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I just had a friend call me SCREAMING about something the city is doing wrt historic districts. He said there's going to be a moratorium on permitting until Dec 31 put into place and the mayor is going to bring a vote to change them to protected districts. Anybody know anything?

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I was here before you "preservationists". It is because of people like me that you thought the Heights was worth moving to. If I were to tell you to go f yourself, would you find that offensive? Becau

This is not a bully and name calling situation so much as forcefully pointing out the callousness of your position. You and others claim that your position and this ordinance protects the character a

http://swamplot.com/houstons-historic-districts-will-remain-as-they-are/2011-01-04/ It is over. All districts surveyed failed to muster the 51% needed to opt out. Yes, I know. You all are going

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I just had a friend call me SCREAMING about something the city is doing wrt historic districts. He said there's going to be a moratorium on permitting until Dec 31 put into place and the mayor is going to bring a vote to change them to protected districts. Anybody know anything?

I don't know anything about the moratorium but i have been hearing a lot of rumors about this for the last few months. the last i heard was that historic districts would be made in to protected districts, thus giving them the No Means No authority and getting rid of the 90 day wait. what i also heard, and i have no idea how true this is, is that districts will be able to vote to opt out if they do not want to be protected.

personally, i think this is great and hope it really does happen.

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I don't know anything about the moratorium but i have been hearing a lot of rumors about this for the last few months. the last i heard was that historic districts would be made in to protected districts, thus giving them the No Means No authority and getting rid of the 90 day wait. what i also heard, and i have no idea how true this is, is that districts will be able to vote to opt out if they do not want to be protected.

personally, i think this is great and hope it really does happen.

Leaving aside whether or not it's a good thing for a sec (I have mixed feelings), is this what the people who signed the petitions were sold?

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Leaving aside whether or not it's a good thing for a sec (I have mixed feelings), is this what the people who signed the petitions were sold?

Many neighborhoods with historic designations have been lobbying for this. It was not something that was provided for in the past at all, i.e. not an option thru CoH. again, this is all just what i've heard from a couple people so take it as total hearsay and not as absolute. this is why there would be an opt out provision, so if residents don't want it, they can keep their "historic" designation rather than be protected. i think the majority of people in historic districts (like the 1st ward) will be happy to take it though.

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if residents don't want it, they can keep their "historic" designation rather than be protected

I'm told there won't be an opt out, at least not for quite some time - the city council will put a moratorium on permitting at least until the end of the year while they work on making the changes to the districts. If they want to change them, it seems fair to continue under the current rules until new voting/petitions can be circulated.

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I'm told there won't be an opt out, at least not for quite some time - the city council will put a moratorium on permitting at least until the end of the year while they work on making the changes to the districts. If they want to change them, it seems fair to continue under the current rules until new voting/petitions can be circulated.

What they are trying to do is prevent any future demolitions of homes considered historically "Contributing" or "Potentially Contributing". If you own a property on the attached list and if it falls in the "C" or "PC" category, your only option will be a remodel, no new construction. It is not clear what the new guidelines will be for remodeling. The current guidelines have some silly limitations such as no Hardi siding etc.

Now that the districts are created, the HAHC is pulling the old "bait and switch" and attempting to roll the Historic Districts into Protected Historic Districts meaning no demolitions. Property values will ultimately go down, which is what some residents want. Lower lot values mean lower property taxes.

Isn't it nice to be told how you can use your own property?

Houston Heights Historic District East.DOC

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What they are trying to do is prevent any future demolitions of homes considered historically "Contributing" or "Potentially Contributing". If you own a property on the attached list and if it falls in the "C" or "PC" category, your only option will be a remodel, no new construction. It is not clear what the new guidelines will be for remodeling. The current guidelines have some silly limitations such as no Hardi siding etc.

Now that the districts are created, the HAHC is pulling the old "bait and switch" and attempting to roll the Historic Districts into Protected Historic Districts meaning no demolitions. Property values will ultimately go down, which is what some residents want. Lower lot values mean lower property taxes.

Isn't it nice to be told how you can use your own property?

Chester, there will be a lot more to come on this subject. This is NOT what property owners agreed to. In fact, there is public information out there that they were pushing changes before the designation was approved. There will be opportunity for the public to speak up about it and I will post it here. They will not be able to sneak these changes in as they did with the last ones.

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Below is an email that is currently circulating regarding this topic, including City Council dates, email addresses, etc. This email does not reflect my opinion on this topic, and I'm only posting it to keep interested parties educated. I will try to post the attachments which have more details abotu what is being proposed. I, for one, did sign up for the historic district, and did so specifically with the knowledge of the 90-day wait period. Any changes should be voted on again in my opinion...this would not be a minor change.

Personally, I like the 90-day rule, as it allows for suggestions from the preservationists, and my guess is that some/most people would take constructive suggestions and apply them if possible. The only way I would support removing it would be if the residents of the district were allowed vote on proposed demos/construction and not just a small handful of people.

Here is the email that I received:Explantemporary ord 2010.pdfCITY OF HOUSTON E-MAIL.docAGENDA 60210.doc

TO HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS THROUGHOUT HOUSTON:

The ordinance which will "temporarily discontinue" demolitions and incompatible new construction in historic districts is on the Agenda for the City Council meeting Wednesday, June 2. We need to show support for this proposed ordinance! The Agenda item is attached to this email. Please note that the ordinance will also discontinue temporarily applications for additional historic districts, a last minute change which was apparently made to get the Greater Houston Builders Association not to oppose the temporary ordinance.

That shows that our opponents have been busy lobbying City Council and the Mayor's office. Mis-information about what the temporary ordinance will do, as well as what the new permanent ordinance which will hopefully follow will do, has also been circulating. Attached is "Explanation of Proposed Changes in Historic Preservation Ordinance," which accurately describes the content of the temporary ordinance (except the temporary discontinuance of accepting applications for new historic districts), and the status of possible changes in the permanent ordinance. The paper also describes what opponents of "no means no" are saying and some answers to their claims.

"No means no" will not happen without strong support from the historic preservation community. It is very important to show up and/or speak in support of the temporary ordinance at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 2 at City Hall Chambers and follow that up with an even bigger show in the coming weeks. Since the deal with the builders was made, this temporary ordinance will probably pass, but we need to give the Mayor and City Council the comfort of knowing there is widespread support for it, which will also show them we support the permanent change to "no means no." Therefore, let's

  • Call the city secretary Tuesday, June 1 (832-393-1100) and sign up to speak for one or two or three minutes at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 2 (you get reached faster if you request a shorter time to speak).
  • Every historic district should send at least one speaker, in order to show that there is support for "no means no" throughout the City.
  • Come to the City Council meeting Wednesday, June 2, at 9 a.m. to speak or support those who do speak.
  • Our message is that we are for the ordinance which temporarily discontinues the "90 day waivers," and we are for a "no means no" permanent ordinance.
  • Email or telephone the Mayor and City Council that you support the temporary ordinance and a "no means no" permanent ordinance without having to repetition. A list of the email addresses and telephone numbers for the Mayor and all councilmembers is attached to this email.

For future action, I suggest that every district send a representative and every interested individual attend the Mayor's Task Force meetings which are to consider amendments to the permanent ordinance. These meetings have been taking place on the 6th Floor at 611 Walker on Mondays from noon to 1:30 and are open to the public. Councilmember Sue Lovell is chairperson, and Councilmember Ed Gonzalez is vice-chair.

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Below is an email that is currently circulating regarding this topic, including City Council dates, email addresses, etc. This email does not reflect my opinion on this topic, and I'm only posting it to keep interested parties educated. I will try to post the attachments which have more details abotu what is being proposed. I, for one, did sign up for the historic district, and did so specifically with the knowledge of the 90-day wait period. Any changes should be voted on again in my opinion...this would not be a minor change.

Personally, I like the 90-day rule, as it allows for suggestions from the preservationists, and my guess is that some/most people would take constructive suggestions and apply them if possible. The only way I would support removing it would be if the residents of the district were allowed vote on proposed demos/construction and not just a small handful of people.

Here is the email that I received:Explantemporary ord 2010.pdfCITY OF HOUSTON E-MAIL.docAGENDA 60210.doc

TO HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS THROUGHOUT HOUSTON:

The ordinance which will "temporarily discontinue" demolitions and incompatible new construction in historic districts is on the Agenda for the City Council meeting Wednesday, June 2. We need to show support for this proposed ordinance! The Agenda item is attached to this email. Please note that the ordinance will also discontinue temporarily applications for additional historic districts, a last minute change which was apparently made to get the Greater Houston Builders Association not to oppose the temporary ordinance.

That shows that our opponents have been busy lobbying City Council and the Mayor's office. Mis-information about what the temporary ordinance will do, as well as what the new permanent ordinance which will hopefully follow will do, has also been circulating. Attached is "Explanation of Proposed Changes in Historic Preservation Ordinance," which accurately describes the content of the temporary ordinance (except the temporary discontinuance of accepting applications for new historic districts), and the status of possible changes in the permanent ordinance. The paper also describes what opponents of "no means no" are saying and some answers to their claims.

"No means no" will not happen without strong support from the historic preservation community. It is very important to show up and/or speak in support of the temporary ordinance at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 2 at City Hall Chambers and follow that up with an even bigger show in the coming weeks. Since the deal with the builders was made, this temporary ordinance will probably pass, but we need to give the Mayor and City Council the comfort of knowing there is widespread support for it, which will also show them we support the permanent change to "no means no." Therefore, let's

  • Call the city secretary Tuesday, June 1 (832-393-1100) and sign up to speak for one or two or three minutes at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 2 (you get reached faster if you request a shorter time to speak).
  • Every historic district should send at least one speaker, in order to show that there is support for "no means no" throughout the City.
  • Come to the City Council meeting Wednesday, June 2, at 9 a.m. to speak or support those who do speak.
  • Our message is that we are for the ordinance which temporarily discontinues the "90 day waivers," and we are for a "no means no" permanent ordinance.
  • Email or telephone the Mayor and City Council that you support the temporary ordinance and a "no means no" permanent ordinance without having to repetition. A list of the email addresses and telephone numbers for the Mayor and all councilmembers is attached to this email.

For future action, I suggest that every district send a representative and every interested individual attend the Mayor's Task Force meetings which are to consider amendments to the permanent ordinance. These meetings have been taking place on the 6th Floor at 611 Walker on Mondays from noon to 1:30 and are open to the public. Councilmember Sue Lovell is chairperson, and Councilmember Ed Gonzalez is vice-chair.

Who wrote this explanation that you posted? It is very one-sided.

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From the "explanation"....

Opponents of “no means no” argue that the districts made an agreement with their property

owners that there would be only a “90 day” ordinance and the districts should have to repetition

and get 51% of the property owners in each district to sign applications to change

the ordinance to “no means no.”

Some responses we make are:

(1) Almost all those who signed on to the application to create a historic district wanted to

stop demolitions of historic buildings and the construction of incompatible new buildings.

Nobody signed on to stop demolitions for 90 days, then let historic buildings be demolished;

that is nonsensical. It is just that the 90 day ordinance was all the ordinance we had. We

have, in effect, already agreed to “no means no.”

(2) No agreement was made. Property owners in the historic districts simply signed

applications for their districts to be created by City ordinance as City of Houston historic

districts, knowing that the HPO could be changed, and it has been amended many times

without historic districts having to repetition.

Let me respond to their response. You have NO data whatsoever to support your contention that "almost all" who signed wanted to stop demolitions. Further, your claim that "NOBODY" signed to allow 90 day waiting periods is an outright fabrication. In fact, many of your petition gatherers TOUTED the 90 day rule as proof that the historic district was not too onerous. They pushed the belief that the designation was what they wanted, and not to tell people what to do with their homes. How do I know this? I was approached by at least 3 different petitioners before signing the petition...a signature that I am now pulling from the petition.

No agreement was made? The agreement is implicit! You present the historic district ordinance...including the 90 day provision...and ask people to sign the petition to the City to create the district PER THE CITY ORDINANCE, and then claim that this isn't what you meant? That is known as BAIT AND SWITCH! It is a fraud perpetrated on those who signed the petition.

It is abundantly clear that those pushing this change have no interest in integrity or honesty. They are only concerned with their own agenda, even if it is not the wishes of the majority. If "almost all" petition signers wanted the changes, and "noone" wants the 90 day rule, why the need to bait and switch? Why not have a ratification of the new ordinance? If the historic district was all that is claimed, wouldn't your neighbors rush to ratify the changes? I think we all know why this is not being proposed.

Good luck pushing "no means no" onto your unsuspecting neighbors. I pledge to educate my neighbors on the meaning of "bait and switch".

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From the Houston Heights Association website....

http://www.houstonheights.org/historicdistrictmaps.htm

The ordinance is educational, not coercive. When a property owner wants to make a significant change to his or her property, he or she discusses the changes with the historic preservation officer to assure compliance with the ordinance, and applies to the HAHC for a Certificate of Appropriateness:

1. The change should be compatible with the historical character of the building.

2. A new home should be compatible with the historical character of the neighborhood.

3. Demolition of historical buildings is allowed only under extreme circumstances.

4. If the owner disagrees with the decision of HAHC, he or she can wait 90 days from the time the application was filed, then perform his or her project.

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This is going to be interesting! My son is working on a scout merit badge, Citizen in the Community. He has to attend a city council meeting and "Choose one of the issues discussed at the meeting where a difference of opinions was expressed, and explain to your counselor why you agree with one opinion more than you do another one." We are going tomorrow to see City Hall in action rolleyes.gif .

We live in an 1899 house with a National Historic Marker, but are probably more neutral than others on issues. I can't wait to see what my son thinks.

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From the "explanation"....

Let me respond to their response. You have NO data whatsoever to support your contention that "almost all" who signed wanted to stop demolitions. Further, your claim that "NOBODY" signed to allow 90 day waiting periods is an outright fabrication. In fact, many of your petition gatherers TOUTED the 90 day rule as proof that the historic district was not too onerous. They pushed the belief that the designation was what they wanted, and not to tell people what to do with their homes. How do I know this? I was approached by at least 3 different petitioners before signing the petition...a signature that I am now pulling from the petition.

No agreement was made? The agreement is implicit! You present the historic district ordinance...including the 90 day provision...and ask people to sign the petition to the City to create the district PER THE CITY ORDINANCE, and then claim that this isn't what you meant? That is known as BAIT AND SWITCH! It is a fraud perpetrated on those who signed the petition.

It is abundantly clear that those pushing this change have no interest in integrity or honesty. They are only concerned with their own agenda, even if it is not the wishes of the majority. If "almost all" petition signers wanted the changes, and "noone" wants the 90 day rule, why the need to bait and switch? Why not have a ratification of the new ordinance? If the historic district was all that is claimed, wouldn't your neighbors rush to ratify the changes? I think we all know why this is not being proposed.

Good luck pushing "no means no" onto your unsuspecting neighbors. I pledge to educate my neighbors on the meaning of "bait and switch".

There is a group of people who are organizing to protest the changes. I will post the information about how to get in touch with this group in a few days. We need help getting the word out to the community, knocking on doors, getting signatures, etc. There is a lot of misinformation coming from a very vocal few people. We intend to get the word out and get out the FACTS, as opposed to hyperbole and scare tactic propoganda and will have the documentation we need. If you want to help, stay tuned and get involved!

There is a group of people who are organizing to protest the changes. I will post the information about how to get in touch with this group in a few days. We need help getting the word out to the community, knocking on doors, getting signatures, etc. There is a lot of misinformation coming from a very vocal few people. We intend to get the word out and get out the FACTS, as opposed to hyperbole and scare tactic propoganda and will have the documentation we need. If you want to help, stay tuned and get involved!

Below is an email that is currently circulating regarding this topic, including City Council dates, email addresses, etc. This email does not reflect my opinion on this topic, and I'm only posting it to keep interested parties educated. I will try to post the attachments which have more details abotu what is being proposed. I, for one, did sign up for the historic district, and did so specifically with the knowledge of the 90-day wait period. Any changes should be voted on again in my opinion...this would not be a minor change.

Personally, I like the 90-day rule, as it allows for suggestions from the preservationists, and my guess is that some/most people would take constructive suggestions and apply them if possible. The only way I would support removing it would be if the residents of the district were allowed vote on proposed demos/construction and not just a small handful of people.

Here is the email that I received:Explantemporary ord 2010.pdfCITY OF HOUSTON E-MAIL.docAGENDA 60210.doc

TO HISTORIC PRESERVATIONISTS THROUGHOUT HOUSTON:

The ordinance which will "temporarily discontinue" demolitions and incompatible new construction in historic districts is on the Agenda for the City Council meeting Wednesday, June 2. We need to show support for this proposed ordinance! The Agenda item is attached to this email. Please note that the ordinance will also discontinue temporarily applications for additional historic districts, a last minute change which was apparently made to get the Greater Houston Builders Association not to oppose the temporary ordinance.

That shows that our opponents have been busy lobbying City Council and the Mayor's office. Mis-information about what the temporary ordinance will do, as well as what the new permanent ordinance which will hopefully follow will do, has also been circulating. Attached is "Explanation of Proposed Changes in Historic Preservation Ordinance," which accurately describes the content of the temporary ordinance (except the temporary discontinuance of accepting applications for new historic districts), and the status of possible changes in the permanent ordinance. The paper also describes what opponents of "no means no" are saying and some answers to their claims.

"No means no" will not happen without strong support from the historic preservation community. It is very important to show up and/or speak in support of the temporary ordinance at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 2 at City Hall Chambers and follow that up with an even bigger show in the coming weeks. Since the deal with the builders was made, this temporary ordinance will probably pass, but we need to give the Mayor and City Council the comfort of knowing there is widespread support for it, which will also show them we support the permanent change to "no means no." Therefore, let's

  • Call the city secretary Tuesday, June 1 (832-393-1100) and sign up to speak for one or two or three minutes at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 2 (you get reached faster if you request a shorter time to speak).
  • Every historic district should send at least one speaker, in order to show that there is support for "no means no" throughout the City.
  • Come to the City Council meeting Wednesday, June 2, at 9 a.m. to speak or support those who do speak.
  • Our message is that we are for the ordinance which temporarily discontinues the "90 day waivers," and we are for a "no means no" permanent ordinance.
  • Email or telephone the Mayor and City Council that you support the temporary ordinance and a "no means no" permanent ordinance without having to repetition. A list of the email addresses and telephone numbers for the Mayor and all councilmembers is attached to this email.

For future action, I suggest that every district send a representative and every interested individual attend the Mayor's Task Force meetings which are to consider amendments to the permanent ordinance. These meetings have been taking place on the 6th Floor at 611 Walker on Mondays from noon to 1:30 and are open to the public. Councilmember Sue Lovell is chairperson, and Councilmember Ed Gonzalez is vice-chair.

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I have been a resident, designer and builder in the Heights for the last 17 years and have seen this issue evolve from the beginning. Here is what I know about the moratorium that is going to be voted on, and approved, today and what I believe the impact will be.

There will be a moratorium on 90 day waivers for demolition of contributing or potentially contributing structures, new construction and remodeling as of June 2, 2010. If you have a non contributing structure you will still be able to get a permit for demolition, and if you have a vacant lot you are fine. If you are remodeling a non contributing structure you will still be able to get a permit. All vacant lots will now be considered potentially contributing land, whether there was a contributing, potentially contributing or a non contributing structure on that land originally, and all plans to build on that land will have to follow the Design Guidelines and be approved by the HAHC. If they are not approved you will not be able to build it, period. This applies to all remodels and repairs that fall under the Historic District rules. No means no. Hurricane, fire and disaster repairs fall under this ordinance also, so every homeowner will probably have to deal with this at some point. Less than 10 new construction plans have passed the HAHC review and received Certificates of Appropriateness since the Historic District was established, so that give some idea of how likely that is.

As a builder I can tell you that this will stop all spec building in the Historic Heights. There are too many areas around the Heights that the builders can move too and still make a living, and once the builders that are currently invested in the District have divested themselves there will be no turning back. There is no way to build a profitable house under the Design Guidelines, and I don’t believe that there will many people purchasing homes to renovate without knowing that they are going to be able to do what they want; which they wouldn’t know until they bought the house, purchased plans and submitted them for review. Today the majority of the value of the Heights is in the land, which today is determined by what the builders will pay for that land. Take the builders out of the equation and how many buyers are there that will pay $150+ per square foot for an 80 year old, 1,200 square foot, home that needs extensive renovations and no guarantee that they will be allowed to do those renovations? Who is really going to be hurt by this? The older residents who have lived in the Heights for years and are going to see their most valuable asset destroyed in the name of preservation.

Without a very large protest this IS going to happen. The Mayor wants this and has made it clear that she wants the Heights to be part of it, and she DOES NOT want there to be a new petition required to change the Ordinance. Most of the other Historic Districts want this and should probably get it. Most of those neighborhoods have 20 or 30 houses worth millions of dollars and the cost of upkeep and renovation is something that the people that live there can afford. The Heights is 5 times larger than all of the other Districts combined and is going to be lumped in as though it is the same kind of situation.

Edited by SCDesign
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It is important to note that these restrictions apply ONLY to those sections of the Heights that already have the Historic District designation. Those of us who live in the non-historic sections of the Heights may well see land values increase due to the sudden elimination of huge portions of the Heights for new construction. While the northern portions of the Heights area will stagnate, the middle to southern area may well see a surge in demolitions and house moves to make way for new construction that cannot occur anywhere else.

The Heights is continually bitten by the law of unintended circumstances. We may see it happen again.

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Whoever influenced City Council to rush "temporary" changes to demolition permitting in Historic Districts has misled the Council. Apparently it was their plan all along to obtain Historic District status so that they could achieve concealed goals without having to resort to a petition that was more forthcoming. Proposed permanent changes that restrict construction approvals to a self-serving political body will ruin our neighborhood. I know. I used to be on an Architectural Board in my previous subdivision. Say good-bye to diversity, say good-bye to anything that doesn't have craftsman columns. Say hello to government making decisions about your repairs and remodels and forcing you to comply.

If City Councilman Gonzalez supports any of this, I will be very disappointed in his ability to represent District H. This speaks of dirty politics, inside deals, and a lack of transparency; all the things that are wrong with politics today. Why have we not heard of this directly from Councilman Gonzalez? Why do I have to find out about this stuff on the Internet?

From Ed Gonzalez's Chief of Staff Jesse Dickerman in an email to me: "Permanent changes will not be considered without significant public input. Be assured that we will send out information about opportunities for public input in our District H e-newsletter."

This is disingenuous because there has been no mention of "temporary changes" in any email to me. Who gets the District H e-newsletter? - So far not me. Why is it an e-newsletter instead of a real letter? What has been revealed so far (but not to me) in District H e-newsletters?

Edited by OutfieldDan
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The Heights is continually bitten by the law of unintended circumstances. We may see it happen again.

If City Council passes the proposed temporary and permanent changes to Historic District construction guidelines, it will be very difficult for more Historic Districts to be approved by their residents. Watch out for City Council passing an ordinance that takes the resident's choice away and provides for annexing of Historic Districts - if not now, then sooner or later. What's being considered now demonstrates the arrogance of City politicians.

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Less than 10 new construction plans have passed the HAHC review and received Certificates of Appropriateness since the Historic District was established, so that give some idea of how likely that is.

It actually doesn't give much idea at all how likely it is. What is the time period to which you are referring? How many total applications for certificates were made during the time period to which you are referring? Are you referring only to from-the-ground-up new construction, and not additions/remodels? How many applications got a flat-out denial without the HAHC proposing changes to their design plans? How many applicants decided to disregard design changes that were suggested by the HAHC that could have gotten certificates of appropriateness issued, and instead just waited out the 90 day window; and, if so, how onerous were the suggested design changes? How many applicants simply abandoned their applications because they lost their financing, or their buyer, or any other extraneous reason?

This brings to mind some lyrics from one of my favorite Todd Snider songs:

"The Statistician's Blues"

They say 64 percent of all the world's statistics are made up right there on the spot

82.4 percent of people believe 'em whether they're accurate statistics or not

Now I don't know what you believe but I do know there's no doubt

I need another double shot of something 90 proof

I got too much to think about

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It actually doesn't give much idea at all how likely it is. What is the time period to which you are referring? How many total applications for certificates were made during the time period to which you are referring? Are you referring only to from-the-ground-up new construction, and not additions/remodels? How many applications got a flat-out denial without the HAHC proposing changes to their design plans? How many applicants decided to disregard design changes that were suggested by the HAHC that could have gotten certificates of appropriateness issued, and instead just waited out the 90 day window; and, if so, how onerous were the suggested design changes? How many applicants simply abandoned their applications because they lost their financing, or their buyer, or any other extraneous reason?

This brings to mind some lyrics from one of my favorite Todd Snider songs:

"The Statistician's Blues"

They say 64 percent of all the world's statistics are made up right there on the spot

82.4 percent of people believe 'em whether they're accurate statistics or not

Now I don't know what you believe but I do know there's no doubt

I need another double shot of something 90 proof

I got too much to think about

That's a fair point. I am only refering to new construction applications. I'll find out the number of submittals. An estimate, going by the number of submittals from meetings that I have attended (8 over the last 48 months), I would say it is somewhere over 300 submittals. I have a lot of experience with the process and have had about a dozen remodel/addition plans approved. As for trying to compromise with the committee suggestions, that is not something that has been possible for most of those submittals. I suggest you look at the Design Guidline for the Heights Historic District and you will see that it is almost impossible to design/build a new house that will meet these requirements. If an owner is willing to make the compromise, which is the case with the fewer than 10 approvals to date, and can afford to pay for the extra expense, than it is a possibility. No builders, and very few people looking to build a custom house, will be willing or able to make those compromises.

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From what I hear the HAHC wants to change the current 90 day cooling off period to 5 years. This means that if "they", the HAHC, does not like you plans for renovation or new construction you have to wait 5 years to do what you planned to do. I guess you and your kids will all have to share that one bathroom until then! Well, maybe not, maybe they will approve your plans...the HAHC will let you know what is best.

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Once I heard that they were trying to make this change to the ordinances, I emailed everyone on city council as well as Mayor Parker on Monday. I have attached responses I received today from the Planning and Development Dept and from Mayor Parker. They explain what the plan is currently, and also results of today's meeting. I urge everyone to email the city council members to voice your concerns. All I know is that I signed up for the historic district specifically because of the 90-day wait period and not an absolute control in the hands of a small group of individuals. I absolutely would not support these changes. I cannot imagine how ticked I will be if they are able to make these changes without another petition of the residents.

See below for the two replies:

"I wanted to follow up on your email to the Mayor’s Office regarding the pending historic legislation. City council voted to “tag” the item today. That means it is delayed for one week. The item before council is a temporary discontinuance of the 90 day waiver for new construction, demolition and relocation of structures within the existing historic districts. It is not a permanent ordinance change. There is a task force that will be meeting to propose actual ordinance amendments. We don’t know exactly what those amendments will look like at this time. In addition, public hearings will be required before the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission and the Houston Planning Commission. City Council will review the proposed changes in a Council Committee and then the full Council will consider the item. There is opportunity for lots of public input along the way. It is likely this will occur sometime this summer or early fall. I would urge you to attend and make your opinion known at these meetings. We will send notices to historic district residents and utilize Citizensnet to notify residents when the meetings occur. We will also post the notice on our website at www.houstonplanning.com <http://www.houstonplanning.com/> once the hearings are established. Thank you for your interest.

Sincerely,

Suzy Hartgrove Public Affairs Manager Planning & Development Department 713-837-7719

MAYOR PARKER's REPLY:

Thank you for letting me know of your concerns about strengthening our historic preservation ordinance as it relates to historic districts.

In this instance, I am supporting the ordinance which will temporarily discontinue the issuance of a 90-day waiver certificate for demolitions, relocations and new construction in City of Houston Historic Districts when a Certificate of Appropriateness is denied by the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission. The ordinance only applies to contributing or potentially contributing structures. There is also an exception if the owner has already hired an architect or contractor.

I want to reassure you that, while I support strengthening existing historic district guidelines, prior to any permanent changes being made to the ordinance, there will be plenty of opportunity for everyone to provide input and voice their opinions. I have appointed Council Member Sue Lovell to lead a committee that is reviewing the existing ordinance. Any recommended changes will be considered by the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission, the Planning Commission and City Council before adoption, and there will be public dialogue every step of the way.

Additionally, it is my preference that each existing historic district be given a chance to voice its support to remain in a strengthened historic district or opt to relinquish historic district protection.

Sincerely,

Annise D. Parker

Mayor

This is disingenuous because there has been no mention of "temporary changes" in any email to me. Who gets the District H e-newsletter? - So far not me. Why is it an e-newsletter instead of a real letter? What has been revealed so far (but not to me) in District H e-newsletters?

I thought the same thing...found the link to the District H newsletter

http://visitor.const...fmMK11awA%3D%3D

Edited by poyea
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Everyone keeps claiming that "permanent" changes will not be made without public input, but there was no public input allowed prior to the temporary vote. Why is that? And, why is a temporary change needed at all? Study the issue, allow public input, THEN vote. Construction is down during the recession. There are fewer demos now that two years ago. There is no emergency. I suspect, given the tactics of the supporters up until this point, that this is a ploy to slide the new ordinance through with a minimum of protest. It is much easier to make a temporary ordinance permanent than to change it to begin with. And, temporary changes are easier than permanent ones.

Once this ordinance passes, I intend to make sure that the Heights loses a "contributing structure" by selling my 90 year old bungalow to a builder(I'm in the non-historic section). I've maxed out my profits here anyway. I'll take my profits and put them into a neighborhood that doesn't think they can tell me what to do with my property.

An ironic twist to this power grab is that I have changed my contributing structure far less than most of the ordinance supporters, especially many of the ones on this forum. While most supporters believe that keeping the front of the house intact while adding hideous and non-conforming additions to the rear is in keeping with the architectural and historical character of the neighborhood, I have actually kept my original footprint intact.

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I don't own property in the Heights, so this discussion doesn't affect me as personally as it does several of the posters in this thread. And I certainly see how deeply emotionally charged this is becoming. But I do have a sincere, non-rhetorical question. Leaving aside the strong tradition of property rights in Houston, which I understand, what exactly is so onerous about the Heights Historic District Design Guidelines? I did read through them as SCDesign suggested above, and honestly I didn't see anything that stuck out as being unreasonable. I saw several alternatives for expansion of houses and even several compatible new-construction alternatives.

Seriously, for those of you who have dealt with the Design Guidelines personally and professionally, what are some of the specific issues?

Secondly, since my interest in the issue doesn't go much beyond "don't demolish old houses which can be saved," are there reasonable changes to the Guidelines, specifically those dealing with alterations, which could be proposed and might likely be passed which could make the situation more palatable? Chester seems to be implying, for example, that simple bathroom additions, presumably to the rear of a house are (capriciously) rejected. In other words, are there easy fixes to the rules that HAHC might consider which would save more houses in the long run by avoiding a protest backlash?

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First let me say that it disturbs me that anyone in the City think that this doesn't affect them. On thing that I may not have made clear is the the HAHC has the power to name ANY area in the City a Historic District if 51% of the houses in the neighborhood are older than 50 years old. The original petition drives were necessary in order to get some momentum on the Historic District designations without a huge protest, but they are not necessary according to the City Historic Preservation Ordinance. Timbergrove? Most of those houses are over 50 years old. Garden Oaks? Oak Forest? Large areas of Spring Branch? Sure, most of those areas are single story ranch homes, but who is to say those areas are less worthy of being protected from development than the Heights?

The problem biggest problem with the Historic Guidelines is that the HAHC gave themselves a way out of not following them by the simple addition of the language that all designs must take into consideration the blockface character. That means that regardless of the Guidlines, if the houses on the block are all singel story Craftsman Bungalows than you will not be approved if you submit a Victorian, even if that Victorian follows the guidlines. If you are not going to build something that is the same as the rest of the structures on the block you will not get a CoA. Can you take the subjectivity out ot the Guidlines without giving up the whole "blockface character" thing? Blockface preservation is THE MAIN FOCUS of the whole thing so I do not believe it is possible.

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My son and I went to the City Council meeting on Tuesday. Our interest was prompted primarily by his work on a Boy Scout merit badge, but living in one of the historic sections of the Heights made the effort meaningful and interesting. I certainly learned alot! I had heard about the historic ordinance being proposed here on the Heights forum, so never stopped to think about other neighborhoods that this will affect. There were speakers from various parts of town. The more I heard the less clear I became on what is really needed. I was struck, though, by how different each neighborhoods needs are/can be when considering such an ordinance. I doubt this will happen, but it seemed like a solution might be one that allowed the various neighborhoods to tailor the ordinance to their own issues. Glenbrook Valley is 180 degrees different from Houston Heights! Anyway, we will continue to see how things develop.

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First let me say that it disturbs me that anyone in the City think that this doesn't affect them.

Thanks, SCDesign, for the information you provided in this post. If your first sentence was directed at my previous post, then I thought it only fair to point out that I had just a technical question, not a financial interest. (unlike you or RedScare, for example.) In point of fact, I live in Pearland, in a tract subdivision, which has always had very strict architectural controls. I think it would be fair to say that many of us suburban sprawl denizens think that is perfectly normal, even though we've all got horror stories about the Yard Police.

On thing that I may not have made clear is the the HAHC has the power to name ANY area in the City a Historic District if 51% of the houses in the neighborhood are older than 50 years old. The original petition drives were necessary in order to get some momentum on the Historic District designations without a huge protest, but they are not necessary according to the City Historic Preservation Ordinance. Timbergrove? Most of those houses are over 50 years old. Garden Oaks? Oak Forest? Large areas of Spring Branch? Sure, most of those areas are single story ranch homes, but who is to say those areas are less worthy of being protected from development than the Heights?

That was not completely clear to me and I suspect it's not widely known. Thank you for clarifying that. Don't a lot of areas where the houses are more than 50 years old already have deed restrictions? I'm thinking of River Oaks, Southampton, Southgate, etc. Your point that those other areas are equally worthy, if not likely, to be "protected from development" is not only well taken, but in my opinion desirable.

The problem biggest problem with the Historic Guidelines is that the HAHC gave themselves a way out of not following them by the simple addition of the language that all designs must take into consideration the blockface character. That means that regardless of the Guidlines, if the houses on the block are all singel story Craftsman Bungalows than you will not be approved if you submit a Victorian, even if that Victorian follows the guidlines. If you are not going to build something that is the same as the rest of the structures on the block you will not get a CoA. Can you take the subjectivity out ot the Guidlines without giving up the whole "blockface character" thing? Blockface preservation is THE MAIN FOCUS of the whole thing so I do not believe it is possible.

I am surprised that blockface preservation is the main focus, and I didn't catch that in my perusal of the Guidelines. But that goes to the point of my earlier questions:

1. Even if blockface preservation is of paramount importance to "whoever," how does that prevent reasonable additions to the rear and sides of a house? Your Victorian in a block of Craftsmen example seems to be about new construction; my sense is that most of the homeowners are worked up about not having their additions and remodels approved.

2. If the ordinance goes through, isn't there a mechanism to revise the Guidelines if necessary? In particular if it is unnecessarily onerous to residents?

3. It seems to me that the main focus should be preservation of structures. Don't demolish usable houses, especially if they have significant architectural elements. I don't see why that _wouldn't_ be a good thing all over Houston.

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3. It seems to me that the main focus should be preservation of structures. Don't demolish usable houses, especially if they have significant architectural elements. I don't see why that _wouldn't_ be a good thing all over Houston.

You obviously haven't censused Magnolia Park recently. Needless to say, "usable" is subjective. So are "significant architectural elements". There's just not a good one-size-fits-all ordinance in a city with such varied neighborhoods and such varied blockfaces within those neighborhoods.

----------

My own experience with HAHC was a brief one. My restoration and adaptive re-use of a structurally unique building was threatened by the City's energy codes (which were designed for boring prismatic building shapes with drop ceilings), so permitting for air conditioning would've required that I spend money that I didn't have to obliterate the building's character.

Instead, I looked at obtaining historical designation and a CoA, which would've nullified the energy code issues. The problem was that many of the improvements that I'd already made had significantly modified and upgraded the character of the existing building...in a good way. The neighbors (and HAIFers that attended my shin-dig last year) can vouch for that! Also...the original blue-green textured glass contained cobalt and was radioactive, but only about a third of the panes were intact...and replacing a total of 400-something panes with custom-cut custom-colored non-radioactive facsimiles would've soooooo-completely killed the deal.

The end result is that instead of using highly-efficient mini-splits as originally intended, I'm using abominably-inefficient portables on a room-by-room basis that won't trigger a mechanical permit or energy codes. It was the only way to preserve the "cool factor", inside and out, literally and as a figure of speech.

And to be clear: the alternative to this sub-optimal workaround was that the building sit and rot. Nobody wants that, but it's what they'd get if the proposed Heights-specific protections were to apply to this neighborhood. ...do not think for a second that some upscale restaurant or boutique could just swoop in and throw cash at the problem.

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3. It seems to me that the main focus should be preservation of structures. Don't demolish usable houses, especially if they have significant architectural elements. I don't see why that _wouldn't_ be a good thing all over Houston.

I seem to be the lone person here in favor of stricter historic controls in Houston. From where I sit, what this is supposed to accomplish is not far outside of what HCAC already does. If you live in a Historic District, you already answer to the HCAC anyway. What it does is eliminate the 90 day wait period, which renders the HCAC moot. It needs to have some teeth. I work with the HCAC regularly and I can tell you that they are not in favor of letting dangerous buildings sit and rot. They will not deny demo permits when the building does, indeed, need to be demoed but a lot of good houses have been lost. Neighborhoods like mine, which is more than 70% contributing with only 3 homes built in the last decade, can really benefit from "no means no."

I agree with others that it shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all solution since different areas have different needs. Still, there is currently no way to save structures with architectural or sociological meaning. In the Heights homes on the Historic Register have been torn down and Disney like structures built in their place. Something needs to happen.

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Attached below is an email being circulated that summarizes the outcome of yesterday's City Council meeting (obviously from a pro-preservation standpoint). It seems like the pro-preservationists are a bit more organized at this point. Again, this is not my opinion, I am simply posting to keep everyone educated if they wish to be. I for one will be sending City Council members my thoughts on this topic as this is NOT what I signed up for and I am concerned about the direction this could be going. It they want these changes, then let the people vote again and if they are correct, the residents will support No Means No.

"To historic preservationists throughout Houston:

This is a report on what happened today at City Council. The most important campaign in historic preservation in Houston got off to a rocky start. The bottom line is not bad, but we have our work cut out for us. The bottom line is that the temporary ordinance was "tagged" (postponed one week) after all, but no builders spoke against it. The only negative speakers were one woman from Missouri City and three other people objecting to that part of the temporary ordinance which suspended applications for new historic districts. All our speakers passed their opportunity to speak in favor of Betty Chapman, chair of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission, as requested by the Administration. There will be many more negative speakers next week as the word gets out, we have been told.

The ordinance did not pass today, in my opinion, because of (1) a lack of transparency and (2) the last minute change in the ordinance Friday to suspend applications for new historic districts. As for lack of transparency, Councilmember Sullivan said he did not know about the ordinance until 5:30 Friday, and resented not being informed about it sooner, and immediately emailed all his builder and property rights and real estate contacts about it. Our information from the City was that passage of the ordinance was a "done deal," and the ordinance would not be tagged. It is difficult to see how they could promise that if they had not even contacted some of the councilmembers.

As for (2), the change in the ordinance created a new group of opponents of the temporary ordinance, those now petitioning for a district, and who are close to 51% signatures, being Woodland Heights Historic District and Glenbrook Historic District. Councilmembers were sympathetic to their situation, and, in fact, it is hard to justify penalizing them by shutting them out, except to satisfy Greater Houston Builders Association.

After this friction concerning new districts came up, politics ran rampant, and a compromise was eventually worked out whereby the temporary ordinance was amended to allow those petitioning now to be allowed to file their applications for historic district, at least I think that is what it said. Nevertheless, Councilmember Sullivan made a motion to defer the temporary preservation ordinance until after the Budget Committee (yes, the budget committee) finished its work, which would be until July 31, as I understand it. That motion was defeated only by an 8 to 7 vote. After that vote failed, Councilmembers Sullivan and Rodriguez (in whose district the petitioning Glenbrook Historic District is located) "tagged" the ordinance until next week's meeting.

We are now told we need to get our speakers out next Tuesday. There will be no backing down this time. We need to make our Big Event and next Tuesday seems to be the time to do it. I suggest the following:

1. Everyone that can possibly come to the Public Session next Tuesday, June 7 at 2 p.m. to speak or support our cause, please do so! You can telephone the City Secretary at 832-393-1100 from now until Monday, June 6 to schedule 1, 2, or 3 minutes to speak in favor of the Temporary preservation ordinance. Also mention that we are in favor of a permanent "no means no" ordinance without repetitioning.

2. Every historic district and every petitioning historic district please send at least one person to speak to show that there is support for "no means no" throughout the historic districts.

3. Please contact your City Councilmember to ask for his/her support.

4. Send a representative to attend the next Mayor's Task Force meeting which will again consider what will go into the permanent ordinance. It meets Monday, June 6 from Noon until 1:30 at 611 Walker, Sixth Floor. It is an open meeting and you may (or not) be allowed to have input. CM Sue Lovell, Chair and CM Ed Gonzalez, vice chair"

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Neighborhoods like mine, which is more than 70% contributing with only 3 homes built in the last decade, can really benefit from "no means no."

By your very own statements, at best, this new ordinance would have prevented 3 homes being built during the most prolific decade of home building in Houston's history. The new ordinance would have virtually no effect on your district whatsoever. This is what I find so offensive, that a minuscule problem of 3 new homes per decade must be combated by restricting the rights of everyone else. And the secretive and heavy handed manner in which the supporters attempted to ram this new ordinance through, and the outright refusal to let the affected parties ratify the new ordinance does not bode well for even-handed application of the new rules. Safe to say, anyone who wants the ability to remodel their own home without being told what they may do by heavy handed neighbors should steer clear of the historic districts. Nothing we've seen suggest anything less than a nightmare.

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I work with the HCAC regularly and I can tell you that they are not in favor of letting dangerous buildings sit and rot. They will not deny demo permits when the building does, indeed, need to be demoed but a lot of good houses have been lost. Neighborhoods like mine, which is more than 70% contributing with only 3 homes built in the last decade, can really benefit from "no means no."

But they will deny a CoA if non-conforming repairs and renovations are the only economically feasible repairs or renovations...meaning that the structure in question sits and rots up to and including the point where demolition becomes inevitable.

And again, I don't think that this would be all that problematic in the Heights. Fortunes will be made and lost in short order, no doubt, but then the hardcore preservationists don't really care about that, so I'm not going to bother arguing it to them. The fact is, there's plenty of demand and money for whatever kind of housing happens to be in the Heights, old or new. What would be problematic is if these rules ended up getting applied to cash-poor neighborhoods like mine (and such as the Heights used to be). Buildings such as mine would be lost, not saved.

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But they will deny a CoA if non-conforming repairs and renovations are the only economically feasible repairs or renovations...meaning that the structure in question sits and rots up to and including the point where demolition becomes inevitable.

And again, I don't think that this would be all that problematic in the Heights. Fortunes will be made and lost in short order, no doubt, but then the hardcore preservationists don't really care about that, so I'm not going to bother arguing it to them. The fact is, there's plenty of demand and money for whatever kind of housing happens to be in the Heights, old or new. What would be problematic is if these rules ended up getting applied to cash-poor neighborhoods like mine (and such as the Heights used to be). Buildings such as mine would be lost, not saved.

In our neighborhood, where $million homes do not exist, our neighborhood association has a very good relationship with the city. In the end, the Board has greater say even than the HCAC. What we consistently see is people working together to make it happen. No, it's not the cheapest but it has worked even when this was a poorer neighborhood. After all, due to the closeness to 45 and the deed restrictions, this area has gentrified more slowly than other parts of the Heights- which is why a nice house is affordable, relatively, over here. It's also why we still have more of the eclectic nature of the "old Heights", the loss of which people are lamenting in another thread on this board.

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By your very own statements, at best, this new ordinance would have prevented 3 homes being built during the most prolific decade of home building in Houston's history. The new ordinance would have virtually no effect on your district whatsoever. This is what I find so offensive, that a minuscule problem of 3 new homes per decade must be combated by restricting the rights of everyone else. And the secretive and heavy handed manner in which the supporters attempted to ram this new ordinance through, and the outright refusal to let the affected parties ratify the new ordinance does not bode well for even-handed application of the new rules. Safe to say, anyone who wants the ability to remodel their own home without being told what they may do by heavy handed neighbors should steer clear of the historic districts. Nothing we've seen suggest anything less than a nightmare.

But you see, this neighborhood is already heavily deed restricted on top of the Historic designation. People can't just do whatever they want here regardless of what the HCAC does with this ordinance. The only way to get around the restrictions for remodel are demo. If you demo in this neighborhood, the deed restrictions provide for even greater control by the board on the plans for your new home. This is what was established over 20 years ago and every person in the last 20 years who has bought a house over here knows that. Yet, houses often sell faster and for more per sq ft in this part of the Heights than the flashier areas (and b/c our houses are smaller, even at more per sq ft they are affordable relative to other parts of the neighborhood). People *want* to live within the restrictions because they don't want a giant house looming over their yard or 4 townhouses causing flooding/drainage issues on the lot next to them.

I completely agree that if you do not want any restrictions on what you can do with your home, do not live in a Historic District. That is true for Houston and every other major city in the country. It is also true for most of the subdivisions in most of the suburbs of Houston. THe PPNA Board has a lawyer who specializes in deed restrictions who has said that our deed restrictions in Norhill/Proctor Plaza are nothing compared to the 'burbs.

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In our neighborhood, where $million homes do not exist, our neighborhood association has a very good relationship with the city. In the end, the Board has greater say even than the HCAC. What we consistently see is people working together to make it happen. No, it's not the cheapest but it has worked even when this was a poorer neighborhood. After all, due to the closeness to 45 and the deed restrictions, this area has gentrified more slowly than other parts of the Heights- which is why a nice house is affordable, relatively, over here. It's also why we still have more of the eclectic nature of the "old Heights", the loss of which people are lamenting in another thread on this board.

I know. And now you're trying to change the rules that have worked so well for you up to this point. I'm not going to debate the merits of preservation with you because I already know that it won't get me anywhere. That's why I'm debating the means of preservation.

You're apparently oblivious to the fate of my neighborhood, my historical building, or my investment. Stop advancing a policy that has potentially far-reaching consequences for neighborhoods beyond your own. No means no!

Edited by TheNiche
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We are now told we need to get our speakers out next Tuesday. There will be no backing down this time. We need to make our Big Event and next Tuesday seems to be the time to do it. I suggest the following:

1. Everyone that can possibly come to the Public Session next Tuesday, June 7 at 2 p.m. to speak or support our cause, please do so! You can telephone the City Secretary at 832-393-1100 from now until Monday, June 6 to schedule 1, 2, or 3 minutes to speak in favor of the Temporary preservation ordinance. Also mention that we are in favor of a permanent "no means no" ordinance without repetitioning.

4. Send a representative to attend the next Mayor's Task Force meeting which will again consider what will go into the permanent ordinance. It meets Monday, June 6 from Noon until 1:30 at 611 Walker, Sixth Floor. It is an open meeting and you may (or not) be allowed to have input. CM Sue Lovell, Chair and CM Ed Gonzalez, vice chair"

Sorry, the dates above for next week's meetings were incorrect. The Mayor's Task Force meets Monday, June 7 at noon and then City Council is on Tuesday, June 8 at 2 p.m.

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Yet, houses often sell faster and for more per sq ft in this part of the Heights than the flashier areas (and b/c our houses are smaller, even at more per sq ft they are affordable relative to other parts of the neighborhood). People *want* to live within the restrictions because they don't want a giant house looming over their yard or 4 townhouses causing flooding/drainage issues on the lot next to them.

I really wish you would provide some proof of this. My admittedly small investigation found the opposite to be true. I am not ready to declare that historic district designations depress home values based on my limited research, but I definitely would disagree with Sue Lovell, the HHA, and now your characterization that the designation makes your home values rise faster than mine. I have seen this claim made VERY often, and have specifically looked for the source, but have never found one. I can only conclude that someone made the claim once and others took it at face value. I doubt there is even a Houston specific study of the issue.

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You're apparently oblivious to the fate of my neighborhood, my historical building, or my investment. Stop advancing a policy that has potentially far-reaching consequences for neighborhoods beyond your own. No means no!

No, this is where we agree. I think that there needs to be further discussion on the issue and the City and the HCAC need to figure out something that is going to work for the whole city. BUT we all only have our own perspectives and you want what you believe is right for where you live and I want what I believe is right for where I live. It just seems that the discussion is so "all or nothing" here. Changing some areas to protected districts will be good for them. Possibly not for others but that doesn't mean we should throw the baby out with the bath water.

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No, this is where we agree. I think that there needs to be further discussion on the issue and the City and the HCAC need to figure out something that is going to work for the whole city. BUT we all only have our own perspectives and you want what you believe is right for where you live and I want what I believe is right for where I live. It just seems that the discussion is so "all or nothing" here. Changing some areas to protected districts will be good for them. Possibly not for others but that doesn't mean we should throw the baby out with the bath water.

If you acknowledge that the proposal in its current form is inadequate then you oppose it, correct?

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I really wish you would provide some proof of this. My admittedly small investigation found the opposite to be true. I am not ready to declare that historic district designations depress home values based on my limited research, but I definitely would disagree with Sue Lovell, the HHA, and now your characterization that the designation makes your home values rise faster than mine. I have seen this claim made VERY often, and have specifically looked for the source, but have never found one. I can only conclude that someone made the claim once and others took it at face value. I doubt there is even a Houston specific study of the issue.

I spent a lot of time trying to research it, actually, and what I found was that in some cities preservation has been a great success and it did increase values, etc etc... In other cities, not so much. The studies I read (granted, on the internet but several were published by Universities so I gave them merit) pretty much concluded it just depends and results varied by city. One study (Kansas, maybe) showed that historic protection tended to veer - but was not absolute- in cities where other development opportunities still existed. That is definitely Houston and definitely the Heights. Hell, there is acreage of empty land on the west side.

As far as the proof, you're totally right. A realtor did a presentation on it to our neighborhood association a couple years ago. She claimed to have crunched the numbers and I believed her. I do continue to believe her only b/c I have seen how fast homes have been selling by me while others languish on the market in other parts of the Heights. I am not saying that my house is worth more than yours but it seems that people are paying more per sq ft for smaller homes in my area than for larger homes in the Historic Heights. You have a smaller home and that might be able to be said of yours as well- that someone will want your home at more per sq ft than a huge, new house. The new house would cost more overall but less per sq ft. I actually interviewed a realtor/renovator/builder who works almost exclusively in the Heights this week. She said,over all, her current client base want smaller homes and will even pay the same as a larger one (this is for renos and new) if the smaller one has higher quality fixtures, more attention to detail, etc... I think this is a trend you will see more of as more empty nesters leave the 'burbs and move back in to town after their kids are grown.

Listen, we all have our opinions here and I'm not saying no one should fight for what they think is best for their property. I am just trying to express why some people are for preservation and why people may be supporting this move by the City. I am feeling pretty personally attacked here and that no one finds any merit in how I feel about this issue so I am going to bow out. In the end, it's all feelings and I think I have tried to respect how you all feel about it and how you *think* it may effect you, but remember that we don't really know what will happen so we can't say anyone is wrong or right. People also claimed the smoking ban was going to be the end of bars and restaurants all over Houston but I have yet to see that happen. And now I digress...

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If you acknowledge that the proposal in its current form is inadequate then you oppose it, correct?

If it was absolutely going to be an all or nothing, I would support it as it is currently written. I believe that this is the lesser of two evils when compared to the current "no means just wait a while" system. However, I think there is still room for debate on how it's implemented. I would start where it is and see where people can find a middle ground. To me, it seems as though the conversation is scrap it, don't consider it at all, just walk away and stick with the status quo.

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If it was absolutely going to be an all or nothing, I would support it as it is currently written.

It doesn't appear to be all-or-nothing. The City Council can still debate and modify the policy before adopting it. They modify ordinances before passing them all the time.

Yes or no, do you oppose the current proposal?

Edited by TheNiche
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Niche, can you give us any perspective on how it's worked in Galveston? My sense is, and I could be wrong, that

it's very restrictive in what you can to to a 100-year-old house.

there are still plenty of old houses in bad shape awaiting restoration.

People do restore houses in Galveston that would be teardowns elsewhere

People almost always build significant additions to the rear of Victorian "townhouses"

Property values have gone up significantly in historic districts but are still relatively affordable

One of the reasons for that is that Galveston is still not particularly safe and has pockets of seriously bad neighborhoods.

It would seem that the answers might be pertinent to this discussion, particularly to The Heights.

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Niche, can you give us any perspective on how it's worked in Galveston? My sense is, and I could be wrong, that

it's very restrictive in what you can to to a 100-year-old house.

there are still plenty of old houses in bad shape awaiting restoration.

People do restore houses in Galveston that would be teardowns elsewhere

People almost always build significant additions to the rear of Victorian "townhouses"

Property values have gone up significantly in historic districts but are still relatively affordable

One of the reasons for that is that Galveston is still not particularly safe and has pockets of seriously bad neighborhoods.

It would seem that the answers might be pertinent to this discussion, particularly to The Heights.

Preservationism in Galveston has been a long-standing movement with its own unique, rich, and complex history. Also, Galveston's economy is structured in a fundamentally different way and has been stagnant over the last several decades, whereas Houston's has boomed. Galveston's housing market is influenced by fundamentally different forces than Houston's inner loop. Galveston's population is about 2.5% that of Houston's...and is shrinking. Galveston has higher combined property tax rates and much high insurance rates.

Galveston is not a good comparison, but I do think that one point bears mention. The Galveston Historical Society is extraordinarily well-organized and well-funded. Galvestonians do much more than just say what can't be done or what should be done (and don't get me wrong, they do); tey're proactive and put their backs (and pocketbooks) into it. For Houston's size, it has failed to generate the same scale of commitment.

You might try researching the history of preservationism in Dallas's, Fort Worth's, or Austin's historical neighborhoods. I think that big post-war cities in Texas will be a better guidebook for what is realistic in Houston.

EDIT: I can't help but notice that Heights Yankee went silent, probably dodging the simple yes/no question.

Edited by TheNiche
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EDIT: I can't help but notice that Heights Yankee went silent, probably dodging the simple yes/no question.

With all due respect Niche, she already gave your question a thoughtful answer, and surely has other important things to attend to today besides endlessly debating this topic that has captured all of our attention - ease up on snark already.

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With all due respect Niche, she already gave your question a thoughtful answer, and surely has other important things to attend to today besides endlessly debating this topic that has captured all of our attention - ease up on snark already.

She's too busy even for a word? ...one word.

Yes or no?

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Attached is the Request for Council Action submitted by Marlene Gafrick, the Director of the Planning Department, on May 28, 2010. That was the Friday before Memorial Day. The agenda date was set for June 2, 2010, the Wednesday after Memorial Day. Draw your own conclusions about the timing and the motivation behind it.

Well, I did the attachment and don't see it but I'll try to find some way to make it a link.

http://www.scdesignllc.com/RfCA.pdf

Edited by SCDesign
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Once this ordinance passes, I intend to make sure that the Heights loses a "contributing structure" by selling my 90 year old bungalow to a builder(I'm in the non-historic section). I've maxed out my profits here anyway. I'll take my profits and put them into a neighborhood that doesn't think they can tell me what to do with my property.

Many HAIF regulars are dismayed to hear this. We have built up a great deal of respect and admiration for your house and your dog.

Speaking of which, I expect you to throw a hissy-fit over the leash law in Houston (even though it has had no effect on you, being a good pet owner.) To show your displeasure over others trying to control your property, perhaps you should threaten to sell your dog to a Korean restaurant.

"I'm gonna kill my dog! And it's all...Your...FAULT!"

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The problem biggest problem with the Historic Guidelines is that the HAHC gave themselves a way out of not following them by the simple addition of the language that all designs must take into consideration the blockface character. That means that regardless of the Guidlines, if the houses on the block are all singel story Craftsman Bungalows than you will not be approved if you submit a Victorian, even if that Victorian follows the guidlines. If you are not going to build something that is the same as the rest of the structures on the block you will not get a CoA. Can you take the subjectivity out ot the Guidlines without giving up the whole "blockface character" thing? Blockface preservation is THE MAIN FOCUS of the whole thing so I do not believe it is possible.

If the majority of houses on a block are Craftsman Bungalows, a pseudo-Victorian will look as appropriate as a wristwatch on a Greek statue. Anachronisms are unintentionally funny at best, and the humor is at the expense of the ignorance of others. With few exceptions, attempts to re-introduce Victorian (or worse, New Orleans) elements into the Heights have resulted in Mattel-like structures.

The appeal of the Heights will not be enhanced by the odd, inappropriate infill of Victorians- nor log cabins, igloos, tepees or pagodas.

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