War Zoned

Who knew historic preservation could ignite so much neighborhood drama?

When the Ablazas laid out their interpretations of the historic designation to Vasquez, he confronted the neighbor who had presented the petition and shouted, "Why did you trick me?" Vasquez and his neighbor are no longer on speaking terms.

According to a December 2010 City of Houston Planning and Development report, 155 retractions were collected, bringing the support level down to 45 percent. Searcy thinks Joe and Leticia Ablaza used outlandish assertions and flat-out lies to get the retraction signatures. "It's easy to get elderly and Spanish-speaking people scared," says Searcy. "What are they going to accuse us of next? Performing abortions on pregnant Girl Scouts?"

Though the number falls nearly 6 percentage points below the required approval level, Planning and Development Department director Gafrick recommended designating the historic district "with no changes" and moved the issue for final approval in City Council.

Secundino Vasquez, who also feels like he was duped, no longer talks to his longtime neighbor.
Marco Torres
Secundino Vasquez, who also feels like he was duped, no longer talks to his longtime neighbor.
Instead of outfitting his recently purchased Glenbrook Valley home, Maverick Welsh had to spend time giving an affidavit about "waving to some neighbors."
Marco Torres
Instead of outfitting his recently purchased Glenbrook Valley home, Maverick Welsh had to spend time giving an affidavit about "waving to some neighbors."

The decision has troubled some Glenbrook Valley inhabitants as well as several local government officials. During the March 2 City Council session, councilmember C.O. "Brad" Bradford, speaking to Gafrick, said, "When I hear 45 percent of the people supports it and you're recommending let's go forward with it, my blood turns to Freon. Private property rights in this country are right behind life as far as I'm concerned."

The Ablazas have also alleged that petition signatures were collected under racist circumstances during outreach efforts to Glenbrook Valley's Spanish-speaking residents. The events in question took place at the Taqueria Del Sol restaurant on Park Place, where a spread of complimentary food and bilingual information about historic designation were provided.

According to Searcy, one such event was a "giant flop" because only three households (two of whom signed petitions) attended the gathering. Joe Ablaza, who was not in attendance that day, has gone on record at City Council and said that people "were given tacos for their property rights."

Maverick Welsh is a full-time history teacher whose political career includes serving as then-councilmember Peter Brown's chief of staff as well as an unsuccessful run at a District H City Council seat. A year ago, because of his self-professed love of mid-century modern architecture, he moved from a 1,200-square-foot English cottage in the Heights to Glenbrook Valley.

In December, Welsh and the Ablazas were involved in an episode that Joe Ablaza "still hates talking about." The Ablazas needed to replace their shoddy furnace, which necessitated the dumping of ductwork in the front yard. While the contractor went to procure a permit, a city inspector — who, according to Leticia, was inundated with phone calls for the unsightly mess — came to red-tag the Ablazas.

Moments later, explains Joe, Welsh drove by the Ablazas' house "honking, waving and laughing with an 'I gotcha' grin." Joe said that Welsh had never before extended a neighborly gesture towards him.

Welsh explains that he sometimes passes the Ablaza residence, located five houses away from his property, on his way home from his gig as a history teacher at Milby High School. He also says that his natural tendency is to be friendly.

Leticia Ablaza isn't buying that. Instead, she claims that Welsh, a Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission board member, prevented her family from heating their home on a frigid December night. She ended up filing a formal complaint with the Houston Office of Inspector General.

As a result, Welsh spent two hours giving an affidavit about "waving to some neighbors that I saw in the street," he says. (The complaint turned out to be "unfounded" and therefore "not sustained," according to a City of Houston Legal Department document acquired by the Press.)

"I've never seen this kind of senseless drama in all my years of fighting for historic preservation. Just think McCarthyism/witch hunt and you will have a good idea of the [Ablazas'] tactics," says Welsh. "They're filing complaints against all sorts of different people to try and ruin their reputation. It doesn't have anything to do with reality."

The experience has caused Welsh, a fervent proponent of historic preservation, to wonder if serving on the historical commission is worth this kind of trouble. It has also made him take a route, whenever he's coming from or going to his house, that does not pass by the Ablazas' property.
_____________________

Restored Italian marble terrazzo lines the front entryway of Stephen Stovall's home, and leads into a streamlined living room showcasing space bubble-shaped chairs with 1950s orange upholstery. In the kitchen, a Sputnik-shaped fixture broadcasts light into the room that wows with minimalist chairs sculpted by the same designer who popularized the "tulip chair" on the original television series of Star Trek.

Stovall estimates that he's invested $100,000 in making his property an authentic mid-century modern palace. However, despite his love of the form and of preservation, he's against the Glenbrook Valley historic-district designation.

"I am actually in favor of historic preservation," says Stovall. "I've lived [in Houston] all of my life, and it hurts seeing the treasures that I've seen torn down, but this is definitely not the way to go about it."

Stovall is a self-proclaimed Kennedy liberal who works from home as a software developer while his wife, Dr. Rebecca Dodds, is a full-time psychologist. The couple moved to Glenbrook Valley in 2006 because the area "was a nice, quiet and friendly neighborhood, and we thought it was a good place to live," says Stovall. Unlike the Ablazas, who have interacted with Searcy only once over the years, when they were thinking about selling their home, Stovall used to be friends with the realtor and his fellow collectors of throwback adornments.

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126 comments
jon guildford
jon guildford

Regeneration is always a hot topic with the one side wanting to keep the status qua and the other wanting to modernise. i think the best course is a bit of both

tired dog
tired dog

Well, Searcy wins and his neighbors lose the full use and enjoyment of their properties. If this busybody wants to preserve the 'hood, let him buy every property and preserve to his heart's content....damned collectivist.

Joni Mueller
Joni Mueller

After my husband became paralyzed we started looking at homes in that neighborhood. Why? Because they were all 50s ranch style which usually meant one-story, spacious rooms, no pier and beam construction (which means steps up to the house). There were some drop-dead gorgeous homes for sale at that time (2006), a lot with large back yards and pools. But we weren't too keen on some of the neighboring elements. We ended up in Idylwood and we love it there. But my fondness has always been for the ranch style home.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith

Robert Searcy is my realtor and I also consider him a friend. I am a member of the Board of Houston Mod, a non-profit membership driven organization dedicated to promoting knowledge and appreciation of modern architecture and design in Houston and Texas. Robert served on the Board several years ago, and Maverick Welsh is currently on the Board. The opinions I write are my own, and certainly not meant to represent Houston Mod.

I am disappointed with the backlash that the effort to preserve Glenbrook Valley has received. Robert Searcy is not out for a quick buck in real estate and he is not racist or an alcoholic. He simply cares passionately about the houses of Glenbrook Valley. I was informed at Houston Mod Board meetings when the efforts to get signatures started, and they never seemed the least bit racist to me. Ambitious, yes. They needed a lot of signatures. But they wanted to get the signatures legally and co-operatively. They wanted Glenbrook Valley to be seen as a neighborhood on the historic level of The Heights. Now is the best time to make that effort, before the historic buildings are torn down. Seems like a lot of historic buildings in Houston are only seen as important or historic AFTER they are gone.

All across Houston (well, especially on the southwest side where I live) in the last 10 - 20 years Houston has seen the destruction of possibly hundreds of beautiful mid-century houses. Many of these houses were designed by respected Houston based architects, sometimes for well known Houstonians. In their place are larger houses that often take up most of the lot. These houses are usually made of cheaper, imported materials, and they probably won't last the 50+ years that the houses they replaced did. Realtors and builders convince the public that they need and want these types of houses (houses which preservationists have sarcastically nicknamed McMansions because they are like fast food houses). I guess that's progress. But it is sad when Houston loses its history. Houston grew a lot in the 50s and 60s, and the mid-century aesthetic is something of which I am proud. I believe all Houstonians should be proud of this era, and I put my money where my mouth is by buying and restoring a 1955 house. In the US, only Los Angeles, Palm Springs, New Canaan, CT, and possibly Chicago and Miami can claim more beautiful and important mid-century homes. That's saying something. Aside from Palm Springs, many of the areas I mentioned are also dealing with the "McMansionization" of their mid-century areas. This is not only happening in Houston.

One only need to look at the houses that have been saved, restored, and celebrated to realize how beautiful, worthwhile, and amazing these houses are. The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance has given multiple "GOOD BRICK AWARDS" to mid-century properties over the years. Hopefully more people will continue to do so.

Taking notice of Glenbrook Valley's importance is a step toward Houston standing up and taking pride. (and learning from the architects of the 1950s - maybe architects and builders will build more new houses that look to the future instead of to 1800s Spain for their influence). If Glenbrook Valley and other mid-century neighborhoods are not to be considered for historic preservation, then I believe we are almost out of areas to consider historic. Most of Houston has already been scraped and judging by the quality of the new homes, will be scraped again soon.

If the group had taken a less ambitious route and just tried to protect the most important of the mid-century modern houses, I wonder if some people would have then cried "racist" because they weren't including the "average 50s ranch house" where the less affluent people of the area live. In retrospect, maybe they should have taken the less ambitious road, as we probably wouldn't be having this conversation if they had just gotten a smaller section qualified.

Speedee
Speedee

How in the heck does a 1950's neighborhood qualify as "historic"??? The whole "historic district" thing is just an attempt to force out the Hispanics and others that are unwelcome by the self appointed ruling elite of Glenbrook Valley.

Leonardo
Leonardo

wow, what shitty neighbors these people are? sounds like one group is just trying to push thier views while others are just trying to be left alone. get a life people, there's more than trying to make others miserable. maybe if the group that is trying to make it historic made THEIR house historic and left those who don't want it out??!?! or is that too simple?!?!? isn't it in the constitution that our properties are to be protected from these crazies? who would want to live in the a house during the shitiest archtectual period anyway?!?!? pink bathrooms, wood paneling...no thanks!!! i know it's my opinion but geezz, no one wants to live in the 50's!! serioulsy people, get a life!!

Janny Bourgouiba
Janny Bourgouiba

MRM: It's really, really easy to solve. You can have an "official" translation but include the disclaimer:"This version is included to assist people who are unfamiliar with English. As accurate as the translation may be, the original text in English is authoritative. In case of a conflict between the English and Spanish version, the version in English prevails"It's easy

Janny Bourgouiba
Janny Bourgouiba

MRM: It's really, really easy to solve. You can have an "official" translation but include the disclaimer:"This version is included to assist people who are unfamiliar with English. As accurate as the translation may be, the original text in English is authoritative. In case of a conflict between the English and Spanish version, the version in English prevails"It's easy

Guest
Guest

Rueben Maverick Welsh is a well know trouble maker. It's no surprise that he's stirring up more crap in his new neighborhood.

Alice
Alice

Wow! The newspaper report was right about it being a war zone. I've been reading this because someone tweeted about midcentury architecture. I'd hoped to learn more about historic designation for midcentury homes, but everyone is more interested in fighting than really having any real discussion.

And, as I'm looking at all these comments...sniping, sarcastic, innuendo and downright cruel...I'm even more thankful that I live in Phoenix. I'd rather deal with wild fires than with "neighbors" who attack each other like this. My neighborhood is a historic district and it's nothing like this.

Win, lose or draw, Glenbrook Valley has much bigger problems than historic designation. I can't imagine why anyone would want to move there after reading these comments.

Tommy Heilfuhrer
Tommy Heilfuhrer

Dear neighbors of The Fabulous Glenbrook Valley,My cat Fluffy Nuggets has been missing. Has any one seen him ?Thanks.Tommy.

DonBrowne
DonBrowne

I continue to support the protection that a Historic District designation would give the Glenbrook Valley neighborhood. My intention as a supporter of the district was never to prey upon the vulnerable and take their rights away. I could have applied for a C of H historic designation for just my own home, but by joining with neighbors I hoped we could reach for a higher goal. I became involved in the Glenbrook Valley historic designation activity to preserve the architecture in the neighborhood and to try to secure another tool to help residents decide what the future of the neighborhood would look like.Something else to think about… The discussion about how an increase in property value is a primary goal of the supporters of the historic designation amuses me. We don’t want our property values to go down, but I don’t think most of us want our property to rise in value in some unnatural way either…that will just mean more property taxes to pay. Stability of our property values with perhaps a steady, healthy increase over time is one benefit I believe the Historic Designation would bring to our particular neighborhood.There are no Mcmansions or Loftzillas now, but I am confident that the developers will find us. Although enforceable, I don’t think that our deed restrictions are enough. Developers can abide by the deed restrictions and still build much larger, more expensive homes on the lots. Developers can also request variances and use loopholes in the term “single family” home to build multifamily developments on single lots. Our resources as a neighborhood are limited, while developers frequently have deep pockets and lawyers on retainer.Glenbrook Valley is a nice, safe, convenient place to live at a reasonable price. We know from experience that new development eventually creeps in to places with these qualities. Without the protection of the historic designation, new development will completely change the face of our historically significant neighborhood. It is also worth mentioning that bigger, newer houses get appraised at higher prices which will start to unnaturally inflate property taxes on our older homes.In response to the specific challenges issued by Sybarite…Regarding the change in the Historic District Preservation Ordinance… I think you must know how I feel given my dedication to preservation. I am thrilled that the ordinance is stricter now and I feel like our timing was incredibly lucky. I believe that everyone in Glenbrook Valley should feel the same way.As for the support of the Historic District dropping to 47 percent... Generally, I believe the majority should rule, and we had a majority of homeowner’s support at the time we turned in the application. Over time it has become increasingly apparent that in their zeal to quickly change the minds of petition signers, the opposition to the historic district resorted to unethical tactics including distributing misinformation, making false accusations and using scare tactics. That doesn’t make for a fair vote and it greatly diminishes the legitimacy of the opposition. I think everyone sees this now. So given the circumstances, I am prepared to let the Mayor and City Council be the judge and jury. I hope that City Council will give Glenbrook Valley the Historic Designation and the protection that the neighborhood clearly deserves and earned fair and square.

Elle
Elle

We went to all the redistricting meetings...and viola!! EVERYTHING was in spanish and english. WOW!! all the literature, all the films were translated, all the speakers were even trying their hardest to speak spanish. Hmmmmm, wonder if it's bc they know they will more than likey vote thier way and it is to thier benefit? How convenient

Daryl
Daryl

A drunk realtor? That's nothing new. Give us more dirt. Maybe a politician, craigslist frequent user, with his own home who sends nude pictures of himself over the Internet. Lmao.

Alice
Alice

I'm glad I don't live there. This whole thing stinks. If the majority don't want it, it shouldn't even be a question for City Council.

Elle
Elle

I am all for people speaking the english language, no one is arguing that point. But why have people SIGN a SPANISH petition KNOWING the ordinance was in ENGLISH only? My kids go to public school in the area and anytime they bring something home it's in English Spanish and Vietnamese. So it's ok for the city/school board to send out SOME info (when it's beneficial to them to inform you) but not when it has to do with people's property rights???

Furthermore, I am all for preservation. But to preserve a plain ranch style house? is beyond me. If residents want to take the risk, then be my guest. You should have the right to put the restrictions on YOUR property. But why do you want to drag the rest of us with you if we feel it is not the right thing for us? Has anyone not learned from all the other fumbles the city has done, esp recently? Do you really want to trust them with this?? Are THEY real estate investment analysts who know this WILL increase our values? Will I have any recourse if it drops bc of this? Why not have a community based preservation effort? Why not try asking people what they think is best before you shove your opinion on them? And what happened to democracy? Where the people decide?

I have allot of investments tied into my property and I choose NOT to risk it. My background is in Finance and Econ, and maybe that is not enough for anyone to listen to me. But I refuse to believe that my property is going to be worth more when you are going to SUBTRACT from the pool of people that would want to buy plain 'ol house (that still needs lots of work) bc of the restrictions now placed on it.

For the record, just bc some happen to side more in the conserv side, does not mean they don't care about people and justice. If there is an injustice for one person, there is an injustice for all. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian...____ insert ethnicity) and yes, even gays. I know it sounds "certifiably insane" but I do care for everyone. The only witch hunt, was the one done when those who were vulnerable were preyed upon to get them to sign their rights away w/o properly informing them about the ordinance and what it entailed. Who is taking what from whom? And who is the one going around "scaring" people into thinking this is going to turn in the gheto IF this ordinance does NOT pass? Hmmmmm.

No I don't speak Spanish
No I don't speak Spanish

I have to say all this crap about people being up in arms, worrying about people who don't speak english. Tough shit, you shouldn't even be able to buy a home. Especially, through HUD or any other government backed financing. Do people in Mexico,Germany,France or any wheremake sure that I am afforded a nonnative language. So I feel comfortable, I used to speak spanish. I won't any more, when asked I usually reply englase solomente' now fuck off. If you want to change my country go change the one you came from. We were fine until the waves of wetbacks showed up. Go to Ben Taub 2nd floor Neo natal this is where your tax dollars are going.

DonBrowne
DonBrowne

I am a native Houstonian and a Glenbrook Valley resident. I support the historic preservation ordinance for the neighborhood because first and foremost, it will offer protection for the architectural integrity of all the homes. It may not be obvious to most people yet, but the Ranch Style home was a very significant architectural development in post war America. Glenbrook Valley is unusual because so many of the original Ranch Style and Mid-Century Modern homes are still intact. The neighborhood has the potential to serve as a very fine example to educate people about the importance of these buildings.If Council approves the application for the historic district (and after the dust settles from the opposing views), the protection will stimulate a series of positive changes for the residents and the neighborhood. Although perhaps slow at first, I think the changes to come will include a much greater sense of pride in the neighborhood and strong unity among diverse neighbors. Those qualities in the people of the neighborhood will be what lead to the good probability of a cleaner, safer neighborhood with stable value for years to come.On the subject of trickery or racism to non-English speakers during the collection of petitions, I can say this. I worked on the historic designation project in Glenbrook Valley from the inception of the idea until we turned the application in last June. It was always of the utmost importance to everyone involved to accommodate non-English speakers. Written communication was always provided in both Spanish and English, and Spanish speaking volunteers were available to those who needed help understanding the ordinance. I am half Mexican American. My grandparents were working class immigrants who never learned English. Providing for Spanish speakers was very important to me personally, and I can honestly say that we made every possible effort to accommodate the Spanish speaking residents with correct information.Regarding our property rights… As with most choices, there are pros and cons. I believe the protection that the ordinance will provide is great and the sacrifices are relatively small. (Honestly, I don’t know how any rational person who has all the information would not see it this way.) To me, the concept with preservation here is like the concept with recycling. No one really wants to save cans and bottles and rinse them and put them in a separate receptacle and carry two bins to the curb. It is inconvenient, but a small sacrifice. We do it to conserve resources, to leave something for our children and for other people in the future.Preservation of our neighborhood will be a bit of a sacrifice, but it is just the right thing to do.

Vintom Lebowski
Vintom Lebowski

There are a school of people who believe that neighbors should NOT have the "full use and enjoyment of their properties" if that means modifying the character of the neighborhoods.

That is why some neighborhoods are strictly regulated, and some are not.

Guest
Guest

Reuben Maverick Welsh is an extremely divisive loser who's simply a pawn of the mayor and Sue Lovell, the masterminds of this historic neighborhood policy. We ran him out of the Norhill Heights for this same reason. Searcy should be ashamed of himself being a part of this ugly underhanded attempt to force their wills on others. You should be ashamed too Mr Smith!

Hannand Melaibe
Hannand Melaibe

You will find the "group" vs. "individual" conflicts all across life, Leonardo. There are situations where people want to live in a neighborhood of a certain style and want to prevent individual tastes from changing the character of the neighborhood.

If you do not like the idea, the best solution is to move to a neighborhood without that mentality.

Monte
Monte

No wonder the Alblaza's are suffering, these guys are the CERTIFIABLE INSANE ones!! lol Seriously, find another hobby! Leave these people alone. Good fences make good neighbors! We are with Albaza's .... keep up the good fight amigos! Don't let the crazies get you down!!

MRM
MRM

Yeah, it reads, only like a nightmare, but Glenbrook Valley isn't a nod and smile neighborhood. We'll get over it, only to get into again. But its these unbridled and open discussions and the full contact democracy thats keeps the neighborhood vital.

I'll get over being super-pissed at the Ablaza's especially if they bring the same passion and intensity to getting the public infrastructure replaced, and the vacant lot at the end the street turned into a neighborhood park.

Betty
Betty

Sounds to me that you are the ones using scare tactics. The oh so scary developers are coming, their coming!! The trashy people, we need to get rid of them...please, this is a lie and you know it. And for the record we are for preservation. Don't believe everything you think or hear. The info put out by the concerned residents of GBV was info that was received from the planning dept. There was nothing to make up since it is in plain english in the ordinance. I know, it really doesn't mean anything to some, but we abide buy the rules and if it states there will be fines, then one must point that out, I know it sounds crazy to inform people...how dare we!!!

But honestly, you don't have to tell the mayor anything. She's on your side and so are the powers that be. So don't worry your self over this. You will receive your designation wrapped up in a big red bow. And everything will be sunshine and lollipops from there on out. Bc when property values start falling, I am sure you would have the chance to get out, unless you live in a true MCM or neo classical style home. For the rest of us, we're screwed. And maybe that's my opinion, but it's one that I can back up by stats. No one can guarantee that my property values are going to stay the same of even increase with this. What is my recourse for taking this risk? Do I not have choice? No. truth is we never did. According to the planning dept, they can ask city council to approve a designation by their recommendation. So the whole petition process was a sham. It doesn't matter that people were taken advantage of or that no one cared if the signatures were indeed of that of the property owners. Nope. You see it never really never mattered what the people wanted. It was what the mayor and her cronies wanted. They want control over our properties to be able and control development. If you think the mayor is out for your best interest and cares about preservation, then you are the insane one. Do some digging, I can't tell you everything bc then you'll be calling me fear monger like you call the Ablaza's.

Given the other studies done, and advice from our financial adv, we are not in the market to put this kind of risk on our properties. Leave us out and let those who want it take the plunge. That is the only fair way to do this. But I know, it's too logical to let others make decisions.

PS: do yourself a favor and RESEARCH The Old Sixth Ward. I know I know, it's not GBV, but get familiar.

Elle
Elle

I am literally laughing out loud!! thanks Jack!

MRM
MRM

The redistricting ordinance itself isn't in any foreign language. You should take that up as your next cause.

Elle
Elle

LOL!!! Hmmmm, wonder who could that be??????? :D

MRM
MRM

When the Historic District application was turned in support was at 58%. Now, people think that if they do anything to their home, the City is going to fine them $500.00 a day. Its not true, but the opposition has been very effective in spreading that allegation.

MRM
MRM

Not a single city ordinance, state or federal law is officially translated into Spanish or any other foreign language. To do so, would provoke legal confusion and a political and cultural war far beyond the likes of the current discussion. The anti-historic preservation ordinance faction know this and are attempting to capitalize on it.

The summaries which the ordinance requires were prepared by the City in both English and Spanish and were circulated in Glenbrook Valley in by both the City and proponents of the ordinance.

Elle
Elle

I am all for people speaking the english language, no one is arguing that point. But why have people SIGN a SPANISH petition KNOWING the ordinance was in ENGLISH only? I understand efforts were made. But having a SUMMARY and the actual ORDINACE are not the same. Plus, the materials the civic club put out entailed info about the OLD odinance and not the changes that most (even english speakers) were not aware of.

My kids go to public school in the area and anytime they bring something home it's in English Spanish and Vietnamese. So it's ok for the city/school board to send out SOME info (when it's beneficial to them to inform you) but not when it has to do with people's property rights???

Furthermore, I am all for preservation. But to preserve a plain ranch style house? is beyond me. If residents want to take the risk, then be my guest. You should have the right to put the restrictions on YOUR property. But why do you want to drag the rest of us with you if we feel it is not the right thing for us? Has anyone not learned from all the other fumbles the city has done, esp recently? Do you really want to trust them with this?? Are THEY real estate investment analysts who know this WILL increase our values? Will I have any recourse if it drops bc of this? Why not have a community based preservation effort? Why not try asking people what they think is best before you shove your opinion on them? And what happened to democracy? Where the people decide?

I have allot of investments tied into my property and I choose NOT to risk it. My background is in Finance and Econ, and maybe that is not enough for anyone to listen to me. But I refuse to believe that my property is going to be worth more when you are going to SUBTRACT from the pool of people that would want to buy plain 'ol house (that still needs lots of work) bc of the restrictions now placed on it.

Not to mentioned this leaves allot of power to un-elected officials. The planning dept has repeatedly said they change ordinances all the time, this would not be an exception.

I also find it quiet hypocritical that some who have made changes to their homes that would not be approved by the new ordinance are in favor of "preservation". Really? how nice that you have benefited from the rights we all shared and now want to take them from others who had not the time or money to make the deed restricted approved changes they wanted/needed to do.

Elle
Elle

I am all for people speaking the english language, no one is arguing that point. But why have people SIGN a SPANISH petition KNOWING the ordinance was in ENGLISH only? My kids go to public school in the area and anytime they bring something home it's in English Spanish and Vietnamese. So it's ok for the city/school board to send out SOME info (when it's beneficial to them to inform you) but not when it has to do with people's property rights???

Furthermore, I am all for preservation. But to preserve a plain ranch style house? is beyond me. If residents want to take the risk, then be my guest. You should have the right to put the restrictions on YOUR property. But why do you want to drag the rest of us with you if we feel it is not the right thing for us? Has anyone not learned from all the other fumbles the city has done, esp recently? Do you really want to trust them with this?? Are THEY real estate investment analysts who know this WILL increase our values? Will I have any recourse if it drops bc of this? Why not have a community based preservation effort? Why not try asking people what they think is best before you shove your opinion on them? And what happened to democracy? Where the people decide?

I have allot of investments tied into my property and I choose NOT to risk it. My background is in Finance and Econ, and maybe that is not enough for anyone to listen to me. But I refuse to believe that my property is going to be worth more when you are going to SUBTRACT from the pool of people that would want to buy plain 'ol house (that still needs lots of work) bc of the restrictions now placed on it.

For the record, just bc some happen to side more in the conserv side, does not mean they don't care about people and justice. If there is an injustice for one person, there is an injustice for all. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian...____ insert ethnicity) and yes, even gays. I know it sounds "certifiably insane" but I do care for everyone. The only witch hunt, was the one done when those who were vulnerable were preyed upon to get them to sign their rights away w/o properly informing them about the ordinance and what it entailed. Who is taking what from whom? And who is the one going around "scaring" people into thinking this is going to turn in the gheto IF this ordinance does NOT pass? Hmmmmm.

Sybarite
Sybarite

I personally know Don Browne, and I can tell you without equivocation that he is an extremely ethical person, and that he has a deep, abiding love for the mid-century aesthetic. I absolutely accept what he says about the way he and nearly everyone involved collected petition signatures. Yet, several Hispanic neighbors have testified that they were tricked and misled, and I can tell you that they were not coerced into saying so. Mostly frightened and confused, they came to us for help. The only conclusion I can draw is that some, albeit a small number, of the people who collected signatures were not so ethical.

As bad as that is, I don’t think it’s the real issue here. I challenge Mr. Browne to say that he’s in favor of historic designation despite the fact that the city has publicly stated that it can only document that 45% of Glenbrook Valley residents want it. I can’t imagine that he would support creating an historic district against the wishes of his neighbors.

I also challenge Don to deny that the method used by the city was a bait-and-switch. Petition signatures were gathered under the regulations of the old historic ordinance. That ordinance would have acknowledged Glenbrook Valley as having homes of historic significance without restricting property rights. The city accepted the petition, but instead of approving Glenbrook Valley in anything like a normal fashion, they sat on the application for five months while they crafted and passed a revised ordinance that severely limited homeowners’ rights. The city’s transition ordinance specifically singled Glenbrook Valley out as having no recourse in light of the changes to the rules. Come on, Don, that stinks. Without knowing that you were doing it, you sold us something that wasn’t true. Please understand that we don’t blame you for that. You and the majority of your neighbors who collected petition signatures were duped just like the rest of us.

It’s time to stand up and admit that this was badly handled. You don’t get meaningful historic preservation by trickery and force. You get it through education and being strait with people. If you want all the positive things you mentioned to come true, the only way is to insist that this process be done over—the right way. Let this current mess go. If you’re convinced that the majority of your neighbors want to be an historic district under the new ordinance, re-apply under the new ordinance. If you do that, and if you get 67% of the residents to give up their property rights, the opponents will shut up and get with the program.

Barring that, Dan, you’re dead wrong about the neighborhood healing after the dust settles. If this thing passes under these circumstances, I promise you, things will get worse; not better. When people feel cheated—especially when it involves their single biggest asset—they tend to fight to the bitter end. I wouldn’t count on passage by City Council as being in the bag, but passage is most definitely not the end.

Leonardo
Leonardo

sounds like people have been living there a while and it's still a "time capsule"...i'm lost. did they know they were buying into this or did this just come up all of a sudden? they have deed restrictions that has detered builders. why then?? by the remarks some people have made on here i think i get the point. pushing people out of thier homes isn't too hard to do when you start imposing expensive regulations on them.

Alice
Alice

You know...in all the comments that I've read on both sides of this, almost all of them are concerned about protecting other people. What that tells me is that there are good people on both sides of this thing, trying to do what they think is best. Yeah, there may be a few bad apples that got out of hand, but that's not the majority.

When we went through this, there were people on both sides. But, we all got together and seriously talked through the differences. So, we didn't get this extreme polarization which leads to accusations and ugliness. Because everyone was talking to each other, face to face, on a pretty continuous basis. It wouldn't have been right to move forward without the majority being on board, so we held off until we'd solved all of our issues.

But, maybe this is just running parallel with the country. That was back in the 80s, and the political mood of the country wasn't as polarized either.

I hope that I'm right about your neighborhood. I hope that there are those good people who can reach out to each other. Best of luck, anyway.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I don't understand who you are mad at. If it's all the mayor and her cronies' doing and the petition never mattered, then why are you sniping at your neighbor?

Jack Mehoff
Jack Mehoff

Elle, it's to flush out impacted turds like you. Thanks for your attention. Jack

Janny Bourgouiba
Janny Bourgouiba

Good practice is to have the ordinance translated, and to include a disclaimer "This translation was provided to assist people not familiar with English. As accurate as the translation may be, the original text in English is authoritative. If there is a conflict between the English and Spanish versions, the English version prevails"

It's really easy, folks!

Elle
Elle

The support level was NOT 58%, yet another lie, it was 52% at the time the application was submitted (and that was not taking into account the people that had moved people who had signed for renters, and people who signed for family members w/o their knowledge), and then when people were given an opportunity to retract their signatures, the planning dept let more people submit petitions, you know, to make it fair to those who had had 2.5 yrs to submit, and 6 weeks for those who wanted to retract IF they knew what was going on in time. After the EXTRA petitions were filled and retractions were filled, the level of support fell to 38% The planning dept decided not to count some of the retractions since they were turned in AFTER the due date. Very fair indeed. So they have decided to cook the numbers and say the level of support is 45%. Which is not the 67% the NEW ordinance says it has to be NOR the 51% the OLD ordinance (which is what they are holding us to) says. So no Mr MRM, the level of support was NEVER 58% like CM Lovell also said at council to sway the votes.

Alice
Alice

But the City could do that if someone doesn't get permission, couldn't they? Even if they actually don't, they could.

I know that's the way it is where I'm from, but I don't know what the Houston ordinance says.

Elle
Elle

Ok, let me explain to you: a SUMMARY is not the SAME as the ACTUAL ordinance. There are things in the ordinance that are NOT in the SUMMARY. I know, lucky for you I read english AND spanish. The ordinance is allot more in depth than the Q and A the city has out - which by the way was put out AFTER the uproar - It does not go into what the restrictions are to the homeowner. The spanish Q and A the civic club put out, has to do with the OLD ordinance not the new and the changes. The mailer the city sent out in Oct with the new changes, was ONLY IN ENGLISH. I know, people should know the english language. BUT WHY HAVE A SPANISH PETITION?!?!? And WHY does the city send out other things in tri-lingual when it has to do with recylcing but NOT when it has to do with your property rights?

We went to all the redicting meetings...and viola!! EVERYTHING was in spanish and english. WOW!! all the literature, all the films were translated, all the speakers were even trying their hardest to speak spanish. Hmmmmm, wonder if it's bc they know they will more than likey vote thier way and it is to thier benefit? How convenient

Elle
Elle

Start by answering questions. Then WHY HAVE A SPANISH PETITION? The so called spanish ordinance was a question and answer/SUMMARY and not the ACTUAL ordinance. Why have people check off they read an english only ordinance if they signed a spanish petition??? I know, it sounds like just another "technicality" but you know, and the rest of the people know, this was wrong. The ONLY people capitalizing here is you and those who seek something to benefit from all of this (financially and/or politically) I have NOTHING but my word that I gave people when they BEGGED me to help them after they had been duped (their words not mine) into signing something they thought was one thing and turned out to be something else. I know this sounds "certifiably insane" to you but honestly, this will probably not affect us as much as it is going to affect others who are already having a hard time paying their bills much less extra permitting fees for changing their door or being turned down for wanting to change the pitch of their roof for extra storage space.

I also love how some who are in favor of this ordinance have already done changes that would NOT be approved by this new ordinance. How nice.

I thought you Dem/Libs were allot about the little people, the people with no voice, the people who have been really bullied and taken advantage of. If you don't see anything wrong with the way some people have been dealt with, then you are seriously blind or just playing the same games... and you know what has been going on. If you choose to lie to yourself and to others, then you are the one that has to look at yourself in the mirror everyday and lie that this has all been done on the up and up.

I may not have have the smarts of your architectural bacground and maybe it would benefit some, but the way it was done was WRONG and no one is wanting to take responsibility and instead resort to name calling and bashing. People are scared to come out and say what really happened and what they were told bc of the lies the proponents have decided to spread about those who are merely trying to bring justice.

Let me ask you, were there any people going actively against this when the signatures were being taken up? No. Why? bc WE even trusted those that were in charge that these signatures were being verified and that people were being properly informed. We figured if they want it and they get the % then so be it. We'll comply. But that is not what happened. Trust me, I would much rather go back to helping out those who really need my help.

But honestly, you know that this will be voted in. So why worry your pretty little head. You'll get what you want and then this will all be one big happy place...you know, how it once was back in the 50's?

MRM
MRM

I'm curious about what is in the ordinance that would scare and confuse anyone?

Hannand Melaibe
Hannand Melaibe

It seems like a lot of the people who are influential in the neighborhood moved in during the 2000s.

They may want to be thorough, covering avenues that deed restrictions don't.

Also, how would these restrictions "force" people out of their homes?

Elle
Elle

Well that's not very neighborly. I know it's hard to have real facts debated, so go ahead and resort to what you know best honey, go ahead and let it all out :)

MRM
MRM

The application was filed in June 2010. The number of valid petitions at that time was 58%. After City Planning reviewed the application and submitted its report to the HAHC, the percentage was 54%. The Ablaza's visits with the Planning department were effective, they should declare a victory on that. Then we have the retraction battle, very effective, particulary when not constrained by City ordinance or its summaries. There's nothing in any ordinance about "retractions", and nothing in the ordinance about fining homeowners $500.00 a day for making "viturally any modifications to exteriors of their homes." But the ordinance has a long list of exceptions, like repairs, the most permitted activity in the neighborhood, paint, HVAC, fencing, landscaping, and accesories more suitable to the Heights like porch swings and ceiling fans. Coupled with the bogus "the ordinance is only in English", the Ablaza's gathered up more than 200 retractions and after City Plannings analysis, 150 valid retractions. The support level is at 45%.

If anybody can figure out the rest of that, feel free to pipe in. Thats a really long sentence to decipher.

MRM
MRM

I'll try my best on this. There were Spanish language petitions and ordinance summaries and Spanish speaking people to assist with the collection of petitions from homeowners who were more comfortable with that language. The collection process was a door to door, neighbor to neighbor effort over an eighteen month period.

The are no official translations of any city ordinance, state or federal law. You know this and the reasons why and use it as a foundation to your objections to this specific ordinance because thats about all you've got. To take your objection to an abusudity, parking in a fire zone would be permissible because the sign and the associated ordinance isn't available and in multiple foreign languages. But, you park in a fire zone and your going to pay a sizeable fine.

Yes, there has been opposition to this from inception, the Ablaza's and others were very vocal about it at the first civic club meeting about it and the stack of papers turned into the City includes written statements from those that told us they objected. We tried not to pester them after they told us that.

I honestly believe that the historic district designation for Glenbrook Valley would have an immense long term benefit. There are others that are far more eloquent on the subject and I agree with them. But, I'm not a realtor, I'm a homeowner that is presently way upside down on my mortgage. My personal opinion is that the historic district designation will have little to no effect on property value. I moved to GBV because its close to work and subsequently fell in love with the neighborhood and my house that would have been my parents dream home, if they could have afforded it when I was a child.

Since October 2010 when the Ablaza's hooked up with the Heights Realtor PAC, I've been called a liar, a forger and a racist. I've examined my conscience for any hint that any of those accusations are true at any level. I don't think so and my feelings are tremendous hurt. I try not to take it personally.

And I think City Council will vote the designation down.

JA
JA

The little people can have a voice but not in their back yard Elle.

MRM
MRM

So, you don't have any intention of using Sec. 33-227(a) to continue your war on the neighborhood?

I understand these arguements, I wish you'd used it when seeking retractions and not turned the neighborhood into a war zone.

Vic1298
Vic1298

I for one would not be for the city playing monopoly with my properties. Thanks but no thanks! I'll stick to my attnys and financial adv who know what is best for me.

Elle
Elle

Obviously you have not read the ordinance. Once we become a historic district, there is no way to repeal it. And sorry if I worry about the future. I know it sounds cert insane...but I do look out for our investments. Maybe you should place the designation on yours and leave me out of it if you think its "oh so great" and no big deal. Why do you have to decide for my property what I feel is not right. Just bc I don't agree with you does not make me wrong MRM. Stop trying to tell people what to do. I thought that's what you and your group was all about, not trying to tell others how to live their lives and how to go about doing it, which, btw, I have also fought for. Why can't the same be applied to me. Am I not worthy of the same freedoms you have? Or are you too affraid to take the risk alone with the rest of the people who think its great, and wait and see if you made the right decision for YOUR property.

Silly idea I am sure to you, but some of us have backgrounds in risk assessment and you cannot convince me that people are going to want to buy MY plain ol ranch style house with restrictions tied into the city when they can go ANYWHERE in the city and buy the same house for the same price. What rule applies when you can add value to something when you subtract from the pool of people who want to buy? None.

Now, those houses that are true MCM and neo classical, then yes, those houses may see an increase in value. But for the rest of us 91% (that the planning has labeled as ranch style) our values are going to more than likely decrease. Like I tell people who ask me for my opinion on values, I dont have a crystal ball, and neither do you. We will be the guinea pigs of all this since there are no other 50yrs or less neighborhoods here with this designation. I can only apply what I know and the research I have done which is not good to you since it goes against your projections.

MRM
MRM

My take is that you have an irrational fear of the future and haven't yet read the ordinance. Your co-hort Sybarite, has already asserted that the war will continue, if the City designates Glenbrook Valley as an historic district. The ordinance has a provision for reconsideration in it.

Elle
Elle

The fact that it leaves too much power to un-elected officials? This admin will not be here but for another 2 yrs. You don't know what the next one will do. Once we become historic, it is forever.

 
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