Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Please Allow Me To Offer The Fullest Extension Of The Back Of My Hand To Opponents Of Houston’s Ashby High Rise

Please allow me to offer the fullest extension of the back of my hand to opponents of the Ashby High Rise here in Houston. The specific location of the Ashby High Rise is 1717 Bissonnet.  

This absurdly tall building has been given a permit to go ahead by the City of Houston. It is a 23 story building in a residential neighborhood. 

That’s Houston for you. 

Normally I’d oppose this because developers are hyper-sleazy and I assume our Houston city government is rigged to favor developers over citizens.  

In this case however, I find the opposition to the building by the affluent citizens of the impacted neighborhoods to be obnoxious. These people have yard signs and bumper stickers and a web site.

The neighborhood groups opposing the building are the so-called Boulevard Oaks Civic Club and the so-called Southampton Civic Club.

Where have these groups been in the past in promoting a citywide agenda to help make Houston a more decent place to live? In the time since this issue has been on the table—at least 18 months—where have these groups been in helping a cross-section of Houston fight developers and fight the overall blight that is a well-deserved trademark of Houston as a whole.  

Many folks in Houston don’t have the resources for an organized opposition to runaway construction where they live.

Above is a picture of the Valero Refinery at 9701 Manchester in Houston. The picture is one I took a few nights ago as I took an evening ride in Houston. People live in close vicinity to this refinery. The air stinks. I’m not saying that this specific refinery is especially dirty. I have no way of knowing that. 

I’m just saying that plenty of people in Houston live near these Blade Runner type scenes and live near the bad air and noisy trucks and trains that serve these industrial facilities. Nobody cares so much about folks living near refineries and chemical plants. Here is the latest Houston Chronicle story about a bad air alert in the Ship Channel area.       

In the past I’ve suggested that the world’s tallest building or a biosphere be built at the Ashby High Rise location.

With the permit a go, I simply hope that the building is built. If for some reason the building is not constructed, maybe a refinery and extension of the Ship Channel to the Ashby High Rise area would be a good idea. Such a project would create jobs that are no doubt needed by people who live near refineries and the Ship Channel.

August 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Measures & Philosophies Of Progress In Houston

A contentious urban planning issue in Houston in recent months has been the so-called Ashby High Rise.

Houston has no zoning codes. You can build pretty much what you want where you want. 

Sleazy developers want to build an absurdly tall building in a residential neighborhood. The building is planned at 23 stories.  

On the other hand, many people of the targeted neighborhood are affluent and strike me as annoying. I just can’t believe, as they assert at times, that they also care about other parts of Houston.

I’m certain many of the individuals fighting the project are decent people. But I’m not aware that this neighborhood was organized before to assist people who live near the stench and toxins of the Houston Ship Channel.

Folks opposed to the high rise have the resources to print up bumper stickers and yard signs. They have a web page. 

A few months ago I suggested the tallest building on Earth should be built in this community.

Maybe a compromise could be that the Ashby high rise is built, but all profits from the project are stripped from the developer and architect.   

That way everybody loses.

I was taking a walk a few days ago and I asked myself why I support the construction of the tallest building on Earth at the Ashby location.   

The most positive outcome of all this seems to be that the City of Houston use the issue as a starting point towards increased regulation of development in Houston.  If people I don’t like are the first to benefit, so be it.

But I just can’t get myself there. 

One sometimes appealing aspect of Houston—when I am feeling the small measure of self-loathing that I see as essential to the broadly healthy personality— is that little pretense is made that it is a decent place. 

Many of Houston’s people are poor and the city is often quite ugly. These facts have been the case for many years now.

A small bit of increased regulation holds out the dispiriting hope that things can be better, when what you really feel is that the people proposing the small changes are not at heart sincere.

You could argue some progress is better than no progress, but I’ve seen many times that a little bit of progress often benefits those who least need the help.

A little bit of progress provides political cover for politicians who at heart lack the political will and imagination to advocate for more substantial change. A little bit of progress allows people to think that things that are bad are instead okay.

The other problem with the some progress is better than no progress point-of-view, is that it is often put forth by people who call themselves “moderates” or “pragmatic.” This implies that others are extremists and off the charts. Only the moderate is being “reasonable.”

Yet in many cases the more moderate position involves letting ongoing wrongs go unaddressed.

This is why Martin Luther King often spoke of “The urgency of now.” (Please click here for my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List.) 

Also, I find it is often those who already hold power who define what moderation and pragmatism are for the rest of us.   

The people living around the Ashby high rise seem to have been done okay by Houston. So let them have Houston  in all its forms. Build the damn building.

Life is, of course, often a series of incremental steps, and if I had final say-so over the Ashby high rise I suppose I’d veto the project. ( Though I’d squeeze the neighborhood for some cash for other parts of Houston.)

Yet I also know that mammals would not have been able to rule the Earth unless the dinosaurs had gone away. Sometimes—if only just sometimes– life requires sweeping change.

To show I’m reasonable, I no longer support construction of the tallest building on Earth at the Ashby high rise location.

Instead, I now support construction of a biosphere. ( See picture below.) With this compromise solution, local residents who feel the neighborhood would be diminished by a large out-of-scale structure, would now at least have the option of moving into one of the many environments contained within the biosphere.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , , , | 5 Comments