City of Houston Planning and Development Department
Bright Spot in My Day:
From the Planning Director
By the time you read this, Mayor Sylvester Turner will have released the Vision Zero Action Plan for Houston. This is a big deal. In my 34-year career with the City (as of December 15), I do not remember an effort that can be as transformative to Houston and as beneficial to Houstonians as this Plan.
Vision Zero is the City’s commitment to end traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Not reduce, end. Eliminate. Make no more.
If I asked for a show of hands for every person whose life or loved one’s was altered by a traffic crash, I bet I would see a lot of raised hands – too many hands. In Texas, we have gone more than 20 years without one day that no one died on our roads. In Houston alone, more than 1,153 people have died in traffic crashes between 2014-2018.
The Vision Zero Action Plan will change that. It identifies how the City of Houston, our agency partners and residents can make changes, big and small, to reduce crashes. More details and links to the document can be found in this newsletter. Read the Plan, see how you can contribute. This holiday season, and every day after, join us in taking action to make you, your family and our entire community safer on the roads.
Margaret Wallace Brown, A.I.C.P., Director,
Planning & Development Department
Margaret Wallace Brown, A.I.C.P. Director, Planning and Development Department
Livable Places Activity:
The Planning and Development Department recently launched the Livable Places initiative, which aims to update Houston’s development codes to create more opportunities to strengthen and preserve our neighborhoods. One of the goals of the committee is to consider ideas to better mitigate the effects of tall structures built next to single-family neighborhoods.
To better understand how these developments can affect neighborhoods in Houston, we have created an interactive activity on the department’s public engagement platform LetsTalkHouston.com.
We invite the public to drop a pin on the map tool, upload photos and answer a few short questions about tall structures in the community by Jan. 1, 2021. This map tool provides a platform for residents to provide comments and direct our attention to specific circumstances.
These comments will be compiled and presented to the Committee in January. The Livable Places Action Committee will meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 12, from 3-5 p.m. to review the existing Residential Buffering Ordinance requirements and discuss concerns.
Keeping up with
Houston remains at the national forefront for facilitating private land investments and protecting the public safety and welfare with unique development practices. Our no-zoning approach allows private landowners to classify their land for private investment by platting their land, according to Chapter 42 and Texas Local Government Code standards.
The Development Services team within the Planning Department administers the platting and related land preparation processes. A plat document is based on a boundary survey, which describes what currently exists on the property. The technical plat document takes development a step further by designating a future intention, or a classification and legal description for that land.
For example, a subdivision plat that has created a reserve describes land that is prepared for subsequent building permitting for a project that is not single-family residential. A subdivided lot is suitable for subsequent residential building permits. More information about platting processes are available on the Development Regulations web site.
To streamline the handling of over 2,400 plat applications annually, the electronic Plat Tracker platform was brought online in 2013, replacing a 13-year-old program. This past September, the system received significant upgrades to aid land developers and their technical advisors to continue to have fingertip platting convenience. Enhancements include a new payment portal, revamped recordation appointment scheduling and other technical options. Additional improvements are slated for 2021.
The final step in platting is the recordation of that approved document in the County’s Clerk Office. Plat recordation review appointments were one-on-one meetings prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Development Services team brainstormed to offer some new parameters for plat recordation customers, including:
Staff began accepting delivered documents (“mylars”) to minimize delays, instead of holding the normal in-person recordation appointments. It’s now easy for applicants to book an appointment and have a courier deliver the mylar.
Based on demand, staff extended appointment availability from 30 days to 60 days. Now, appointments have been opened for booking at any time in the future. Steps have been taken to minimize overbookings, so more applicants can secure a timely recordation appointment. Just one appointment is needed for a plat recordation.
For more information about Development Services, visit www.houstonplanning.com and click the Development Regulations tab, or contact the Development Services Planner of the Day at 832-393-6624.
Glenbrook Valley resident Isabel Doniz recently thanked the Houston Office of Preservation (HOP) for their assistance in securing a historical designation for her home, thereby thwarting previous demolition plans from the Texas General Land Office (GLO).
In October, the HOP team received an email regarding the demolition of Isabel Doniz’s home. GLO was acting as the administrators of the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and were requiring the demolition of the home to pay the claim for electrical damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Doniz did not want to demolish the home in which she raised her son and daughter, so she asked if a historic designation would offer any protection. She was passionate about the memories she had within the “Modern Junior Executive” model home, which was featured on the 1956 Parade of Homes.
“Having a new home built would be so easy to do, but I would lose the memories between these walls and the history here is worth more to my children and I than a new home,” Doniz said.
That quote, combined with the will to assist someone who has the same passion for the history of homes, was the driving force for the HOP team and Preservation Houston to collaborate on an appeal requesting the GLO to reconsider demolishing this beautiful mid-century modern home. In early November, Historic Preservation Planner Terrance Jackson worked with David Busch of Preservation Houston to present information to the GLO. By Dec. 11, the HOP team received an email from Doniz with the good news:
“I cannot thank you enough for the documents you provided about my home. They were instrumental in getting the proper designation and approval with The Hurricane Harvey fund and the General Land Office. As such, the project has been recategorized from Demolition/Build to REHABILITATION. This said, its historical designation allows for a higher maximum cap that more than covers the cost previously estimated,” Doniz wrote.
“The home will be rehabilitated, it’s historical significance will remain intact and a knowledgeable contractor will be used that will keep within the mandates of the city and state. The GLO called and thanked me for my forethought and diligence when asking for a reanalysis of the proposed demolition,” Doniz wrote.
“They apologized for not having a system in place to capture homes such as mine and stated that because of the way I handled the situation, they were now able to place stop-gaps in the intake process that would capture any future historically significant homes affected … I know I have you and David Busch with Preservation Houston, to thank for their diligence, care, and also phone calls to ensure this would not happen again,” she wrote.