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Archive for the ‘Walkability’ Category

Midtown square bagby

Midtown Square development on West Gray, Houston. This development doesn’t flood, and it doesn’t contribute to flooding. It is a high-interaction neighborhood that builds social capital. (Google Map)

The impacts of Harvey still have our full attention.  We are all agreed—we don’t want to live through another Harvey.  We want to be so much better prepared for the next one. In that case, we better hope the next big one isn’t coming our way anytime soon.

“Do something!” seems to be the watchword of the day. The question is whether or not we will do the right thing. We are clearly taking some good steps in the right direction, but I fear we may lack the necessary organizing principles to build a Houston that is resilient for the next 100 years and beyond.

I suggest two watchwords that could lay the foundations for a robust resilience: watersheds and walkability. Watersheds are the template upon which we build. We must understand both the limitations and the advantages of our watersheds.  Walkability builds the social capital that provides the glue for strong communities. Both the city we build and the watershed we build it on must be healthy in every way if we are to remain vibrant into the next century. (more…)

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Pier and Beam house-Daniel

The author’s son Daniel holds the line level with the first floor of our house in Eastwood.

Staying out of the floodplain is the number one measure that Houston needs to take to reduce impacts from flooding. Overbank flooding from the creeks and bayous is the deepest and most serious kind of flooding. But anywhere in Houston is subject to street or sheet flooding, the kind that occurs when the amount of rain exceeds the capacity of the storm drains. If an Allison lands in your neighborhood–40 inches in ONE day, not 4 like Harvey –and you are not elevated above the level of street flooding, you will get water in your house even if you are far from a bayou or a floodplain. A storm well short of Allison could do the same. (more…)

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For many Texans, this week will be unlike any other because they got flooded. Getting on track will be long and heartbreaking. People will find their strength, but I also know their savings will be drained, debts created, and life’s plans disrupted. For many others, including myself, this week is the same as any other because my house did not flood. Water came close, but it receded in hours. For my wife and I, our nerves are frayed, but our finances and home life are whole. And, we will help friends and strangers recover.

The accounting in this disaster is simple: I and others who were spared received the Harvey dividend, while those flooded paid the Harvey premium. You don’t need to own stock to get a Harvey dividend. Live in the right place and build in the right way, and the payout for being resilient is virtually automatic. And, you don’t need to have insurance to owe premiums. Each day away from school and work, each dollar spent ripping out moldy carpet, each month that passes to get life right-side up is a premium paid.

This may seem like an unfair lottery for those that got flooded, but this is no lottery. Where we build and what we build matters greatly. The term business-as-usual is shorthand for lack of vision and courage, and business-as-usual is putting people in harms’ way. It is impossible to know when the next accounting will take place. But, here we are again, the third 100-year event in three years.

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Many park destinations are along Houston’s bayous, but often you can’t follow the waterway from one destination to the next. That’s a limitation when you want to travel through the park–walking the dog, running, or biking–as opposed to settling in for a picnic or sunbath.  Happily, the Bayou Greenways 2020 program will fill the missing links between public green spaces with a continuous trail system along the major bayous. (more…)

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Can Coastal Smart Growth be Resilient and Safe?

Could the  French Quarter be a pattern of  coastal community  resilience?

Pierce Lewis called New Orleans  the Inevitable City in the Impossible Place. How would you not have a major city at the mouth of the largest river in North America, draining a vast and productive hinterland?  But what a crazy place to put a city! Coastal areas are inherently hazardous. But they are also inherently attractive. In fact, it is probably safer to say that they are inherently irresistible. People ARE going to settle on the coast, and very often on some of the most hazardous areas of the coast. (more…)

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