REMINDER: Please attend the City Council Committee meeting on Regulation, Development and Neighborhood Protection tomorrow, Tuesday. January 22, 2008 at 3 p.m. in City Council Chambers. An update on the High Density ordinance status will be presented to the committee and there will be an opportunity for public comment at the end of the meeting. Plan to arrive early to ensure that you get a seat. We expect the development community will try to pack this meeting as they did two weeks ago. We will have Stop Ashby stickers available for you to wear. Please try to sit together and, if possible, wear a yellow tie or scarf.

High Density Ordinance

Our group has been well represented on the stakeholder committee offering input into this ordinance. An analysis by the City has determined that the Ashby project is the only project in the City which is so egregious that it falls under the ordinance as currently proposed. A copy of the latest ordinance is posted at http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/HDO/HDO_home.html.

The performance standards of the ordinance are under study by consulting experts hired by the city and we are attempting to determine the impact of the ordinance on the project as proposed. The results of this study will be offered to the stakeholder committee for consideration in the final ordinance drafting.

We are also scheduling individual meetings with all Council members to assure them of our commitment to this issue and to educate those new to Council about our position.

Developer PAC emergence in Opposition

It is now well publicized that the development community has formed a political action committee, Houstonians For Responsible Growth. One of their purposes is to combat this ordinance and to stem what the development community perceives as an unfavorable trend toward greater restrictions on land use. The arguments being raised are the broad themes that restrictions on land use reduce the supply of affordable housing, make it more difficult to create the kind of residential density which is needed for better mobility, and that this ordinance unfairly targets a single project.

Our response is that it is highly irresponsible to allow a development to unduly degrade the quality of life for area residents and that the proposed Ashby project highlights the need for limited land use restrictions to weed out projects that would be particularly destructive to the community. The fact that the Ashby High Rise is the only project captured by this ordinance is revealing. In crafting the ordinance, the City reviewed completed projects that do not unduly increase traffic in the neighborhoods where they are located and, as a test, ran the filters to determine if these projects would be captured. None of these workable projects were captured, demonstrating that the Ashby High Rise is subject to the ordinance because of its own flaws and not because it is being unfairly singled out.

Rick Casey, in his Chronicle article published on 1/13/08, wrote that the emergence of the developer PAC was a good thing because it meant that developers no longer own City Hall. Clearly your voices are being been heard! We believe that it means that our Council and the Mayor have paid attention to our numbers and message. We must reaffirm our position by continuing our strong presence at Council.

There have been many requests that we combine our efforts with other neighborhood groups, form our own PAC, and become involved in the larger fight beyond this particular ordinance. But our fight is here and now. We must keep our eyes on the most important target for the next three weeks: GETTING THIS ORDINANCE PASSED TO STOP THIS PROJECT.

What can I do now to help?

  1. Send letters and emails to all council members, new and old, reiterating your support for the ordinance.
  2. Attend the committee meetings on 1/22  if your schedule allows.
  3. Mark your calendars to attend the meetings noted below. The development community is now engaged on this issue and we need to show council our support by packing the Chambers on February 5 (VERY IMPORTANT!!!)

Upcoming High Density Ordinance meetings: All meetings will be held in the City Council Chambers, City Hall 2nd floor, 901 Bagby. (Meeting times subject to change. Check back on this website to verify the committee meeting times.)

1/22 3 p.m. Regulation, Development & Neighborhood Protection Committee Draft ordinance to be presented to the committee. Public input welcome.

2/4 1 p.m. Regulation, Development & Neighborhood Protection Committee
Final draft ordinance to be presented to the committee for approval.

2/5 2 p.m. CANCELLED – City Council Public Session We need everyone available to attend this meeting.

2/6* 9 a.m. City Council Meeting

(*The vote on the High Density Ordinance may be tabled until the 2/13 meeting. If this happens, we will return to the public session the following week on 2/12.)