The City of Houston settlement with the Ashby developers is only a proposed settlement.  The Buckheads are quietly laying low and hoping that it is approved by the City, because they know that their legal case for damages is weak and highly speculative.  There is no reason why the City needs to settle this case at all or needs to settle it now, and there is certainly no reason why the City needs to hand back in the settlement many harmful features of the project that the City had previously rejected.  With a big turnout on Monday night, the neighborhood can communicate to the Mayor and the City Council that the City needs to go back to the negotiating table and get a better deal for the City and for the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, through cynical calculation or perhaps just coincidence, the Mayor’s office and Council Member Cohen’s office have scheduled this meeting during the Monday of spring break when many of our residents will be out of town.  And the meeting will be held in a house of worship in an enormous room that seats 800.  The Mayor clearly wants a subdued forum where the residents’ presence will be minimized to the television cameras that we know will be present.  So the neighborhood will be challenged like we have not been challenged before to make a strong showing.  Our most effective weapon is our numbers, so we are asking everyone who possibly can to show up on Monday night and be prepared to speak up.  Better yet, bring your friends that care about neighborhood protection, even if they live elsewhere, and make an event of it.

The Mayor is going to tell us that the City had no option but to settle on these terms, and we have to communicate to the Mayor that is nonsense.  The City’s position is a strong one, and even if it is inclined to settle the case, it does not have to settle on such generous terms.  And parts of the settlement are beyond ridiculous.  It is our task to speak with a united voice and convince the Mayor and any other City representatives who are present that:

1.    The City’s agreement to 18 additional units will let the traffic on Bissonnet go from horrible to beyond unacceptable.  The fig leaf of loaner bikes and shuttle buses to justify cramming more units into the project would set a shameful precedent for the City.  The project should not have 18 more units, it should have 50 fewer.  And the traffic data that have been used do not consider that we are about to be inundated with traffic from the impending projects on Greenbriar (340 new units); Dunlavy and Richmond, phase 2 (400 new units); and Alabama at Dunlavy (reportedly 400 new units) in addition to the new Hanover project in the Rice Village.

2.    The exit onto Ashby guarantees cut-through traffic into the neighborhood, which is something that everyone agrees has to be avoided.  Residents of the 1700 blocks of Wroxton and Albans, as well as any emergency vehicles that come to their homes, take their only access off Ashby.   The “right turn only” onto Ashby is destined to be ignored by the project’s residents as they flee the traffic disaster that will be Bissonnet.

3.    The City completely dropped the ball in the settlement by failing to include reasonable conditions during the construction phase.  A constructed project would do substantial harm to the neighborhood, but the two-year construction phase would be a disaster.  Can anyone identify a single high-rise project in Houston that has not wreaked havoc on the adjacent streets?  How can anyone build a high-rise project on a 1.6 acre tract at the intersection of two two-lane streets in the middle of a residential neighborhood without stopping traffic in its tracks?  Does anyone believe that the construction cranes will not be swinging over homes and streets?  Has anyone forgotten the I-beam crashing through the roof of Southampton Montessori during the construction of the high-rise project on Robinhood?

The Mayor campaigned as the “neighborhood protection” candidate, and Council Member Cohen campaigned on a promise to resist the Ashby High Rise.  Our neighborhood overwhelmingly supported both of these candidates, but it is time to let them know that we could not be more disappointed in this settlement.  To a public official, a full room of angry voters carries more clout than anything else.  We care passionately about this issue, we don’t like the settlement, and we turn out to vote.  So please do everything you can to come to the meeting on Monday night and show how important the Ashby  issue is to you and to your neighbors.  Bring your signs, bring your friends, and be prepared to say what’s on your mind.

Your continued support is vital.

If you cannot make it to the meeting because you will be out of town for spring break, please send an email to info@southamptoncivicclub.org and let us know how many in your family would have come to the meeting if you were not out of town.  We would like to share that information with the Mayor on Monday night.