More Details on Hidejiro Matsu’s Energy Corridor Supermarket; Best Cities for First-Time Home Buyers


Photo of Travis Street: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool


4 Comment

  • I guess all the zoned sprawl in Sugar Land, Pearland, Friendswood, and League City doesn’t count against zoning?

    City of Houston planning couldn’t affect anything over there.

  • Re: Non-zoning/sprawl

    The article tries to link Houston’s existing rules to sprawl, but fails. True, the parking and street requirements (for new businesses, in the urban core) can cause a little bit of spreading out to accommodate parking and street size rules. But these rules have little to no effect on suburban-style development occurring on the edge of town, on mostly of vacant land, and not for existing streets and buildings. A new strip center being built on vacant land on the edge of town is going to add tons of parking spaces regardless of COH rules, because that’s what will attract businesses and their patrons out there in the burbs, and that is what is expected there as the norm. No one is going wide Westheimer at Montrose to meet the street width requirements that came out decades later. The trend in the inner loop lately has been to remove lanes or rebuild with the same amount of lanes, rather than to widen roads to meet newer standards (Lamar bike lane, closure of several blocks in Midtown, Shepherd rebuild, etc.).

    The fact that cities with strong zoning programs have just as much sprawl was mentioned in the article, so then you’re left with the question….what’s the point? I would argue an area like Dallas and its burbs, with strong zoning laws, end up with more sprawl than Houston, due to the rules. In Richardson, Garland, Mesquite, Irving, et al. you see spaces filled with extra-wide sidewalks and grass strips/medians, side access roads on non-highway arterial roads, loop ramps at major intersections, wide alleys between rows of houses, and (just like here) huge parking lots based on expected use criteria. These uses add up a lot more land being gobbled up by sprawl than in Houston.

    I am not saying one method or the other is better – both systems have pros and cons, just saying the article doesn’t tell you anything other than that some of Houston’s ordinances work against densification in the inner city – it has nothing to do with suburban “sprawl.” I guess it depends on your definition of “sprawl.”

  • Sprawl will happen regardless of regulation in many, or most, places, because it’s the economic default – the marketplace expects certain things: high parking ratios for commercial properties (often above regulatory code), and parking is cheaper to provide in surface lots, enabling lower rent charged to tenants since consuming more cheap land is less expensive than structured parking; wide streets that suburbanites like (even though they complain about people driving too fast on them – well, duh); going horizontal with structures being cheaper, given the cost of land, than going more vertical; development oriented toward cars because that’s the only way most commercial uses can access the needed workforce / customer base etc. etc.
    While Houston has some regulations like minimum parking that need to be reduced or removed, it still has an edge because it doesn’t prohibit density when it is economically justified, so the evolution from sprawl toward more compact forms doesn’t face some obstacles that you get in more strictly zoned cities. That said, it’s interesting to note that more highly zoned North Texas cities have definitely been more advanced in the development of walkable town centers.

  • City sprawl in the Houston metropolitan area has not limits like cities in the northeast. There is too much unincorporated area surrounding the city. Houston City sprawl is driven by tax revenues period. The only recourse by residents is to establish deed restricted areas with minimum lot sizes.