Monday, April 12, 2010

Land-use panel event Tues (with free lunch!)

I'm planning on attending this event and wanted to pass the announcement along.  If you work downtown it should be particularly easy to attend:

South Texas College of Law will host what promises to be a very interesting land use panel on Tuesday, April 13, at noon.  It's called "Land Use in the Unzoned City: Regulation, Property Rights, and Smart Growth in Houston's Future."  It's free and open to everyone, with lunch provided and no rsvp necessary.  Attorneys and professionals interested in real estate, environnmental law, or Houston politics might find it interesting.  We have a great panel of leaders and experts in the law, planning, and development aspects of land use.  Please feel welcome to attend, and to forward this invitation to any persons or groups who might be interested.  From the web page:

The South Texas Real Estate Law Society is proud to present an in-depth look at the regulation of property use, property rights and smart growth in Houston. The free program will feature experts on urban development and regulation including President of Houston Tomorrow, David Crossley; CEO of Houstonians for Responsible Growth, Kendall Miller; and Professors Craig Anthony Arnold from the University of Houston and Asmara Tekle from Texas Southern University. The discussion will be moderated by South Texas Professor Matthew Festa and features a complimentary lunch. The event is co-sponsored with Houstonians for Responsible Growth and Houston Tomorrow.

When:  Tuesday, April 13, 12:00 noon
Where: South Texas College of Law, 1303 San Jacinto, Downtown Houston, Garrett-Townes Auditorium

For more information, please contact Matthew Festa at 713-646-1857.

The website is here:


At 3:31 PM, April 12, 2010, Anonymous kjb434 said...

I'm really not liking the whole "smart growth" moniker.

Smarth Growth is rarely ever smart and often relies on a fantasy world where societal behaviors have to perform in an exact way for it to work.

I prefer "reality based growth" which Houston has done a good job of promoting.

At 3:57 PM, April 12, 2010, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I think it's meant to be a debate. Here's HRG's version of the announcement, and they're relatively anti-smart-growth.

Land Use in the Unzoned City
Regulation, Property Rights, and Smart Growth in Houston’s Future


Houston is the only major city in the U.S. without zoning. What should the government’s role be in regulating land use and development? Should Houston consider adopting zoning, or Smart Growth ideas such as form-based codes, New Urbanism, or transit-oriented development?

Our panelists will address these questions and offer their perspectives on the future of land use in Houston and across the United States.

David Crossley, President & Founder, Houston Tomorrow
Kendall Miller, President, Houstonians for Responsible Growth
Prof. Craig Anthony Arnold, Univ. of Louisville & Univ. of Houston
Prof. Asmara Tekle, Texas Southern University
Moderator: Prof. Matthew Festa, South Texas College of Law

Tues. April 13, 2010, 12:00 p.m.
South Texas College of Law
1303 San Jacinto Street, Houston, Texas 77002

At 4:31 PM, April 12, 2010, Anonymous kjb434 said...

I'm glad the panel is quite all over the issues for a good debate. I'm not so quietly behind HRG.

The roots of the title "smart growth" has more with getting a leg up in debate/argument situations. If someone is for smart growth and you happen to not agree with them, then you get labeled for wanting something "not smart" or "bad".

It like when some doesn't agree with some environmental legislation they get labeled anti-environment. Just because you don't agree with the "pro-environment" guy doesn't mean you are for pollution.

The title "smart growth" puts a premise that one side's view is better to begin with giving the other side an uphill battle in image.

This premise is used in politics and academia so much it is sickening. And using it often means you don't have a solid case that supports your side other than you believe it's right.

At 6:38 PM, April 12, 2010, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Oh, I agree: branding/labeling is half the battle. Thus "swamps" become "wetlands", and the ever-famous pro-life vs. pro-choice - nobody wants to be negative. 'Smart Growth' is brilliant marketing.

At 12:25 AM, April 13, 2010, Anonymous awp said...

I actually agree with the "Smart Growth" crowd in as much as I want to live in the type of neighborhoods that they envision. On the other hand if you use the definition of intelligence associated with Socrates; "intelligence is knowing what you do not know", I believe I might be more intelligent. Even being a transportation engineer, urban economist, and playing way to much SimCity, I know that I do not know enough to be able to cost effectively plan/organize anything as complex as Urban development on anything other than the most macro scale.

The thing that gets me the most about arguing with "Smart Growthers" is their use of previous government failures to argue for more government. It seems that most of their arguments for planning their way is that government intervention has distorted the market towards suburbanization. This always happens when we talk about Houston, their first point is always that it does have regulations that prevent their vision, and thus it needs more regulations.

If they can point out regulations that prevent the building dense, interwoven,vibrant communities, I would be the first to agree that we need to get rid of those regulations.

At 8:52 AM, April 13, 2010, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

The way I think about it, "New Urbanists" focus on building the types of neighborhoods you're talking about - and I have no problem with that. Their mission is a better pedestrian experience. "Smart Growth" is more macro - focused on reducing sprawl and increasing density and transit-use, usually through pretty heavy-handed regulation. It's more of an environmental mission. The two are often mixed together (and smart growth certainly supports new urbanism), but I think it's helpful to separate them because their scale is so different.

At 7:45 PM, April 13, 2010, Blogger Paul Tucker said...

If only I'd seen this yesterday! I work across the street. Bummer.

At 2:13 AM, April 14, 2010, Anonymous awp said...


I meant macro as general rules that can and should be applied across the city as a whole.

Such as property rights should be respected except where they cause an obvious and unambiguous nuisance. All new structures should be built to withstand a ### year storm. etc.

I consider most of the regulations Smart growthers argue for, What you can build and where you can build it, etc, as micro.

Maybe I should be using different terminology.

At 4:29 AM, April 15, 2010, Blogger Alon Levy said...

I'd draw the smart growth/new urbanism distinction elsewhere. New urbanism is a specific type of development - typically a greenfield suburb, and rarely infill, built with mixed uses and a street network imitating pre-WW2 streetcar suburbs. In NU developments people walk to nearby attractions and drive elsewhere. They're usually fairly transit-poor, and inward-looking so that putting light rail on the nearby arterial won't serve them well. They're denser than traditional postwar suburbs, but still less dense than prewar city neighborhoods.

Smart growth is an umbrella term for any sort of regulation or tax incentive that's supposed to encourage development other than your average postwar suburb. Oregon's urban growth boundary is the prototypical example, but there's also upzoning near transit stations and removal of parking minimums and setbacks, on the model of Alexandria and Arlington County in Virginia. Some cities also give lavish tax breaks to politically connected developers and call it TOD, but that's just corruption masquerading as smart growth.


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