Better alternative to planning, Larry loves Houston, and moreIf you caught the Sunday Chronicle op-ed this week on comprehensive planning, I would like you to direct you to my response when essentially the same op-ed was in the Chronicle in 2007. I fully support the city planning its infrastructure - roads, sewers, etc - as it already does. I don't support interfering with the free market with restrictive zoning or land use controls (the ultimate implementation of any comprehensive plan). Houston is one of the most vibrant cities in the nation and is attracting waves of both domestic and international migrants - and a big part of that has to do with our free market in development and land use. Top-down comprehensive planning is not the answer. You cannot plan your way to utopia (show me a city that has). The real world involves trade-offs between goals, and markets are the best at resolving those trade-offs. What I do support are bottom-up, continuous, incremental improvements to our existing codes:
- What do people desire that is not being provided by the free market? Why?
- What are we doing that is preventing the free market from providing those things?
- How can we reduce regulation or enable free market tools (like voluntary deed restrictions) to allow more of those things people desire?
Moving on to some smaller misc items this week:
- Jeff Reichman on the bustling startup scene building in the Rice Village.
- New H-GAC Mobilty Now videos with an update on the 290 project and everything you ever wanted to know about Transtar.
- NYTimes has Houston as #7 on the 46 places to go in 2013! Hat tip to Neal.
- The BBC does a business trip profile of Houston.
- 25 Technologies Every Smart City Should Have. Good stuff Houston should be working on in here. Hat tip to Jay.
- The 2013 9th annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey is out, and, as usual, Houston does very, very well with a 3.0 median multiple of housing prices to income. Multiples can be more than double that on the coasts. They mention that Houston is among the fastest growing major metropolitan areas in the high-income developed world, yet still keeps its housing affordable by allowing supply to meet demand with market-oriented land use policies.
Houston was more or less my Paris, or such Paris as I had, and I still think of Rice University as my intellectual home. ...
If I were to anatomize the six major cities more or less in order of urban merit, I would now put Houston first by a large margin: it’s a great city. Next would come Austin and Fort Worth. The latter has those three world-class museums, plus that glorious livestock exchange building over by the Stockyards, and Austin has a music scene that has nurtured both my son, James, and my grandson, Curtis, not to mention the ebullient Kinky Friedman and many another gifted bard. Dallas I haven’t enjoyed since the sixties, when I could still scout books at the Harper’s big bookshop in Deep Ellum, where my son now often performs. Dallas is a second-rate city that wishes it were first-rate.
I recognize that Austin has provided a welcoming environment for artists of many skill sets, but I still love Houston more: its flavors, its smells, its foods, its variety. It always had an abundance of blacks and Latinos, but in the eighties it added Asians and Middle Easterners, these last come here mainly to learn about the oil business.