Jump to content


Full Member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by WAZ

  1. Fair enough. NIMBYs get a bad rap anyway. I'd rather fight for my neighborhood, and bear that label, than flee at the first sight of unwanted development. We do agree that Texas has mis-handled the LIHTC program, though I think we disagree on how.
  2. Well, yes and no. Low Income Housing Tax Credits are a government subsidy, just like welfare is a government subsidy. Housing built with the credits typically must accept Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), which is a welfare program. But LIHTC is not itself, welfare. That said, I'm once again reminded of why I stopped cross-posting from my blog to HAIF. A handful of regulars (Niche is one of them) have made it virtually impossible to have a good discussion here. It's pretty difficult to talk about the finer points of the LIHTC program with someone who says that those opposed to it are "unprincipled NIMBYs."
  3. The best way to oppose (or support) the developments is to go to the TDHCA hearings for them. If you go to the TDHCA website or read the notification letters they send out, you should be able to find the date, time, and location of the hearings (though they might not have set it yet). The more people in attendance, the better. Last year they actually separated out a particularly contentious development, because so many people were there to oppose it. Writing letters also works. It's best to do both. I'll be there to oppose a development they want to do at the corner of South Gessner and Fondren Meadow.
  4. Does anyone know someone in Houston who restores mid century appliances?
  5. WAZ

    Drainage tax

    The fees were always just a small part of the Rebuild Houston campaign. The bigger thing was that we would have a dedicated fund for road and drainage repairs. So they could have raised taxes to pay for it; or cut spending like you said. Personally, I'd like to see them drop the fees down to the originally promised $5 average, and then close the gaps in two ways: 1: Get a cut of the fees for vehicles registered in the City of Houston. As I have said from the beginning, Rebuild Houston is not just about drainage. It's about roads, too. So why not get money from automobile registrations? The Green folks would love it, too - since they want people to have fewer cars. 2: Due to a fluke in State Law, private universities are required to be exempt from the fee. The City needs to take a lead from Boston MA, and aggressively seek voluntary payments from the Universities, to help cover what should be their share of the fees. (The "payments" could be that the Universities actually use their own money and contractors to repair public roads and drainage through and around campus).
  6. My answer: Buses. Right now, it's pretty easy to get an express bus from almost anywhere in Houston to Downtown. But if you're trying to get somewhere other than downtown, it's a lot more difficult. We could fix that.
  7. But there's a lot more to making Houston more walkable, denser, etc. than just putting retail on the ground floor of every building. - You need to make it safe and easy to walk. Crosswalks need to be in convenient locations, marked, and have signals, for starters. Also, you need pleasant environments to walk in. This does not have to mean retail on the ground floor of every building. I would say that trees are a more important requisite. - Density is not a silver bullet to livability. Niche can correct me if I'm wrong, but Houston's densest residential neighborhood (in terms of population per square mile) is actually Gulfton. Some would argue that Gulfton is one of the -least- livable neighborhoods in Houston. - We need to accept that Houston is a suburban city, and we need to make our suburban neighborhoods more livable in their own right. Think about it. Are we going to bulldoze single-family neighborhoods to build midrises? Probably not. When people think 'livability' for Houston, the immediate assumption is usually that we need to copy what they've done in Seattle or Portland. Light rail going everywhere. Midrises with retail on the first floor. They're missing the point.
  8. I talked to a representative from the Bayou Greenway Initiative earlier this week, and they are very interested in adding hike and bike trails along utility rights of way. These trails would serve as north/south connections between existing east/west Bayou hike and bike trails. It sounds like the line running from Brays Bayou north through to Memorial Park would logically be at the top of their list. The Bills involved are HB3802 and SB1793 -- and it looks like both are faring well in the legislative process. From what I understand this initiative is being driven by Dallas / Forth Worth - where they don't have bayous and need to use utility easements for hike and bike trails. Oncor Energy, which maintains power transmission lines in DFW has been instrumental in it. Hopefully Centerpoint will follow suit.
  9. Ultimately, the choice to buy versus rent is a personal one - and personal preference is really all the reason you need. That said, each of the Altucher's points can (and should) be rebutted. A) Cash Gone - True you have to pay interest and other fees on a mortgage, and that cash is gone. But it's even worse for renting. Before I bought my home, I rented various apartments for 14 years. Over those 14 years, I paid a total of $100,000 in rent. If those had been mortgage payments, instead of rent checks, I might have build a few thousand dollars in equity. But they were rent checks, and all of that money's gone. Closing costs - This is the one area where the Altucher has a good point. Closing costs can be onerous - which is why many people advise that if you'll be in a house for less than 5 years, you should rent. (The closing costs are more than the equity you would build over 5 years.) C) Maintenance - OK, it sounds nice to live in an apartment or condo, where theoretically everything's taken care of. But you can't always trust a landlord to fix things right and in a timely fashion. The bathroom vent fan stops working - you call the office - they come by and remove the vent, leaving a gaping hole in your bathroom. Weeks, then months go by, and despite your phone calls, the hole is still there. This happened to me in one of the apartments I rented. It's the old mantra "if you want something done right, do it yourself." D) Taxes - You CAN, in fact, deduct mortgage interest from your federal income taxes. It's not a myth. I do it every year. Furthermore, landlords pay local property taxes, and they pass those taxes on to tenants as part of their rent. E) You're Trapped - You can't just up and decide to leave one day, because you have to sell the house. Renting isn't the panacea Altucher would have you believe - if you break your lease to leave early, it can be costly. But the real question is: is it really that bad to be locked into a house? If the neighborhood is stable and safe, and you have friends there, why are you so eager to leave? Do you really want to uproot your children and put them in a new school every few years? (And I wonder if Altucher actually studied history before he gave his rant about how big corporations fomented the "myth of homeownership" as a way to keep workers from moving. The 19th century industrial town was built around renting. Factory owners built houses, and rented those houses out to workers as a way to take back their wages.) F) Ugly - As in, ugly investment. Maybe houses are really ugly investments. But a house is much more than just an investment. It's a home. It is a reflection your personality and lifestyle choices. It's yours to personalize. Whether that means painting it your favorite color, or covering it in beer cans - you can't do that to a rental. As I said before, the decision to buy versus rent is a matter of personal choice. I think Altucher got caught up in the financial aspects of it (he is a financial expert after all) - but there's a lot more to the decision.
  10. I'm over in Larkwood; not far from Robindell. This area is a gold mine for Mods. And they're affordable here - which is a big plus.
  11. I think this is the best idea to come out of City Hall in a long time. Fill budget gaps by going after money that the City's already due. Genius. However, there is one serious concern. They want to convince people to pay by accelerating cutting off utilities (water). Fine and dandy for owner-occupied buildings. But what about multifamily tenants? This happened next door to my house a few months ago. Tenants who were current on their rent, had their water shut off because the owners of the complex failed to pay $40,000 in water bills. The City would be better to go to court in cases like this; instead of taking it out on the tenants. In general, as I said before, I love the idea of going after people who owe the City money. But it needs to be done carefully, intelligently, and fairly.
  12. Nothing's preventing hospitals from having flagship locations in the TMC, and satellite facilities all over Houston and its suburbs. Memorial Hermann already does; Methodist, too. and the Harris County Hospital District. I think from a hospital's standpoint, it's not an 'either or' question. The question I had for developers was, what do we expect from a base numbers standpoint? Will the TMC have more hospital development? Or will the suburbs? My money's still on the 'burbs. But I am a young architect; not a seasoned developer and real-estate guru.
  13. I'd be interested to hear what the developers would say about growth in medical space in the TMC, versus medical space out in the suburbs. At first blush, it would seem that there's more room for growth out in the 'burbs.
  14. Not normal. There's supposed to be 1-1/2" to 3" cover from the rebar to the edge of slab, typically. Structural engineers design the exact dimension and it's based on code and calculations. Concrete shouldn't wear-away from cars being driven on it after only one year. There was something else. Maybe it was just stray rebar that fell on the concrete when it was wet -- and so it really isn't anything but a tripping hazard. Maybe it's a seriously flawed slab. Either way, you were right to call attention to it. Next stop should be the building management and/or owner. If they don't respond, then go to the City.
  15. Again I'll ask what is a college education? I went to four years of undergrad. By most arguments, I have a college education. But what about the lady who did a 2 year associate's degree? Do we say she has a college education? How about the guy who did a four week certification course? Is he college educated? There's a tendency to oversimplify the argument "everyone needs to go to college," by assuming it means "everyone needs to get a four year college degree."
  16. WAZ

    downtown dying

    I think you're talking about the fracas over Christian rapper Tre9 and his homeless ministries, "Feed a Friend." They had been feeding the homeless downtown for over a year, before they got shut down by the City over the lack of proper permits. I agree with the City and our Mayor on the permits; but the way they shut them down was kind of squirrelly. Oh I agree. In my view, soup kitchens' time has come and gone. Finding food isn't the hard part nowadays. Fast food restaurants have 99 cent specials. Finding a stable place to live is a lot more difficult for someone on the streets. And finding treatment for mental illness or drug addiction requires a caseworker or a lawyer, or both. THIS is where efforts should be spent, and that's what "housing first" does. I'll confess that there's another reason I like "housing first." It helps mitigate the problems that neighbors have with soup kitchens and homeless day-centers. If they do it right, a "housing first" shelter shouldn't have homeless people congregated outside, and it shouldn't increase the numbers of homeless people on surrounding streets - the way soup kitchens do.
  17. WAZ

    downtown dying

    I don't think the homeless are causing downtown to decline, and I say that for two reasons. 1: I don't think downtown has declined any more than other parts of the City. We just got through a nasty recession; it was inevitable that some businesses downtown would fail. Businesses have failed all over the City. 2: downtown's lack of street-life can be attributed to many things. - Rice Village has a lock on outdoor street-life. - The Galleria has a lock on high-end shopping. - Houston is frickin' HOT most of the year; and downtown is even hotter because of all the concrete. (It's a heat island) - Downtown's tunnels keep a lot of pedestrians off the streets (a result of their being air-conditioned; see above). That said, I share your frustration with scary street people. Nobody wants someone pissing in their doorway, trashing their lawn, or harassing kids on the way to school. Even the people who run homeless shelters don't want that. Tamela Klatt runs Star of Hope downtown - and she lives with her son out in the suburbs. But slashing funding for the homeless or expecting them to work for it will only make the problem worse. Many of the homeless suffer from mental illness or drug addiction and won't be able to work unless those things are treated. A 'housing first' model would be better to handle Houston's homeless problem. Instead of taking the homeless in for a few hours, feeding them or letting them sleep, and then putting them back out on the streets (like they do now); "housing first" provides them with longer term housing, where they can stay and get treatment for drugs or mental illness; and then learn skills. It gets them off the streets, and the goal is that when it's done, they're not homeless any more.
  18. I spent a fair amount of time down in the tunnels when I was a student-worker for the IT department. They run their fiber-optic connections between buildings through the tunnels, and we were the ones who had to go down and fix them when they broke. For an architecture student it was hugely educational. In fact, I actually learned more from working in the tunnels and IT closets on campus, than I did from some of my professors. For the public, I think it would be educational as well. But I wouldn't go so far as to say they're 'impressive.' (In many cases it's impossible to tell when you're in a tunnel, and when you're just in a corridor in the basement of a building.)
  19. I'm of the 'never say die' set, but it will take a lot to turn Sunnyside around. The neighborhood is facing serious challenges (bad reputation and poor existing housing stock) that will take a concerted effort to fix. My advice: Take a long look at some places on the Southwest side - just past the gentrified neighborhoods. Look at this place in Robindell, Or this in adjacent Braes Timbers, or this in Braeburn Terrace. To get cheaper you could go a little further west and find houses starting at $80k and going up to $140k. If you go a bit east, you're in Meyerland and houses start in the $200s and go up to $1 million. (Reason for that is schools - Meyerland is zoned to Bellaire; Robindell and the other neighborhoods are zoned to Sharpstown). You mentioned that you want convenience to downtown and the Medical Center. Downtown's pretty easy - just take Hillcroft to 59 and 59 in. The Med Center is an easy drive, too - and beautiful (along South Braeswood). If you ever wind up working in Uptown, it'll be even easier. 15 minutes in the thick of rush hour.
  20. There are many things that bother me about this debate, aside from the acrimony. Primarily it's that there’s a lack of proactive education when it comes to historic preservation in Houston. If someone threatens to knock down a landmark - everyone screams; they write ordinances to help prevent the next one, and then move on. But preservationists should constantly study our City; not just when things come to a head. When a property goes on the market, preservationists should send the realtor a document outlining the history of that property. That document could be used to help find a buyer who is interested in preserving the property rather than replacing it or demolishing it. If the realtor doesn't use the document in this way, or if the buyers ignore it - so be it. But at least the preservationists did their job. They didn't just come in at the eleventh hour and start screaming. Don't get me wrong. I am almost as offended by McMansions as I am by slum apartments. (Actually, if there’s a silver lining to slum apartments, it’s that they scare away the McMansion set and help preserve old houses – not that it makes up for all the bad – but I digress.) I live in a 1956 'mod' south of Sharpstown. I 'rescued' it from life as a rent house. The neighborhood is historic in its own right. It was developed by Robert Puig in 1954 - and he used the profits from sales here to buy land for Memorial Bend. My neighborhood has block after block of original mid-century homes; smaller than what they did in Memorial Bend, but with all the 1950s low-roof minimalism. This is a veritable gold-mine for mod-lovers in the sub $130k market. Despite its history I would never enroll the neighborhood as a historic district under the new Houston ordinance (or the old one for that matter). It’s not just because some neighbors would have my head on a platter if I tried. As a Civic Club officer, I would rather work with the City to enforce our deed restrictions - and concentrate on education.
  21. My story: I've wanted to be an architect since I was eight years old. I got waylaid into a BA by my parents (college professors), and then went to grad school for my M-Arch. I'm still iffy on the value of my BA / M-Arch versus a B-Arch. I've come to appreciate the added knowledge. But there are times when I wish I'd gotten a B-Arch instead. Less time. Less money. Same architecture courses. That said, let's ask ourselves: what is college? Whenever someone talks about how more kids need to go to college, they mean "more kids need to get four year degrees." But four year degrees aren't right for everyone; and a four year degree won't prepare you for all professions. For some kids, there's as much value to a four week truck driving course, or a nurse's aide certification program. For others, a four year degree is a stepping-stone to grad school. School districts would do well to acknowledge this; not just try to get as many kids as possible into four-year degrees.
  22. I did suggest that criminals should be in jail; not in low-income housing. I stand by that. But what the DA is doing is creative, and a good first-step to cleaning up low-income housing. Also, remember. The gangsters are not barred from associating with one-another. They are barred from being at the Haverstock Hills. I am as sickened as you are by the extreme suggestions of public hangings and ghettos. But I understand the frustration that brings people to those extremes. I was outside with the dogs just now, and the HPD helicopter came flying overhead. They're looking for this guy no doubt. And then to read about parents who are afraid to let their kids play outside. Or watch Our DA's efforts are measured and creative. I'll reiterate what I said before. I hope she tries it elsewhere.
  23. They aren't throwing anyone in jail. The DA's office got a civil injunction to keep certain people out of a 57 acre 'safe zone' centered on the Haverstock Hills Apartments. And they're not randomly going after 'at risk populations.' They targeted 33 experienced criminals and suspected gang members, after doing an in-depth investigation of who was causing problems at the Haverstock Hills. These 33 have committed crime after crime, including intimidation against neighbors. Ultimately, this injunction is a good thing. I really hope that it succeeds in helping make the Haverstock Hills a safe place to live. And I hope they do it at other problem complexes and neighborhoods, too.
  24. Looks like the District Attorney won their injunction. This is a great day for Houston. I hope other locations throughout the City get the same kind of injunction.
  25. If I remember correctly, the St. Louis Arch elevators are curved; not sloped. The Eiffel Tower elevators are sloped; not curved. And neither run fast enough to meet the demands of a modern high-rise office building. I'm thinking these elevators would have to be something similar to a cross between a regular gearless traction elevator; a street car; and a roller coaster. Still a little 'iffy' on exactly how it'd work.
  • Create New...