Monday, November 18, 2013

If I were mayor, Houston planning and opportunity, complete streets downside, Buffalo Bayou history, and more

Some smaller misc items this week after an event announcement: a new preservation group called "Pier and Beam" is launching with a happy hour this Wed evening (11/20) at Mongoose vs. Cobra.  If you're interested you can read more at the invite here and register here.  Hat tip to Dave.
Q: After 33 years studying it, do you believe Houston's lack of zoning hurts or helps the city? 
A: It's kept Houston's marketplace moving, and I think it puts us at an advantage over other cities. I'm not your typical planner. I have seen a warehouse piece of property become a single-family development in just a matter of a year, year and a half. You go to another, zoned city and that takes years to get through the approval processes. The lack of zoning gives us a lot of flexibility as a city to reinvent ourselves fairly quickly, and it allows us the ability to amend our rules fairly quickly to respond to problems. It's part of the energy, part of that can-do spirit that's in Houston.
  • KUHF asked respondents to finish this statement: "Please tell us what you would do if your were the mayor of Houston, using the sentence as a springboard: If I was the mayor, I would ..."  My three answers around the Ike Dike, city branding, and METRO are near the bottom here.
  • WSJ on bike lane wars and how complete streets eliminate street parking.  Let's hope that's not how they get implemented in Houston - we definitely need to keep our street parking.  Excerpt:
"Our little squabble illustrates the tactics you can expect to see when the bike wars reach you. Cyclist-commuters may number no more than 2% of the adult American population according to a 2002 report by The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, but they are the ones who go to city council meetings. They'll push for the kind of "Complete Streets" policy that our city adopted, one that gives priority to pedestrians and cyclists over cars. 
In the abstract, that will sound innocuous, but when the time for implementation arrives, you'll find yourself losing your street parking, street by street, as roads are repaved."
For Ting, Houston still promises “the idea of ‘if you work hard, you’ll reap the benefits.'" ...
He seriously thought about moving to Austin, given its young population, but to him, “the city just feels like a college town.” Next to Austin’s revelry, Houston is the mature, moneyed older brother: “It has the resources and the population I’m going after.”
    • Speaking of opportunity, there are fresh links to the Opportunity Urbanism report Joel Kotkin and I created at the GHP web site here (scroll down under Independent Research), including my policy framework.  Hat tip and thanks to Patrick.
    Finally, an interesting half-hour video on the history of Buffalo Bayou and Houston (hit the bottom right corner brackets to see it full size).  If you don't have a half-hour, at least watch the opening 40 seconds - good stuff.  Hat tip to Paul.

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    At 10:33 PM, November 21, 2013, Anonymous Dom said...

    I never really understood the zoning vs non-zoning issue. Austin and Dallas (who are experiencing similar growth) are having no problems. I'm sure it's a factor in some cities, but not in Texas.

    At 10:44 PM, November 21, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

    Those cities are having trouble adding density as easily as we are, and our housing costs are staying lower. Houston also has a far more vibrant and nationally recognized restaurant scene, and our core city is healthier than Dallas (as opposed to just growth in the far suburbs).

    At 2:31 PM, November 26, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Well, Houston has more food insecurity than San Diego California which really proves that the low paying jobs grew there the most. It has a 23 percent poverty rate while San Diego is 14 percent. Cheaper to live in Houston but higher food security at 18 versus San Diego at 14 shows that lots of the Texas Cities are not doing that good. Also, Houston largest group under 18 is Hispanics. Hispanic poverty rate for kids in Houston is over 30 percent. Fastest growing group is not white professionals but poorer Hispanics about 52 percent of the children's population is Hispanic and 19 percent Afro-American. There are professional Hispanics but Texas like California has a big income gap between whites and Hispanics. Houston future one of the poorest US Cities by 2030 unless Hispanics leave Houston and go back to Mexico or other states or advance. Texas's conservative government cuts funding for education which might help Hispanics advance.

    At 2:57 PM, November 26, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

    The reason they come here is opportunity (both jobs and home ownership), and it's why they're leaving California.


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