In a lawsuit it filed Friday against the City of Houston, the government contractor tasked with housing thousands of child immigrants across Texas, Arizona, and California says it’s got until October 28 to open the building it leased at 419 Emancipation Ave. — now preemptively dubbed Casa Sunzal — otherwise the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement will pull its funding for the planned facility.
The nonprofit’s biggest beef with the city (and in particular the Mayor, who grinned in June at the idea of a permitting “slow-walk” for the center) is that the compound shouldn’t be classified as a detention facility but rather a residential one. Yes, the company says in its filing, “children are verbally discouraged from leaving,” the campus, but they “are not physically restrained if they try to.” 240 kids ages “0 to 17,” were originally slated to shack up in the compound, according to the Chronicle’s Lomi Kriel. The majority of them — Southwest Key says now — would be minors that crossed the border by themselves, as opposed to those separated from their parents upon arrival in the U.S.
More than $100,000 worth of liens have now been placed on the stalled Victoria Condos at 829 Yale St. by contractors that worked on the 40-unit midrise. It’s one of the remaining Fisher Homes properties that the Harris County court system hasn’t yet liquidated as part of its ongoing efforts to pay back the developer’s creditors — including some who’ve sued it for failing to pay their invoices on developments such as the Yale condos.
A rendering put out around the time sales began at the beginning of June 2016 shows what they would look like if they had people in them now:
HINES SIGNS UP FOR 48-STORY HIGHRISE ON FORMER HOUSTON CHRONICLE DIGS DOWNTOWN
Building permits filed last week for a concrete foundation in place of the Houston–Chronicle-building-turned-parking-lot at 801 Texas Ave. reveal the vertical extent of what Hines has planned for the site: 48 stories. They’ll soon rise up above the fought-over tunnel system where a judge buried the hatchet 5 months ago, awarding Hines’ neighbor Theater Square $200,000,reported Nancy Sarnoff. Theater Square owns the property across Prairie St. from 801 Texas and claimed it had the right to access tunnels beneath the former newspaper building that it needed to connect its own subterranean sprawl to Houston’s broader downtown tunnel system. That hookup is now complete — writes Sarnoff — though the neighboring developer has yet to break ground on its own planned tower. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Brie Kelman
Buc-ee’s scored a sweeping victory in Texas federal court last month when a judge found rival rest stop chain Choke Canyon guilty of 4 wrongs: trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. But the battle might not be over: “Choke Canyon is expected to appeal,” reports Law360, “and Texas intellectual property experts say the store has a strong case that it was wrongly barred at trial from presenting key defense evidence.”
Among the facts unheard during the 4-day trial: findings from an expert Choke Canyon commissioned to ask 300 people what they thought of the logos’ similarity. 99 percent of them “said there was no likelihood of confusion,” between the two.
Then there are the images that went unseen during the jury’s deliberation. Within that 6-hour period, jurors’ first question to Judge Keith P. Ellison was whether they should compare the set of logos pictured above — which includes the brands’ names — or picture-only versions, like the ones shown below:
BUC-EE’S VS. CHOKE CANYON: BATTLE OF THE ROADSIDE MASCOTS
The jury trial began yesterday in a federal lawsuit Buc-ee’s filed 3 years ago against Choke Canyon, a rival, San Antonio rest-stop chain with a cartoon alligator mascot Buc-ee’s claims is too similar to its own trademark grinning beaver. Buc-ee’s’s lawyer Tracy Richardson (who’s also on the legal team for the chain’s other ongoing infringement suit against Nebraska-based Bucky’s), reports the Chronicle’s Gabrielle Banks, kicked things off with a digital slideshow that chronicled the evolution of Choke Canyon’s gator species over time: “‘They put a human hat on the alligator,’ he said, ‘they opened his mouth. Then they made him stand, which — I’ve never seen an alligator stand.'” Couple that with the animals’ big eyes, red tongue, yellow background, and associated aquatic environs — said Richardson — and the likeness is confusing. (“You’re driving down the road at 80 miles per hour and you see a sign,” he said. “Did you really see what the logo was?”) Also at issue: Choke Canyon’s use of Buc-ee’s-like design elements in its stores, including a vaguely Alamo-like parapet front, stone siding,khaki-colored paint, and oversized bathrooms. (“We have large, clean bathrooms,” said Choke Canyon’s lawyer. “The last time I looked that’s not illegal.”) The jurors will be asked to decide “whether Choke Canyon set out to or actually did confuse customers with the overlap.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Logos: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
A LAWSUIT OVER RIVERSTONE’S VANISHED LEVEE
More than 400 residents of Fort Bend County’s Riverstone development — between Hwy. 6 and the Brazos River — are suing the engineering firm that designed their stormwater systems, alleging that the design left one portion of the community flooded by the runoff from the other during Harvey. The roughly 3,700-acre area is divided into 2 Levee Improvement Districts — LID 19 (shaded blue on the map) and 15. “It became very clear when we passed into LID 15 that something was not right,” one LID 19 homeowner said in a press conference. “We were inundated with water in our neighborhood, and just on the other side of the street everything seemed to be perfectly fine.” Both LIDs were designed by Costello, Inc. the company founded by Houston’s flood czar Steve Costello. (He’s said he divested from it in 2015.) That firm’s failure to consider what would happen when a levee that ran between the 2 districts — along Hagerson Rd. — was removed is what downstreamers say is to blame for much of their soggy state. In total, reports the Chronicle’s Rebecca Elliott, about a third of the 1,760 homes in LID 19 flooded. [Houston Chronicle] Map of Riverstone LIDs 15 and 19: Riverstone LIDs
GARDEN OAKS MAINTENANCE ORGANIZATION LIKELY TO FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY ON ACCOUNT OF ALL THAT MONEY IT HAS IN THE BANK
The Garden Oaks Maintenance Organization has hired a law firm to handle an anticipated bankruptcy filing — which could come as soon as Monday, reports The Leader’s Jonathan McElvy. Two years ago, a lawsuit that the organization had filed to enforce its deed restrictions against a pair of homeowners backfired when the court ruled that GOMO itself had not been formed legally. (An appeals court has since ruled that it does still have power to enforce the neighborhood’s bylaws.) As a result, in the wake of the initial ruling, “every dollarGOMO spends now could be challenged in court,” writes McElvy. With close to $600,000 in its bank account, GOMO now appears to face 2 options, he notes: “Either the board disbands and lets a judge tell them how to disburse that money, or they try a legal maneuver that seeks a judge’s permission to reorganize, so they can continue operations as the gatekeeper of Garden Oaks.” If this story sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it is. GOMO’s predecessor entity was disbanded before the current organization began in 2001 because it was, McElvy says, “formed illegally, as well.” [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
Make no mistake about the signage now up along Hwy. 6 across Schiller Dr. from the Aldi near Westpark: the travel stop it’s announcing is Nebraska-born Bucky’s — not the Texan Buc-ee’s. Construction vehicles are now pushing dirt around west of the Highway 6 RV Resort where the new complex plans to go.
Last year, Buc-ee’s filed a lawsuit against Bucky’s to stop the transplant from moving ahead with plans to build at least 6 new Houston-area locations. One Bucky’s is now open on NASA Pkwy. in Nassau Bay, but besides that, all other operational Bucky’ses are currently out of state: in Omaha, St. Louis, and the Chicago area.
Across the street, Twistee Treat Westpark is flanked by Golden Corral and a Take 5 Oil Change, and backed up by a Palace Inn:
I-45 STRIP CLUB SAYS HPD’S 3-FT. DEAL WITH COMPETITORS IS DRIVING IT OUT OF BUSINESS
A new lawsuit filed by Fantasy Plaza — just south of North Bank Rd. at 8503 N. Fwy. — accuses the city and other strip clubs of working together on what Fantasy claims “amounts to a commercial bribery scheme.” Five years ago, 16 of Fantasy Plaza’s competitors — some of which had been accused of facilitating human trafficking — settled a series of lawsuits with the city. As part of the settlement, the clubs agreed to get rid of their “VIP rooms” and also “to donate annually to a fund that maintains a Houston Police Department unit dedicated to investigating human trafficking,” writes the Chronicle’s Francisca Ortega. The clubs now pool together at least $1 million each year for the fund. In return, HPD agreed not to enforce a law that prohibited topless dancers from coming within 3 ft. of customers — but only for the 16 clubs making payments. Fantasy Plaza wasn’t one of them. Now, according to the club’s suit: “Because Fantasy Plaza must abide by city law, Fantasy Plaza cannot compete for customers in the same manner as the Clubs. This has caused-and will continue to cause, Fantasy Plaza to lose business and ultimately fail.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Fantasy Plaza
2100 MEMORIAL LAWSUIT: LET THESE PEOPLE STAY Three tenants of the Sixth Ward senior housing facility known as 2100 Memorial filed suit against the Houston Housing Authority on Friday, a day before Saturday’s unenforced deadline for all residents to leave the building. Acting for the tenants, Lone Star Legal Aid claims the agency violated the rights of the building’s residents by failing to hold a hearing in which tenants could contest the decision. The agency has not given residents “any evidence to support any of the allegations of unreasonable danger which rendered the apartments uninhabitable,” the lawsuit claims. Although the building’s first floor flooded, the tenants’ apartments suffered “little, or no, damage” from the storms, the lawsuit states. Lone Star Legal Aid claims the lawsuit means the HHA will now have to “produce the facts that support its decision.” [Lone Star Legal Aid; KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Realtor.com