Thursday, April 30, 2009

A poignant last post on Houston

I ran out of time today, so just a quick pass-along tonight: some excerpts from a moving last post at the Keep Houston Houston blog. (although I recommend reading the whole thing)

It happened like this: Many years ago I was tripping on the smart-growth kool-aid. I got accepted to an engineering school in Portland, Oregon, because Portland was just the PERFECT place for the budding new urbanist. And it took me about a year to realize that the biggest thing preventing all the small-scale mixed-use locally sustainable goodness was the exact same planning and zoning bureaucracy that was supposed to bring about the enlightened tomorrow. The planning process was, in itself, the primary problem. I could’ve stayed - an agent provacateur, throwing rocks at the PDX self-worship-mobile (which happens to look suspiciously like a Siemens LRV). But I’m a firm believer in the principle that every city tends to become more like itself, and I figured that if the Portlanders were happy with their Portland, then they should have it.

So I did the only logical thing. I moved to Houston, Texas.


This is a special place. It’s a special city, in a special state. I could say that I hope Houston “never changes,” but it’d be sure to be misconstrued, because part of what makes Houston so endearing is its constant change. I haven’t yet woken up to a Montrose morning that doesn’t include multiple cranes on the horizon. The skyline changes yearly, the streetscape monthly. Some of my favorite restaurants have moved. And even if I only have to be away for a summer, or for a year, I fully expect that when I return there’ll be new things to surprise and delight.

In the meantime, knowing that I’m going to be spirited away makes each moment slightly more poignant. Yesterday I was headed east on Blodgett. Unbound, small-scale capitalism, buildings in all states of repair under a thicket of electrical wires, the architecture of laissez-faire. Cut south to MacGregor and admire misty towers of glass rising above the lush, bayouside vegetation. Houston is the perfect Radiant City - witness our towers and 18-lane motorways. Houston is the perfect New Urban City - witness our endless small-scale neighborhood businesses tucked among the houses and garden apartments of neighborhoods whose deed restrictions long ago expired. Houston is just a damned good place to live, period.

In the meantime, please don’t vote for that architect guy for Mayor. I wanna build a funky house when I come back, and I don’t wanna deal with some urban sub-district framework planning neighborhood design review board telling me about allowable roof pitches and minimum window coverages. Ick. Tell your kids to just say no to form-based codes.
We'll miss you. Come back soon.

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At 7:46 AM, May 01, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...


I couldn't have said any of that better myself.



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