Monday, December 01, 2008

Transportation conference, zoning debate, and tourism stories

Before I get to some smaller misc items, I'd like to first remind everybody that Texas Lyceum is having a public conference on state transportation issues at the Reliant Center this Wednesday, December 3rd. It looks like a pretty interesting agenda with a lineup of heavy hitter panelists (including the U.S. Dept of Transportation Secretary), so I hope to see some of you there. Details and registration here. Email me if you'd like me to forward you the detailed agenda (tgattis at Also:
Please note this relevant editorial by Texas State Senators John Carona and Kirk Watson who serve as Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee that ran today in the Dallas Morning News as well as the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express News and the Austin American Statesman last week.
On to the smaller misc items:
In this city of skyscrapers of glass, steel and stone stretching 1,000 feet into the heavens, the one-story Beer Can House may best capture Houston's essence.

"It's visionary art," Mayor Bill White says, chuckling, as we stop at the modest three-bedroom, one-bath house a comfortable bike ride from the skyscraper district. "We have such eclectic architecture, and we don't have an arbitrary taste patrol. It gives the city a bit of a texture."

"We have the most energy-efficient building codes in the country," he adds, "but aesthetics we leave to people."


This city of 2 million people has its share of quirkiness and characters, but make no mistake - it's a major-league city, from two new stadiums with retractable roofs and a modern arena for its six professional sports teams to an expanded convention center.


Dozens (um, try 'hundreds') of restaurants serve everything from steak to sushi, barbecue to Bombay chicken curry, Tex-Mex to Thai. Locals recommend the chicken enchiladas at Armando's, but the grilled, blackened tilapia in white chardonnay sauce is even better.

The 56,405 acres of park space, including more than 100 miles of hiking and biking trails, rank Houston first among the country's largest cities. Memorial Park, called the largest urban park in Texas, includes an 18-hole golf course and trails along the Buffalo Bayou popular for mountain biking, running and hiking.


Downtown's rejuvenation gives visitors plenty to see and do, but it's more for the residents - and for attracting new ones. It must be working, because Houston topped Kiplinger's 10 Great Places to Live, Work and Play list this year, thanks to its growth, booming job market, and low cost of living.

Gotta love a nice puff piece in a non-local paper. Good job, GHCVB... ;-)

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At 10:27 PM, December 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd submit that "Does it mention the restaurants?" is a pretty good litmus test for Houston puff pieces.

At 10:08 PM, December 03, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be argued that the abundance of restaurants per capita actually is because of a lot of the good and bad qualities of the city as a whole.

little regulation makes it easy to open a restaurant.

An econ prof of mine argued that the reason so many restaurants are opened by immagrants is because it is their comparative advantage. They might not know the language well enough or have the skills to get a 9-5 but they do know their traditional cuisine. Also since there are so many immigrants here there is an automatic base for their restaurants. So immigrant city is a check.

We have a relatively well off population with a low cost of living. So we can afford to eat out.

now with the negs

we are fat, cause we like to eat in all our restaurants.

we spend so much time in our cars that we dont have enough time to cook for ourselves.

At 8:03 AM, December 04, 2008, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Here's my post from a few years back analyzing the 8 reasons for our great restaurant scene.

> we spend so much time in our cars that we dont have enough time to cook for ourselves.

We have comparable commute times to the rest of the nation's big metros, and less than many big transit cities like NYC, DC, and Boston. Zagat says we eat out more often than any other major city in America, and at close to the lowest average cost.

At 11:30 AM, December 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tory it is not just commute times that effects time spent in your car. When I lived in DC (Northern VA actually but regardless) my commute time was about the same but everything else was so much closer (grocer, pubs, restaurants’, stores, etc). I could walk to many of these amenities (healthier option) and it was more convenient. Neighborhoods were much more self contained entities. Here things seem much more disjointed. One often has to fight traffic to drive home and then fight traffic to get to a grocer or market.

At 1:22 PM, December 04, 2008, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Hmm. That has not been my experience. Houston's lack of zoning has made retail extremely convenient for me and others I've talked to - much more so than traditionally zoned cities where retail can be segregated off at some distance from residential. For instance, in Meyerland, where I live, I can choose from almost a dozen grocery stores within 5 mins of my house. Most of them are nice as well as huge - with tremendous selection. I find just about any other retail need I could generally have (as well as many restaurants) is also within 5 mins. And traffic is never really a problem on the surface streets. Maybe I just live in the right part of town.

I'm not arguing that Houstonians don't spend a lot of time in our cars, but I think it's pretty much the same or less as 95%+ of America's population, so that's not the differentiator in our restaurant scene.

At 2:12 PM, December 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do you live, common_sense?

The only places in Houston where grocery stores are that hard to come by are either really far out or really low-income. In the former, it's just an issue of density - where the land hasn't been "filled in" yet, there won't be enough residential to support a full palette of retail. And in the latter, there's typically more convenience stores but less supermarkets, a problem that afflicts poor areas nationwide.

In my neighborhood (Montrose) I've also got five grocery stores within 5 minutes, possibly a sixth when Whole Foods opens up on Waugh and Dallas.

At 3:04 PM, December 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just going off of typical perceptions of our fine city.


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