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Showing content with the highest reputation on 11/13/09 in all areas

  1. There’s an article on Chron.com this morning called “Stop Hating On Houston” http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/6563392.html First off, I want to mention that the article is a thin skinned response to a legitimate criticism (we are a flat, sprawling and hot and not exactly an “out doorsy” city). But most importantly I want to comment on Houston’s national rep, which I know is a discussion that has been done to death. But I’m a relatively recent transplant (4 years) and haven’t had the chance to really discuss this anyone. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since living here is that Houstonians only have themselves to blame for the city’s bad reputation. They are positively the WORST ambassadors any city has ever had. You have a diverse, cosmopolitan, laid back and in many areas, hip city. But are most Houstonians even aware? Do many Houstonians even care? When I first moved to this city from Austin I lived in midtown/Montrose and worked out near Harwin and the Beltway. I was struck with how interesting and eclectic the city was. There is always a new neighborhood to discover, a new restaurant to eat at and an interesting person to talk to. I had fun exploring my new city and enjoyed showing it off to friends from Austin, Boston, San Fran, LA – all of whom were struck by how “cool” this town actually could be. But as the years went on I was shocked at how little many Houstonians knew about their own city. I had a coworker tell me he wanted to live in another town because Houston wasn’t that interesting to him. This coworker lives, like many Houstonians do, on the outer fringes of the city (which I don’t consider Houston, but that’s beside the point). I mentioned that I found Montrose to be a very vibrant area and asked how often he explored that part of town. And his response was, and I still have trouble coming to grips with this, “Montrose? What’s that?” - and therein lies Houston’s problem. When these people move, or visit other cities, they describe Houston as boring and soulless. When a relative visits from out of town, or when a coworker is here on business they may take them down a bland freeway to the Galleria or a sporting event (both things I love, but nothing unique), but otherwise it’s back to the suburbs by dinner. How do you expect to establish a great reputation if you’re showing people the same crap they could find anywhere. Bottom line, I think Houston needs to work on improving its reputation with its own citizens before it starts trying to impress the world.
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  3. I took some photos of this amazing and unusual church complex. That's on the south side of the church, in front of the small(er) building in the southeast corner. The front of the main building. You can see more on my blog.
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  4. Sharpstown could have a good future. BUT they need to tear down those apartments (and I do mean ALL of them), renovate the neighborhoods, and get draconian on transients and loiterers.
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  5. KHOU ran a bigl article today on the gang-wars that are gripping Gulfton. As an architect, Gulfton has always fascinated me. Gulfton abuts some of the most desirable parts of our metropolis - Uptown; Bellaire; West U - but it is referred to as the "Gulfton Ghetto." Crime rates are much higher than the norm. Poverty abounds. This post will be unlike my previous post about the Sharpstown Mall. That was more about architecture and design. This is more about urban policy and tactics that could be used to turn Gulfton around. First we need to understand why Gulfton is a ghetto. Common wisdom is that the reason is apartments. It's not that apartments are bad. It's not that renters are bad. The problem in Gulfton is that the apartments there are basically all wrong. - Gulfton's apartment complexes are too big. 200 units seems to be the limit for a good, older complex. Many of Gulfton's complexes have ten times that many. - There's not much diversity in Gulfton's real estate. There are no offices or employment centers in Gulfton. - Gulfton was developed very fast in the 1970s, infrastructure never caught up. - Gulfton was overbuilt with apartments in the 1970s, and has never recovered from the ensuing collapse of the 1980s. So what can we do now? 1: First we need to go apartment by apartment and make an honest evaluation of the properties. Complexes should be ranked based on crime rates, number of code violations, and anonymous tenant surveys. 2: The lowest ranked apartments (maybe 10% of the total units in Gulfton) should be demolished, and replaced with non-apartment development. (Retail, offices, schools, libraries, etc.) 3: The next lowest ranked apartments (the next 15%) should be gutted and renovated into new apartments. 4: HPD needs to swarm Gulfton while all of this is happening. While the worst 10% of apartments in Gulfton are demolished, the 10% of Gulfton residents that are serious criminals should be rounded up and jailed. There is money to do this - but it needs to be re-directed from other functions. The City of Houston actively works with developers and State and Federal funding sources to improve apartments. Those efforts could be concentrated in Gulfton. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs sits on huge coffers of money. If they stopped building new apartments in Houston, and started using funds to repair apartments it would go a very long way in Gulfton. I've started to believe that Gulfton will be a measure of Houston's next mayor. If his or her urban and police policies are good - Gulfton will turn. If they are a failure, Gulfton will continue to languish. These are only one architect's ideas of how to fix the "Gulfton Ghetto."
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  6. If you've read my earlier post I wasn't projecting one person's ignorance on an entire population. I was using one persons ignorance as an extreme example of a line of thinking that's fairly common in this city. I am not the only person to have experienced this. Also, if you read my earlier post you would know I understand that this is a forum of people that REALLY DO understand Houston and I wasn't trying to say YOU didn't know anything about Houston. Or that YOU do not tell anyone about what makes it great. But HAIF represents the extreme of Houston boosterism and a vast majority don't think the same way - and before you jump on that statement I'm not saying a majority of people hate Houston, I'm merely saying a majority don't feel this impassioned sense of appreciation. And calling critics of Houston "slaves to hip and trendy" or "snotty outsiders" is just stupid. Rather that paint those critical of us with a broad stroke, why not try to understand why they may come off with such unfavorable views and what we can do to help change that.
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  7. There are going to be people who stick to their own little patch and rarely if ever visit the urban core. That is true of any large city. There are also many domestic and international transplants in and around Houston. But on the whole, I've found that people here seem to pride themselves on having a good understanding of the city and pointing out certain highlights. In fact, what I've found is the exact opposite -- it's on the national stage where Houston's reputation is lacking. And the fact that many Houstonians don't really care is actually quite endearing. I don't think anyone's trying to bash Austin. It's a nice town overall and I once considered moving there. I do, however, like to counter the constant drumbeat declaring that Austin is some kind of mecca. The reality is that the city has outgrown itself and has it's own rather lengthy share of problems. And many of those problems (like horrible traffic and high cost of real estate) are caused by those very outsiders drawn to the city because of all the fawning by tabloids, like Outside magazine.
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  8. How about instead of complaining about the citizens of Houston and its MSA not knowing the city they live in and its hot-spots, you actually do something about it. Instead of telling us about your co-workers lack of Houston knowledge, tell us about how you took him/her to Montrose or the Museum District. Do something about it, because you think people are not aware of what the 4th Largest City in the US can offer. Stating your opinion, accomplishes nothing, except,maybe irritate a couple HAIF'ers. Now that you've pointed out the "alleged" problem, the next step would be to fix it. Tell all your friends about Houston. Their will always be people who truly think their city has nothing to offer, that LA is a sprawling mess, that NYC is just a concrete jungle, that Houston is a mosquito-infested, hot swamp. And i think this is just an issue, im sure at least half of Houston knows the world-class city it is. Why else would it still be growing, and people relocating here.
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  9. Pride is one thing, shameless homerism is another. It's like the difference between patriotism and nationalism.
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  10. You people need to pull your heads out of your asses. I love this city, but If you don't think Houston has image issues, you're living a fantasy world. I realized HAIF was full boosters and homers, but Christ.
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  11. So you're only one guy... here's two. I've lived in Houston for exactly four years today (weird isn't it) and I can say that the reputation of this city is completely and utterly useless. Growing up in Arkansas, I hardly even knew that Houston existed until I was in junior high school. Of course I knew the phrase "Houston, we have a problem" and I had heard of NASA being in Texas, but I had no clue that NASA was in Houston or that that is where the phrase was referring to. The first time I ever remember seeing images of Houston?? Reality Bites. That movie was some of the best press that Houston has ever gotten... great skyline shots, talking about different parts of the city, showing "real Houstonians" living "real Houston lives". But guess what movie also came out in that very same year?? Jason's Lyric. It served to brand the city as a place that was just as dangerous as South Central LA. Not exactly good for the rep. And of course the only times that Houston ever gets national attention??? Disasters. Take the last ten years just for fun. Houston has been associated with such highlights as Tropical Storm Allison, Superbowl '04 (now forever known as Janet Jackson's nipplegate), Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the Rita traffic jam of Death, and our dear friend Hurricane Ike. If it hadn't been for the Recession and the Latin Grammys, Houston would have probably one an award for most disatrous image of the Aughts. Seems to me that all of the "good stuff" about Houston gets grossly underemphasized and even swept under the rug, even by Texans. I especially love when people in this state (more specifically in the Texas urban triangle) talk about "Houston heat" and how it's so much worse than "Texas heat". How?? I'm up in Dallas right now, and if I go outside and try to walk across this parking lot, my clothes are going to be wet by the time I get back. Sound familiar? Last time I checked, just as many people suffer heat stroke in D/FW as they do in Houston. Of course I agree, the image change starts with us. I know most Houstonians don't care about the city's image to outsiders, but there is something that we all care about: money. Because Houston doesn't spend time promoting itself, Houstonians lose out on the money that other cities are able to generate. NYC, Chicago, LA and Atlanta are cities that live or die by their public/media image. So as bad as that can be sometimes, the also get to reap the benefits of being first in line for government funding, hosting more national/ international events, and enjoying some world popularity. As a relatively new Houstonian, I'm proud to live in a great city, and I'm not ashamed to tell people that it's great every once in a while, especially if it helps us all in the long run.
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  12. So once again someone is using the "I have a friend" analogy? That's not exactly great statistical info. I live in the burbs and have never encountered anyone who thinks Reliant is downtown. I guess you might get that from a new resident, but not from someone that's been here for a year or two, and that doesn't have an IQ of a shoebox.
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  13. Unfortunately that same bad press has influenced way too many of our fellow citizens. Montrose and the Heights are artsy hip and cool, but because they're in Houston, many Houstonians think they're somehow not worthy of the same respect as similar neighborhoods in other cities.
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  14. How would you suggest I do that? I'm sharing my observations as someone that's lived here 4 years or so and still somewhat has an "outsider's" perspective. And are you really suggesting that this city views itself as being on par with other large American cities in terms of culture, diversity, etc? I mean, sure, on HAIF we do, but the city as a whole? Do you really think our citizens show the same pride in their city as places like Austin, SF, NYC or Chicago? Or appreciate it as much?
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  15. It was merely meant to illustrate a point - Namely that unlike most world class cities, Houston's own citizens are painfully unaware of what their city has to offer. And as a result, are unable to articulate what makes this city special to outsiders. I know we like to say we don't care what people think of us, but c'mon - we do. We want people to see this city as the special place that we know it is. Particularly if you've seen people's reactions when you tell them you're from Houston - if it illicits any sorts of reaction, it's more likely to be negative than positive. The average citizen of Austin can tell you what makes Austin special or why they are proud of the city. Even if they never truly experience what the city offers (see: average Arboretum resident). Can we really say that about the average Houstonian?
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  16. Sorry, I meant to mention - he was a native. Cypress to be exact. Every city has those just trying to live, not concerned with which town is better than the other - but in many other cities the average person is at least aware of the positives their town has to offer.
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  17. Luckily the natives know there are gems all over Houston, including the burbs.
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  18. I must confess, I am a little shocked that you would say that the "Gulfton Ghetto" is "doing quite well." If looked at solely from an occupancy rate, Gulfton might seem to be doing well. But the area has VERY serious crime problems, concentrated poverty, poor infrastructure, a horrible reputation, and lagging property values compared to neighboring areas. Gulfton's problems are especially troubling, to me, given the prime location of the neighborhood. Throw the thug in jail, and leave him there. Give the other ten better apartments - with services to help them get their lives on track, and with a safe environment for their kids. It CAN be done. I've seen it. So you don't want better housing for the poor? On the one hand, you seem to be saying that subsidized housing is bad because it doesn't support the desperately poor. On the other hand, you're implying that it has to be built in wealthy neighborhoods in order to work. (Which is often impossible due to neighborhood concerns). You want to maintain the status quo? I don't. I want Houston to redirect attention to older apartment complexes, and use those as quality housing for the working poor. The City of Houston started to do it in Fondren Southwest - and it was a huge success. There's money in the TDHCA's coffers to do more of it - if only we could convince them to renovate instead of building new apartments in neighborhoods that don't want them. This could be an integral part to cleaning up neighborhoods like Gulfton. In closing, I will apologize here for suggesting that the City of Houston fix Gulfton by redirecting funds from other sources. Gulfton is our City's largest, densest ghetto. It's certainly not Houston's only ghetto. They all need attention. I would still say, though, that I see Gulfton as an indicator of Houston's city-wide urban policy. If the policy is good, Gulfton will get better.
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  19. I would have said that it's actually a slum lord asking "where are you going to put them?" The slum lord's statement would go something like this: "I perform a service. I provide housing to people who can't live anywhere else.... They have to live somewhere. Do you want them near you?.... No?.... Alright then, leave me alone to run the Casa del Miseria the way I want to!" On a more serious note, I knew someone would ask the question "where are you going to put them?" The question really is bogus, because it makes three huge, wrong assumptions. First, the question assumes that all poor people are undesirable criminals. They aren't. For every thug in a bad apartment complex, there are ten people who are as honest, law abiding, and hard working as you and me. (In many complexes they're afraid to speak out - because they could be evicted, or killed for doing so - but they are there.) Second, it assumes an all-or-nothing argument. Knock down ALL the apartments and where will THEY ALL go? Of course it's impossible to knock down ALL the apartments and you wouldn't want to. The key is to be strategic about it, and of course build back new housing as appropriate. Third, it assumes that if you demolish 200 units, you displace 200 families. Not true if those 200 units are vacant - and slums often have a big proportion of vacant units. Local markets could easily absorb the loss, and that'd be to their benefit.
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  20. First off they could go back to Honduras.
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  21. Sugar Land's zoning is set up to only include a small number of apartments. CDeb, I'm thinking unincorporated Harris County, to the northwest, the north, and the west, would absorb former Gulfton tenants. There is no zoning in unincorporated areas. Sugar Land's zoning prevents large clusters of apartments like you see in Houston and unincorporated Harris County. Even if it gets public transport, I don't see how Sugar Land would change.
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  22. If someone were to get in there and be able to displace all of the residents and eliminate the apartment complexes, the land itself would seem to be pretty valuable given the location between Bellaire and the Galleria.
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  23. As a note, this is exactly what happened in Vickery Meadow, the Dallas version of Gulfton. A few complexes had been bulldozed to make way for schools.
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  24. They need to set up an ICE office on Gulfton. I would be willing to bet over 50% of the area's occupants are illegals. The city needs to go after slumlords. Of course I've been saying that for 30 years and it hasn't happend and probably never will.
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