The Parking Ordinance Battle Has Just Begun

Categories: News

Thumbnail image for 398728889_241efc469a_z.jpg
Photo by Josh Hallett
There's something quaintly likable about the small-town vibe of Houston City Council meetings. The Art Deco chambers on the second floor of City Hall can only hold about 250 people, most of whom seem to know each other in that typically close-knit Houston way. This past Wednesday, Councilwoman Wanda Adams called the Housing, Sustainable Growth and Development subcommittee hearing to order in a pleasant, friendly tone, admonishing people not to block the exits and encouraging them to find a seat.

"Raise your hand if you have an empty seat next to you," Adams plied the audience. "There's a few seats up front here, too," she noted, as people began to file in and sit down obediently.

A man seated next to me introduced himself with a handshake. "I'm a residential developer," he smiled. He was there for a hearing on proposed changes to Chapter 42 of the ordinance code -- the first agenda item of two that day -- as were many others who'd crowded the chambers that afternoon. "What brings you here?"

I was there to cover the first of several subcommittee hearings on proposed changes to Chapter 26 -- the Off-Street Parking chapter of the ordinance -- but it turned out that I wouldn't be around for that to happen. Although the meeting kicked off at 2 p.m. sharp, the subcommittee didn't reach its second agenda item of the day until 6 p.m.

The four-hour span in between, during which opponents and advocates of the Chapter 42 changes spoke their minds, is indicative of the fact that while Houston may sometimes act like a small town -- for better and for worse -- it no longer is. A coherent vision for the city's future is necessary to encourage intelligent planning and growth, and that's what opponents of the Chapter 26 changes are worried will be derailed should the proposed changes move forward.

I had to leave three hours before Chapter 26 was discussed, in order to get back to deadlines at work. Many other people who'd come to speak against the proposed changes had to leave for similar reasons. Whether it was the intention of the subcommittee or not, they'd starved many of the Chapter 26 opponents out as the long meeting stretched on.

David Leftwich, a resident opposed to the proposed changes that would require restaurants and bars to make more parking available in order to alleviate parking complaints in residential areas, had brought his young daughter to the hearing. She took the wait better than others, Leftwich reported on Twitter, saying that she had "sat through almost three hours of this COH council subcommittee. She rocks and gets to learn about government first hand."

Because the subcommittee meeting wasn't televised and no transcripts have yet been released, Twitter ended up as the best way I could keep up with the meeting from afar.

Only one person showed up to speak in support of the proposed changes, reported restaurant/bar owner and activist Bobby Heugel, who's been lobbying against the increased parking requirements along with other service industry members since the changes were first proposed in 2011.

"This guy is seriously saying we need more street parking reserved for residents," wrote Heugel on Twitter. "He lives next to Minute Maid Park."

The subcommittee hearing may not have drawn the crowds on either side of the issue necessary to make a huge impact one way or another, but it was only the first of several before the proposed changes head to City Council for a formal vote. And no one is quite sure when that will happen.

"The timeline for moving the parking ordinance to City Council for consideration has not been determined by the administration," says Brian Crimmins, senior planner for the City of Houston's Planning & Development Department who's been working on the proposed changes. Crimmins noted on Twitter today that while parking requirements would increase for bars and restaurants under the proposed changes, that's not all that Chapter 26 covers.

"In most cases parking requirements are going down city-wide," Crimmins said, referring to changes in which shopping centers -- for example -- would be required to provide four spaces for every 1,000 square feet instead of five, "and we are adding significantly more options for flexibility in options."

That flexibility would come in the form of parking management districts, or "Special Parking Areas," that would allow designated neighborhoods more independence in tailoring their own parking needs. This is just one part of the proposed changes that Crimmins says require more public attention and feedback -- not just the "hot button" issues.

"The Planning & Development Department is currently reviewing the feedback from Wednesday's meeting, as well as the comments we've received from the Ordinance Feedback Website. There have been a number of comments and I personally read each one as they come in."

Crimmins is quick to note that the proposed changes are still just that: proposed, and not concrete. "Nothing is set in stone with these amendments -- if there is something that makes sense to revise, then the Department will recommend changes before going back to City Council," Crimmins says.

"We are listening to everyone's view and encourage people to join the conversation."



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
BobbySucks
BobbySucks

Bobby Huegel concepts are so boring. This guy ruined Westheimer with cold, warehouse minimalism and uber douchebagery of his staff. Now he opened OKRA with which he gives himself a huge tax break. Bobby Huegel restaurants are like McDonald's, they all look and feel the same. How people get excited about his stores is beyond me....

David Da'Rican
David Da'Rican

To say that some people are trying to make Houston into New York, is to miss the point of what is happening. Houston is growing. That growth in part is from people who are moving here from urbanized areas of the country. Naturally they want to live in the city and not the suburbs. The result is population density. More people per square mile. Nothing wrong with that, it just brings problems that have not been dealt with before. Problems have solutions and one solution here is more parking structure or more mixed used structures.

Matt Ryan Padora
Matt Ryan Padora

One is a cheap fix. One is expensive and ugly. One is good for the physical health and environment of the city. One is poor.

Matt Ryan Padora
Matt Ryan Padora

So a building with 4000 sf doesn't need any bicycle racks whatsoever, but a bar with only 1000 sf needs 14 parking spaces?

H_e_x
H_e_x

This ordinance will hurt the city, therefore it will pass. Hell, look at the homeless ordinance not too long ago. Unfortunately  yuppies have a disproportionate amount of political support. 

Mark Haubrich
Mark Haubrich

Selling Houston is ez,, they strive to keep more pavement then rubber any way you roll it.

Andrew Hernandez
Andrew Hernandez

Oh and I'm sorry for living outside of the city limits and actually having a job where I have to commute and don't have the option of riding a bike to work. Maybe we should ban people who live in the loop from having cars.

Andrew Hernandez
Andrew Hernandez

I never understood why people try to make Houston into something it isn't. This isn't New York or San Francisco stop trying to make it that.

Jacob Bocanegra
Jacob Bocanegra

Lets only allow two cars per family and tax ppl based on mileage driven yearly. I'm so sick of ppl who live in conroe/ Katy /angleton etc clogging freeways because they want to live outside the city.

Lauren Michelle Barrash
Lauren Michelle Barrash

Oh & did I mention I was on the parking ordinance committee for over a year. All I can say is Fridays, long afternoon meetings in a warm room!!! Real productive;)

Lauren Michelle Barrash
Lauren Michelle Barrash

We don't need to continue to expand our roads and require businesses to add parking. We need to get with the program and encourage people to ride their bikes, walk, and Ride the Houston Wave or Metro. (at least inner loopers), like most other big cities with "Urban Development" & "Sustainable Developments". How about we spend money & resources on making our sidewalks (where they exist) more walkable, our roads more friendly to bikes & pedestrians, and market the use of the Wave since it runs when a lot of the traffic/parking complaints come into the COH. I can only do so much, but how about the City waive the additional parking required if the business is along a Wave routes & allow us to use the 1100 City owned or leased parking spots just in the Washington Corridor alone. I am sure they have as many spots in other like areas too. All in a day's work for me, but I welcome any volunteers to help. Yes, I am biased, but the Wave does in fact make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

dalton
dalton

I'm more of a tweeter and 002 reader, so excuse my asking you to condense the debate to its essence in 130 words, two long sentences or a haiku.

Anse
Anse

@Andrew Hernandez With all due respect...you say you are not a citizen of Houston. Why should your opinion be equal to those of us who actually live here? And I know there are some inside the Loop who want something done about the parking situation, so let them express themselves. You suburbanites really need to take a back seat on this.

TedStickles
TedStickles

@Andrew Hernandez You're clearly ignorant of this issue, so, please, can it.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@Andrew Hernandez Stop trying to make Houston into Katy.

Matthew
Matthew

i'm all for more use of public transportation, but freeways are there for movement of large numbers of cars. that's like saying you're tired of all these trains blocking the railroads. without the cars, they wouldn't exist in their current form.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@Anse It's all well and good when people like Andrew don't have to pay for anything.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...