February 27, 2007
Help for the bungalows?

Last week, the This Week/Heights section of the Chron had a big story about some pending changes to the prevailing lot size and setback ordinances, and what effect they may have on historic preservation efforts.

The ordinances apply to non-deed restricted areas inside Loop 610.

The existing ordinance to protect against lot subdivision is the prevailing lot size ordinance.

If 75 percent of the houses on a block are the same size, the residents can apply for protection that would require all lots to remain the size of the majority of lots on the block.

Because many blocks are diverse in their lot sizes, this rule precluded many from protection.

The proposed minimum lot size ordinance instead would come up with a minimum lot size by adding together the square footage of lots on a block -- largest to smallest -- until 60 percent of the total square footage of a block is reached.

Whatever the size is of the lot that caps off 60 percent or greater of the total block area would become the minimum lot size.

The new rule would allow any two opposing block faces to qualify for some level of protection. A block face is comprised of all the land on one side of a block of a street.

Sterling said under the existing ordinance, residents have to do much of the legwork to find out if they qualify, whereas under the new ordinance the Planning Department would calculate each block's minimum lot size.

Sorvari said the new ordinance would improve upon the old ordinance, which "was made convoluted and burdensome to make it harder for us to do this as homeowners. This is simplified and puts the onus on the Planning Department to crunch the numbers."

A change to the building line ordinance, which has been working its way through city council in conjunction with the lot size ordinance, would create a standard build-to line for a block using the same formula as the proposed lot size ordinance.

Sterling said he believes, visually, the building line ordinance would have the greater impact of standardizing the look of a street.

Residents said they were concerned with the logistics of getting Planning Department approvals on minimum lot size applications if the ordinance change passes.

Sterling said the new law would have the potential to increase the number of applications because more people would qualify and the Planning Department would need to figure out how to deal with the influx.

If the ordinance changes pass council, Sorvari said, "we will do everything in our power to get the word out," so that more blocks can apply for protection.

My first reaction upon reading all this was to wonder what effect this might have on situations like what the Sunset Heights faced awhile back. My second reaction was to hope that someone who understands all of the minutiae would write a clearer explanation of what exactly this is all about, since I'm not sure I do. Thankfully, Marty Hajovsky came through. I'm still working my way through it all, but I'm farther along now. Go read his post and see if it doesn't help you, too.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 27, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

There has been so much ballyhoo about this in the nieghborhood. I wonder why the Heights (all of them) doesn't look to set a maximum house size restrictiction as well as the lot size and setback. This would certainly take care of condos, etc. and preserve the single family look of the area.

Posted by: becky on February 27, 2007 10:54 AM