October 07, 2007
The Chron on the Bissonnet high rise

My kudos to the headline writer for coming up with "Faulty tower".

Showing appropriate leadership, Mayor Bill White supports opponents of the tower. The mayor recognizes the desire of many Houstonians to move closer to their work, which will add density to the central city. However, White said in a statement to concerned parties that he believed the proposed project would impede traffic on two-lane Bissonnet, already congested during rush hours.

White said he would use "any appropriate power under the law to alter the proposed project as currently planned." The challenge going forward is that city officials have few tools at their disposal. The city asks developers to study how each project will affect traffic, but no law yet requires them to do so.

Influential opponents of the Ashby Tower have won considerable support at City Hall and are represented by prominent litigator Rusty Hardin. Their clout has led some Houstonians to charge favoritism and inequity.

Well, of course. Well-heeled, civically active voters wield more influence than low-income residents who might have less time or inclination to vote and take part in civic affairs. Human nature is not easily repealed, but that's not all bad in a democracy in which politicians are supposed to consider their constituents' concerns.

Something tells me that's not going to be very satisfactory to the folks in the less-influential parts of town. Be that as it may, I'll say again - if this is a fulcrum to bring about a more systematic review of urban and suburban designations and what constitutes appropriate development for each, then all will be forgiven. If not, I daresay the bitterness from many other corners will linger for a long time. We'll see how it goes.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 07, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

Hey Charles, here's a thought experiment. What if the developers of this tower decided to move it from Bissonnet to the corner of Richmond and Mandel (where there is currently a big empty lot). Would you still be against it? I'm not asking this as a "gotcha!" but because I think context is pretty key in these types of decisions, and want to know if a small change of context would make the difference between "not acceptable" and "acceptable".

I think the high-rise on Bissonnet is a horrible mistake, and yet I think there is a crying need for denser housing within the loop (which generally puts me more in favor of tall townhouses than many folks I know).

Posted by: RWB on October 8, 2007 7:35 AM

RWB - I think a Richmond/Mandel location makes more sense, though I can't say for sure if it would be advisable. At least that location is more mixed use, and there are multistory structures nearby. And, since that kind of density goes best with transit, the imminent presence of the Universities line would mitigate traffic concerns, which is something that can't be said for the Bissonnet location.

I agree there's a need for denser development, and I agree that context matters. I think to a large extent that's the crux of this dispute.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 8, 2007 8:54 AM

That section of land between Cherokee and Ashby and Bissonnet and Rice has seen multi-family and commercial redevelopment for some time now and someone should have assumed that there was at least a possibility that a developer would propose a hirise.

Quite a few have lived in the shadow of hirises in River Oaks and Tanglewood through the years. They didn't like it and some still don't but they also don't want zoning. Do the voters simply no longer matter? I don't see the opposition in this proposing zoning. Without zoning, anything goes. Including the neighborhoods.

The main objection, I believe most realize that traffic in fact will not be impacted that much as indicated by the developer's study which the city approved, is the height.

That was something the Southampton and Boulevard Oaks residents could have addressed through the deed restrictions. And did not.

It would be interesting to have everyone in Southampton and Boulevard Oaks "vote" on zoning at this point. I suspect a majority would still vote "no."

Posted by: Baby Snooks on October 8, 2007 9:24 AM

the imminent presence of the Universities line would mitigate traffic concerns,

Yes, laying rail lines down an already congested street AND creating new congestion along the north-south Richmond crossings is surely going to mitigate traffic concerns! :)

Posted by: Kevin Whited on October 8, 2007 10:36 AM

Is there anyway that I can get in touch with Judge Bertha Mejia? She helped me with a divorce case a while back and I need to see if she can help me with advice.

Will you please ask her if she could please send me an e-mail? I'm on leave from work and need to ask her advise about my job.

Ask her if she can call me at my cell # below.

Thank you so much.
Christina Mojica

Posted by: Christina Mojica on October 14, 2007 4:14 PM