November 17, 2020

A Matter of Due Process

The erroneously permitted parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Boulevard, in the CenterPoint utility easement by the railroad tracks, will soon be removed.  The City Council, after public hearing and on the unanimous recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, has itself unanimously rejected proposed zoning code amendments that would have retroactively allowed the parking lot to remain.  It took several months to get to this point, but that’s as it should be—the applicant, like any property owner, was legally entitled to due process, which included a stay of enforcement while its applications were pending.

November 10, 2020

Specific Use Permit Amendment for BHS Ballfields a Balancing Act

Of the 40 schools being replaced or repaired across the Houston Independent School District as part of its $1.89 billion 2012 bond program, Bellaire High School will be the last one completed.  That’s because the typical campus flip—building a new school on the adjacent athletic fields and then replacing them after the old school is torn down—which HISD has done often throughout unzoned Houston, was simply not an option.  The project stalled for several years, until finally in 2017 HISD presented a plan to relocate the baseball field to the site of the former Gordon Elementary/Mandarin Chinese school to make more room on the crowded BHS campus.  Following the public process, including a great deal of input from the surrounding neighbors and other stakeholders, the City Council granted a specific use permit to HISD to construct and operate a baseball facility at that location.

For the girls’ softball team, while a potential shared-use arrangement with the City at Feld Park was contemplated back at that time (but ultimately did not come to pass due to programming conflicts), HISD’s plans called for, and the specific use permit included, an overlapping softball diamond out in right field.  Since then, however, concerns have been raised whether this combined, single-field solution truly provided equal opportunity for the softball team as required by Title IX (and as the right thing to do).  HISD thus filed a new application last year, for its specific use permit to be amended to allow for the construction and operation of a separate softball facility in addition to the baseball facility previously approved.

November 4, 2020

Healing Our Divided Community

The sidewalks charter election was never really about sidewalks per se, but about the process by which sidewalk decisions are made.  More fundamentally, it was about the relationship between a self-governing people and its duly elected City Council (the 2018 City Council, to be precise), and, by implication, among the people themselves.  Whether you voted For or Against (or as some have reported you found it so confusing you’re not actually sure which way you voted), did anyone really win?  At what cost?