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Big E

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  1. That might be true in absolute terms, though even that is debatable depending on what you are actually measuring (MSA for example). What is also absolutely true is that Houston itself is geographically larger than any of these cities. However, that doesn't affect the point really. There are still plenty of suburban and rural areas outside of these cities for people to move to and live in. And honestly, in an era of skyscrapers and dense development, geographic constraint probably shouldn't play as much of a role. The fact that it does speaks to my wider point about how government laws and interventions are largely constraining development. Well that doesn't actually weaken my point that Houston has geographic constraints to development. Also, despite the geographic constraints, the eastern side of the SF Bay is just as developed as San Fran's. Not necessarily. In a bad or stagnant economy, they may stagnate or go down. Even in a decent economy, home prices may remain relatively stable if demand isn't overtaking supply. Houston's home prices are a fraction of a city like New York's or San Fran's, even with its booming economy (pre-corona). Prices in some areas were probably stagnant, even before the corona virus hit. Depends. That...isn't a poor idea on the face of it. As the articles I linked above pointed out, when you get right down to it, IZ is more of subsidy program than anything else, and its success seems to be tied to how much the government is willing to subsidize to prevent rents and housing costs from going up. The problem is whether or not the government is willing to subsidize, how much, and whether or not IZ is better than other forms of government subsidy.
  2. The city wanted the Katy Expansion (or accepted that it was necessary) and pushed it despite opposition. The design phase was a little long, but that was mainly due to the fact that when they started, TXDOT had not yet bought the old railroad tracks next to the freeway. Once that was taken care of, everything went relatively smoothly. The tracks' removal allowed the expansion of the freeway without building costly elevated structures or as much right of way acquisition, so the city never really pushed for an alternate proposal. All of the Katy's opposition were from private groups, but the city solidly backed the freeway, and the opposition was ultimately defeated. The city never backed the Hardy Toll Road and in fact was hostile to it, which is why the county judge at the time basically single-handedly had to push it through on the county's end. He effectively personally championed the project. There were no alternate proposals because the city simply didn't want it built. The Harrisburg Freeway was not a major priority for TXDOT, nor the city government and took years just to get consideration. Its development was further complicated by the new federal laws at the time that was mandating all kinds of things the older freeways didn't require. What really killed it though was that it came at a time when TXDOT were massively strapped for cash and resources with huge funding shortfalls (which had already delayed the freeway), and had no stomach to push through an "unpopular" freeway given the current situation when the resources just weren't there. The West Loop Expansion ran into unique opposition in the form of the Park Lobby, which is very strong in Houston. The Park People organization in particular, mobilized to kill that plan, with the help of certain friendly city council members who were vocal anti-freeway people. Truth is, nobody who uses Memorial park would have noticed the 3.5 acres that would have been lost to the expansion. However, I think in the case of the West Loop, it was more like everything just seemed to align in that one moment to frustrate that particular plan. The planets sure haven't aligned that way since. Both 290 and the Katy ultimately got widened, barreling over any opposition.
  3. The whole Skypark thing I can take or leave. They could just give the land to development and it would work just as well. As for their proposals, I'm not sure how much TXDOT will consider them. Adding capacity was a major focus of the project. I doubt TXDOT will actually walk away from that. They may scale the project back, but I'm not holding my breath. History has shown that when a freeway project is seen as a pressing need, it will get done in Houston and everyone will ultimately get behind it. The Katy expansion moved forward despite opposition, the Hardy Toll Road happened despite opposition, and this will ultimately do the same. The city will get behind TXDOT in the end and just tell everyone "Well, we tried".
  4. Then you should have kept reading, because you didn't understand why I called your statement apple to oranges. I called it that because you intentionally skewed your comparison. You compared the densest, most central part of the cities/metro areas of San Fran, New York, and Seattle to the entire metro area of Houston. Your comparison was inherently flawed because it didn't compare like things and was weighted in your favor because of that. Despite how preposterous it was, I took the time to read it and explain why it was flawed. It says more about you that you didn't take the time to read my explanation.
  5. I think they are also working on a third building? A 20 story office tower on West Dallas?
  6. There have been numerous studies, all probably as "scientific" as you could probably study something like this, but, as I said before, because of the wide variance in how these laws are put into application, along with other variables, the results have been mixed, at least as far as results have shown. Your comparison is apples to oranges, or I should say, inherently skewed. You say that you can live in other areas outside of Houston, up to 20 miles away, and get a home, but that remains true in every other city you also mentioned. If you want to live in the San Francisco Bay area, you don't have to live in SanFran itself. You can live in San Jose, Oakland, San Marino, and dozens of other cities and unincorporated areas. Same with New York: one doesn't have to live in Manhattan, or in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, or even Staten Island. One can live further into Long Island, in New Jersey, or in a New York State suburb north of New York City, like Yonkers, and simply commute into the city, and thousands of people do just that every day. Seattle is the same. In all of these cases, you can live 20 miles outside the city and probably get a cheaper home if you do. Also, all of these cities have geographic limitations, yes even Houston (the area to the east of Houston is forested and swampy, and not really fit for mass development, so it has remained undeveloped, and to the southeast is the Galveston and Trinity Bays, which you overlooked for no real reason; this is why Houston is mainly growing westward). The rise in home prices is due entirely to previous (pre-corona) economic conditions leading to a boom in real estate, coupled with rising demand due to in-migration into Texas. In case of the East End in particular, gentrification is driving up housing prices across the area, as an area that used to be rather forgotten and run down in Houston is suddenly becoming increasingly desirable. This is economics naturally at work; demand is driving the prices of the supply, which is also increasing to meet the overwhelming demand. However, if you compare Houston to all of its compatriots in the 1 million+ population club (and quite a few smaller cities), Houston is still overwhelmingly cheaper to live in with a much lower cost of living, and a lot of that is due to Houston allowing development of new housing stock at such a high rate. That's just facts. Only San Antonio is cheaper. Truth is, prices rising to some extent is a good thing, because it indicates a healthy, growing economy, and I'm sure homeowners are appreciating the increased property value. IZ, along with other government policies, simply drive the prices up more by constraining the supply, thus driving the price even further upwards to compensate for the overwhelming demand in an artificial way. IZ is subsidized housing because the tenant of the IZ housing is not paying the actual cost of their housing. In such cases, the developer or owner must "subsidize" said tenant, because the costs that make their property "market rate" don't suddenly go away just because the unit they are living is now used for below market rate housing. Those who pay market rate are unsubsidized because they bear the full brunt of the costs. I actually wouldn't mind Houston reigning in their parking minimums a lot more than they have. And I understand how Houston uses its setback laws to wring developers into doing improvements when they want to get exemptions for them; they are really more for horse trading purposes than anything else. However, there just isn't enough proof there for me to say that IZ would actually help in anyway. It would just be another unnecessary hurdle for development. Hell, i can't even say it would help the poor if it was implemented. It seems to be something that actually geared towards helping the middle class, and Houston is already the most affordable big city in America for the middle class.
  7. That's more of a chicken or the egg argument. "What came first: the people's desires for a car based society, or the government's intervention to encourage the same", but it hardly matters: either way, zoning policies solidified that method of development into the American zeitgeist. In the end, any changes made to zoning laws to encourage a pedestrian friendly lifestyle are band-aids on the issue because they aren't changing people's general attitudes regarding said lifestyles, so the general trend of development is still towards the currently predominant archetype of auto-based development. There is also the fact that you are using zoning to try to fix the problems that zoning itself caused. Its a meandering top down approach that is inherently flawed because its the government trying to go in an dictate development on its terms vs. what the market would actually support. Houston has shown that such intervention is unnecessary: its densifying and moving away from car based development through natural transition, without the need for the top down approach, and its happening across the city in areas that can support said development, rather than happening in a piecemeal approach in specially appointed districts.
  8. I never "specifically" argued against zoning as a general concept. I was mainly arguing against IZ, which is related as a form of "zoning" but doesn't encompass the whole concept. However, to touch on zoning, our zoning laws play an integral part in our current car dependent lifestyle and all the perceived negatives of it. The forced separation of residential areas from commercial ones across long distances; the overwhelming preference for single family development and large land tracks; the lack of mixed use development in many of America's cities; etc., etc. List any given issue you could have in America's urban design and fabric, and I can assure that zoning policy has played a key or substantial role in encouraging it and entrenching it into our national fabric, and this has effected housing affordability. Doesn't help that many of these zoning policies are decades old, fundamentally made for older times that no longer reflect our modern society. of course, zoning isn't the only policy at play here, but its the most visible
  9. Seems like you've already done the actual research into scientific studies. As you said, what research has been done is inconclusive at best, partially because of the massive variance in IZ laws between various jurisdictions and just the lack of consistent data. There have been studies that have show that IZ increase the price of single family housing where it is implemented, while others have argued that that is not the case, but it doesn't actually help the poor all that much (which is actually a common left wing criticism, and in fact, you could argue that its not meant to help the poorest of society, but working middle class people like teachers who otherwise wouldn't be able to live in the areas they work in), though even the study cited in this second article states "effective inclusionary housing programs include incentives that offset the cost to developers," and that "mandatory programs with no offsets can lead to lower overall numbers of units produced", basically stating that the overall success of IZ in a given area is based on government subsidies to the developers to prevent housing costs from going up to pay for the below market rate units. The second article also cites the NHC, which is an organization that is heavily biased towards IZ and represents interests, both corporate and non-profit, that build affordable housing. Overall, research is mixed in this area, and data is woefully incomplete, but these articles are good at places to start in research if one is interested. However one thing that is clear from simple observation is that inclusionary zoning, subsidized housing, "affordable" housing, whatever you want to call it, has done nothing to actually curtail skyrocketing housing prices in the locations its implemented, does not help the poorest in the city (once again, these IZ programs tend to target the working and lower-middle class) and the policy's overall effectiveness has not actually been established or demonstrated conclusively. This must also be taken into account with the fact that the vast majority of the housing stock in any given city will always be existing housing stock, not new housing stock, and in many places, there isn't much new housing stock being built, and IZ based affordable housing will always be a minority of that. Studies have noted that only about 29,000 inclusionary units were created in the whole state of California from 1999 to 2007. The actual rate of IZ would be preposterously low in any given situation just because there wouldn't be enough affordable units built to offset the rising prices and there never could be. Arguing whether or not IZ raises housing costs overall is disingenuous most of the time, the bigger question with regards to IZ is whether or not its a good subsidy program, because its the subsidies that actually determine its effectiveness, and no study has actually weighed the real costs of IZ versus just increasing Section 8 voucher funding, for example. As of now, it hasn't been demonstrated that IZ works in any appreciable form to vastly increase affordable housing and IZ has not made a real dent in the affordability crisis facing America's housing market because it hasn't dealt with the underlying issues causing it.
  10. I think I responded just fine to your argument. Just saying that I didn't respond doesn't actually make it true. And I didn't disagree with that assessment. Only pointed out that that same kind of protectionism still exists, even in the free market system Polanyi criticizes as having supplanted it. How about people being able to afford decent housing? How about densification in cities where it is logical or even necessary to ensure that everyone can afford a home and the market is stable. The world changes and moves forward. "Progress" is relative and you shouldn't get caught up in the terminology. NIMBYs oppose change because they seek to conserve their chosen lifestyle. So they oppose any kind of development that disrupts what they see as their ideal life. However, NIMBYs are mainly motivated by self-interest that many times ignores the bigger picture of why a development is happening at all or why it may be necessary to the greater community. When talking about progress, I'm mainly talking about the natural evolution that happens as the world and market changes. A lot of the local protectionism we are talking about stifles that evolution, leading to distortions with unintended consequences. Tokyo would be an example. In fact, Tokyo is just as free wheeling development wise as Houston is. I'm sure plenty would, just like many so called urban planners like to make Houston the whipping boy. It wouldn't hold much water with me though. The middle and lower classes can still afford to live in Houston, unlike San Francisco, and when you get right down to it, Houston, developmentally, isn't really that different from any other city in America, at least in terms of development patterns. And the ways it is different mainly work to its advantage. Once again, if you look at the world as it is now, that is pretty much where we actually stand: a free enterprise system, with all kinds of local protections and government intervention. We've never had a purely free enterprise system where local protections didn't exist.
  11. Once again, we already have plenty of modern example of this, so local protections didn't disappear, even under the current free market paradigm, and they tend to stifle progress rather than moving society forward. Lets take San Francisco for example; neighborhoods and Neighborhood Associations have immense say in what gets built in them, and what it has led to is out of control NIMBYism that has constrained any and all development in that city. It can take years to get even smaller projects off the ground, and neighborhood interests can stifle a development at any part of the process, even if the developer has jumped through all the hoops, followed the law, and successfully met permitting and other requirements. As such, most developers don't even try. This has destroyed the local housing market and driven up costs, ironically leading to many people who used to make SF neighborhoods what they were being priced out of their homes. Houston's system isn't completely devoid of controls either: deed restrictions are still a thing in many neighborhoods. But, as Texasota said, human error is a thing. People fail to see the bigger picture when blinded by their own self-interest. Houston has struck a nice balance that has kept the NIMBYs at bay, something that our own website has demonstrated time and again when people attempt to block developments in Houston. Yeah. I avoided responding initially because I didn't want the prior thread to get more off topic than it already was. I'm actually surprised that it that long for the threads to get split, though I'm thankful for it now.
  12. Since when did that happen? They are aren't listed anywhere on the Innovation tower website. Gensler are the ones who are. Kirksey also doesn't mention the tower on their website at all.
  13. Depends on how you understand free markets. People will say they moved toward more economic freedom, because they opened up feudal, closed societies to modern trade. Coercive? Yes. In the same way that imperialism was also coercive. But such coercion has been the norm for the entirety of history. It just took a slightly different form in these instances to what it usually is, which is direct conquest. And ultimately, it did open markets up to world wide trade, which is why free trade proponents of the time period cheered it. But you will find no proponents of free trade cheering those on today, and such coercive actions aren't really necessary in a modern context. Polanyi's point is not that different from those made by classical liberals and their descendants: coercive methods of organizing the economy were the norm throughout history, and truly free trade and economic liberalism have never been implemented in any real form, and actually represent a truly revolutionary form of organizing labor and the economy different from others in the past. Where he differs from them is that he saw a socialist society as an inevitable result. Keep in mind that Polanyi himself was of the socialist belief system and his wife was at one point a communist.
  14. And most libertarians would tell you that they aren't examples of a "free market" and weren't motivated by the countries desiring such. However, America forcibly opening Japan did more good for Japan in the long run than if Japan had remained a closed, backward feudal society. It was that opening that forced Japan to modernize. Britain was primarily motivated by imperialist, mercantilism based ambitions in its operations in China, not "free market" ambitions in any real sense of the word.
  15. I like the dark glass they are using. Contrasts well with the brightly colored abomination behind it.
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