Towering dread

Today’s the day that an aspect of the so-called “McMansion” issue comes before the city council. It’s more a matter of compatibility with existing neighboring structures than one of size or design.

People who used to enjoy backyard privacy and receive enough sun for their gardens suddenly find their environment drastically changed by the alteration of existing or construction of new dwellings.

The draft ordinance instituting a moratorium while possible changes in the development code are considered is a brief temporary measure. Today’s agenda places this issue as items number 26 and 35.

We”ve all got an opinion about this. Whatever yours is, council action may affect your quality of life, or your property taxes or rent and therefore your budget. The all-council e-mail is a good way to reach those making the decision.

Many are those with homesteads in long-tranquil neighborhoods who now are daily subjected to the effects of new “remodeling” that leaves one porch pillar and removes the remainder of the house, the “moving” that’s really an out-of-view demolition, the seven-day endless parades of open dumptrucks removing topsoil and debris, and many, many more examples of the alteration and even degradation of their daily existence. The noise and dirt are temporary; the results are more permanent.

My ox was long since gored, when the beautiful property across the street with its decades-old mature landscaping including displays of spring bulbs, ponds, venerable live oaks, and much, much more was sold to a speculator who flanked the existing historic structure with two houses that could have been uglier than they turned out to be.

55 Comments so far

  1. MD (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 9:40 am

    Basically, it boils down to this:

    All cities have rules preventing residential density. Houston’s, despite popular misconceptions, are MORE restrictive than average. That’s what the paper shows, and it’s what you continue to fail to accept.

  2. ttrentham (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 9:47 am

    I posted this in the other thread as well, but you haven’t been banned, M1EK. Are you getting some sort of message saying that you have or are the comment posts just screwing up?

  3. lurker (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 4:08 pm

    I almost feel bad continuing this argument. I feel like im kicking someone when they are down.

    There was a paper that people used to prove Houston has more restrictive zoning than Austin.

    We went through the items in the paper. The problem is Austin has almost all of these same rules. In fact in many cases Austin has these same rules but they are actually stricter in Austin.

    In addition to the rules Houston has Austin also has impervious cover requirements and Austin has actual zoning.

    All MD or M1EK can do is dumbfoundly point back at the paper. I think they are so used to pointing at the paper they have no other response.

    Its kind of amusing but its kind of sad at the same time.

    Its really funny you keep pointing to the conclusion of the paper. Dude did you actually read the paper. All it mentions is a bunch of rules that for the most part Austin has in place and in Austin they are actually stricter.

    So I want to be as clear as possible

    Houston restrictions
    A bunch of random rules about lot size and parking and what not

    Austin restrictions
    1. A bunch of random rules about lot size and parking and what not that are for the most part more restrictive than Houston.
    2. Impervious Cover Requirements
    3. Actual Zoning.

  4. MD (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 4:32 pm



    Austin: a bunch of random rules which are much less restrictive than Houston’s (lot length, parking, etc.).

    Houston: more restrictive rules.

    Austin: zoning

    Houston: restrictive covenants (MORE restrictive in most cases than would be zoning).

  5. lurker (unregistered) on February 14th, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

    Im almost begining to feel bad. Its like im kicking you around like a football.
    Your argument just gets weaker and weaker.

    > NO,

    > Austin: a bunch of random rules which are much less restrictive than Houston’s (lot length, parking, etc.).
    > Houston: more restrictive rules.

    I love that you think by stating your opinion that proves your argument. I mean at some point did you
    become the the pope.

    Ok lets go through a few specifics


    From the article when talking about Houston
    *Single-family homes must be on lots large enough to “(e)nsure that two vehicles per dwelling unit can be parked
    entirely on the lot.”

    Austin has this same requirement. I know because I have had to go to the city to get plans approved.
    In addition if you have a duplex you have to have 4 spaces. But in addition Austin has a requirement where you
    cannot stack more than two cars in.

    -lot size

    Ok first off most of Austin is zoned where 5750 square feet is required. You mentioned 3600 which is true of SF-4A and SF-4B lots. Do you know how many lots in Austin are zoned SF-4A and SF-4B the answer hardly any.

    But wait its gets better. I said Houston has a mimimum lot size of 5000. I didnt want to get into specifics but I guess I will. From your glorious paper you are all ga ga about.

    In 1998, [FN63] Houston narrowed the scope of its minimum lot size ordinance: the
    5000-square-foot minimum now applies only to “suburban” areas, [FN64] defined as areas
    outside Interstate Highway 610, [FN65] a highway which encircles, and is about five miles from,
    downtown Houston. [FN66] In “urban areas,” by contrast, the minimum lot size is now typically
    3500 square feet.” …. “And in 1998, the city did exactly that, reducing the minimum lot size within the 610 Loop from
    5,000 square feet to 3,500 square feet–and even to 1,400 square feet under certain circumstances”

    And trust me the number of lots in Houston in the urban area is far far far greater than the number of SF-4a and SF-4b lots in Austin.

    So in summary in Austin most lots have to be 5750. A very very small number of lots can be 3600. In Houston suburban lots can be 5000. And urban lots can be 3500.

    – lot length
    This is much less important than lot size. But Austin actually does have a restriction on this.
    I could not find a mention of Houston having such a restriction.

    > Houston: restrictive covenants (MORE restrictive in most cases than would be zoning).

    Yeah you guessed Austin has restrictive covenants as well. As do most cities in Texas.
    I know because I have had to deal with restrictive covenants on properties in Austin.

    In addition Austin has impervious cover requirements. And in addition to that we have actual zoning.

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