TX Smart Growth and Houston UrbanismIn case you missed it, Governor Perry vetoed a smart growth bill that came out of the recent legislature (Houston Tomorrow, Kuff, HRG). Setting aside all of the negative impacts that have come from smart growth plans elsewhere (the CA housing bubble, among others), and as relatively toothless as it was, I roughly agree with Perry and the Austin Contrarian that it was a misguided attempt to impose a state solution on what is fundamentally a local problem.
Where I disagree somewhat with AC is his comment on TXDoT and community control of their transportation. While the agency has run a bit roughshod, transportation is fundamentally a network that connects places, and that means it needs a master architect with control rather than every locality going their own way. Think about how master-planned communities prefer cul-de-sacs over street grids - nice for residents, totally unhelpful for people trying to pass through. Imagine that approach on a larger scale. Cities decide they don't like pass-through traffic so they constrict incoming boundry roads to 2-lanes - or worse put big tolls on them. Imagine if Bellaire could decide they don't like the 610 loop and they tore down the segment inside their city limits? Everybody wants the big infrastructure somewhere else - NIMBYism run amok is what we'd get. TXDoT has to have the power to break through those NIMBY barriers, even if it's not always pretty.
You might have also caught the Chronicle's front page story today on coming changes to our development code. Given the success of what we've seen inside the Loop, I'm all for expanding it out to the Beltway. But I agree refinements might help. Requiring some minimal guest parking is prudent. Make the new higher-density developments retain more runoff and drain it more slowly to prevent flooding. A simple barrel or underground tank linked to the gutter system should do it. If trees are removed, require the developer to sponsor new equivalent greenery coverage on site or elsewhere in the neighborhood (street medians, bayou edges, parks, etc.). These are relatively minor costs that would mitigate most of the issues.