Metro Rethinking Left Turns at Across Med Center Tracks; Houston’s First Cat Cafe Opens in Woodland Heights

Photo of Lillian St. at Lester St., Rice Military: Marc Longoria via Swamplot Flickr Pool


38 Comment

  • Re: Metro May Restrict Left-Turns at Med Center Rail Crossings
    I think the later comment in the article is true – namely, that the closing of certain left-turn bays will just move the problem to other intersections.
    Overall, the mixing of car and train traffic was a half-baked idea. Elevating the train (yes, at greater cost) would have made for faster speeds for both car and train traffic.

  • Gentrification makes neighborhoods better by almost every measurable metric, increased value, lower crime, better schools, better access to food and services, better health of residents, etc. The people that it displaces are generally the people that are an obstacle to this process and is actually better for the neighborhood as an entity.

  • I appreciate David Chang’s Houston boosterism, but I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that Viet-Cajun cuisine developed only in Houston and not in New Orleans. I fear that the argument in his program isn’t going to add up to much more than “look at how parochial and tied to tradition New Orleans is and look at how the economic dynamism of Houston leads to risk taking from chefs,” which is both inaccurate and pretty tired.

  • I just detest seeing streets like in the picture. Why the city allowed this to begin with is just mind boggling. No street parking and sidewalks are consistently obstructed by owners parking over them.

  • Metro’s toy trains are a heinous menace to automobile traffic and a colossal waste of right-of-way that should have remained devoted to private cars. While more expensive than toy trains, heavy rail above or below grade would have been a vastly safer and superior mass transit solution.

  • Houston is rare in that it’s significantly better to be an out-of-towner than to be a local. Probably 90% of Houston’s purported “prosperity” goes to newcomers via the fact that they arrive embedded so deeply into the corporate world and world-famously have devoted much of their time in that corporate world to “getting over” on anyone who’s not in that corporate world. Unfortunately other cities can only look to Houston as a cautionary tale, and the dangers of touting a diversity which only exists “on paper” (to quote the David Chang article).

  • *and as an example of the dangers

  • Enjoyable comments, everyone on their own tangent for once.
    @Anon & CS, I see a parallel thread though. CS believes most native Houstonians are an impediment to the prosperity of a growing international city. Anon bemoans that Houstonians are at a disadvantage compared to our new transplants that arrive from their higher-taxed provinces offering up better care, education and healthcare along the way.
    I propose a new slogan and we forget the rest – “Houston, where locals need not apply”

  • If gentrification is driving you out then you must be a renter. If you own in the neighborhood gentrification makes you rich. If you are renter then it’s really not your neighborhood, you’re just passing through.

  • @Houcynic,
    By requiring two off-street parking spaces, the city kind of encourages this kind of thing. In this case, the street is too narrow for parking on both sides anyway. The houses on the other side of the street are served by a shared driveway, allowing for (resident-only) street parking in front. I prefer the streetscape of shared-driveway TH developments, but not sure I’d like to live in one that only faces an alley.

  • @ jgriff: I’d wonder about your definition of “renter” as “passing through”. What about someone who owns a house in a neighborhood, then sells it and rents an apartment (empty nesters, come to mind)? I wouldn’t call them “passing through” by this measure.
    As a homeowner, I don’t think of renters as a step below – everyone has their reasons for buying versus renting. And, said reasons change over time.
    Actually, technically, we are all “passing through” this plane of existence – homeowner or renter. When Death calls, it doesn’t say “never mind” when you say: “Oh, I own my house. Go collect the soul of renters.”

  • I’ve been to meetings about gentrification and asked the same question everytime. Who is being displaced… Its always renters or the person that hasn’t paid taxes in 20 years and now the city is foreclosing on their home because its becoming more valuable. The same old song and dance about raising taxes so that people cant live there anymore.
    Commonsense is right about improved services, infrastructure, and schools moving in with Gentrification, but what a lot of people miss out on is the Social Income that Gentrification brings to a neighborhood. Low income communities that gain professional / degree’d residents will also bring knowledge that the community lacks. Its in both parties interest to leverage their individual skills to make the community better and stronger.
    Once you get past the Gentrification is BAD crowd in any community and find those that want meaningful change, you will find a path that will make the community grow in the correct way.

  • Jeez Mr.Clean19, you barely hide your contempt for those who are not as economically well-off as you are.

  • HouCynic: Why does the city “Allow”? Its not for the city to allow or not allow. We don’t live under a totalitarian regime

  • should MrClean19 apologize for being born into a better situation?
    Sure I feel bad for people who weren’t lucky enough to be born into the same circumstance as I, but I’m not going to stop living because some people aren’t as lucky as me.
    Do the people getting displaced by gentrification need to apologize to the people in Mozambique who recently were killed when garbage dumps collapsed on their homes because they literally lived in the local trash dump?

  • Gentrification is difficult to stop once it gets started, the key is to take the gentrification pressure away by allowing denser development where people want to go (already desirable neighborhoods. If you allowed subdivision and townhouses/apartments in river oaks, west university, bellaire, meyerland along with continued strong construction in Montrose and the Heights it would slow gentrification of areas like the 3rd ward. To help defend against gentrification now these areas need to build a bunch of affordable housing (easier said than done) as the wealthier new residents move in to prevent any displacement. This could be done if you incentivize (through subsidy or deregulation) construction of a bunch of dingbats, tiny apartments (by Houston standards) and cheap apartments without parking. These forms of accommodation would be cheap enough to build that the rents or purchase prices would be low enough that the older displaceable residents can stay in the community even as gentrifiers soak up some land to townhouses. Robust persistent communities need a range of accommodation across all price points. This is the only way you can stay in neighborhood you grew up in because you naturally can afford/desire different levels of accommodation at different stages of life (student/double income no kids/family with kids/empty nester/single retiree, etc.). The only way for a places community to stay the same is to allow constant construction and change to provide wide range of options in an area, from luxury to grotty.

  • jgriff is pretty spot on. Renters are agile and do not make long term commitments, by definition. Property owners do and are generally more vested in a neighborhood, and most importantly, its future. Financially a renter gets hurt when property values rise, and it brings up rents. A property owners benefits, when values go up. Mr. Griff did leave out the politicians, they are getting driven out of up and coming areas as they turnover. I am going to try to hide my contempt for these people, now.

  • Houston poverty is cyclical and deeply entrenched. Why bother to clean it up when we can just simply move it out of our way altogether and forget about it.
    That’s just how we roll here.

  • “Gentrification makes neighborhoods better by almost every measurable metric, increased value, lower crime, better schools, better access to food and services, better health of residents, etc. The people that it displaces are generally the people that are an obstacle to this process and is actually better for the neighborhood as an entity.”

  • I doubt if Commonsense has found himself adversely affected by gentrification, and by that I mean priced out of his own neighborhood due taxes increasing faster than his income. Sure, the tax base improves the schools, but only for residents who can afford to remain there! Think it through.

  • I’ll be, two spot ons in the same thread, should have read to the end of the comments before issuing my bravos. “Metro’s toy trains are a heinous menace to automobile traffic and a colossal waste of right-of-way that should have remained devoted to private cars. While more expensive than toy trains, heavy rail above or below grade would have been a vastly safer and superior mass transit solution.”

  • When I decided it was time to purchase and quit renting in Houston in 1988, I ended up buying out in far, far northwest Harris County, because that’s all I could afford – even though my drive to UH where I worked was brutal. Why would anyone choose to give up so much of their time by commuting so far? Because my time was less valuable than my money. If I wanted to continue to rent to have access to all the amenities and conveniences of central Houston, that was certainly my option too. But by owning, I’m not at the mercy of a landlord. People have choices – each one makes their own decisions based on personal preferences and situations. I’m sorry – to a point – for person gets kicked out of their awesomely located apartment because they can’t afford the rent. But I bet that person won’t feel sorry for me for being one of those pesky suburbanites that have the nerve to come into town and expect there to be parking available when I try to eat at a restaurant in the Heights.

  • @GlenW, when I WAS affected by gentrification in my younger years, the solution has always been to “adapt and overcome”, make more money or simply move, not to play the victim card or try to prevent my hood from becoming nicer.

  • HouCynic — I’m in agreement. I would bet at least 50% of the houses have garages full of stuff so they can’t even park the car in it.

  • @Wolf Brand Chili: If you don’t own property in the neighborhood it’s not your neighborhood. That’s my opinion.

  • @Cody: Unfortunately there are a lot of people who would gladly live under a totalitarian government if they could have a clear sidewalk and pretty streets, or if people could be guaranteed to live in whatever neighborhood they choose no matter what bad decisions they’ve made. The scary thing is that these people might vote.

  • TMR – I can see you missed my point entirely.
    In regards to affordable housing – What makes affordable housing economic is the tax incentives. Poor neighborhoods are having a hard time meeting the standards for these tax incentives because they lack economic diversity. Since all I hear is how Diversity is our strength, shouldnt Gentrification (Economic Diversity) be welcomed? s/

  • I live in third ward. I am a 30 yr old white male. I own a townhome. I bought 3 years ago with the hope for significant improvement in the area. I live right by emancipation park. I love it. I’m all for building affordable housing for displaced residence but the majority of the properties needs to be redevoloped & they will. The proximity to downtown/med center/midtown is too good.

  • I really have to agree with Wolf Brand Chili on this. Whether one transacts their housing by means of a deed or a lease, these are merely financial instruments that are validated by the State of Texas’ Property Code. Deeds which are recorded at a county courthouse are not addendums to the Holy Bible or whatever other divine or philosophical text to which one subscribes. Deeds do not give a person sovereignty over land, merely a limited bundle of rights, not unlike a lease. Deeds do not raise a person into any special class such as an aristocracy and do not convey voting rights — unless a prior property owner has established an HOA or deed restrictions and subsequent property owners have willfully consented to that subtraction from their property rights.
    The word “community”, as a social construct affords people membership which is a subjective truth. And what that means is that if you think that you’re a member, then you are. If you think that somebody else isn’t really a member or isn’t a full member for whatever reason, well if they think they are then you are wrong. In fact, it is even possible for someone to believe themselves not to be a member of some community and yet to engage in it more fully than people who do think of themselves as members, in which case they are also wrong. When we think/speak/act on behalf of our social communities, we should err on the side of inclusion. Even a non-member is a potential future member, which merits them the standing and respect afforded a member. As polities go, Houston and Texas more generally is pretty good at this; but as a set of social communities, well the comments on here indicate otherwise. We are a sloppy mess of individuals striving to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves, something special, a very personal and individualized fiction that despite being unique is not very special at all. Let it go. Let all of that pretense go.

  • If you don’t like people parking on the sidewalk, call HPD and tell them to send a meter maid over to write the offender a ticket.

  • When I moved to the Montrose in ’81, I was greeted by a thriving gay community. Fortunately for me, they’d already done a lot of the heavy lifting. Police had just stopped raiding gay bars, and largely through the efforts of gay people, a more inclusive mayor (Whitmire) was elected. Rents were still affordable because of the stigma attached to living in a gay neighborhood.
    Then came AIDS. First a trickle, then a flood of young gay men sickened and died, and no one gave a shit. We had to take care of each other. So health clinics, adult day care, a food pantry, a dental clinic, pro-bono legal advice, home nursing care, and other services were established. Keep in mind that many of those whose efforts were essential didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits. We held fund-raisers and badgered every existing charitable foundation and governmental agency to get these things done.
    Meanwhile, realtors were required to inform buyers if the previous homeowner had AIDS. Housing prices plummeted. Apartment vacancy rates soared.
    But at least we had each other. One was sure to run into several friends when shopping at Disco Kroger. We managed to keep the lights on and the pulse alive, and be grateful to be in a community that understands.
    So yes, it’s hard seeing my dead friends houses torn down, the ones that prevented Montrose from deteriorating into a slum. It’s hard seeing friends who’ve lived in the same apartments for decades being forced out. It’s hard for a community to survive, only to be scattered to the wind.
    And it’s hard to read some of the thoughtless, heartless, ignorant opinions I’ve seen expressed here.

  • Before we judge METRO too harshly, bear in mind that many of the flaws of the current rail system can be directly attributed to Rep. Tom Delay (R-Sugar Land).
    It was through his intervention that Houston didn’t receive millions in federal aid.
    While our rail system has proven itself to a vast improvement over what it replaced, it could have been so much better if so much time and money hadn’t been wasted overcoming the opposition.

  • @Cody, The city issues building and street access permits. They allow or reject. The permit process is by no means democratic!

  • @ Big Tex: The gay community was largely disenfranchised, isolated, and occasionally persecuted within American society in 1981. That’s why there had come to exist a somewhat segregated gay neighborhood in an otherwise undesirable location. That population has largely scattered to the winds over the last few decades precisely because it was normalized within society. Gay people can now live very nearly anywhere they would particularly want to without fear of reprisal in any way, have excellent economic opportunities, and are portrayed in media as different but not lesser. What you have witnessed in the span of just a few decades is one of the most recent and most rapid set of civil rights victories in American history — and it’s all over but Dan Patrick’s nonsensical bathroom buffoonery and some other rough edges.
    I do somewhat understand how you might feel nostalgic for the good ol’ days, when you and the people that you identified with were a part of an ‘us’ and there was a ‘them’ worthy of a fight. Humans are social creatures and that sense of belonging can be perversely satisfying. It is also why many war veterans have difficulty normalizing within society during peacetime; but that doesn’t mean that peacetime is undesirable or that the many vestiges of a war-torn landscape should forever be preserved. Nor does it mean that ye olde gay ghetto of yore needs to be preserved in order to honor your dead friends. Preservation is an act of exclusion, and exclusion is antithetical to the advancement of civil rights. Your dead and living friends are normal now, just like you, just like me, and that is why so many have wandered off the reservation. Being able to do so was the whole point, after all.
    I don’t mean to be insensitive. Something very special was achieved, you participated in and gave witness to it, and others you knew and loved suffered and sometimes died for it. I am not telling you to forget that and I am not trying to shut you up or diminish you in any way…but you are normal. A normal and socially/politically/economically enfranchised people don’t receive special treatment. If you don’t like being normal (and goodness knows I don’t), then you shall have to find a way be special, unique, quirky, and/or odd on your own terms.

  • Big Tex: While I’m a free market kind of guy, I totally get your point and can appreciate your point of view. I don’t know what the solution is, since if there is a demand for people to move to Montrose, the market will find a way to accommodate, but if I were in your shoes I’d be pretty disappointed to see all the changes. Even if on the surface they seem positive.

  • I rented in one place for over twenty-two years. The next place I lived I was only in for seven and half years, moving out because during that time there four different owners, the last two being basically slum lords who willfully neglected the property. Two months after I moved from there the property went into foreclosure. Where I live now quite a few of my fellow tenants have been here over five years, some more than ten. I dine in the neighborhood restaurants, shop at the neighborhood business, support the elementary school although I have no children, am a member at a nearby church, and vote in every election. I’ve seen property owners buy and sell far more frequently than I’ve moved. Yet I am considered a transient, with no stake in the neighborhood. Well, good to know where I stand I guess.

  • Curious that in all this discussion of renters not being part of the community in which they reside, not one mention yet on the continued pervasiveness of redlining to this day, 50 years after it was outlawed.

    There are structural and cultural issues that may prevent a person from buying. I’ve known of families that rented the same house 30 years only to be forced out when the landlord cashed in on increased property values. Why didn’t they buy in all that time? They couldn’t! But I guess their history doesn’t count when it comes to assessing the nature of given community.

  • @joel I don’t think natives at at an inherent disadvantage by any stretch; I think the transplants are dialed-in to Houston’s corporate world even before they arrive…via connections not exactly related to the health care or education found in their particular states of origin. It’s just weird how walled-off the corporate scene here is.