Fresh from the inbox:
Statement by Annise Parker on Ashby High Rise
August 22, 2009
Contact: Sue Davis, 713-392-6011, email@example.com
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.
I also believe it is possible to craft an ordinance that would create incentives and/or limits to move high- and mid-rise construction to the boundaries of neighborhoods and on major thoroughfares.
While I do not believe zoning is workable for Houston, I do believe it is possible to better protect neighborhoods and better preserve the property values and quality of life in neighborhoods, while still allowing growth and development.
I have worked for years to bring consistency and predictability to these issues – including spearheading the original density limitations contained in Chapter 42, our subdivision ordinance, and subsequent amendments when I served on City Council. As our city has grown, the need for clear rules has even greater urgency. It will receive my highest priority as Mayor.
I still think the traffic issue was secondary to the scale issue. I do agree that we can – and should – come up with an ordinance that addresses that in a reasonable way. As always, I’ll be interested in hearing the details of such a proposal. If I receive a statement on this from any of the other Mayoral candidates, I’ll print it as well.
Our opposition to this project remains undiminished, and we will continue our efforts to prevent it from being financed and constructed. We believe that we have a number of powerful tools available to us, and we intend to use all of them. There are many steps between obtaining a site work and foundation permit and actually constructing a project, and we will have opportunities to continue our fight in many forums.
We strongly encourage you to continue to display your Stop Ashby High Rise yard signs and bumper stickers to demonstrate your opposition to this unwelcome project. We also would be especially pleased to accept any donations to the Stop Ashby High Rise effort, because we anticipate the need for legal fees as we move forward.
More, including how to donate to their cause if you feel so inclined, is at their site. I’m sure I’ll start seeing a resurgence in the yard signs on Monday.
UPDATE: Here’s Peter Brown’s statement.
Statement By Candidate For Mayor Peter Brown On Ashby Highrise Developments:
August 24, 2009
Like many others, I’m deeply concerned over 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. What’s been made clear by our experience here is that our current, ad-hoc system of regulations is failing to protect communities. Our current approach shifts an unacceptable burden onto taxpayers who are forced to mitigate the adverse effects of that development on our infrastructure. Houston doesn’t need zoning, but we do need better tools to protect the character, diversity and function of our great neighborhoods.
First, we need to fix the city’s Chapter 42 development ordinance to better protect the integrity of our neighborhoods make our regulations more predictable and efficient. We need to make our ordinances more outcomes-driven, targeted to get the results we want.
Second, we should provide incentives designed to keep developments and projects like this outside of neighborhoods and along major thoroughfares, transit lines and other suitable areas equipped with the infrastructure to support them.
While I value the efforts of those working to create a vibrant urban environment in Houston, it should not come at the expense of the strong neighborhoods that make our City great.
I believe that this project is wrong for the neighborhood, its residents and our City. As Mayor I’ll continue to be an advocate on behalf of neighborhoods and their residents. I’ll continue the work I’ve done on City Council and much of my professional career, because our great neighborhoods are the heart of Houston.
UPDATE: And finally, courtesy of Hair Balls, here is Gene Locke’s statement:
The misfortune of Ashby High Rise is that it has created a situation where there are no winners. If there is one thing that we have learned over the past two years, it is how important it is that we create consistent, predictable and transparent rules governing development. People need to be able to protect the historic character of their neighborhoods so that we maintain an excellent quality of life for all Houstonians. At the same time, our city needs to grow and diversify to meet the economic challenges of tomorrow. As I have said many times in my campaign, I will bring together the stakeholders involved in neighborhoods and development so we can explore fresh ideas that will ensure that we continue to be one of the fastest growing cities in the nation and maintain livable and vibrant neighborhoods.
As our city becomes denser, we will need to balance the responsible growth that drives our city with the recognition that development can have impacts beyond the borders of the land being developed. The development approval process must not only be predictable, but also open and transparent so dialog can occur early in the process among all stakeholders. As mayor, I am committed to exploring various avenues to achieve and maintain the balance necessary to continue making Houston a unique and vibrant city in which to live including incentives that will drive high-rise development to major thoroughfares.
Take it away, Baby Snooks!