Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Peoples' Republic of Upper Kirby, peak car and building our way out of congestion, evaluating urban rail, combining upward mobility with affordability, and more

I'd like to open up this week talking about Salon's crazy rant about central Houston gentrification (alternate link) and, essentially, the declaration of the "Peoples' Republic of Upper Kirby" - which is just as absurd as it sounds.  Despite being the online equivalent of a homeless man screaming about the end of the world - with about as much credibility - it's getting a lot of buzz in Houston social media.  Summarizing, it essentially says "I was a lucky artist that scored some primo cheap housing near Kirby, and now I'm pissed off because the city continued to grow and evolve and I'm getting kicked out for new development."  Obviously, the solution is that Houston should have frozen all inner loop development and residents around 2000 (or maybe 1990? or maybe 1980? when did it peak again, Mr. Author?).  The rant is essentially NIMBYism in its purest form - "I moved someplace I loved and I don't want it to ever change in any way, including the people."  At one point, he even claims there is "no affordable housing within the city" which he seems to define as within 2 miles of inner loop Kirby - ignoring the other 500+ square miles of very affordable Houston (see map here).  The whole piece is so off the rails that even the lefty Houston Press weighed in against it. I suspect the whole thing might be a trolling prank.

Moving on, here are some smaller items for the week:
  • 10 good reasons for Houston to give thanks
  • "Urbanists need to face the full implications of peak car"  As vehicle-miles continue to fall, Aaron Renn at Urbanophile questions continued arguments of "induced demand" against road expansions, since with current trends it might actually be possible to build our way out of congestion after all.  Hallelujah - let's hope so.
  • Evaluating Urban Rail: Wendell Cox at New Geography shows that, despite billions being spent on urban rail in this country over the last few decades, transit's trip share has mostly stagnated or declined.
  • "Choose One, Millennials: Upward Mobility or Affordable Housing - The paradox of the American Dream: The best cities to get ahead are often the most expensive places to live, and the most affordable places to live can be the worst cities to get ahead."  Houston seems to do pretty well on both if I'm interpreting the graphs correctly, although our affordability has certainly dropped during the last few boom years. I general, I think the author might be sort of ignoring Texas because it doesn't fit their thesis - we have upward mobility with affordability. Hat tip to Neil.

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At 6:51 PM, December 07, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The words "Salon" and "crazy rant" are somewhat redundant. I'm actually surprised when they publish something coherent.

At 10:47 PM, December 07, 2014, Blogger Max Concrete said...

That Salon post is so biased, bitter, cynical and absurd that it was entertaining to read. The author does not mention what he was paying in rent for his property. I'm thinking it was way below market.

The article states "Our immediate neighbor, a pretentious luxury condo called Gables River Oaks remains largely empty, and the retail businesses within it keep closing down. ... And an infamous high-rise building that went up on Kirby remains largely empty five years after construction."

OK, if that is true, why would anyone want to build a 30-floor, 370-unit tower in the area?

I was tempted to email the author and mention you can still find 3 and 4 bedroom homes on large lots in neighborhoods like Sharpstown for as low as $1200/month. But then I realized he feels entitled to live in the trendy, upscale, elite and close-in area.

At 7:04 AM, December 08, 2014, Anonymous awp said...

"frozen all inner loop development and residents around 2000 (or maybe 1990? or maybe 1980", or 1970/60/50/40/30.....

This is always the first thing that springs to my mind when dealing with anti-development or pro-historical* types. When exactly did Houston hit its peak? Why must everything be frozen in amber today?

*especially in Houston where historic seems to just mean old as opposed to, you know, historic.

At 7:36 AM, December 08, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Agreed. People always idealize the past. It would be an amusing irony to find an old newspaper article with some guy ranting decades ago about a nice empty lot/field with some good trees getting this guy's current building built on it... "We're simple farmer/rancher types, and these damn artists/writers are going to move in!" Lol.

At 11:15 AM, December 09, 2014, Anonymous awp said...

Some one had said somewhere... (maybe you can confirm)

That Southhampton had be completely redeveloped in the late 80s early 90s. So they had already ruined the neighborhood before Ashby Highrise was a thing. I don't know the history of this neighborhood.


Also it seems to be the early stage gentrifiers who scream the loudest about continuing gentrification, as in this story.

At 1:46 PM, December 09, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

"Also it seems to be the early stage gentrifiers who scream the loudest about continuing gentrification, as in this story."

Absolutely. They found the great secret deal and are peeved when the rest of the world finds out. Great if you're an owner, not if you're a renter.


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