The massive battle over the proposed Ashby high-rise is one that leaves us not very interested.
On the one side, you have a developer trying to force a 23-story complex onto the shady streets near Rice; on the other, you have the well-heeled residents of that neighborhood marshalling lawyers and graphics artists to make sure no luxury SUV is without a bumper sticker declaring their refusal to bow to The Man.
The fact that Houston's lack of zoning regularly screws people is of no moment to them, because this is different. Meaning it's happening to them.
After almost a dozen attempts, the city has approved the plans for the project. We kinda like the theory that says officials know there's no way the developers will get the financing to do it, so it will end up being a moot point.
But the people protesting are very influential, when it comes to campaign donations and other such things, so politicians have to be careful. How are the three main mayoral candidates reacting to the city's decision?
Annise Parker was first out, harrumphing.
I am disappointed with the city's decision yesterday to grant a site development permit for the high-rise building planned for the corner of Bissonnet and Ashby in the single-family residential neighborhood of Southampton.
From the first meeting at Poe School, I stood with the neighborhood in seeking solutions to stop this project.
I have a continuing concern that increased traffic resulting from the project will pose an unacceptable public safety risk to the surrounding neighborhood, bring a decreased quality of life for the residents, a loss of privacy and a negative impact on their property values.
Clearly, we simply cannot manage our city's growth by lurching from one Ashby high-rise crisis to the next. Individuals cannot make safe investments in their homes and neighborhoods, and businesses cannot make safe investments in their developments, without predictability and consistency.
We need to get everyone back to the table to get a clear, workable and consistently applied ordinance that would require at least a traffic impact analysis and an adequate mitigation plan to proceed. Traffic impact is a public safety issue because it limits the ability of first responders in an emergency. It is an environmental issue because it creates air pollution. Traffic impacts absolutely need to be considered, and appropriate mitigation required, when we evaluate development projects.
Back to the table!! Sounds like a good campaign slogan. Or maybe not.
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Peter Brown tells Hair Balls he, too, is "disappointed." His statement, also in part:
Like many others, I'm disappointed to learn of the City's apparent 'green-light' for the Ashby Highrise development. I've opposed this project from the beginning and I've worked alongside advocates in the neighborhood to try and prevent it from damaging our community. This news only makes that commitment more urgent.
The project that is taking shape raises serious concerns. The infrastructure in the area is simply not sufficient for a structure of that size, and it will lead to traffic congestion and gridlock during peak hours. Turning narrow residential streets into major thoroughfares is a safety issue, restricting access for emergency vehicles during periods of traffic congestion and endangering pedestrians. It will also harm the general quality of life residents in these areas have come to enjoy. And it's emblematic of the sort of out-of-scale projects that overtax drainage systems and contribute to our flooding issues around the City.
This isn't the first time that a project unfit for the neighborhood it's being built in has moved forward, and without action it won't be the last. We need to do more to protect our neighborhoods from the adverse impacts of harmful development.
Gene Locke's position on all this?
Still in the development stages, apparently. If we hear back from the campaign, we'll update.