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Our view and information on the Transition Ordinance

Dear Council Member,

As you have likely heard, the Planning Department is going to present their recommendations regarding the reconsidering historic districts next week.  We respectfully request your careful consideration and evaluation all of the evidence regarding the transition process for the existing and pending districts.  The controversy and divisiveness of this issue has been created because there is NOT wide spread support in these districts.

I have been contacted by preservation groups in other cities.  They too support preservation efforts in their community but are very concerned about the process by which these districts are being created.  They have asked me to put together a task force to correct these problems and ensure that the property rights of homeowners are protected.  There is 100% agreement among all of these groups across the state of Texas that historic preservation efforts must be community driven and supported by a super majority of the affected property owners.  Without this level of support, preservation efforts ultimately will not be successful.   They are watching what happens in Houston with our districts.  We have an opportunity to be a good example for the rest our state. more

Affidavit of HHA regarding restrictive covenants for Houston Heights addition

Our position on the transition process

Union non-vote article

Chapter 208 of the Texas Property Code

Find Out What Homeowners are Saying

I am a resident of Houston Heights West Historic District. I am not a builder, architect, or designer and am not employed in the building industry. However, I studied one full academic year of Historic Preservation at Mary Washington College, at the time the only college which offered a degree program in Historic Preservation. The first thing that we learned was that being old does not make for a historic property. Further, we learned that houses should be preserved only if they are an outstanding example of a particular architectural style, are well built and in a restorable condition, and remain functional for a modern family. Alternatively, houses should be preserved if they represent some historic event, such as being George Washington's house of birth or the site of a Civil War Hospital. I also studied Architectural Design for three years at the College of William and Mary and worked on restoration projects for several historic properties in Virginia while in college. These experiences give me a great appreciation for Historic Preservation with much practical experience and some scholarly understanding of the field. In my opinion the new Historic Preservation rules are a misguided and overreaching attempt at Historic Preservation in the Houston Heights. There are some very good examples of Craftsman and Victorian style architecture that should be preserved in the Houston Heights. However, a blanket law that deems as historic all properties greater that 50 years old, such as written, is not practical and I am confident would not be supported by serious academic scholars in the field of Historic Preservation. 

Houses such as mine are not good examples of any architectural style and are not suitable for the square footage needs of the modern family, because it is only 960 square feet with extremely small rooms. My house is technically a cottage but a poor example of one. My house is poorly constructed and would be impossible to expand in a cost effective and satisfactory manner because of numerous structural deficiencies. The roof rafters are 2" x 4" and badly sagging.  It is an all sheet rock house with no interior ship-lap lining and has 8 ft. ceiling heights with modern stud lengths. The floor beams are creosote-soaked soft pine, resting on concrete blocks which have no piers or pads beneath them. I checked and the concrete blocks supporting the are simply floating on the ground with no solid foundation. The sagging floor joists and band boards are mis-cuts from the saw mill (7-1/4" tall) making them difficult to replace or infill. All framing is on 24" centers and consisting of soft, probably second growth pine. There is a serious flaw in the facade of the house which has a window bank which is not centered in the street-facing gable, a feature which no architect or quality builder would have approved in any period. The flaw was likely the result of an ad hoc modification to the house plan, potentially during construction to give the front bedroom a small closet at the expense of the porch square footage and symmetrical considerations.  Also, the house is listed in HCAD as being built in 1930 when this is definitely a post 1940 and most likely post WWII era construction based on the materials used, construction techniques, and ceiling height. Finally, there is a notation in the garage floor that the floor was poured in 1948 - the materials and style of the garage are exactly the same as the main house, indicating that they were likely built at nearly the same time. Yet my house is listed as "Potentially Contributing" to an Historic District, which is historic on the basis of it's pre-1940 Craftsman and Victorian style architecture. Nevertheless, my house will be subject to the new restrictions if enacted. This historic designation for my property seems inappropriate given that it was not built in a Craftsman or Victorian style or even in the time periods when these styles were predominant and my house is not well built by the standards of any era.

When I purchased my house it was not located in a historic district and I specifically purchased it with the plan to demolish and replace it when my square footage needs increased, fully recognizing the structural and aesthetic deficiencies. The house is big enough for only one or two persons. However, when my family expanded, I planned to replace the existing house with an appropriate Craftsman style house on drilled piers that was big enough for a family. However, the rules have changed and are threatening to prevent me from pursuing my plans for the property. My plans would increase the home values in my block. In contrast, preserving a poorly-built small house with no architectural value would continue to suppress property values in the area. An addition to my house would be structurally unsatisfactory or else very expensive because of the existing rafter and floor joist design, a lack of an adequate foundation, small room dimensions and low ceiling heights. The historic preservation rules as currently written for the Houston Heights will preserve poorly built and aesthetically poor structures simply because they are old. This will in my opinion will suppress property values and is not good historic preservation practice. I do not support the recently enacted Historic Preservation rules but would support rules that encourage the construction of compatible structures and that encourage preservation of homes which are outstanding architectural examples. The new rules should allow the demolition and replacement of homes which although they may be old are not outstanding examples of the predominant architectural style which gives the neighborhood it's historic character or which have serious structural deficiencies such as poor foundations.  



Re: Proposed Amendments to City's Historic Preservation Ordinance —Possible Unlawful Redrawing of Historic Districts' Boundaries.

Dear Mr. Feldman:

My wife and I are property owners residing in the Heights East Historic District and we wish to emphasize that the City of Houston must follow the letter of the existing law in pursuing the proposed amendments to the City's Historic Preservation Ordinance.

Namely, on the City of Houston's website there is a posting of "Questions and Answers from Public Meetings (current as of August 13, 2010) — Historic Preservation Ordinance Amendments Questions and Answers" relating to the proposed amendments.' The answer to the second question regarding what happens if the planned resurvey process fails to garner sufficient support from the property owners within an historic district contains the statement that "a determination may be made that there is sufficient support for a smaller contiguous group of property which would then become the district. " This statement begs the question: a determination made by whom?  more

Property Owner AGAINST Proposed Historic District Changes
Dear Mayor, City Council Representatives & Marlene Gafrick,
My wife and I are homeowners in The Heights.  We are deeply concerned about the proposed changes that are being considered and we fear for the impact that they will have on our neighborhood and community.  We support Historic Preservation, however we do not believe that this can be achieved with extreme measures such as those proposed.  We believe that as a result of the proposed measures, the following are inevitable side affects:  more
Dear Neighbors, 
When the petition for Historic Preservation first surfaced in 2006? 2007?, Ms. Beale came to our home a total of 4 times asking for our signatures.  At first they were polite conversations with questions and answers.  We repeatedly declined to sign the petition for a number of reasons. more
Paul Fruge´ on Push Back
A Critique of the Rutger's study oft quoted (by the pro ordinance change folks)

Here are the problems with the Rutgers study: 1) It is out-of-date. It covers the time period between 1973-1987; before the Berlin wall came down. It covered the time period when the urban areas were in decline. When families moved to the burb’s for better schools, to get away from crime, so their children could play in their yards and people could take evening walks. The establishment of urban historic districts during this time period brought stability to chaos. more

Property Values on the 1600 Block of Columbia 
I own a vacant lot in the 1600 block of Columbia. Even though I bought the lot 4 years ago and did not support the creation of the Historic East Heights neighborhood, the property is subject to the Historic Preservation Ordinance. more


Town Hall Meeting Schedule
The City is going to hold Town Hall meetings regarding redistricting for Council Districts. These will be one of the first venues we will target to protest City Council Members taking our property rights without a MEASURED level of continued support.  A Non-Vote does not constitute a measurable response in any democratic scenario.  No District Council Member will be exempt from our protests if they vote to keep these districts intact without a super majority level of support demonstrated by a measurable response from the neighborhoods.  Their residents need to know it could happen to them too! 

In the future, we will post public events for all Council Members so that you can participate in our demonstrations at their events.  We will provide flyers and informational handouts to give to attendees.  We hope that these protests will not be necessary but in the event that City Council does not demand a show of continued support for the existing and pending districts, we will let them know that we are not going away quietly. 

  Watch our video from October 19 and 23.

Read Council Member Bradford's Memo on the Historic District  Reconsideration Process Bradford's memo to the Mayor and their response. view here

Why Realtors Are Speaking Out on Historic Preservation  A few days ago I spoke at a Houston Planning Commission meeting.  When I returned to my seat, a woman behind me hissed “Are you a Realtor?”  more.


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