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  #21  
Old Posted May 18, 2019, 5:00 PM
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Sam Hill Sam Hill is offline
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That's because the Denver bashing thread has run its course.
lol, exactly.
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  #22  
Old Posted May 18, 2019, 5:39 PM
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Honestly it doesn't feel all that different from other sunbelt cities, especially at the city/metro level. You mostly see the effects of loose zoning laws in the haphazard redevelopment/upzoning of some older residential neighborhoods.
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  #23  
Old Posted May 18, 2019, 8:07 PM
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I think Houston has tons of potential. The pro-development policies in the city are to be desired. Lots of potential, and I hope they continue to build like crazy.

Essentially, I hope they learn from the failures of some West Coast cities and some East Coast places, and continue to attract business and residences, all the while building its urban form.

Keep building those high-density mid rise blocks, and use the land to its full potential.

Texas has the theoretical potential to be the biggest powerhouse state. I just hope the poison doesn't infect it, and it resembles some failing areas out West. It needs to continue to be pro-business, pro-development, and keeping prices in check. Lots of potential for that great state.
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  #24  
Old Posted May 18, 2019, 8:41 PM
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What's most interesting about Houston's urban environment is - zoning or not - that there was little thought put into buildings as to how they would interact with the greater area. . . so sure, you have high rises in areas adjacent to single family homes, but a lot of low rise commercial development seems sort of jammed into these odd in-between spaces where freeways and residential neighborhoods collide. . . the areas around Upper Kirby are interesting as there are some good restaurants and pubs off the main streets tucked away in the bowels of these odd places where you're not sure why it's even there. . . the Rice Village area is kind of like that too but you'll have a residential street with single family homes which are being used for commercial use such as a hair salon or boutique law firm. . .

It's much more chaotic than other similar sized Sun-belt cities such as Dallas or Atlanta and much more exotic. . . seems like half of the businesses cater to foreign born clientele. . . you'll have an auto parts store next to a Persian restaurant then a Pizza Hut and a Carribean grocery store. . . it's much more ethnically diverse than people give it credit for. . . and for some reason there are lots of red British public phone booths peppered around town. . . weird. . .

. . .
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  #25  
Old Posted May 18, 2019, 10:26 PM
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I doubt a plutocrat can plant an oil refinery or 40 story skyscraper in a residential neighborhood, can they? There must be some restrictions or loose zoning.
An oil refinery probably isn't a good example. They are large facilities and its rare to hear of a totally new one being built.

Houston a few refineries in the city limits. Like Cleveland's steel mills and Detroit's auto factories, they are all very old, if occasionally being torn down/rebuilt/reconfigured so they aren't exactly the same as they were in 1910. There are residential neighborhoods near these refineries but they are also really old. Remember that zoning did not exist anywhere until 1926 when Euclid v. Ambler was decided by the Supreme Court. The east side of Houston is older than that. There are more recently established refinery sites and chemical plants on the suburban fringes and outlying towns, far away from anything else. Again, this mirrors how heavy industry works in other parts of the country.

A more interesting question would revolve around more common noxious land uses and what a lack of zoning means in those situations. A more likely threat to a community's health and wellbeing would be something like a small meat processing plant, a grease recycler, a chemical drum and tanker truck cleaning facility, an auto battery recycler, etc. I guess there are federal and state regulations and the city probably has many other permitting requirements that keep these facilities away from places where people live.Still, Texas is so conservative that I imagine there are a LOT of undiscovered environmental issues and rubber stamped permits.

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Texas has the theoretical potential to be the biggest powerhouse state. I just hope the poison doesn't infect it, and it resembles some failing areas out West. It needs to continue to be pro-business, pro-development, and keeping prices in check. Lots of potential for that great state.
Are you just focusing exclusively on NIMBYism here?

Meh. It's also socially regressive, conservatives ignore issues like poverty and drum up hate and fear of illegal immigration.

Houston is facing severe fiscal difficulties right now because of a firefighter union backed pay parity ordinance that was put to a direct vote ballot measure and won. Like every big city in America it has public sector pension debt. There's concern that in addition to many firefighters being laid off, we'll lose a wide range of municipal services. This is also why the infrastructure which isn't freeways or major roads(built by state or county) is awful, again going back to the powerlines and ditches in otherwise gentrified hoods.

The entire Houston school district is facing a state takeover, which is completely unjustified IMO and a way for the state to push charter schools that pick off "worthy" kids and funnel the "bad" kids into hybrid daycare/jail facilities pretending to be schools. It's always having money and debt problems. At the same time the school district is indeed corrupt and many of the schools really are horrible. And you can't escape it because it is massive and extends out into the suburbs.

Crime statistics in Houston aren't actually that much better than those in cities like Chicago, for some reason less attention is paid to it. On the flip side, whenever some guy goes Bernie Goetz on some kids in a bad neighborhood the gun wingnuts blow their load over Reddit and newspaper comment sections.
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  #26  
Old Posted May 18, 2019, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom In Chicago View Post
What's most interesting about Houston's urban environment is - zoning or not - that there was little thought put into buildings as to how they would interact with the greater area. . . so sure, you have high rises in areas adjacent to single family homes, but a lot of low rise commercial development seems sort of jammed into these odd in-between spaces where freeways and residential neighborhoods collide. . . the areas around Upper Kirby are interesting as there are some good restaurants and pubs off the main streets tucked away in the bowels of these odd places where you're not sure why it's even there. . . the Rice Village area is kind of like that too but you'll have a residential street with single family homes which are being used for commercial use such as a hair salon or boutique law firm. . .

It's much more chaotic than other similar sized Sun-belt cities such as Dallas or Atlanta and much more exotic. . . seems like half of the businesses cater to foreign born clientele. . . you'll have an auto parts store next to a Persian restaurant then a Pizza Hut and a Carribean grocery store. . . it's much more ethnically diverse than people give it credit for. . . and for some reason there are lots of red British public phone booths peppered around town. . . weird. . .

. . .
Upper Kirby...UK...hence the British themed stuff. They used to have an old Routemaster double-decker in front of their old office building. There are even a few Royal mail post boxes in the area as well.
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  #27  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 4:06 AM
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Originally Posted by CaliNative View Post
^^^

OK, so you can plant a 40 story building in a residential neighborhood, but apparently not oil refineries.[/QUOTE]

The tall residential tower in the photo is on a major arterial. The photo is misleading because you can't see the street in the photo. When you're there, it's doesn't look particularly out of place. That area is actually looks very nice in person.
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  #28  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 4:22 AM
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So far, pretty honest discussion, although some of the things being discussed aren't about zoning. They're more "I want to get this off my chest" stuff. But overall, it's not nearly like some truly mean-spirited bashing threads from the past.
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  #29  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 4:50 PM
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the skyscraper geek in me wants to take a trip to houston and photograph all of those random 400-500-600' buildings that are spread around everywhere. i wish i'd spent a little more time down there when i was living in dallas just to get a better feel for it.
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  #30  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 6:22 PM
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OK, so you can plant a 40 story building in a residential neighborhood,
Only if it is on a tract of land which doesn't have deed restrictions. Most of the stuff in the foreground does.

This is more extreme than zoning, these private entities can refuse to release a tract with no justification, no democratic process required. It's killed quite a few high rise proposals over the years.

I think we are looking at this picture all wrong. Instead of seeing a skyscraper in a residential neighborhood, I see a residential neighborhood in a neighborhood that should be full of skyscrapers. In other cities with zoning but fewer private subdivisions, the entire west side would be peppered with tall buildings and apartments and commercial and townhouses, but instead these things are clumped together in between single family home neighborhoods that are fixed and will never change.
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  #31  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 7:09 PM
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Originally Posted by CaliNative View Post


^^^

OK, so you can plant a 40 story building in a residential neighborhood, but apparently not oil refineries.
Not in all neighbourhoods though (due to deed restrictions as mentioned earlier).

As for oil refineries, maybe you can, but think about it... why would you? First of all, there is the issue of oil refineries being much bigger than a typical city block, so you'd have to build pipes connecting the oil tanks and other refining units under/above the city streets. Probably kind of difficult to get the city who owns the streets to let you do that. Not to mention oil refinery operators are going to be uncomfortable having public streets allowing people to drive through the middle of the refinery... they'd generally want access to the entire facility to be restricted to employees only for security reasons (in fact it might violate safety regulations even if it doesn't violate zoning regulations?). The land assembly costs of buying up hundreds of homes would also be a huge pain, especially since oil refineries aren't *that* valuable in terms of value per acre, certainly much less valuable than a highrise.

What you do have however, is a lot of light industry, small warehouses and junkyards, especially in the less desirable and lower density neighbourhoods, since acquiring land for those kinds of low intensity industrial uses is not too expensive. I think deed restrictions still limit those kinds of land uses in many neighbourhoods, but you do have quite a lot of them mixed in among houses and trailer parks in older low density suburban areas in North Houston or South Houston. I'm guessing they were mostly build on vacant lots, or replacing old abandoned and/or run-down homes. You do have some houses with warehouses in the backyard and kind of weird stuff like that too though.
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  #32  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 8:04 PM
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Have you seen the neighborhoods off TC Jester both north and south of I-10 recently? This development is only about 5 to 10 years old, things have changed a lot from what I can tell(not from here, recently moved to the city, but always kept up with development being an SSP nerd)

No sidewalks, creosote power poles holding up a rats nest of wires, deep culverts along a road that is barely wide enough for two small sedans to pass, and then 3 story townhomes that are zero lot line. It's oddly fascinating, but they really need to fix the streets. Bury the wires, install storm sewers and gutters, and make them laneways for cars and for peds. But that would be expensive, and this city doesn't spend money on the civic realm unless its an oil company or real estate mogul donating a park next to property they own and want to increase the value of.

Anyways, some thoughts:

1. A lot of neighborhoods have deed restrictions and other things that sort of override zoning. They'll always be single family detached homes. This is true both for the early suburbia from the 1940's and later, and also for the vast carpet of conventional sprawl that was being annexed as late as 1994.

2. I think Houston's example gives some evidence that land use patterns are pretty persistent even when there is nothing enforcing them. Areas that were commercial or residential 80 years are still mostly those things even without a government regulation forcing them to be those things. It's not just high wealth areas either. You can pick out Acres Homes in Google Maps pretty easily, it's still very much homes on acres and still mostly working class black folks.

3. Going with #2, a lack of zoning enables a lot of positive things in the pre-war and early post-war central city(inside the 610 loop mostly). But that's only because the character was already urban, the streets are narrow, the blocks are small, etc. It's urban in a southern gulf coast sort of way.

4. Most places outside the loop which are not subdivisions and are unzoned are kind of gross. I'm talking about places like Veterans Memorial. Here there are no urban "bones".

5. The incredible diversity and "unique" reputation of Houston really comes from a specific part of town - southwest Houston. This is going to be ephemeral in the long run. It's all because of two things. The presence of large numbers of immigrants crammed into 1970s apartment complexes that were overbuilt during the oil boom/bust and got turned into HUD housing. I can't imagine those plywood dingbats are going to last forever, our humid natural disaster prone location won't allow it. Given the proximity to Uptown and the tony Memorial area it strikes me as a major gentrification target. And there is the suburban Chinatown which will be there as long as there are Asian immigrant communities - which given that Asians are pretty upwardly mobile and tend to learn English and get highly educated - might disperse over time.

Overall I don't think the presence or the lack of zoning is a huge factor. I think if Houston had some modest zoning it could have kept older neighborhoods in working class sides of town more desirable for the middle class which would have changed the course of history. I don't the lack of zoning really contributed to the eclectic form of the west side of the city - Atlanta and Dallas have zoning and they still have scattered highrises and blighted high density low income apartments surrounded by affluent neighborhoods. Really the Uptown area doesn't look that different from Buckhead, its the same concept.
I don't think Southwest Houston will change that much. The ethnic groups might change, the same way as many black neighbourhoods have turned Hispanic in LA or New York. And perhaps the epicenter of Houston's immigrant community will shift towards Alief but I think SW Houston will still remain very diverse. Houston only has so many white collar professionals with no children or enough money for private school and a working class immigrant population that continues to grow very rapidly.

There's still the potential for a fair bit more growth in gentrified and gentrifying neighbourhoods, and Spring Branch, Independence Heights, Northside and 2nd, 3rd and 5th wards could also be alternative areas for gentrification thanks to their location.

Overall, my impression is that Houston mainly differs from other cities in that there's more areas that allow lowrise infill (townhouses, 4-6 story apartment buildings) compared to other sunbelt cities, and is getting quite a bit more infill as a result. The highrise situation isn't that different from other cities.

And I'd say that's a good thing, it's bringing more money into the city, which is basically 80% sprawled out working class neighbourhoods and ghettos which are putting a strain on city finances. I suspect the townhouses would still be built with off-street parking even without parking requirements, since the streets are rather narrow for on-street parking and the city is too decentralized and low density and auto-oriented for it to be convenient to not have one car per adult, and the townhouses are upmarket enough that the residents can afford the cars.

But yeah, it wouldn't hurt to ease up on the parking requirements for certain kinds of properties like retail, and maybe you'd have more modest multi-family infill getting built if there was lower parking requirements for those too.
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  #33  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 9:55 PM
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Originally Posted by memph View Post
I don't think Southwest Houston will change that much. The ethnic groups might change, the same way as many black neighbourhoods have turned Hispanic in LA or New York. And perhaps the epicenter of Houston's immigrant community will shift towards Alief but I think SW Houston will still remain very diverse. Houston only has so many white collar professionals with no children or enough money for private school and a working class immigrant population that continues to grow very rapidly.

There's still the potential for a fair bit more growth in gentrified and gentrifying neighbourhoods, and Spring Branch, Independence Heights, Northside and 2nd, 3rd and 5th wards could also be alternative areas for gentrification thanks to their location.

Overall, my impression is that Houston mainly differs from other cities in that there's more areas that allow lowrise infill (townhouses, 4-6 story apartment buildings) compared to other sunbelt cities, and is getting quite a bit more infill as a result. The highrise situation isn't that different from other cities.

And I'd say that's a good thing, it's bringing more money into the city, which is basically 80% sprawled out working class neighbourhoods and ghettos which are putting a strain on city finances. I suspect the townhouses would still be built with off-street parking even without parking requirements, since the streets are rather narrow for on-street parking and the city is too decentralized and low density and auto-oriented for it to be convenient to not have one car per adult, and the townhouses are upmarket enough that the residents can afford the cars.

But yeah, it wouldn't hurt to ease up on the parking requirements for certain kinds of properties like retail, and maybe you'd have more modest multi-family infill getting built if there was lower parking requirements for those too.
This report came out last year but I haven't heard any updates from it since.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/09/...friendly-city/

It's talking about eliminating mandatory parking in Midtown and East Downtown.
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  #34  
Old Posted May 19, 2019, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by TexasBoi View Post
This report came out last year but I haven't heard any updates from it since.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/09/...friendly-city/

It's talking about eliminating mandatory parking in Midtown and East Downtown.
They should have at least included everything inside the loop up to the galleria. Just Midtown and the East End seems half assed.
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  #35  
Old Posted May 20, 2019, 9:45 PM
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They should have at least included everything inside the loop up to the galleria. Just Midtown and the East End seems half assed.
Not really. It's actually a pretty big area. Downtown, Midtown, and East of Downtown has a pretty ideal grid pattern that's of walkable scale. Generous size sidewalks ( for Houston) and has excellent train and bus service. I feel like if Houston had an intention to develop differently in these three areas in a way that's totally different from the rest of the city, I feel like the city would have a more respectable core of development for a city its size. Making the targeted area larger than what is proposed I feel would be more unmanageable and unreasonable.
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