There’s supporters, and then there’s “supporters”

This Chron story is about “supporters and opponents” of the “Heights” Wal-Mart debuting their webpages. See if you can spot the problem with this:

The opponents, led by a group of concerned citizens who began organizing around a Facebook website in mid-July, have formed the nonprofit group Responsible Urban Development for Houston.

“We are a community organization devoted to preserving the character, traditions, and appearance of the Heights and West End neighborhoods in Houston,” states the group’s website, “It is our goal to represent our neighbors before local government, to educate the community about the potential impacts of real estate development on our infrastructure, environment, taxpayer-funded public services, and quality of life.”

The new organization, whose website was created Aug. 2, complements the opposition group’s more extensive site,, which has been active since July 26.


Supporters of the proposed store, which would be placed on 16 acres near Yale and Koehler streets, last week began mailing promotional flyers to homes in several areas of the inner loop under the name Friends of Wal-Mart. The group gives its address as a P.O. Box.

The mailing states that project would “take an unused piece of property that is much in need of remediation and convert it into a specially-designed store that will be a safe, productive addition to the community. The custom design of this Wal-Mart, with consideration given to landscaping, lighting, and sustainable design, will mean that this property blends in with the surrounding community.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also has set up a website,, similar to its and sites, to form a “community action network” to lobby for the project. The locally-themed site was created July 27.

So the former is a bunch of folks who live near the construction site who don’t want to see a Wal-Mart built in their neighborhood, and the latter is…WalMart itself. Does that really count as “supporters”? I know there are people, some of whom even live in the area, that do want to see the Wal-Mart get built. But they’re not sending out mailers or putting up websites, and to equate them with the genuinely grassroots opposition to the Wal-Mart is misleading. And just as a reminder, Excited About Heights Wal-Mart has 18 fans. Stop Heights Wal-Mart has over 5500. These are not the same things.

On a related note, CM Ed Gonzalez has taken a position in the debate.

Ed Gonzalez, whose district includes the proposed Wal-Mart site at Yale and Koehler streets, this week hopped down from the neutral fence on which he’d been sitting since the plan became public in early July.

“I was open-minded, to try to listen and gather as much information as possible, but at this point in time, with the information in hand, I have serious concerns about this development,” Gonzalez said Tuesday at a meeting of the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council. “I support development, but I am at the point where I don’t think this is going to be the right development for the community.”


Gonzalez cited the impact of the proposed project on nearby neighborhoods as his chief concern.

“Even if you do infrastructure improvements to provide better access to and from the retail development, it will feed more traffic into the neighborhoods, and those streets are very narrow,” he said. “Any amount of added vehicular traffic on those streets is not a good thing. It’s a 24-hour operation, you have heavy trucks coming through … it’s a quality-of-life issue.”

We’ll see how that affects other Council members. The article also notes some frustration with the way the Parker administration is handling this. That may make tonight’s public meeting more interesting.

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12 Responses to There’s supporters, and then there’s “supporters”

  1. Ron in Houston says:

    As a suburbanite Walmart shopper, I find all this gnashing of teeth over the Walmart as a bit odd.

    Some comments from the sidelines:

    1. The stop heights Walmart site has a distinctly anti-Walmart taint to it. In 3 years at every Walmart across the nation there were sixteen murders!!! Yeah, and how many bodies are found in empty industrial fields filled with scrub brush?

    2. The people that don’t care or would be glad to have a Walmart close obviously aren’t going to put their money into making sure that there is a Walmart in their area. Doesn’t mean that they don’t exist – however obviously much more passion goes into stopping something than in allowing it.

    3. I went back and looked at the Flickr photos Charles posted. I understand concerns but developing that area appears to me to be improving a blighted area. Honestly this guy’s not sure which he’d rather have in his back yard, that collection of run down shacks and scrub brush or a development.

    Hmm, considering there’s a Target about 1.5 miles away maybe we should explore that connection – maybe they’re funding the anti-Walmart crowd. You never know…

  2. Ron,

    You are correct, there may well be a large, silent majority in favor of this Wal-Mart location. The point I’m making is simply that it’s misleading to characterize the Wal-Mart initiated efforts to drum up support with the grassroots efforts to oppose them. They’re not the same thing.

    Also, the Target (which did run into opposition from the community, though not nearly as much) is in a mostly industrial area, with access to it via a street (Watson/Sawyer) that has multiple lanes in each direction and has had 18-wheeler traffic on it for years. The addition of that development really didn’t have that much effect on local traffic. Again, I believe these are not the same thing.

  3. Ron in Houston says:


    I do appreciate where you guys are coming from – Walmarts generate tons of traffic. I guess the question I have is whether people are opposing any development there or is it more “we hate Walmart?”

  4. There’s definitely a strong anti-Wal-Mart sentiment driving the opposition. I dislike Wal-Mart, and would not shop at this location regardless, but some of the rhetoric is a bit overblown to me. I share the view of Super Neighborhood 22, whose leadership has been saying that a suburban-style development is inappropriate for the area. If Ainbinder and Wal-Mart come up with a plan that really addresses those concerns, they may blunt some of the opposition. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens at tonight’s meeting at the GRB.

  5. Marlene says:

    I live off Washington Avenue near Yale. I have actually walked around my neighborhood and asked neighbors for their opinion re a Wal-Mart being built in our area. Three of my neighbors were pro-Wal-Mart, one was neutral while the remaining forty-nine were very strongly opposed.

    I just wanted to give you a perspective from one of the neighborhoods in the area.

  6. Ron says:

    Charles brings up a great point. How it is built may take Wal Mart off the hook a little bit. But they should not build their usual suburban big box store in the middle of an increasingly dense and urban area. The giant parking lot would be a giant eyesore and problem.

  7. OldTimeHeights says:

    This isn’t about Target vs. Walmart for me. As a business owner, I don’t want my tax dollars going to support a competing business. When I opened my business the city took money from me for permits and required me to make many changes in a building that was already safe. Now they want to GIVE money to a business that could put me out of business. That unfair business practices and my city representatives should be looking out for my interests, not an out of state corporation’s.

  8. Chris in West End says:

    As a Resident of West End that will be directly be affected by this, allow me to clarify a few things:

    * Everyone, including RUDH, is pro responsible development of the land–This has been said at their public meetings.

    * I do not feel a WalMart anchor is very responsible for various reasons that have been said in the past that I’m not going to reiterate here.

    * I -definitely- do not want $6M of tax incentives going towards this development considering there is a WM going in at I10/Silber and one at 45/Crosstimbers. Both locations are better equipped to handle the traffic ‘today’. Why not give $6M to the developer if they were encouraging small businesses/shops to come in? (Think uptown park) Does the world’s largest retailer need city of houston/tax payer help to do this ?

    * Traffic – Serious problem constrained by railroad bridges and neighborhood access roads. Heights has a train to contend with and Yale can only be widened so far b/c of the RR bridge. The surrounding neighborhood streets cannot handle the cross traffic a WM would bring.

  9. Trevan 007 says:

    I agree with most of the points being made here. I, personally, am not anti-WalMart even though I choose to shop other places, mostly out of convenience given my location. However, I do not believe a 24/hr – 7day/week 152,000 sq ft suburban-sprawl SuperCenter is an appropriate development for this location.

    As mentioned before, the proposed area is in a densely populated urban core with narrow streets and limited access. Only so much can be done with streets and access, and nothing will alleviate the strain of up to 10,000 additional cars per day, not to mention the semi-trailers and other trucks coming in to service such an enormous operation.

    Further, I am completely opposed to having my tax dollars utilized to subsidize development by two huge extremely profitable corporations (Ainbinder and Wal-Mart).

    What many may not realize about this is that these tax refunds come from general tax revenues, so EVERYONE IN THE CITY will be subsidizing this Wal-Mart location.

  10. 14th st says:

    To Ron in Houston: is not funded by Target. The president went on the record to the Chronicle and made it clear that the organization is not a front for a Walmart competitor. So, we do know the truth.

    Also, the crime at Walmart is primarily theft. It is not the severity of the crime, but the frequency that is a problem. The HPD is under a hiring freeze. A new Walmart could potentially require 3 calls a day on average (that is historically about what the Dunvale location required). That means fewer patrols in neighborhoods and more opportunity for crime in the Heights. We are already having to pay constables to do patrols. And don’t tell me Dunvale doesn’t compare. Go to the parking lot by Spotts Park (old YWCA). It is filled with broken glass from smash and grab robberries.

    Finally, if people really want a Walmart, they are getting two. I-10 and Silber and 45 and Crosstimbers. Why should our neighborhood have to absorb the traffic and crime for a Walmart that is largely duplicative of two other new supercenters? Just so people can save 5-10 minutes in the car? Is that worth forking over 6 million in tax breaks?

  11. Pulitzer says:

    Ron, having lived in the suburbs for many years myself and now having lived in the city for over ten years, I can assure you it is a totally different value system. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is focus and values- the suburbs were happy to have nicely kept lawns and good schools, but in the city they don’t seem to care if things are dilapidated as long as they have charm. Really, this are is about personality. There’s a small town feel in the different neighborhoods and a lot of people and other business owners have taken a chance and invested in the area. Some of it is still up and coming, but an empty lot in the middle of what is essentially the town square of these meeting neighborhoods is better than a WM. It becomes more diverse everyday here, and WM is the antithesis of that. When you pay the taxes and home values you do down here to have a more diverse experience, you don’t want that vision stomped on by a huge entity like WM.

  12. Few situations:
    1. Many cities like Dallas do not allow big box commercial development within their urban core. Might have to do with: the type of development, traffic impact, storm water impact, crime/police demand, and/or nature of the business.
    2. WalMart has a history of using child labor and slavery wages in third wold countries which allows it to provide for cheap products. And it has a history of issues with labor that make WalMart a not so nice corporation
    3. Most cities around Houston would require WalMart to mitigate its negative impacts, i.e. traffic and storm water. The city of Houston is compensating WalMart instead of requiring mitigation.
    4. In one hand WalMart offers cheap products and low wages. On the other it takes taxes in forms of tax incentives and 380 agreements from the same low income folks.
    5. Although the site was vacant and was industrial, in the last decade the area has changed into a more urban living and to my knowledge the particular site was not a source of crime.
    6. The proposed site has a WalMart in 2/3 of the property and other commercial in the other 1/3 thus greater traffic impact and storm water impact. Traffic impact goes directly through neighborhood, very narrow, open ditch streets. The storm water impact is being dumped into a bayou that impacts 10 thousand homes as designated by the city.
    7. The area i.e. Heights is one of the few left in Houston that have historic value. The Heights Boulevard is iconic and offers very popular bike lanes. The negative impact of traffic generated by the WalMart site will be directly on local traffic and bicyclists.
    8. Next to the site there is a very busy freight rail tracks with 24 to 30 plus trains per day. What in the world is the city thinking when allowing development with high traffic generation next to the tracks? It is increasing the automobile vs. train flow and potential for automobiles/trains crashes.
    I am sure there is a responsible way that WalMart could grow as a corporation but this one is not it. And for the city not to express any opposition or concerns is more than irresponsible, it is disregarding the quality of life and safety of voters and tax payers.
    And unlike the 18 members of the pro WalMart site and the WalMart corporation, the 5 thousand plus members of stopheightswalmart can certainly take their complaint to the ballot box and make an ever lasting change in the way Houston’s city council does business. That is if they are really interested in causing a positive change in the city 🙂

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