COMMENT OF THE DAY: PLANS FOR HOUSTON “Houston didn’t develop organically. The original street grid was planned, the Heights was planned, Montrose and River Oaks and the Villages and Cinco Ranch, etc., all planned. At least 90% of the people who wax poetic about Houston’s ‘vibrancy’ and ‘free spirit’ probably live in a place that was very carefully planned. Our freeway system was the result of planning, and our organic twisty-turny roads were straightened out. Everything within 5 miles of Rice University was aggressively planned, and people love it. Property values in Houston are high in places that were planned, low in places that weren’t, which tells you what the market wants: Planning.” [Mike, commenting on ‘The Galleria Is My Idea of Hell’ and Other Houston Stories]
Yep, that’s a bike-gear-sporting State Sen. Rodney Ellis, 2 city council members, and both bearded and cleanshaven versions of model Lauren Bush’s brother — Pierce Bush — talking up the idea of building more parks by more Houston bayous in this promotional video for an organization called Parks By You. What are they and their smiling costars so earnestly upbeat about? A $160 million bond initiative on the November ballot that would take a big step toward implementing the Houston Parks Board’s Bayou Greenways Project — a proposal to add green spaces and linear parks with concrete hike-and-bike trails along 100 miles of Houston bayous. The bond issue would help pay for improvements to more than a dozen existing parks and connect trails along 7 bayous in the city.
The overall vision (not all of which, apparently, is included in the bond measure) would transform Houston’s park map from this:
HOUSTON ZONING PAPERWORK REQUEST An out-of-towner with “an (admittedly) strange fascination with Houston land development” is trying to locate a copy of the zoning ordinance that Houston voters rejected 17 years ago. “A classmate and I are trying to do a little stats project comparing the 1993 proposed ordinance to the land development that actually happened since then. We’d like to see how actual development patterns differed from what the planners envisioned (for better or worse). Of course, we’d be willing to share any interesting findings.” [Swamplot inbox]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: LOST IN THE NOZONE “It always strikes me as odd that most major developers who operate in Houston also operate in cities with strict zoning, determined planning, and even architectural review boards with much success, but some Houstonians continue to think that they will abandon this city if we enact any of the same. They are clueless. Post Properties wrote Houston off in part because of the lack of stricter planning guidelines – which resulted in their Midtown project becoming an island of urban living surrounded by parking lots and suburban style development. (CVS, are you listening) . . . Midtown has become a mishmash of disjointed development with the opportunity for creating the city’s best urban environment lost for decades. The same debacle is happening right now in the Washington Corridor. Area groups have fought for years to get the city to enact and enforce very basic planning guidelines for Washington Ave like wider walkable sidewalks of 6′-8′ instead of 3′, and guidelines to bring storefronts to the streetfront instead of parking lots. A couple of developers have instituted these features on their own, but most have not, so once again we have an area that looks very disjointed, is confusing to navigate, and very unfriendly to the many people who would like to park once and walk between the many new businesses. . . .” [John, commenting on Extending Metro’s Main St. Rail Line to Fort Bend County]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S THE PLAN? “. . . It would be nice if someone would come up with a ‘master plan’ for these areas of unrestricted land and at least ask the developers to work within that plan. I suspect if some had been a little nicer the developers of 1717 Bissonnet might have been nicer as well. They did buy the land in good faith as they say. They were not legally obligated, nor are they, to get anyone’s permission to build whatever they wanted to build beyond meeting the requirements of city code. There was also no indication on the part of the city or anyone else what was “desired” for that area. As it stands, it’s a hodgepodge of multi-family and commercial. Neither of which fits the definition of ‘single-family’ which seems attached to every argument made against 1717 Bissonnet. I’m not sure you can have a perfect plan but someone needs to at least attempt some sort of plan for future development in Midtown and the Museum District and Montrose and the Heights and of course Galleria which at this point is at critical mass in terms of traffic. . . . We don’t have zoning but we do have unrestricted land. Which is the same thing when you think about it. No one thought about possibly restricting the unrestricted land until the plan for 1717 Bissonnet was announced. . . . The problem here should have been addressed a long time ago. As for urban planning, it should have happened yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow the next mayor will make some sort of ‘master plan’ a priority for these unrestricted areas and we will have something developers and neighborhoods can work with. . . .” [Matt, commenting on Comment of the Day: Missing That High-Density High Density]