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Ashby everywhere

Nancy Sarnoff notes a trend.

Coming to a neighborhood near you

Homeowners in the Memorial area held a meeting last month in the lobby of a nearby medical office building to discuss what to do about a large apartment complex being planned in their neighborhood.

They said the project – and other new developments in the area – would lead to too many cars on the narrow, curvy road in front of the apartment site, making an already busy area more congested and dangerous. The residents have spoken at City Council meetings and are planning to commission a traffic study they expect will show severe mobility problems in their upscale neighborhood near Fondren and Woodway.

“We’re intelligent enough to understand that something is going to be built there,” said Rod Crosby, president of the Lake Vargo Homeowners Association. “But we want answers on how that would work out.”

Similar situations have emerged elsewhere around the Houston area as homeowners are increasingly coming together to fight what they see as inappropriate development in their backyards. The instances appear to stem from an improving economy, a stronger interest in urban living and increased development.

The battles have ranged from letter-writing campaigns to carefully planned strategies involving private meetings, public protests and political outreach.

Arguably the strongest example yet involves the so-called Ashby high-rise. Residents of the affluent neighborhoods surrounding the proposed residential tower near Rice University have been protesting the project for years. They’re still fighting against it even though the city said there was nothing that could be done to stop it. The developer recently applied for a construction permit.

The well-publicized battle may be encouraging others groups to take on unwanted development.

“The Ashby protests have definitely provided a blueprint for other neighborhoods to show they can at least make their case in the court of public opinion,” said Matthew Festa, a South Texas College of Law professor who specializes in property law and land use.

I’m not sure how good a model the anti-Ashby activism has been given that construction is scheduled to begin on the hated highrise, but then I suppose there aren’t any better examples to follow. I’m just going to keep flogging the theme that increased density requires increased investment in transit, walkability, and other non-automotive infrastructure. The traffic concerns are real, whether any one location is suitable for a highrise or apartment development or whatever else. We have to give people viable alternatives to the increasingly crowded streets.

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  1. Tory says:

    Consider this: would you rather have those additional cars on local surface streets inside the Loop, or further congesting the freeways coming in from the far suburbs? Because those people are going to live somewhere. For the most part, with a few exceptions, Houston’s surface streets move well. It’s the freeways that are full. Of course, improved walkability and bus transit are also good ideas for serving these newer, higher density areas.

  2. Brad says:

    Improved walkability to where? This location is in a vast area of non-pedestrianness. I don’t see these folks ambling to Westheimer for a coffee.

    Noone is going to to be walking from a high-end highrise. Same for bus transit. I think the boat size Cadillac SUVs will work well enough.