January 25, 2008
And speaking of planning...

Miya reminds us that the ongoing planning/anti-planning debate is more than just theoretical, because the anti-Ashby highrise ordinance, which was put off in November, is set to come back before Council soon. Of interest to me is her connection of this issue to another controversial development closer to where I live:

Homeowners living near the Ashby high rise development have been very effective in getting the attention of city hall. But the ordinance they want is facing some tough questioning from two very different sides -- residents in other neighborhoods who feel like they're excluded and developers who want the whole thing to just go away.

Case in point, I visited the edge of the Heights, where the site of a potential condo development called Viewpoint has had neighbors upset for some time.

"It's a narrow street," said Heights business owner and resident Gary Mosley. "We're concerned about the fire trucks getting through. People parking on the street and fire engines not being able to get through." His battle sounds similar to the Ashby high rise controversy in Houston's Southhampton neighborhood, but with less successful results.


So while the development community is worried the Ashby high rise ordinance would be too far encompassing, Mosley says he's worried it's not encompassing enough and leaves out other neighborhoods with similar battles. "I'm hoping the mayor is truly looking at the citizens," said Mosley. "We're pretty much crying right now."

This is very interesting because as it stands, the High Density ordinance would only apply for develops that involve 70 units or more. The proposed Viewpoint development is 68 units, it's actually on a street more narrow than the Ashby High Rise development. Viewpoint is in the Heights, and 3,000 neighbors have signed petitions against its development. But, it's far behind in the public relations battle at City Hall.

Miya's report is here. I've blogged about the Viewpoint development before, here, and here. That battle is at least three years old now. I really can't emphasize enough just how narrow the Viewpoint-affected streets are - there's barely room for cars travelling in opposite directions to pass each other by, there's no curb or sidewalk (there are drainage ditches) but cars do park on Frasier and 5 1/2 Streets. Unlike Bissonnet, everyday traffic flow in the area won't be affected, but the concern about emergency vehicles making it through is real.

The bottom line to me is that it doesn't make sense to craft an ordinance that only addresses one specific development project, especially when there are others out there that have equivalent issues. It's certainly not impossible that the concerns of the folks living near the Viewpoint development could be addressed, but that would require someone to pay for infrastructure upgrades, and as we know that sort of thing gives Leo Linbeck the vapors. I'd rather see Council do nothing, and hope to get a more comprehensive set of reforms under a Mayor Parker or Mayor Brown, than set the precedent that this can be dealt with on a onesy-twosy basis if the affected neighborhood has enough clout.

Finally, on a tangential note, Robert Boyd has an interesting angle in criticizing that lame Randal O'Toole op-ed. Check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 25, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston

The bottom line to me is that it doesn't make sense to craft an ordinance that only addresses one specific development project

Generally, no.

But it makes all sorts of political sense when we consider the influence of the people to whom Mayor White was/is responding.

Posted by: Kevin Whited on January 25, 2008 6:11 AM

Is the 5th Street debacle up in the news again? I thought this was put to rest due to insufficient roads in and out of the project (disregarding 5th Street - pretty tiny). Also, I know the proposed bridge over White Oak Bayou didn't go over either. Wish we could get better reforms for this type of thing.

Posted by: becky on January 25, 2008 5:20 PM
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