Jump to content
HAIF - Houston's original social media

City committee to review historic ordinance


Recommended Posts

http://blog.chron.com/primeproperty/2014/08/city-committee-to-review-historic-ordinance/

 

he  ordinance that oversees Houston’s historic districts could soon see some changes.

The city of Houston Planning and Development Department and the Archaeological and Historical Commission announced Thursday that it seeks to refine the ordinance, which was updated in 2010 to create permanent protections for historic structures in designated districts and establish a new process for creating a district. The goal would be to clarify certain aspects of the ordinance and provide more consistency for the applicants. The amendments would provide “applicants with additional options for a streamlined approval, provide the Commission with improved guidance on which to base their decision and create a more efficient process,” the planning department says.

A committee will meet over the next few months to  establish amendments that may include the following improvements:

  • Broaden the scope of projects that may obtain the Director’s Administrative Approval
  • Provide clarity on what constitutes a Shall Approve
  • Strengthen enforcement for violations
  • Reduce and/or eliminate redundancies, inconsistencies and confusion in code language

“My direction is for the committee to look for tweaks that will make the ordinance easier to understand and more user-friendly,” said Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement. “We are taking a scalpel, not a hatchet, to the ordinance. There is no intention of a wholesale reconsideration of the changes adopted in 2010.”

Link to post
Share on other sites

A committee will meet over the next few months to  establish amendments that may include the following improvements:

  • Broaden the scope of projects that may obtain the Director’s Administrative Approval
  • Provide clarity on what constitutes a Shall Approve
  • Strengthen enforcement for violations
  • Reduce and/or eliminate redundancies, inconsistencies and confusion in code language

“My direction is for the committee to look for tweaks that will make the ordinance easier to understand and more user-friendly,” said Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement. “We are taking a scalpel, not a hatchet, to the ordinance. There is no intention of a wholesale reconsideration of the changes adopted in 2010.”

 

 

Any broadening of the scope of the ordinance should be put to a vote of affected home owners.  I am tired of the regulatory over-reach that is occuring in this country. 

 

The scope that would be broadened, according to the release, would be the scope of projects that could get administrative approval, presumably as opposed to going before the commission. Likewise, "provide clarity on what constitutes a Shall Approve" sounds like a positive change, from anyone's perspective.  

 

In other words, this sounds like it's aimed at addressing and fixing the beefs that have been so loudly expressed in this forum.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well if by broadening it, they mean allowing some things to be streamlined, that would be good - but any addittional restrictions, or addittions to the ordinance really need to be voted on.

You will have to forgive me for not trusting the Historic folks - they lied, cheated, and stole to get their way...It was very ugly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've heard that the vote is scheduled for 4:53am on Thursday, Jan 1.  A 30 second window will be allowed for votes to be cast.  Voting to be done in person at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Not being present constitutes a vote for the changes.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

From citizens net

First Meeting Set to Review Historic Preservation Ordinance

The City of Houston Planning and Development Department and the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission are seeking to refine the Historic Preservation Ordinance. The ordinance was updated in 2010 to create permanent protections for historic structures in designated districts and to establish a new process for creating a historic district.

The first committee meeting will be on Monday, September 29, 2014, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Council Annex Chambers, 900 Bagby Street, Houston, Texas 77002. At that meeting, the committee will determine the time, date and location of additional meetings. All meetings will be open to the public.

The goal of this process is to correct and clarify targeted items and create greater consistency for the applicants and for the commission. The amendments will provide applicants with additional options for a streamlined approval, provide the commission with improved guidance on which to base their decision and create a more efficient process.

"My direction is for the committee to look for tweaks that will make the ordinance easier to understand and more user-friendly," said Mayor Annise Parker. "We are taking a scalpel, not a hatchet, to the ordinance. There is no intention of a wholesale reconsideration of the changes adopted in 2010."

The results of Committee meetings will be posted on the Department's website, www.houstonplanning.com. Citizens can email historic.ordinance@houstontx.gov to sign up to receive updates about the process, meetings and proposed amendments.

Thank you for your interest in CitizensNet.

Mailing Address: City of Houston | P.O. Box 1562 | Houston, Texas 77251

City Hall Address: City of Houston | 901 Bagby | Houston, Texas 77002

Edited by trymahjong
Link to post
Share on other sites

I strongly suspect that City Council has to vote on amending this ordinance, just like any other.  

 

If you are interested, there is a way to participate in the process - attending meetings, engaging with members of the study committee with particular concerns, and engaging with council members.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I strongly suspect that City Council has to vote on amending this ordinance, just like any other.  

 

If you are interested, there is a way to participate in the process - attending meetings, engaging with members of the study committee with particular concerns, and engaging with council members.

 

If by participate in the process by attending meetings to hear it live, then I agree.  There is exactly ZERO possibility of the unwashed public masses "engaging" members of the study committee.  You are considered an ignorant moron by these people.  You can engage council members as there is a means of doing so.  You are NOT allowed to talk to the HAHC members.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If by participate in the process by attending meetings to hear it live, then I agree.  There is exactly ZERO possibility of the unwashed public masses "engaging" members of the study committee.  You are considered an ignorant moron by these people.  You can engage council members as there is a means of doing so.  You are NOT allowed to talk to the HAHC members.

 

I'm gonna call BS on that last bit.  The HAHC members are not kept sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall's back porch except when being trotted out for a public viewing.  Is an informational presentation meant to open up a free for all Q and A session?  Probably not.  Do commission members have their own preconceptions and perhaps agendas?  Probably so.  Will a polite, well reasoned letter describing a particular problem and proposed workable solution would be discarded out of hand?  I doubt it, unless it's just without merit.  Does it mean that the commission would completely disregard an organized group lobbying for something or another?  No - even TxDOT will occasionally change course, for Pete's sake.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If by participate in the process by attending meetings to hear it live, then I agree.  There is exactly ZERO possibility of the unwashed public masses "engaging" members of the study committee.  You are considered an ignorant moron by these people.  You can engage council members as there is a means of doing so.  You are NOT allowed to talk to the HAHC members.

 

There is no prohibition on communicating with committee members.  They are acting in a legislative capacity for the Mayor.  There is a prohibition on communicating with HAHC members as they sit in an adjudicative body.  Such communications are considered to be ex parte just in the same way you would not be able to ask for a meeting with a district court judge to try to influence her opinion on important legal issues.

 

Committee members may not be very accessible because there are people in the community who think they are ignorant morons and just want to berate them rather than offering any thoughtful critique of the current process and suggestions for reform.  But I will say after seeing how the sausage is made that email comments from the community are taken seriously and are probably a better way to influence the process than trying to make a brilliant two minute speech or get an appointment with a committee member.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

..... Will a polite, well reasoned letter describing a particular problem and proposed workable solution would be discarded out of hand?  I doubt it, unless it's just without merit.  Does it mean that the commission would completely disregard an organized group lobbying for something or another?  No - even TxDOT will occasionally change course, for Pete's sake.

I had one submission to the tribunal that had over 50 letters of support from the immediate and surrounding neighbors.  Not all were well reasoned, but on the first go they were polite.  The letters were ignored and we were denied.  The ONLY organized group that the tribunal will listen to is the City Council.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no prohibition on communicating with committee members.  They are acting in a legislative capacity for the Mayor.  There is a prohibition on communicating with HAHC members as they sit in an adjudicative body.  Such communications are considered to be ex parte just in the same way you would not be able to ask for a meeting with a district court judge to try to influence her opinion on important legal issues.

 

Committee members may not be very accessible because there are people in the community who think they are ignorant morons and just want to berate them rather than offering any thoughtful critique of the current process and suggestions for reform.  But I will say after seeing how the sausage is made that email comments from the community are taken seriously and are probably a better way to influence the process than trying to make a brilliant two minute speech or get an appointment with a committee member.

 

Have you ever submitted something to the tribunal?  While I understand the ex parte reasoning when a specific submittal is before them, they have refused attempts to communicate with them for general guidance.  I even tried to get input from them at a formal tribunal meeting by showing two concepts and begging for their input.  I got nothing but blank stares.  As far as community comments are concerned, see my response to mollusk above.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you ever submitted something to the tribunal?  While I understand the ex parte reasoning when a specific submittal is before them, they have refused attempts to communicate with them for general guidance.  I even tried to get input from them at a formal tribunal meeting by showing two concepts and begging for their input.  I got nothing but blank stares.  As far as community comments are concerned, see my response to mollusk above.  

 

No you do not understand the ex parte rule.  HAHC is an adjudicative committee.  Their job is to make a ruling on whether something meets the standards of the historic ordinance in order to receive a certificate of appropriateness.  They do not have the authority to make an advisory opinion.  That is why they gave you "blank stares" (I was not there, but would assume that it was more accurately "silence while biting their tongues out of respect for the limits of their authority" rather than "blank stares").  The preservation staff is there to provide guidance.  If you still do not understand, try walking into Judge Hittner's courtroom and ask him if he will give you general guidance on important constitutional issues.

 

And, community comments are actually received by the preservation staff and included in their review.  However, HAHC is an adjudicative body and cannot be lobbied.  The committee that is preparing amendments to the historic ordinance is acting in a legislative capacity and can be lobbied.  Despite claims to the contrary, the last time the ordinance was amended, the committee working on the amendments made lots of changes based on input from the community. 

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

No you do not understand the ex parte rule.  HAHC is an adjudicative committee.  Their job is to make a ruling on whether something meets the standards of the historic ordinance in order to receive a certificate of appropriateness.  They do not have the authority to make an advisory opinion.  That is why they gave you "blank stares" (I was not there, but would assume that it was more accurately "silence while biting their tongues out of respect for the limits of their authority" rather than "blank stares").  The preservation staff is there to provide guidance.  If you still do not understand, try walking into Judge Hittner's courtroom and ask him if he will give you general guidance on important constitutional issues.

 

And, community comments are actually received by the preservation staff and included in their review.  However, HAHC is an adjudicative body and cannot be lobbied.  The committee that is preparing amendments to the historic ordinance is acting in a legislative capacity and can be lobbied.  Despite claims to the contrary, the last time the ordinance was amended, the committee working on the amendments made lots of changes based on input from the community. 

 

I am an engineer and a builder, not an attorney.  So I will have to defer to your knowledge on the nature of the HAHC.  However, the preservation staff SUGGESTED I present both development scenarios to the HAHC and ask for their input.  So I may have mistakenly thought they would offer an advisory opinion.

 

You are correct that community comments are received by the staff and tallied.  In the 20+ HAHC meetings I have personally attended, the staff has never indicated that public comments were influential in their deliberations.

Link to post
Share on other sites

S3MH -

I respect your opinion, but cannot sit idly by any longer. It appears you've had little to no dealing with this adjudicative committee. How much time have you spent watching them conduct business? That's a serious question and am hoping for an honest answer. I am not trying to speak for anyone other than myself here - but I have a major problem with this body. After having experienced their unprofessional behavior, I have grown to resent our city government. All due to a lack of credibility. This group is vindictive, period. I strongly suspect that you will be quick to pawn me off as a frustrated homeowner or builder. Again, I refer to my original question. We've got bush league power hungry nobodies, affecting the lives of citizens who actually do try to play by the rules. I'm not hiding behind a handle sir. I'd welcome an open debate in a public forum?

Link to post
Share on other sites

No you do not understand the ex parte rule.  HAHC is an adjudicative committee.  Their job is to make a ruling on whether something meets the standards of the historic ordinance in order to receive a certificate of appropriateness.  They do not have the authority to make an advisory opinion.  That is why they gave you "blank stares" (I was not there, but would assume that it was more accurately "silence while biting their tongues out of respect for the limits of their authority" rather than "blank stares").  The preservation staff is there to provide guidance.  If you still do not understand, try walking into Judge Hittner's courtroom and ask him if he will give you general guidance on important constitutional issues.

 

And, community comments are actually received by the preservation staff and included in their review.  However, HAHC is an adjudicative body and cannot be lobbied.  The committee that is preparing amendments to the historic ordinance is acting in a legislative capacity and can be lobbied.  Despite claims to the contrary, the last time the ordinance was amended, the committee working on the amendments made lots of changes based on input from the community. 

 

If the HAHC is indeed an "adjudicative body", then that needs to change. As a taxpayer, I do not want a body like this whose sole purpose is to give a thumbs up or down to a citizen seeking approval on a property. The HAHC's real role ought to be to approve if everything is fine, but to also help the property owners make choices that can be approved. If a property owner appears with two options, there's nothing wrong with the HAHC giving an opinion on which one is more suitable, or what changes might be in order. That would be a nice change from the condescending crap meted out by the self righteous pricks that make up some of the current committee. Even better would be to abolish the HAHC all together, along with the staff members that support the process, and go back to allowing property owners to make their own decisions on what is appropriate.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I attended the Committee meeting to review the Historic Preservation Ordinance last night.  My take away is that they are mostly trying to tweak administrative problems rather than deal with the bigger problems that I have seen at HAHC meetings.  However, I left with a glimmer of hope not the usually sick feeling I have after an HAHC caning.

Link to post
Share on other sites

S3MH -

I respect your opinion, but cannot sit idly by any longer. It appears you've had little to no dealing with this adjudicative committee. How much time have you spent watching them conduct business? That's a serious question and am hoping for an honest answer. I am not trying to speak for anyone other than myself here - but I have a major problem with this body. After having experienced their unprofessional behavior, I have grown to resent our city government. All due to a lack of credibility. This group is vindictive, period. I strongly suspect that you will be quick to pawn me off as a frustrated homeowner or builder. Again, I refer to my original question. We've got bush league power hungry nobodies, affecting the lives of citizens who actually do try to play by the rules. I'm not hiding behind a handle sir. I'd welcome an open debate in a public forum?

 

I have not submitted anything to HAHC.  I do live in the WD.  I have watched a lot of video of HAHC and read transcripts.  I also have a lot of experience before other government tribunals, including zoning boards, our own planning commission, State Office of Administrative Hearings, TCEQ, OCCC and a bunch of other state agencies and municipal bodies, as well as state and federal court from JP to Fed 5th Circuit.  HAHC is pretty average in terms of how they conduct themselves.  I have seen much, much worse from courts and other government agencies.  But your complaint about the personalities of the HAHC is the same thing I hear from just about anyone who goes before a decision maker and does not get what they want.  And instead of having a constructive discussion about the process and substance of the decision, people just launch into name calling ("bush league power hungry nobodies") and ad hominem attacks.  And that is usually because everyone knows that the alternative to HAHC is the demolition of the majority of the historic housing stock in the Heights in exchange for a mish mash of patio homes, town homes, mcvics, moderns and new build suburban homes straight out of Pearland.  So, people do not take on the real issue and instead throw stones at the people on the commission because it sounds much better to say that there are bad people on the commission than to say that you are ok with the Heights being turned into some architectural Frankenstein and losing all of its history. 

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

If the HAHC is indeed an "adjudicative body", then that needs to change. As a taxpayer, I do not want a body like this whose sole purpose is to give a thumbs up or down to a citizen seeking approval on a property. The HAHC's real role ought to be to approve if everything is fine, but to also help the property owners make choices that can be approved. If a property owner appears with two options, there's nothing wrong with the HAHC giving an opinion on which one is more suitable, or what changes might be in order. That would be a nice change from the condescending crap meted out by the self righteous pricks that make up some of the current committee. Even better would be to abolish the HAHC all together, along with the staff members that support the process, and go back to allowing property owners to make their own decisions on what is appropriate.

 

 

I only pointed out that HAHC was an adjudicative body to explain why they would not give out advisory opinions.  The problem with conducting business that way is that people will go before the commission and get an ok to do A, B & C and then come back with a final submission for A, B, C & W and get all bent out of shape when they get an adverse ruling.  The other problem is that the commission is unpaid and only meets once a month.  If everyone gets to have a design planning session with them, they would need to be compensated due to the increased amount of time needed.  That compensation would result in a need for higher permit fees. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not submitted anything to HAHC.  I do live in the WD.  I have watched a lot of video of HAHC and read transcripts.  I also have a lot of experience before other government tribunals, including zoning boards, our own planning commission, State Office of Administrative Hearings, TCEQ, OCCC and a bunch of other state agencies and municipal bodies, as well as state and federal court from JP to Fed 5th Circuit.  HAHC is pretty average in terms of how they conduct themselves.  I have seen much, much worse from courts and other government agencies.  But your complaint about the personalities of the HAHC is the same thing I hear from just about anyone who goes before a decision maker and does not get what they want.  And instead of having a constructive discussion about the process and substance of the decision, people just launch into name calling ("bush league power hungry nobodies") and ad hominem attacks.  And that is usually because everyone knows that the alternative to HAHC is the demolition of the majority of the historic housing stock in the Heights in exchange for a mish mash of patio homes, town homes, mcvics, moderns and new build suburban homes straight out of Pearland.  So, people do not take on the real issue and instead throw stones at the people on the commission because it sounds much better to say that there are bad people on the commission than to say that you are ok with the Heights being turned into some architectural Frankenstein and losing all of its history. 

 

 

Im Ok repealing it in its entirety.  The dirt is now too expensive for it to turn into anything that is genuinely sub-par.  Enact minimum lot line restrictions that will prevent town homes on the interior streets of teh neighborhoods and then let the people decide for themselves what they want to build.  The days of the townhomes being built all over the heights is pretty much coming to an end....its now restricted to the corners of busy streets because those are the only places the dirt is cheap enough...and that is actually a good thing....wall to wall townhomes insulate road noise quite effectively for the smaller bungalows behind them.

 

Most people, including builders, are buying and building beautiful homes...that fit the lifestyle of today's family....I dont care about the history of small old houses in Houston at all and I am flat out honest about it...I could not care less about them,  I think they are cute, but would never in a million years want to live in one, and I do not think current and future owners should have to be at the whim of some group who does care. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, we get it.  You don't want to live in a small, old home, and apparently neither does anybody you hang out with.  Nobody is forcing you to.  However, I hate to break it to you, but you do not hang out with everybody in town, or even a representative cross section.

 

Your whims do not give you the right to diminish the value of my property, and that of my neighbors, to the cost of the soil less removing what is already there just because our collective ego does not require us to pay to heat and air condition and furnish and maintain something far larger than what we need (let's not even address concerns about sustainability), nor does it mean that I and my remaining neighbors must be forced to have something twice or three times as tall encircling and peering into our back yards, on my property, and that of my neighbors.  

 

In other words, a majority (or super majority) of the property owners in some areas (a tiny fraction of Houston's land area, by the way) have said "no.  You may not build whatever you want, wherever you want.  We were here first and like it as it is, or if it must change, at least in harmony with what's already here."

 

You are welcome to have your gated open concept McCraftVic community with Italian cabinets and soft Corinthian leather.  

 

Elsewhere.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, we get it.  You don't want to live in a small, old home, and apparently neither does anybody you hang out with.  Nobody is forcing you to.  However, I hate to break it to you, but you do not hang out with everybody in town, or even a representative cross section.

 

Your whims do not give you the right to diminish the value of my property, and that of my neighbors, to the cost of the soil less removing what is already there just because our collective ego does not require us to pay to heat and air condition and furnish and maintain something far larger than what we need (let's not even address concerns about sustainability), nor does it mean that I and my remaining neighbors must be forced to have something twice or three times as tall encircling and peering into our back yards, on my property, and that of my neighbors.  

 

In other words, a majority (or super majority) of the property owners in some areas (a tiny fraction of Houston's land area, by the way) have said "no.  You may not build whatever you want, wherever you want.  We were here first and like it as it is, or if it must change, at least in harmony with what's already here."

 

You are welcome to have your gated open concept McCraftVic community with Italian cabinets and soft Corinthian leather.  

 

Elsewhere.

 

Your property rights END at your property line PERIOD.  You have no right to any aspect of that which you do not own.  Your value goes up every time a structure 10x-20x nicer than yours is constructed...Whatever proportionate decline in your structure value you lose, is increased by the value in your dirt.  Your value will never be fully diminished so long as there are people like you who want to live in a small house...

 

I do not agree with anything you have said, and I do not believe that the Heights is historic in any way.  Its nothing more than Katy in another 40 years....I guess we should enact protections NOW to ensure that Katy tract homes are preserved in their current state.  Its absurd.  There is nothing historic about a hold house where NOTHING important happened not that long ago. 

 

And there was NEVER a majority of property owners who think like you do...people like you keep saying that but its an outright complete lie.  There was never anything close to a majority....There was collusion with the city by well connected liberals who want to inflict their idea of what a neighborhood should like on everyone else.

 

There needs to be a REAL vote.  Where EACH property owner gets 1 vote for each property they own, regardless of how many homes they own, where the City gets zero votes, and where not voting means absolutely nothing...I will gladly sell my properties and walk away if we can have that done and the neighborhood still wants the ordinance.  It won't ever happen though b/c the ordinance would never pass if it were properly voted on. 

 

If you can not acknowledge that the vote was stolen, then there is no point in talking to you because you are either completely ignorant, or a liar.  It was passed by 1) not returning a ballot means you were in favor of the ordinance 2) 1 vote per person, not per property 3) City property was allowed to vote  4) city was allowed to vote more than once 5) ballot or survey was sent over Christmas holiday in a non-descript envelope with a short time period to return 6) Mayor Parker sent a letter on official city letterhead encouraging people not to return to the ballot 7) the mis-information by the pro ordinance people was overwhelming.

 

I will concede defeat the day that an honest vote is taken, until then I firmly believe that each supporter of this ordinance is a dishonest thief who used the city to steal the rights from private property owners to achieve that which they could not achieve honestly.

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

  But your complaint about the personalities of the HAHC is the same thing I hear from just about anyone who goes before a decision maker and does not get what they want.  And instead of having a constructive discussion about the process and substance of the decision, people just launch into name calling ("bush league power hungry nobodies") and ad hominem attacks. 

 

Says the person who threatened to get revenge on people who opposed the ordinance when if first went in to effect...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Says the person who threatened to get revenge on people who opposed the ordinance when if first went in to effect...

 

Completely wrong and bordering on libel.  I said that those who worked for the ordinance would remember those who tried to oppose it by a dishonest fear campaign claiming that the Heights would turn into a slum full of properties no one would want to renovate (yeah, that was spot on) and that the ordinance would regulate paint color and AC placement.  It is a fundamental right in a free market to be able to refuse to patronize businesses that are owned/run by people who have taken positions and actions that you believe are wrong.  It is not revenge to hold people accountable for the positions they take on important issues in the community. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

... because everyone knows that the alternative to HAHC is the demolition of the majority of the historic housing stock in the Heights in exchange for a mish mash of patio homes, town homes, mcvics, moderns and new build suburban homes straight out of Pearland.  So, people do not take on the real issue and instead throw stones at the people on the commission because it sounds much better to say that there are bad people on the commission than to say that you are ok with the Heights being turned into some architectural Frankenstein and losing all of its history. 

 

 

I think you have hit on some key points.  As an owner in the West HD, the ordinance was sold to prevent demolition of the bungalows NOT to micromanage the community.  I think there are other ways to "save the bungalows" than the current incarnation of this ordinance.

 

The way the ordinance is being interpreted and applied is creating architectural Frankensteins.  Within the West HD the following architectural styles are represented: Prairie, Classic Revival, Colonial Revival, Foursquare, Dutch Colonial, Craftsman, Queen Anne, and Folk Victorian.  Yet when presenting a particular architectural style for a new construction project, the dimensions of nine different styles of houses are forced on you, thus creating a Frankenstein new style I call "The Parker."  Why can't a Queen Anne 2 story with a 10/12 pitch roof at 36' ridge height exist next to a one story bungalow?  Well they can and they do in this district.  Why is there an attempt with this ordinance to create uniformity in the housing stock?

Edited by BBLLC
Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you have hit on some key points.  As an owner in the West HD, the ordinance was sold to prevent demolition of the bungalows NOT to micromanage the community.  I think there are other ways to "save the bungalows" than the current incarnation of this ordinance.

 

The way the ordinance is being interpreted and applied is creating architectural Frankensteins.  Within the West HD the following architectural styles are represented: Prairie, Classic Revival, Colonial Revival, Foursquare, Dutch Colonial, Craftsman, Queen Anne, and Folk Victorian.  Yet when presenting a particular architectural style for a new construction project, the dimensions of nine different styles of houses are forced on you, thus creating a Frankenstein new style I call "The Parker."  Why can't a Queen Anne 2 story with a 10/12 pitch roof at 36' ridge height exist next to a one story bungalow?  Well they can and they do in this district.  Why is there an attempt with this ordinance to create uniformity in the housing stock?

 

The amendments to the ordinance were not "sold" as being solely to prevent demolition.  The scale and character of new construction was a major issue.  The fight over the town homes on 15th and Rutland was not just over lot line construction. 

 

Scale is not an issue of what two houses look like next to each other.  Scale is measured by the entire neighborhood.  If new construction is allowed to have dimensions that are at the outer limits (and beyond) of the existing historic architecture, the scale of the neighborhood is gradually lost.  Thus, in order to preserve scale, new construction needs to be closer to the average scale and should not be at the outer limits.  This does not create uniformity at all.  There are very few houses in the WD with the 33' ridge height that HAHC wants for your design.  Most of the original two story houses have a ridge height of 28-32'.  30-31' is probably the median for two story houses.  And given that your design would be the widest house in the district by 3' (@12-15' wider than the median 2 story), the concern over ridge height has nothing to do with uniformity. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The amendments to the ordinance were not "sold" as being solely to prevent demolition.  The scale and character of new construction was a major issue.  The fight over the town homes on 15th and Rutland was not just over lot line construction. 

 

Scale is not an issue of what two houses look like next to each other.  Scale is measured by the entire neighborhood.  If new construction is allowed to have dimensions that are at the outer limits (and beyond) of the existing historic architecture, the scale of the neighborhood is gradually lost.  Thus, in order to preserve scale, new construction needs to be closer to the average scale and should not be at the outer limits.  This does not create uniformity at all.  There are very few houses in the WD with the 33' ridge height that HAHC wants for your design.  Most of the original two story houses have a ridge height of 28-32'.  30-31' is probably the median for two story houses.  And given that your design would be the widest house in the district by 3' (@12-15' wider than the median 2 story), the concern over ridge height has nothing to do with uniformity. 

 

 

Translation....its bigger than mine, and yours cant be bigger than mine because I dont like houses to be bigger than mine.

 

Secondary Interpretation - it may look fine and good b/c NOBODY IN THE WORLD can tell the difference between a 33' ridge height and a 32' ridge height without a freaking measuring tape - but Its not about just YOUR property...if EVERYONE else added a whole foot of rise, just think of the horrors that would befall the poor folks in one story homes....endless night as the towering behemoth next door wipes out all sources of natural light...Grass that slowly decays and eventually dies a painful death due to lack of sun...flowers/plants wilting away, breezes cut off by monstrous construction making their once glorious porches too hot/miserable to even be able to enjoy...endless death until all that is left is a small old house that the owner paid $225,000 to purchase is reduced to a $500,000 lot.  This painful and heart wrenching scenario will play out over and over again until all that is left is beautiful new construction full of happy homeowners who don't interject themselves into everyone else's business continually.   THE HORROR!

Link to post
Share on other sites

The amendments to the ordinance were not "sold" as being solely to prevent demolition.  The scale and character of new construction was a major issue.  The fight over the town homes on 15th and Rutland was not just over lot line construction. 

 

....  And given that your design would be the widest house in the district by 3' (@12-15' wider than the median 2 story), the concern over ridge height has nothing to do with uniformity. 

 

 

We will not agree on how the amendment was sold.  All of the yard signs, street walkers, flyers, etc that I encountered never talked about scale or character.  And you should know that the houses on 15th and Rutland are not town homes.  You may not like the density, but they are not town homes.

 

There are 6 queen anne style two story houses in the West HD.  I had two plans that were rejected with all dimensions falling smack dab in the middle of ALL of their criteria when comparing to the same architectural style.  Sec. 33-242. Same—New construction in historic district. explicitly says "Nothing in the foregoing shall be construed to require or impose a single architectural style in any historic district."  By holding a queen anne style home to the dimensions of a foursquare, they are, in fact, imposing an architectural style.

 

As far as the corner lot is concerned, it is the 4th largest lot in the entire district.  We will disagree on this house.  It is not what I wanted to build but it used to exist in THIS district.

Edited by BBLLC
Link to post
Share on other sites

We will not agree on how the amendment was sold.  All of the yard signs, street walkers, flyers, etc that I encountered never talked about scale or character.  And you should know that the houses on 15th and Rutland are not town homes.  You may not like the density, but they are not town homes.

 

There are 6 queen anne style two story houses in the West HD.  I had two plans that were rejected with all dimensions falling smack dab in the middle of ALL of their criteria when comparing to the same architectural style.  Sec. 33-242. Same—New construction in historic district. explicitly says "Nothing in the foregoing shall be construed to require or impose a single architectural style in any historic district."  By holding a queen anne style home to the dimensions of a foursquare, they are, in fact, imposing an architectural style.

 

As far as the corner lot is concerned, it is the 4th largest lot in the entire district.  We will disagree on this house.  It is not what I wanted to build but it used to exist in THIS district.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=120371857975554&set=a.120371854642221.19765.112856885393718&type=1&theater

 

Did you actually live in the WD or just own a lot?  If you lived in the WD (or anywhere else in the Heights), you would have seen plenty of the signs in the facebook link.  The houses on 15th and Rutland replaced an empty lot.  The issue was 100% about new construction because the builders just waited 90 days and did whatever they wanted.  

 

The ridge height for the 6 queen Annes in the WD are as follows:  33, 36, 28, 35, 33, & 31.  Average height is 32.6.  HAHC wanted a ridge height of 33'.  HAHC was not holding you to the dimensions of a foursquare.  In fact, HAHC was willing to let you build a house that was wider than any other Queen Anne in the neighborhood.  

 

And no, this house did not used to exist in this district.  No one built Queen Annes that had the main house connected with the garage.  And even if this was an exact replica of prior architecture, there were certainly not three Queen Annes in a row with ridge heights of 36.5, 35.5 and 35.5.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=120371857975554&set=a.120371854642221.19765.112856885393718&type=1&theater

 

Did you actually live in the WD or just own a lot?  If you lived in the WD (or anywhere else in the Heights), you would have seen plenty of the signs in the facebook link.  The houses on 15th and Rutland replaced an empty lot.  The issue was 100% about new construction because the builders just waited 90 days and did whatever they wanted.  

 

The ridge height for the 6 queen Annes in the WD are as follows:  33, 36, 28, 35, 33, & 31.  Average height is 32.6.  HAHC wanted a ridge height of 33'.  HAHC was not holding you to the dimensions of a foursquare.  In fact, HAHC was willing to let you build a house that was wider than any other Queen Anne in the neighborhood.  

 

And no, this house did not used to exist in this district.  No one built Queen Annes that had the main house connected with the garage.  And even if this was an exact replica of prior architecture, there were certainly not three Queen Annes in a row with ridge heights of 36.5, 35.5 and 35.5.  

 

I can't open your link so I can't comment on that.  I lived in the WD moved and recently moved back.  I have owned property in the Heights continuously for 23 years.  You conflate the issue that you saw and what was presented to the "voters".  I actually am OK with legally binding deed restrictions that set minimum lot size (on a replat), setbacks, and maximum heights.  I would be OK if there was a mechanism for homeowners to easily designate their bungalow as a historic structure that could not be demolished.  I am not OK with the Parkerization of all new construction in the HD's.  

 

Why are you performing an arithmetic average?  The ordinance says nothing about that.  In fact, it says NOTHING about ridge height.  The fact that the ridge heights of the proposed structures fit in the range of the SAME architectural style is what is typical.

 

OK, the attached garage AT THE REAR of the lot with alley access was not on the original structure.   Details that were on the original house were removed at the demand of the HAHC staff because they said these details didn't exist.  Yet when shown the picture of the house this one was modeled after, there was no response.  

 

BTW, the staff moved us away from the original idea which incorporated 3 different architectural styles.  

Edited by BBLLC
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

And no, this house did not used to exist in this district.  No one built Queen Annes that had the main house connected with the garage.  And even if this was an exact replica of prior architecture, there were certainly not three Queen Annes in a row with ridge heights of 36.5, 35.5 and 35.5.  

 

Who cares what the ridge height is. Anyone with a modicum of design sense knows that ridge height is irrelevant, and that the newer houses are far better looking than the old crappy bungalows, most of which are actually pretty pedestrian.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't open your link so I can't comment on that.  I lived in the WD moved and recently moved back.  I have owned property in the Heights continuously for 23 years.  You conflate the issue that you saw and what was presented to the "voters".  I actually am OK with legally binding deed restrictions that set minimum lot size (on a replat), setbacks, and maximum heights.  I would be OK if there was a mechanism for homeowners to easily designate their bungalow as a historic structure that could not be demolished.  I am not OK with the Parkerization of all new construction in the HD's.  

 

Why are you performing an arithmetic average?  The ordinance says nothing about that.  In fact, it says NOTHING about ridge height.  The fact that the ridge heights of the proposed structures fit in the range of the SAME architectural style is what is typical.

 

OK, the attached garage AT THE REAR of the lot with alley access was not on the original structure.   Details that were on the original house were removed at the demand of the HAHC staff because they said these details didn't exist.  Yet when shown the picture of the house this one was modeled after, there was no response.  

 

BTW, the staff moved us away from the original idea which incorporated 3 different architectural styles.  

Sec. 33-242. Same--New construction in historic district. 
The HAHC shall issue a certificate of appropriateness for new construction in an 
historic district upon finding that the application satisfies the following criteria: 
 (1) The new construction must match the typical setbacks of existing 
contributing structures in the historic district; 
 (2) The exterior features of new construction must be compatible with the 
exterior features of existing contributing structures in the historic district; 
 (3) The proportions of the new construction, including width and roofline, must 
be compatible with the typical proportions of existing contributing 
structures and objects in the historic district; 
(4) The height of the eaves of a new construction intended for use for 
residential purposes must not be taller than the typical height of the eaves 
of existing contributing structures used for residential purposes in the 
historic district; and 
(5) The height of new construction intended for use for commercial purposes 
must not be taller than the typical height of the existing structures used for 
commercial purposes in the historic district. 
Nothing in the foregoing shall be construed to require or impose a single 
architectural style in any historic district. 
 
 
I calculated the average to show that you were actually allowed to build above the average and were not held to the median.  There are only two Queen Annes with a ridge height over 33'.  One is 35 and another is 36.  The other four of the six 33' and less.  If "typical" is interpreted to mean the tallest/largest existing, every builder will come into the historic district and build to the tallest/largest/widest dimensions of the outlier of the original architecture.  There are probably at least 40-50 lots in the WD alone that have non-contributing structures or empty lots that could be demoed for new construction.  If everyone gets to build to the outer limits of the original scale, then the original scale is lost.  
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Who cares what the ridge height is. Anyone with a modicum of design sense knows that ridge height is irrelevant, and that the newer houses are far better looking than the old crappy bungalows, most of which are actually pretty pedestrian.

Compare:

 

3.jpg

 

and

 

2.jpg

 

with

 

hr3423839-1.jpg

 

 

and 

 

hr3421607-32.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

.....
 (3) The proportions of the new construction, including width and roofline, must 
be compatible with the typical proportions of existing contributing 
structures and objects in the historic district; 
...
Nothing in the foregoing shall be construed to require or impose a single 
architectural style in any historic district. 
 
 
I calculated the average to show that you were actually allowed to build above the average and were not held to the median.  There are only two Queen Annes with a ridge height over 33'.  One is 35 and another is 36.  The other four of the six 33' and less.  If "typical" is interpreted to mean the tallest/largest existing, every builder will come into the historic district and build to the tallest/largest/widest dimensions of the outlier of the original architecture.  There are probably at least 40-50 lots in the WD alone that have non-contributing structures or empty lots that could be demoed for new construction.  If everyone gets to build to the outer limits of the original scale, then the original scale is lost.  

 

 

Note that the ordinance says proportions not height or scale.  A correctly proportioned building in a particular style should be allowed with the restrictions on height that are in the deed restrictions AND using appropriate setbacks that are defined in the ordinance.  Typical has been interpreted by the purists as average.  My personal interpretation (I know that holds zero water) is that if it exists or existed in the area then it would be typical.  If you buy a hundred bags of M&M's and there is one blue M&M, then it is typical to a bag of M&M's.

 

I haven't looked at the number of lots in the west HD that are non-contributing.  But I would bet that the far majority already have new homes on them that were built prior to the ordinance change.  There are very few empty lots.  But once again scale isn't mentioned in the criteria for new construction.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I can't open your link so I can't comment on that.  

24793_120371857975554_1674965_n.jpg?oh=5

 

 

I never saw this poster on someones yard or in any literature that was distributed to my house in the West HD.  But it does perpetuate untruths.

 

1.  Side set backs as shown would be in violation of deed restrictions.

2.  Total height would be in violation of deed restrictions.

 

Front loaded garages would be easy to restrict without the current ordinance.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got a 6600 sq ft lot that is a non-contributing rental property in the WD that has a house that I keep looking nice, even though the house itself is literally worth less than the new air conditioner I put on it last year.  The original home on this property burned down sometime in the 60's and a modular home was built in its place, its not historic in any way, heck, it has vinyl siding....I would get a non-contributing designation with ease...(I should probably do that now before vinyl becomes hisotric)  I keep it b/c its property value continues to climb with the popularity of the Heights....I bought it years ago, when I was thinking about a custom build in the Heights, as opposed to an existing structure...changed my mind b/c schools suck -  but I can say with 100% certainty that the Ordinance hurts my chances of getting maximum value for this property...Nobody wants to jump through the hoops to build a smaller new house, on a big lot, when that lot cost is over $400,000 now...People who can afford a $400,000 lot want a $1,000,000 house, and its going to have to be SUPER fancy to get there with a 2500sqft structure thanks to the stupid ordinance.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I never saw this poster on someones yard or in any literature that was distributed to my house in the West HD.  But it does perpetuate untruths.

 

1.  Side set backs as shown would be in violation of deed restrictions.

2.  Total height would be in violation of deed restrictions.

 

Front loaded garages would be easy to restrict without the current ordinance.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/friendsofhoustonheightshistoricdistricts

 

You obviously were not living in the WD when this all happened.  There was even a protest at the site on W15th and Rutland that was on the news.  

 

And you do realize that the designs in the sign are the actual designs from W15th and Rutland?  Sure, they are not shown to scale with the bungalow example between them, but that was not the point.  The houses in the poster were built.  They did not violate any existing deed restrictions.  They were not approved by HAHC, but all they had to do was wait 90 days and start building.  Your claim that regulating new construction was not part of the movement to amend the ordinance flies in the face of what actually was happening at the time.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/friendsofhoustonheightshistoricdistricts

 

You obviously were not living in the WD when this all happened.  There was even a protest at the site on W15th and Rutland that was on the news.  

 

And you do realize that the designs in the sign are the actual designs from W15th and Rutland?  Sure, they are not shown to scale with the bungalow example between them, but that was not the point.  The houses in the poster were built.  They did not violate any existing deed restrictions.  They were not approved by HAHC, but all they had to do was wait 90 days and start building.  Your claim that regulating new construction was not part of the movement to amend the ordinance flies in the face of what actually was happening at the time.  

 I have remained civil and engaging in this discussion.  Inferring that I am lying is not called for.  I did live in the Heights WD then AND have recently moved back (just out of the WD).  I avoided the protests and did not watch the news that night.  What you are failing to recognize or admit is that the talking points that were widely used formed an impression or perception that this ordinances was to "save the bungalows".  It may well be that the inner circle and those allied with those pushing this ordinance had other motives but these were NOT what was widely advertised.  I have emails from over 100 residents from the West HD that have expressed support for the chicken factory project (also sent to the HAHC and staff).  The far majority cannot understand the reasoning for the rejection AND have expressed the opinion that they thought the ordinance was to "save the bungalows".

 

Your statement, “Sure, they are not shown to scale with the bungalow example between them, but that was not the point."  would not hold in the court of public opinion.  That was shown that way to illustrate a situation that was conjectural and could be dealt with existing regulations.

 

As far as the Rutland side of my little project is concerned, I think we have a buyer who will play nice with the HAHC.  So I can promise you that I will never be a bother to any HD in Houston.  My future involvement will be supporting political candidates who see through the charade of this application of the ordinance.  Ardent supporters of the ordinance should recognize that complete intransigence over minor issues will eventually sink this ordinance.  Already there is one very proud individual with a lot of money who wants to litigate their rejections by the HAHC.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 I have remained civil and engaging in this discussion.  Inferring that I am lying is not called for.  I did live in the Heights WD then AND have recently moved back (just out of the WD).  I avoided the protests and did not watch the news that night.  What you are failing to recognize or admit is that the talking points that were widely used formed an impression or perception that this ordinances was to "save the bungalows".  It may well be that the inner circle and those allied with those pushing this ordinance had other motives but these were NOT what was widely advertised.  I have emails from over 100 residents from the West HD that have expressed support for the chicken factory project (also sent to the HAHC and staff).  The far majority cannot understand the reasoning for the rejection AND have expressed the opinion that they thought the ordinance was to "save the bungalows".

 

Your statement, “Sure, they are not shown to scale with the bungalow example between them, but that was not the point."  would not hold in the court of public opinion.  That was shown that way to illustrate a situation that was conjectural and could be dealt with existing regulations.

 

As far as the Rutland side of my little project is concerned, I think we have a buyer who will play nice with the HAHC.  So I can promise you that I will never be a bother to any HD in Houston.  My future involvement will be supporting political candidates who see through the charade of this application of the ordinance.  Ardent supporters of the ordinance should recognize that complete intransigence over minor issues will eventually sink this ordinance.  Already there is one very proud individual with a lot of money who wants to litigate their rejections by the HAHC.

I am not saying that you are lying about what you remember.  I am saying that what you remember is not an accurate representation of what were the motivations and goals of the amendments.  The folks behind the Friends of Houston Heights Historic Districts were the ones that pushed the amendments to the ordinance.  (They were the ones behind the signs, which really were out there--just do google street view for 1319 Tulane).  Mayor Parker and Sue Lovell did not drive up to the Heights and get upset about demolitions and new construction that was not compatible with the existing architecture.  People from the neighborhood went to the City and got the City moving on the issue.  Regulation of new construction has always been part of the historic ordinance.  The amendment just made it enforceable.  I have pointed to substantial evidence that this was a goal of those pushing the amendments.  I have seen no evidence from you supporting your claim that the effort to amend the ordinance was solely targeted at stopping demolitions.  I even remember much debate about one flier that showed the row townhomes on 8th St.  Opponents jumped on the flier to push their view that minimum lot size was all that was needed.  

 

The objection to the homes on 15th and Rutland were not solely about set back, front loading garages and height.  The main issue was that they were a bunch of New Orleans style buildings in a neighborhood that is full of Craftsman and Victorian architecture.  That is why the sign shows the buildings next to a craftsman bungalow.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/friendsofhoustonheightshistoricdistricts

You obviously were not living in the WD when this all happened. There was even a protest at the site on W15th and Rutland that was on the news.

And you do realize that the designs in the sign are the actual designs from W15th and Rutland? Sure, they are not shown to scale with the bungalow example between them, but that was not the point. The houses in the poster were built. They did not violate any existing deed restrictions. They were not approved by HAHC, but all they had to do was wait 90 days and start building. Your claim that regulating new construction was not part of the movement to amend the ordinance flies in the face of what actually was happening at the time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not submitted anything to HAHC.  I do live in the WD.  I have watched a lot of video of HAHC and read transcripts.  I also have a lot of experience before other government tribunals, including zoning boards, our own planning commission, State Office of Administrative Hearings, TCEQ, OCCC and a bunch of other state agencies and municipal bodies, as well as state and federal court from JP to Fed 5th Circuit.  HAHC is pretty average in terms of how they conduct themselves.  I have seen much, much worse from courts and other government agencies.  But your complaint about the personalities of the HAHC is the same thing I hear from just about anyone who goes before a decision maker and does not get what they want.  And instead of having a constructive discussion about the process and substance of the decision, people just launch into name calling ("bush league power hungry nobodies") and ad hominem attacks.  And that is usually because everyone knows that the alternative to HAHC is the demolition of the majority of the historic housing stock in the Heights in exchange for a mish mash of patio homes, town homes, mcvics, moderns and new build suburban homes straight out of Pearland.  So, people do not take on the real issue and instead throw stones at the people on the commission because it sounds much better to say that there are bad people on the commission than to say that you are ok with the Heights being turned into some architectural Frankenstein and losing all of its history.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not submitted anything to HAHC.  I do live in the WD.  I have watched a lot of video of HAHC and read transcripts.  I also have a lot of experience before other government tribunals, including zoning boards, our own planning commission, State Office of Administrative Hearings, TCEQ, OCCC and a bunch of other state agencies and municipal bodies, as well as state and federal court from JP to Fed 5th Circuit.  HAHC is pretty average in terms of how they conduct themselves.  I have seen much, much worse from courts and other government agencies.  But your complaint about the personalities of the HAHC is the same thing I hear from just about anyone who goes before a decision maker and does not get what they want.  And instead of having a constructive discussion about the process and substance of the decision, people just launch into name calling ("bush league power hungry nobodies") and ad hominem attacks.  And that is usually because everyone knows that the alternative to HAHC is the demolition of the majority of the historic housing stock in the Heights in exchange for a mish mash of patio homes, town homes, mcvics, moderns and new build suburban homes straight out of Pearland.  So, people do not take on the real issue and instead throw stones at the people on the commission because it sounds much better to say that there are bad people on the commission than to say that you are ok with the Heights being turned into some architectural Frankenstein and losing all of its history. 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...