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Historic Misuse Of City Resources


BBLLC

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The City of Houston has 6 residential plan checkers and something north of 1200 plans in the system.  It takes 6 to 8 weeks to get a plan through the system YET, the Planning Department can afford to send 4 people to one of my job sites for 1 1/2 hours to investigate the egregious crime of a 3" difference in rafter tail exposure on a porch.

 

Let me explain.  Our plans had an error that a licensed engineer, a licensed architect, the architects boss, the Staff of the Preservation office licensed architects, the HAHC members with licensed architects, the plan checkers in Code Enforcement, Bastian Builders Superintendent, and myself as the owner of the company did NOT catch.  The plans showed the roof rafters of the porch passing through the beam on the front porch.  This is a physical impossibility and can't be built that way.  The framers built the front porch roof with the rafters notched over the beam resulting in 3 inch difference in reveal of the open tail rafters in front of the beam from a perfect 90 degree perspective.

 

It was a MISTAKE, that I acknowledge and will make right.  But rather than asking for a meeting or a plan of correction, the Hysterical Preservation group places a complete STOP WORK order on the whole project.  After 4 different site visits, dozens of emails and phone calls, and many thousands of dollars of loss by both the city and my company, we get ANOTHER visit to check measurements on an unfinished house with an ungraded lot.

 

Regardless of your position on the Historical Ordinance, the administration of it is petty and absurd.  Is this what you want the Planning Department focused on?

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I can only say that you are clearly in the city crosshairs....The city is targeting you for not just accepting their authority and having the gal to try to turn a profit....I would expect that you will be receiving an IRS audit as well shortly.

 

We now live in a world where if you are in the political minority, or you disagree with those in power, that your opinion can not be voiced without fear of official government retribution.  It is a sad day indeed.

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Maybe you had good intentions, but not everyone does. Some speed through getting incorrect work done and then shrug and grin like a Cheshire cat, knowing that they're going to get away with an after-the-fact variance.

 

The point of my post was to illustrate the poor processes and poor stewardship of our tax dollars.  I admit my mistake and will correct it through the approved venues.

 

Why is there an assumption of criminal intent?  Why can't the City and taxpayers work together instead of attacking in an adversarial manner?  A simple phone call would have been appropriate.  Within two days of finding out we had a mistake we had corrected plans submitted to the HAHC for approval.  The porch can NOT be built as originally approved.  It is a physical impossibility.  I'm not sure even Escher could make it work. We have to find an acceptable solution from the HAHC and design reality to complete this house.  Continuing to sheetrock would in no way prevent the remedies on the porch roof from being realized.

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I can only say that you are clearly in the city crosshairs....The city is targeting you for not just accepting their authority and having the gal to try to turn a profit....I would expect that you will be receiving an IRS audit as well shortly.

 

Actually, I have a lot of support from many in the City.  But there is at least one city employee who has target acquired with a laser lock.

 

I'm think about turning the corner of Rutland and 12th into a garden with live chickens running around.  You know, for chicken karma.

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I can only say that you are clearly in the city crosshairs....The city is targeting you for not just accepting their authority and having the gal to try to turn a profit....I would expect that you will be receiving an IRS audit as well shortly.

 

We now live in a world where if you are in the political minority, or you disagree with those in power, that your opinion can not be voiced without fear of official government retribution.  It is a sad day indeed.

Really Marksu? How would they even know BBLLC's political leaning unless he was wearing an elephant lapel button. You are jesting, right?

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The point of my post was to illustrate the poor processes and poor stewardship of our tax dollars.  I admit my mistake and will correct it through the approved venues.

 

Why is there an assumption of criminal intent?  Why can't the City and taxpayers work together instead of attacking in an adversarial manner?  A simple phone call would have been appropriate.  Within two days of finding out we had a mistake we had corrected plans submitted to the HAHC for approval.  The porch can NOT be built as originally approved.  It is a physical impossibility.  I'm not sure even Escher could make it work. We have to find an acceptable solution from the HAHC and design reality to complete this house.  Continuing to sheetrock would in no way prevent the remedies on the porch roof from being realized.

 

Your record may be as pure as the driven snow, but that is not the case for many builders who have come and gone from the Heights (and Houston) over the years.  Asking nicely to fix something while allowing a builder to complete everything else is just a perfect way to allow a builder to blow off making the corrections and dumping the problem on the owner/investor/buyer.  A stop work order is the only real way to make sure the builder makes the correction without skipping out on the job with most of the progress payments.  It is a harsh remedy, but it was rightly earned by the collective misdeeds of the many bad builders who have caused many innocent folks in Houston to lose lots of money due to their incompetence and greed. 

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Your record may be as pure as the driven snow, but that is not the case for many builders who have come and gone from the Heights (and Houston) over the years.  Asking nicely to fix something while allowing a builder to complete everything else is just a perfect way to allow a builder to blow off making the corrections and dumping the problem on the owner/investor/buyer.  A stop work order is the only real way to make sure the builder makes the correction without skipping out on the job with most of the progress payments.  It is a harsh remedy, but it was rightly earned by the collective misdeeds of the many bad builders who have caused many innocent folks in Houston to lose lots of money due to their incompetence and greed. 

 

Do you really think it's reasonable to send a squad of City employees over a 3 inch difference in reveal on a rafter? Instead of stopping work, just put a tag that says no occupancy permit will be issued until the problem is corrected.

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Your record may be as pure as the driven snow, but that is not the case for many builders who have come and gone from the Heights (and Houston) over the years.  Asking nicely to fix something while allowing a builder to complete everything else is just a perfect way to allow a builder to blow off making the corrections and dumping the problem on the owner/investor/buyer.  A stop work order is the only real way to make sure the builder makes the correction without skipping out on the job with most of the progress payments.  It is a harsh remedy, but it was rightly earned by the collective misdeeds of the many bad builders who have caused many innocent folks in Houston to lose lots of money due to their incompetence and greed. 

 

 We live on 17th Street, have had an office on 18th Street for over 10 years, and have been building and renovating in the Heights since 1991.  I am the owner/investor/builder of the property in question.  What ever happened to the concept of innocent until proven guilty?  One phone call to me would have accomplished the eventual outcome and would have saved the City dozens of man hours.  After wasting 40+ hours of my life and loosing about $1800, the Assistant Director of Planning has ruled that the 3" difference was, after all, within the guidelines of the Certificate of Appropriateness issued by the HAHC for this project. This could have all been avoided with a more collaborative approach from the City to tax paying citizens instead of a very heavy handed antagonistic attack.

 

You paint all builders with an extremely broad brush and I think that is wrong.  The issuance of a building permit is a legally binding contract between the City and my company.  My attorney believes that their actions exceeded their enforcement authority on an UNFINISHED house.  Whoever threatened the sheetrock crew with police action potentially committed a crime.  Though when told about the extremely minor mistake, I immediately worked toward fixing it, how do they KNOW what the eventual outcome would have been?  The attitude demonstrated by those enforcing the ordinance is going to eventually antagonize the wrong people and the results will be unfavorable to both the position I hold and the one I think s3mh holds.  

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Really Marksu? How would they even know BBLLC's political leaning unless he was wearing an elephant lapel button. You are jesting, right?

 

I was not referring to any political leanings at all...I think there are Historic people on both sides of the political isle...but those in power will abuse their power for their own gain every time....The city, the HHA, and the HAHC, all have a good deal of power over builders, especially in the "historic" areas - They all pretty much loathe new construction in the historic areas and as a result, by building new where these people think ONLY old should be, the bulder puts himself squarely in their cross hairs.

 

About the only way not to be targeted by the current city gestapo is to donate to them, or just say "yes sir, may I  have another" and do whatever they want no matter how silly it is.  Fighting back is difficult, b/c the city will use all of its resources to stiffle anyone who opposes them, no matter how ridiculous their viewpoint....Just look at the history of abuse on this historic ordiance for evidence of that...there are lots and lots of people who complain about arbitrary abuses of power from the HAHC....not following the statues, objecting over things b/c "it feels" too big, etc.

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I can only say that you are clearly in the city crosshairs....The city is targeting you for not just accepting their authority and having the gal to try to turn a profit....I would expect that you will be receiving an IRS audit as well shortly.

 

We now live in a world where if you are in the political minority, or you disagree with those in power, that your opinion can not be voiced without fear of official government retribution.  It is a sad day indeed.

 

There have always been overzealous bureaucrats on a power trip and there always will be. Please adjust your tin foil hat. 

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 We live on 17th Street, have had an office on 18th Street for over 10 years, and have been building and renovating in the Heights since 1991.  I am the owner/investor/builder of the property in question.  What ever happened to the concept of innocent until proven guilty?  One phone call to me would have accomplished the eventual outcome and would have saved the City dozens of man hours.  After wasting 40+ hours of my life and loosing about $1800, the Assistant Director of Planning has ruled that the 3" difference was, after all, within the guidelines of the Certificate of Appropriateness issued by the HAHC for this project. This could have all been avoided with a more collaborative approach from the City to tax paying citizens instead of a very heavy handed antagonistic attack.

 

You paint all builders with an extremely broad brush and I think that is wrong.  The issuance of a building permit is a legally binding contract between the City and my company.  My attorney believes that their actions exceeded their enforcement authority on an UNFINISHED house.  Whoever threatened the sheetrock crew with police action potentially committed a crime.  Though when told about the extremely minor mistake, I immediately worked toward fixing it, how do they KNOW what the eventual outcome would have been?  The attitude demonstrated by those enforcing the ordinance is going to eventually antagonize the wrong people and the results will be unfavorable to both the position I hold and the one I think s3mh holds.  

 

I do not paint all builders with a broad brush.  I accurately report that there have been too many bad builders in Houston (and Texas in general) and strong enforcement is required to deal with a problem that is more than a few bad apples.  Builders in Texas have fought hard against strong enforcement and licensing requirements on a state level, even going as far as creating the idiotic Residential Construction Commission to try to keep defect cases out of court (the RCC did not even survive its first sunset).  So, builders cannot complain about strong enforcement measures because of the actions of others.  The industry has provided no leadership in cleaning up the industry.

 

Also, it is interesting that you expect the City to treat you with kit gloves after you have gone out into the media calling city employees "dogmatic, religious zealots" and claiming that the approved plans for two houses "look like shit" because of HAHC's demands (amongst many other antagonistic statements).  It is certainly not unreasonable for the City to be wary of a builder who is publicly trashing the historic preservation process. 

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It is certainly not unreasonable for the City to be wary of a builder who is publicly trashing the historic preservation process. 

 

We probably will never have common ground when you make statements like the above.  The process is broken and as evidenced by the recent action that was rescinded, the enforcement is over the top.  It is very unreasonable to be vindictive and petty when there is a difference of opinion.  The very fact that you think City employees should EVER be allowed to seek retribution on a taxpayer because they challenged a position is scary.  Godwin's law is swirling in my head.

 

If you are indeed an architect then you should understand the guidelines for new construction in a Historic District.  The HAHC has routinely approved a COA for new construction that flies in the face of 33.242 #3 by focusing solely on 33.242 #4.  Two of the houses I have approved are out of proportion and look terrible.  I won't be building these without a change.

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Also, it is interesting that you expect the City to treat you with kit gloves after you have gone out into the media calling city employees "dogmatic, religious zealots" and claiming that the approved plans for two houses "look like shit" because of HAHC's demands (amongst many other antagonistic statements).  It is certainly not unreasonable for the City to be wary of a builder who is publicly trashing the historic preservation process. 

 

It's "kid gloves", and yes, I do expect the City employees to take whatever criticism the taxpayers give out. For the City to send multiple inspectors out is ridiculous and a waste of taxpayer money. If the City would follow its own rules, and the HAHC would not be condescending and bullying, this sort of thing would not happen.

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We probably will never have common ground when you make statements like the above.  The process is broken and as evidenced by the recent action that was rescinded, the enforcement is over the top.  It is very unreasonable to be vindictive and petty when there is a difference of opinion.  The very fact that you think City employees should EVER be allowed to seek retribution on a taxpayer because they challenged a position is scary.  Godwin's law is swirling in my head.

 

If you are indeed an architect then you should understand the guidelines for new construction in a Historic District.  The HAHC has routinely approved a COA for new construction that flies in the face of 33.242 #3 by focusing solely on 33.242 #4.  Two of the houses I have approved are out of proportion and look terrible.  I won't be building these without a change.

 

Except you have admitted that you made an error.  It is not retribution to enforce the law.  It is not retribution to cast a wary eye on someone who has shown contempt for how the City implements its regulations.  And to be clear, I have no problem with the City sending out four inspectors to every house under construction in the historic districts.  If the City has sent out more inspectors to go over your project than others, the solution to that is to send out more inspectors to other properties rather than to make enforcement uniformly lax for all.

 

As for your claims regarding 33.242, the only solution is a more restrictive interpretation that forces builders to uniformly and proportionally adjust the scale of a house down to be compatible with the required eave height.  I am all for that. 

 

Oh, and Godwin's law is already moot. Marksmu has already dropped the Gestapo reference.

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Except you have admitted that you made an error.  It is not retribution to enforce the law.  It is not retribution to cast a wary eye on someone who has shown contempt for how the City implements its regulations.  And to be clear, I have no problem with the City sending out four inspectors to every house under construction in the historic districts.  If the City has sent out more inspectors to go over your project than others, the solution to that is to send out more inspectors to other properties rather than to make enforcement uniformly lax for all.

 

As for your claims regarding 33.242, the only solution is a more restrictive interpretation that forces builders to uniformly and proportionally adjust the scale of a house down to be compatible with the required eave height.  I am all for that. 

 

Oh, and Godwin's law is already moot. Marksmu has already dropped the Gestapo reference.

 

1.  I admitted my mistake which none of the self appointed experts caught either while reviewing the submittal.  But as it turns out the Planning Department admitted that the house was STILL within the acceptable tolerances allowed by the approved COA thus making their Gestapo raid unnecessary (well you said Mark already opened the door :-)

 

2.  It is retribution if they are enforcing something erroneously and unequally.

 

3.  I challenge you to demonstrate where I have shown contempt (look the word up first).  I completely and thoroughly disagree with the implementation of an ordinance that is open to a continually morphing interpretation without citizens or council's approval.

 

4.  We disagree on the wasteful use of taxpayers dollars by the Planning Department.  What is the goal or ends you wish to achieve by this level of inspection?

 

5.  I would be all for the ordinance going back up for vote with a restriction on square footage.  This is in fact what the ordinance is all about.  Small houses.

 

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Except you have admitted that you made an error.  It is not retribution to enforce the law.  It is not retribution to cast a wary eye on someone who has shown contempt for how the City implements its regulations.  And to be clear, I have no problem with the City sending out four inspectors to every house under construction in the historic districts.  If the City has sent out more inspectors to go over your project than others, the solution to that is to send out more inspectors to other properties rather than to make enforcement uniformly lax for all.

 

 

So, if a builder calls up the planning folks and says, "Hey, we all missed this error on the rafter drawings, and we need to decide if it matters or if I need to redo the drawings and have the framers rip the bad stuff out and redo it", the response of the City ought to be a caravan of inspectors wielding red tags and stop work orders? That's lunacy.

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Oh, and Godwin's law is already moot. Marksmu has already dropped the Gestapo reference.

 

Please point to where I have referred to gestapo in this thread.  I said it is a sad day indeed when the city is targeting people for their beliefs, and that is all.  It is clear to me that is occuring.  Whether you want to admit it or not, is your problem.

 

 

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Please point to where I have referred to gestapo in this thread.  I said it is a sad day indeed when the city is targeting people for their beliefs, and that is all.  It is clear to me that is occuring.  Whether you want to admit it or not, is your problem.

 

It was the last post you made:

 

"About the only way not to be targeted by the current city gestapo is to donate to them, or just say "yes sir, may I  have another" and do whatever they want no matter how silly it is."

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So, if a builder calls up the planning folks and says, "Hey, we all missed this error on the rafter drawings, and we need to decide if it matters or if I need to redo the drawings and have the framers rip the bad stuff out and redo it", the response of the City ought to be a caravan of inspectors wielding red tags and stop work orders? That's lunacy.

 

That is not what happened.  I firmly stand behind my previous comments regarding the need for vigorous enforcement by the City.  I have run across a lot of people both professionally and personally who have been harmed by bad builders in Houston and in the Heights.  Many times the bad builder story was accompanied with a common refrain of "the city inspector missed it."  And when I share the stories with people in the North, the response is usually either "our city would have run that builder out of town" or "the trade unions would never let their workers do that".  Houston needs stronger code enforcement, not a system where public works has to wring their hands over whether they are being polite and tactful.

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1.  I admitted my mistake which none of the self appointed experts caught either while reviewing the submittal.  But as it turns out the Planning Department admitted that the house was STILL within the acceptable tolerances allowed by the approved COA thus making their Gestapo raid unnecessary (well you said Mark already opened the door :-)

 

2.  It is retribution if they are enforcing something erroneously and unequally.

 

3.  I challenge you to demonstrate where I have shown contempt (look the word up first).  I completely and thoroughly disagree with the implementation of an ordinance that is open to a continually morphing interpretation without citizens or council's approval.

 

4.  We disagree on the wasteful use of taxpayers dollars by the Planning Department.  What is the goal or ends you wish to achieve by this level of inspection?

 

5.  I would be all for the ordinance going back up for vote with a restriction on square footage.  This is in fact what the ordinance is all about.  Small houses.

 

There was no erroneous enforcement.  You admitted that it was not right and got lucky that the planning department used their discretion to let it go based on what they consider acceptable tolerances.  

 

Contempt

 

Noun

 

1

a :  the act of despising :  the state of mind of one whodespises :  disdain
 
b :  lack of respect or reverence for something
2
:  the state of being despised
3
:  willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body <contempt of court>

You told the Leader that city employees were "dogmatic, religious zealots".  If that is not showing contempt for the City, I am not sure words have meaning anymore.

 

The ordinance is about preserving historic homes.  The scale and conformity of new construction was a major issue that started the movement to amend the ordinance.  The New Orelans-ish town homes on 15th and Rutland demonstrated that a 90 day waiting period was ineffective.  Thus, scale of new construction was very much on the minds of everyone when the ordinance was amended.  

 

It is interesting that the main critique against the ordinance is predictability, but at the same time any application of predictable limits is also the subject of complaints.  You do not want an objective measure for eave height, but want an objective measure for setbacks.  Others have complained about the placement of additions in relation to the existing structure.  But has there been a proposal to Council to amend the ordinance to make it more predictable?  No.  Because that process would bring out the neighborhood in droves seeking stronger protections from builders who are obsessed with lot line construction in the Heights.  

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It was the last post you made:

 

"About the only way not to be targeted by the current city gestapo is to donate to them, or just say "yes sir, may I  have another" and do whatever they want no matter how silly it is."

 

Touche!  That is what I get for posting on a Friday!

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That is not what happened.  I firmly stand behind my previous comments regarding the need for vigorous enforcement by the City.  I have run across a lot of people both professionally and personally who have been harmed by bad builders in Houston and in the Heights.  Many times the bad builder story was accompanied with a common refrain of "the city inspector missed it."  And when I share the stories with people in the North, the response is usually either "our city would have run that builder out of town" or "the trade unions would never let their workers do that".  Houston needs stronger code enforcement, not a system where public works has to wring their hands over whether they are being polite and tactful.

 

It is not the role of the City inspectors to protect the consumer from a bad builder. The sole purpose of the City inspectors is to enforce city codes, which they seem to do a decent job of. If you want your builder bird dogged, hire an inspector that works for you, and you alone. It annoys me as a taxpayer that Bastian was brutally assaulted by a goon squad of multiple inspectors over a fairly trivial issue. There is no reason, ever, to initiate contact with multiple inspectors, given that there isn't an unlimited pool of them, and there are numerous properties to inspect. If Bastian failed to fix the issue, or blew off the inspectors and continued to violate the building code, then that's what reinspections are for, and that's the appropriate time to red tag the project. Going into full shutdown mode on day 1 is stupid.

 

 

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There was no erroneous enforcement.  You admitted that it was not right and got lucky that the planning department used their discretion to let it go based on what they consider acceptable tolerances.  

 

Contempt

 

Noun

 

1

a :  the act of despising :  the state of mind of one whodespises :  disdain
 
b :  lack of respect or reverence for something
2
:  the state of being despised
3
:  willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body <contempt of court>

You told the Leader that city employees were "dogmatic, religious zealots".  If that is not showing contempt for the City, I am not sure words have meaning anymore.

 

The ordinance is about preserving historic homes.  The scale and conformity of new construction was a major issue that started the movement to amend the ordinance.  The New Orelans-ish town homes on 15th and Rutland demonstrated that a 90 day waiting period was ineffective.  Thus, scale of new construction was very much on the minds of everyone when the ordinance was amended.  

 

It is interesting that the main critique against the ordinance is predictability, but at the same time any application of predictable limits is also the subject of complaints.  You do not want an objective measure for eave height, but want an objective measure for setbacks.  Others have complained about the placement of additions in relation to the existing structure.  But has there been a proposal to Council to amend the ordinance to make it more predictable?  No.  Because that process would bring out the neighborhood in droves seeking stronger protections from builders who are obsessed with lot line construction in the Heights.  

 

There WAS erroneous enforcement.  There is a tolerance ALLOWED under the COA.  We fell within that tolerance.  There was nothing "lucky" about that.

 

What part of "dogmatic religious zealots" has contempt in it from the definition you quoted?  I think you are projecting your own judgement on those words.  It was a statement of fact that there is no compromise tolerated by the application of an extremely vague ordinance.

 

"The scale and conformity of new construction was a major issue that started the movement to amend the ordinance.  The New Orelans-ish town homes on 15th and Rutland demonstrated that a 90 day waiting period was ineffective.  Thus, scale of new construction was very much on the minds of everyone when the ordinance was amended"

 

Were you living in Houston when the West Historic District was put in place?  Every public meeting I attended and every piece of literature sent to me by the proponents discussed continued removal of the historic fabric (ie Save the Bungalows), prevailing setbacks, and density.  Can you provide a single citation where scale was ever discussed as "a major issue that started the movement"?  The neighbors of 15th and Rutland were vocal about the lot line to lot line construction and density.  Can you cite one instance of "conformity" being the "major issue"?

 

In my personal case of buying the Chicken Factory, if there had been design guidelines with objective measures BEFORE I bought it, the outcome would have been very different.  A year ago the Preservation Staff didn't have ANY measurements of contributing structures in the West Historic District.  Additionally, there was a manual on the Planning Departments website that was titled "Historic Houston Heights Design Guidelines".  Marlene Gafrick held a copy of those "design guidelines" up in the air during a public meeting and stated these are the design guidelines for the Heights.  After going under contract I was informed by the staff that those guidelines were never voted on by the City Council so they weren't guidelines and their judgement would be the rule of law.  Bad on me for not checking the voting record of the City Council.

 

Mr. s3mh, we are never going to agree on this issue.  I will never do another project in one of the Historic Districts.  I just hope that the inclination of the keepers and proponents of the ordinance to lay down principles of Historic preservation as incontrovertible truth don't lose the war for one battle.

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It is not the role of the City inspectors to protect the consumer from a bad builder. The sole purpose of the City inspectors is to enforce city codes, which they seem to do a decent job of. 

 

Wrong.  The reason building codes exist in the first place is to make sure that construction meets a minimum standard, at least with regard to safety.  Good builders don't really need that sort of supervision; they do it as a matter of course.

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Wrong.  The reason building codes exist in the first place is to make sure that construction meets a minimum standard, at least with regard to safety.  Good builders don't really need that sort of supervision; they do it as a matter of course.

 

The City will do nothing to protect you from shoddy work that meets code. The inspectors will pass work that is cosmetically awful, as long as it meets code. The argument here is how many inspectors are required to perform an inspection, and whether all work on a structure ought to be stopped when fixing an issue can be done independently of the that work.

 

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Just as good builders do cosmetically good work as a matter of course, they most likely would also perform safe work as a matter of course.  Likewise, a builder that will cut corners on cosmetics or material quality is entirely likely to also cut corners on structural issues that compromise the integrity of the structure.  I've seen it happen.

 

Building codes originally started as a matter of public safety, and still perform that role.  However, they have also taken on a role with aesthetics in some instances, notably preservation of historic structures or districts.  

 

I will agree that having several inspectors swarm in on one isolated issue is apparently wasteful.  On the other hand, ground up construction necessarily involves several inspectors, just as it requires several different types of tradespeople.  As an easy example, plumbers are notorious for ignoring structural issues, and a structural inspector without training in electrical likely would make a hash of that inspection.  As other posters have pointed out, there are also some builders that require being hit over the head with a 2x4 to get their attention; a stop all work order is the functional equivalent of that.

 

Finally, and at the risk of overstating what ought to be obvious, I am not defending petty jackasses, who unfortunately nevertheless exist all around us in all walks of life.

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There WAS erroneous enforcement.  There is a tolerance ALLOWED under the COA.  We fell within that tolerance.  There was nothing "lucky" about that.

 

What part of "dogmatic religious zealots" has contempt in it from the definition you quoted?  I think you are projecting your own judgement on those words.  It was a statement of fact that there is no compromise tolerated by the application of an extremely vague ordinance.

 

"The scale and conformity of new construction was a major issue that started the movement to amend the ordinance.  The New Orelans-ish town homes on 15th and Rutland demonstrated that a 90 day waiting period was ineffective.  Thus, scale of new construction was very much on the minds of everyone when the ordinance was amended"

 

Were you living in Houston when the West Historic District was put in place?  Every public meeting I attended and every piece of literature sent to me by the proponents discussed continued removal of the historic fabric (ie Save the Bungalows), prevailing setbacks, and density.  Can you provide a single citation where scale was ever discussed as "a major issue that started the movement"?  The neighbors of 15th and Rutland were vocal about the lot line to lot line construction and density.  Can you cite one instance of "conformity" being the "major issue"?

 

In my personal case of buying the Chicken Factory, if there had been design guidelines with objective measures BEFORE I bought it, the outcome would have been very different.  A year ago the Preservation Staff didn't have ANY measurements of contributing structures in the West Historic District.  Additionally, there was a manual on the Planning Departments website that was titled "Historic Houston Heights Design Guidelines".  Marlene Gafrick held a copy of those "design guidelines" up in the air during a public meeting and stated these are the design guidelines for the Heights.  After going under contract I was informed by the staff that those guidelines were never voted on by the City Council so they weren't guidelines and their judgement would be the rule of law.  Bad on me for not checking the voting record of the City Council.

 

Mr. s3mh, we are never going to agree on this issue.  I will never do another project in one of the Historic Districts.  I just hope that the inclination of the keepers and proponents of the ordinance to lay down principles of Historic preservation as incontrovertible truth don't lose the war for one battle.

 

Calling city officials "dogmatic, religious zealots" is not a statement of fact.  What religion are they practicing?  The language is clearly pejorative and is a personal attack, not a statement of fact. 

 

I was living in the WD when the ordinance was amended.  Your claims about the intentions of proponents are self-serving and false.  First, Save the Bungalows was not active during the push to amend the ordinance.  The Houston Historic District Coalition was the organization leading the fight to make the historic ordinance actually have real teeth.  The concern about the development on Rutland and 15th was both about lot line development and about architecture.  Here is a snippet from the old website for the coalition:

  Say Yes to Preservation

YES to preserving Houstonians' unique historic neighborhoods.

YES to protected districts.

YES to giving our community a voice in its future.

YES to strong property values.

YES to compatible additions and alterations on historic buildings.

YES to compatible new construction.

YES to visually compatible building materials.

YES to tax abatements.

 

Compatibility of new construction was always an issue.  Residents of the districts were tired of every vacant lot being filled with lotline Fauxorleans new construction.  The whole idea that the ordinance was just supposed to be about stopping demos is a meme started by Sue Lovell when she did a revolving door after leaving counsel.  

And what in the guideline would have saved the day for you?  I remember those, and they were nothing more than a bunch of examples of additions and styles that were considered compatible.  Nothing in the guidelines said "if you do this, HAHC must approve".  Everything in the guidelines was subject to HAHC's discretion.

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Calling city officials "dogmatic, religious zealots" is not a statement of fact.  What religion are they practicing?  The language is clearly pejorative and is a personal attack, not a statement of fact. 

 

 

Dogmatic - "inclined to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true"

 

Religion - "something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience"

 

Zealot - "a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals"

 

I stand by my assertion.  You have a limited understanding of these words and are projecting your judgement for what a "dogmatic, religious zealot" might encompass.  They believe that their version of preservation is the only truth.  They devoutly follow this belief.  And they are fanatical and uncompromising in pursuing their ideals.  Go to an HAHC meeting and you can see all of these first hand.  It isn't pejorative or personal.  It is fact.

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I was living in the WD when the ordinance was amended.  Your claims about the intentions of proponents are self-serving and false.  First, Save the Bungalows was not active during the push to amend the ordinance.  The Houston Historic District Coalition was the organization leading the fight to make the historic ordinance actually have real teeth.  The concern about the development on Rutland and 15th was both about lot line development and about architecture.  Here is a snippet from the old website for the coalition:

  Say Yes to Preservation

YES to preserving Houstonians' unique historic neighborhoods.

YES to protected districts.

YES to giving our community a voice in its future.

YES to strong property values.

YES to compatible additions and alterations on historic buildings.

YES to compatible new construction.

YES to visually compatible building materials.

YES to tax abatements.

 

Compatibility of new construction was always an issue.  Residents of the districts were tired of every vacant lot being filled with lotline Fauxorleans new construction.  The whole idea that the ordinance was just supposed to be about stopping demos is a meme started by Sue Lovell when she did a revolving door after leaving counsel.  

And what in the guideline would have saved the day for you?  I remember those, and they were nothing more than a bunch of examples of additions and styles that were considered compatible.  Nothing in the guidelines said "if you do this, HAHC must approve".  Everything in the guidelines was subject to HAHC's discretion.

 

 

I too was living in the WD when the ordinance was amended.

 

Since I am not doing anything more in the Historic Districts, how are my claims about the stated intention of the proponents on video tape and written documents self-serving?

 

When I see the old snippets from the coalitions website it only solidifies my statement of dogmatic religious zealots.

 

YES to preserving Houstonians' unique historic neighborhoods.

 

Who gets to decide what preserving means?  Why were the neighborhoods gerrymandered?

 

YES to giving our community a voice in its future.

 

That is laughable.  When 95% of the residents of a street support specific new construction and they are told by the commission their opinion doesn't matter, this assertion is fraudulant.

 

You stated that conformity was the major issue and now you are stating that compatibility is the issue.  Which is it?  They are not the same.  

 

​None of these issues were defined or elucidated when the ordinance was being proposed.   Most of the YES statements are highly interpretive and not truly represented in the current ordinance.

 

"And what in the guideline would have saved the day for you?"  The guidelines that Ms. Gafrick held up in a public meeting that I got from the Planning Departments website had examples of VERY large houses with proportionate roofs to the style of the house.  NONE of those houses would be allowed to be built now.  If I had known that the real intent of the ordinance was to prevent large homes no matter the setback, no matter the style, no matter the compatibility, no matter the material used, I wouldn't have bought it.  If I had known after I bought it this was what stuck in their craw, I would have built on the platted lots instead of making the lots larger.  The fact that a house that was originally built on Rutland and 17th couldn't be rebuilt on Rutland and 12th indicates to me that historical accuracy is not what this ordinance is about.  The ordinance has codified a specific point in time that is an artificial construct in relation to historical accuracy of building styles and ornamentation.  

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Dogmatic - "inclined to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true"

 

Religion - "something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience"

 

Zealot - "a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals"

 

I stand by my assertion.  You have a limited understanding of these words and are projecting your judgement for what a "dogmatic, religious zealot" might encompass.  They believe that their version of preservation is the only truth.  They devoutly follow this belief.  And they are fanatical and uncompromising in pursuing their ideals.  Go to an HAHC meeting and you can see all of these first hand.  It isn't pejorative or personal.  It is fact.

 

As far as I can tell, the hard core preservation zealots think the HAHC is doing a fine job, and that the bullying and condescending attitude are just what the citizens who appear in front of the commission deserve. If they had their way, the HAHC would dictate house design down to the last detail, no external alterations at all would be allowed, and only ideologically pure zealots would be eligible to serve on the commission. All because it is far more important for a house to be a perfect representation of something from 100 years ago than a place people can actually live.

 

 

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And yet, we still don't have a historical commission trying to dictate paint colors or sidewalk placement, as some other places do... not to mention, the percentage of even inside the Loop property in a historic district is small.  

 

As said before, I think there ought to be clear rules, consistently applied.  I also think it's a good idea to have a mechanism to request a variance to avoid silly results.  

 

It is also my experience that practically every builder and developer is quite convinced of the superior quality and incomparable aesthetics of his or her proposed product, even if he or she is the only person with that opinion.

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And yet, we still don't have a historical commission trying to dictate paint colors or sidewalk placement, as some other places do... not to mention, the percentage of even inside the Loop property in a historic district is small.  

 

 

 

Well these ordinance changes happened without neighborhood approval... what would stop them from making more changes? 

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  • The title was changed to Historic Misuse Of City Resources

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