Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why Houston does NOT have "basically zoning" with deed restrictions+permitting, Austin's foolish transit plan vs. Houston's wisdom, and more

I want to kick off this week with an excellent piece by Nolan Gray at Market Urbanism explaining why Houston does not "basically have zoning" with our deed restrictions and permitting.  He really gets the details right on how things work here and how flexible Houston is with our adaptive land use.  It also has a stat I hadn't seen before estimating that less than 25% of the city has deed restrictions, allowing the other 75% to pretty freely adapt.  There is too much great stuff in it to adequately summarize here, so definitely read the whole thing. But I will share the concluding paragraphs:
"Siegan concludes his discussion of this topic by perceptively noting that zoning implicitly tries to answer two very difficult questions:
  1. What is the extent of protection to which property owners are entitled?
  2. What powers should existing residents have to exclude other people and things from the municipality?
Zoning addresses these questions using an opaque political process in which certain privileged special interests—namely homeowners—may impose their particular preferences across all time. Houston’s deed restrictions, on the other hand, are constantly rediscovering the answers to these questions. It all comes back to consumer preferences: if consumers desire things like large lots and ample off-street parking and are willing to pay more for the extra land, developers will respond by bidding up the land and implementing tight deed restrictions. If they either don’t want these restrictions, or aren’t willing to pay more for them, developers might still build the houses but with deed restrictions that allow for smaller lots, higher lot coverage, or certain complimentary commercial uses. 
In this way, the process of identifying the optimal mix of land-use regulation is a dynamic discovery process, subject to ongoing changes in local conditions. As the costs of zoning stasis in cities like San Francisco become clearer, the value of understanding Houston’s uniquely dynamic system of deed restrictions only rises."
Moving on to some smaller items this week:
"If Capital Metro were serious about relieving congestion, it wouldn’t propose light rail, which typically carries about a quarter as many people per day as an urban freeway lane yet costs five to ten times as much per mile to build."
While the jury is still out, some people believe that Houston has managed to avoid the huge ridership declines suffered in Austin, Charlotte, and other cities because it restructured its bus routes to a grid system rather than a hub-and-spoke system centered on downtown."

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Houston beats Portland for urban density, what CA and others can learn from HTX, top rankings for IAH, licensing reform, and more

A couple of personal items before getting to this week's stories: I spoke at a Chapman University conference in Orange County, CA last week on What California can learn from Houston in addressing its housing crisis, and here's the paper I presented.  Got a few hostile questions (Houston and Texas are not so popular in California, lol), but nothing I couldn't handle. Certainly created some buzz/discussion over the course of the day.  Related story: California's housing crisis reaches from the homeless to the middle class — but it's still almost impossible to fix. Hat tip to Jay.

And a funny story: came across these stories in my newsfeeds, thought they sounded familiar, then realized they're older posts of mine being republished at the Market Urbanism Report, lol! (with permission, of course)  Just glad to see the ideas spread.
Moving on to this week's items:
1st most-improved in US (7th in the world)
1st in North America for best airport dining (7th in the world)
3rd overall in US
5th overall in North America
48th overall in world 
Finally, Scott Beyer has an excellent piece at Market Urbanism debating whether Houston or Portland is doing urban density better:
"So which metro area–Houston or Portland–is doing urban density better? In the objective sense, Houston is, by fitting in more people. Subjectively, it depends on one’s tastes. Portland’s dedication to historic preservation, low-rise, so-called tasteful development, and pedestrian orientation is indeed charming. The core area feels like a slightly bigger version of an antiquated liberal arts college town, where the pace of life is slow and the people are intentionally offbeat. The fact that this sits amid the backdrop of cloudy skies and evergreen-covered hills gives the place an ethereal quality. 
Houston, meanwhile, is too busy urbanizing to even try and achieve this pretension. It is building upward, outward, and everything in-between–and is doing so rapidly and unapologetically, with the metro area population increasing since 2010 by 852,054, compared to 208,946 in Portland. This has made Houston, inside and outside of its core, a completely different place than Portland: more grandiose, vertical, diverse, global, monied and in your face. Indeed, there is an extent to which Houston, with its large gleaming skyscrapers and overt street-level multiculturalism, almost makes Portland feel like a cow town
This is not to say that one is obligated to like–much less live in–either Houston or Portland. But it does make a statement about markets versus planning, in respect to urbanization. If people want cities–as many Americans seem to–they should embrace growth, markets and deregulation; it they want “towns”, they should embrace planning, regulation and a collaborative process that allows community interests to navel-gaze about every last land-use decision. 
I certainly know what type of place I’d rather live in."
Hear, hear!

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Sunday, April 01, 2018

Mayor unveils compliant housing models for new post-Harvey flood elevation regulations

Continuing the debate over the City's proposed higher elevation requirements for post-Harvey development in the city, Mayor Turner today unveiled new housing models that "meet the requirements in a pragmatic, aesthetic, affordable, and - most importantly - neighborhood-friendly way while also being unprecedentedly flood resilient."

Upscale / Meyerland

Commercial / Industrial

And finally, affordable housing options:

Public health experts also endorsed the standards as providing substantial health benefits from forced daily stair climbing, which should remove us from any future fattest city rankings.

Hope you enjoyed this year's April Fools post ;-D 
Here are previous years if you missed 'em and would like a chuckle: