible– and that’s simply BS.

  • Any blog, news, or social media post about Houston parking issues will inevitably outrank all others in comments. If we can’t all come together to solve our urban vs. suburban, where to park our giant metal boxes, or how to get around our habitats how are we ever going to solve climate change or other long term pervasive issues that require global cooperation and sacrifice?

  • Parking in Montrose and other popular urban core neighborhoods in Houston is going to get more difficult / expensive, no matter what the Menil does or doesn’t do. People residing in the urban core, or suburbanites who want to visit the urban core, who think they are owed an “easy drive, easy park” environment are indisputably wrong. Any attempts by the City to cater to such sentiment through regulation is (a) pointless and (b) bad policy. The City should allow the urban market to evolve, including in the manner in which the Menil is doing, albeit with even less bureaucratic process required (preferably with no on-site parking requirements at all).

    Over time, as the difficulty in driving and parking becomes ever more clear, those who just can’t deal with it will leave the area or quit visiting the area. There’s nothing wrong with that. They will be replaced by people who CAN deal with it – and I’m quite confident they’ll have just as much money as those who left. Furthermore, it will increase the pressure for (1) our urban culture to accept walking, biking, rideshare/taxi and transit as acceptable alternatives for accessing things they like or need to do and (2) our local governments to improve the infrastructure and services which cater to those modes. This is all to the good. Plus, if self-driving vehicles really happen, all that extra parking probably wouldn’t be needed anyway.

  • I think it’s hilarious that people think that they are owed a place to put a large machine wherever they go. Especially when they are going somewhere in the middle of a dense urban area where it’s quite easy to walk, take a bus, or catch a cab or Uber. So we’re supposed to pave over land and devote it a low-value activity (while still paying full price for it), reduce drainage of rainwater, create urban heat islands, etc. because you need to drag around two tons of metal and plastic everywhere you go? Grow up and pay your own way via parking fees, cab fare, etc.

  • I don’t know the finances of Menil but I”m assuming they’re sitting on a fat endowment and don’t really care, therefore they don’t care about attendances and turning a profit. If it were a business it would be a completely different story. A business cannot survive on a clientele that only lives within walking distance of it, you need to attract as many people as possible from all over town, and in Houston that means drive in customers from within the metro area…. and those people need easy and free parking.

  • Yes, parking structures are the obvious solution to providing more parking in less space in densifying areas. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make that happen in Houston.
    Let’s say you want to open a 5000 s.f. restaurant without providing your own off-street parking. Even if there is a parking structure within the 250 feet of your front door the ordinance requires, you have to lease 50 spaces in the garage for the exclusive use of your customers. This defeats the entire purpose of an independent centralized parking structure.
    It also eliminates any incentive to build such a structure, since every nearby business must provide its own parking anyway.

  • @ Commonsense: No question most businesses will want to have parking for the reason you describe. But that should be their decision, not the City’s. If they decide to risk it and go with less or no parking, that should be their prerogative. And before anyone squawks, overflow parking onto public streets is NOT a negative externality.
    @ Angostura: Common neighborhood parking facilities would be a highly beneficial economic development tool, but the City will have to alter its parking regulations to not require specifically dedicated spaces for every business, and not strictly add up the typical requirements for all property owners who wish to partake in the benefits of such a facility (not having to devote their own land to on-site parking or lease parking spaces elsewhere). Not to mention a financing mechanism (most specifically a pot of initial construction funding) will have to be found. A difficult exercise but not impossible and one which would have worthwhile benefits.

  • @Angostura: it really depends on whether the lease rate on those parking spaces is less than what the building owners get for having more leasable space in their buildings. This is really what it all boils down to. If you, as a building owner, can do away with parking on your site, you can build more square footage of building, and gross more rent income. Then you calculate the added cost for more building and other owner-costs to see if you’ll net more. Usually you do, or I as an architect wouldn’t constantly be in the middle of fights over this, between you all and the City Planning Department.
    @John (Another One) and Planner: Again, you would have a point, if our walkable downtown areas were accessible to everyone. But they aren’t. Housing is increasingly priced well beyond what average people can afford in these areas. Add the petulance towards transit in this town, and lots of people have no choice but to live miles away, and drive their cars in. It’s just the reality, and taking the stance of “oh boo hoo little car drivi poor people, you’ll just have to suffer” only makes you sound like an elitist asshole. You would be better to join the fight for improved transit, and let people park in the interim.

  • It’s not too surprising that the people arguing here have never been to the Menil. One: the Menil is a non-profit, so it’s not trying to make money. Two: it’s free! So y’all complaining that a free museum isn’t accommodating to your fragile sense of convenience is ridiculous. I wonder how many of the people griping about walking also wear fitbits.

    Even putting all that stuff about walkability aside, the Menil is rather unique in that expanding its square footage doesn’t really translate to more visitors or more cars. As it is, the Menil has more parking than it needs. Has anyone ever seen the Flavin lot full? They even rent some of their excess parking to Lowbrow and Revelry. Plus the residents in the area all live in Menil-owned housing, so that’s also not really an issue.

  • Also the Menil would NEVER build a parking garage. It goes against the basic tenets of the organization’s aesthetic. That aesthetic often clashes with neighbors, specifically UST. I heard some grumblings when UST announced the giant arts complex that they wanted to build on the edge of campus (if that ever happens). The Menil is a NIMBY that actually does what NIMBY detractors are always suggesting, they have bought up the neighboring land to make sure that nobody does anything crazy with it.

  • Amazing news just for the precedent it sets. If the Menil can do it, then maybe more Montrose businesses will be able to start doing it, and we can really start turning Houston’s most walkable neighborhood into a true pedestrian environment.

  • @ZAW: re “the fight for improved transit” – What’s wrong with the current transit solutions serving the Menil? What are we fighting for?

  • @ZAW,

    There’s a chicken-and-egg problem. The restaurant developer can’t build before the garage, because without adequate parking he won’t get permits. The garage builder can’t build before the restaurant (and other businesses), because he doesn’t know if the demand will materialize.

    We only tend to see parking structures in large mixed-use developments where one party controls the whole design. This SPA worked for Menil because they control such a high percentage of the land within it. If you tried to do the same for, say, the Westheimer corridor from Dunlavy to Bagby, you’d never get through the process, and no one entity has enough incentive to even try.

  • FWIW, it doesn’t really matter about fairness. I mean sure, everyone in the actual city has been paying taxes, some of which have been used to build up those areas, and its a little lousy for people who pay taxes that support the museum district not to have easy access too it. But a bigger issue would be the retail/food/etc density and lack of parking. At some point that retail is going to become too dense for the actual population allowed by parking (+locals), and when that happens you’re going to see businesses get hurt. The weaker businesses at least. Having too little parking to support the target business density is a terrible idea. As commonsense pointed out this really won’t matter for the Menil. But it will matter for other people in the area. And really all would take would be a handful of strategically placed parking towers.

  • Also seriously do all of you guys own in Montrose or something? ZAW does sort of have a point that the tone of this conversation seems pretty elitist towards people who can’t afford to spend 500+ on a house. That kind of attitude is not what made Montrose a great neighborhood. But it seems more common in the recent years.

  • The rules need to change, I’ll grant you that Angostura. As Planner said, they need to allow for pooled parking. It could be done through Letters of Availability from a Garage District – just like it works for drainage in MUDs. All I’m really saying here is, for the sake of access to our City’s cultural and entertainment venues, pooled parking is a much better solution than simply letting these institutions have less parking than they should.

  • @ ZAW: No doubt my opinion will rankle many who feel a bit helpless in the face of its implications. I get that. But I’m also of the opinion that a true widespread, across-the-board groundswell for better walkability, transit, shared mobility services, etc. etc. will only happen in Houston when the hassle of driving and parking becomes apparent to most everyone, and at least some neighborhoods are allowed to become much more walkable (better sidewalks, fewer parking lots to space out development and sit in front of buildings, etc.). Then the benefits of improving infrastructure and services for these other modes becomes obvious to a much greater share of the population, and prioritizing the necessary funds becomes much more politically feasible.

    Also, urban core land becomes denser and (much) more expensive than it was historically, the economic burden of providing on-site parking just becomes greater and greater. You end up with development projects restricted to fewer and fewer players – basically major developers backed by public or institutional capital, who do only large-scale projects (see: Downtown). Structured parking is very expensive, even with the tradeoff of more revenue-producing space on site. You want more fine-grained, smaller-scale walkable infill in such places? Reduce the parking requirements.

  • The more parking you build, the worse traffic will be. There are physical limits to how many cars you can move into and out of the middle of a city. More parking and bigger streets subsidize avoidance of mass transit.

  • There IS an across the board groundswell for more transit and better Walkability, Planner. The problem is, the groundswell doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I desperately want to take a train into Houston, and a huge number of my new neighbors in Fort Bend County agree with me. But there is still opposition: a toxic mix of ‘it costs too much’ Tea Partiers and ‘it will bring poor people to our neighborhoods’ NIMBYism. And that opposition has the ear of some very powerful people.
    Unlike you, I don’t see this opposition reacting to traffic and a lack of parking by switching sides. They’ll sooner lobby to widen freeways. Look at the Katy Freeway. That’s why I disagree with you on the whole limiting parking thing.

  • @Zaw you are a sim city citizen to LocalPlanner. “Alert: Citizens upset… Click OK and ignore.”

    Houston is really hot in the summer. Walking a few feet in the afternoon can get you drenched in sweat. Just embrace that we are all driving.

  • @ZAW: The Menil isn’t served by public transit?

    I’m not saying people shouldn’t drive to Montrose. I’m saying that the idea that everything has a parking space in front of it is dumb. Using up land to provide dedicated parking to specific places is silly, when the neighborhood is used by different people and businesses and facilities throughout the day. Houstonians have a very weird definition of “bad parking” that seems to include any space more than a three-minute walk from your destination, which would be considered rock star parking in any other big city. It’s not some crazy elitist notion to think that you shouldn’t be forcing people to use up land for dedicated parking vs. fully utlizing street parking and private or public garage parking (which you want to create some incentives for).

    There’s a really useful role for the city here. Many cities have public parking garages (the underground ones in Paris being the most dramatic I think of) and it’s really, really useful.

    By the way, I drive everywhere. Including the Menil! I also have no problem with the idea that OMG, if I go somewhere in Montrose, I may have to walk a little, or pay for use of scarce resource.

    And while there are certainly economic pressures that push people into living in areas poorly served by transit, there are two important points here. The first is that the answer isn’t to fill the city with parking that’s lightly used much of the day for their convenience, it’s to provide more transportation options. Secondly, economic pressure is not the whole picture, there also people making choices that go well beyond needs. No two-parent two-child family *needs* a 3000 square foot house, but a lot of them want them. They are making a choice, consciously or not, between easier access to things vs. space. That’s absolutely their choice to make, but it’s not up to anybody else to subsidize the downside of that choice, any more than someone owes me more living space than my smaller house because I want to be closer to things.

    Finally (sorry, I’m on a tear), people are not very good at thinking through options. After a transportation discussion at work, just for fun, I calculated the cost of paying for private transportation to work every day (via Uber). It is only slightly more than the cost of buying a new car and making payments and insuring it and putting gas in it for me to take Uber every day for my 20-30 minute commute. No, I’m not recommending that, but if you live in Katy and are spending a day doing stuff in the city, it’s totally reasonable to consider ditching your car somewhere and getting around in the city via bus/Uber/taxi to do a bunch of things. Or if you live in Garden Oaks and you’re going out for a night downtown, it’s easier and not expensive to just do that. These are totally reasonable choices that I think feel really foreign to Houstonians, although they are totally normal to people in other cities. I think that’s changing, but again, this idea that the default is “put lots of parking everywhere” is just really short sighted.

  • @ ZAW: Did I say anything about limiting parking? I’m saying that the City should not mandate parking. Or are you saying that until better or more extensive public transit is provided, the City should mandate onsite parking to accommodate any establishment’s busiest hours? What’s wrong with the Menil choosing to provide less parking? You make it sound like it’s somehow “unfair” or inequitable to suburbanites (or anyone outside walking distance from a particular location) for any establishment (even private ones like the Menil) to choose to provide less parking than what you think they need. I don’t see how that argument holds any water.

    And as far as the fairness to the neighborhood regarding spillover parking, no neighborhood is OWED public street parking exclusively for residents, or uncongested streets. Spillover parking is therefore not a negative externality. And don’t give me the “public safety” argument, that’s taken care of with street parking rules related to fire hydrants.

  • @ZAW: “I desperately want to take a train into Houston, and a huge number of my new neighbors in Fort Bend County agree with me”
    First, why a train? You know if you had commuter rail into Houston you would most likely have to ride a bus back out to th Menil, right? Why not just ride a bus into Houston?
    Second, why do you get any say in this? You live in another city and another county. Your taxes go there, not to Houston. Why does Houston owe you a train or a place to park?