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Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

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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AUT_0022

I-45 in Galveston County.   A neighborhood of isolation with a high per-capita destruction of native prairie.

We have all heard the Harvey wakeup call. We all know we can’t continue business as usual. We have to change our ways. We will in fact be “the city that floods” unless we stop being the “city of no limits.”

Unlike previous storms, every one of us knows personally someone who was flooded out of their house. This storm will long remain with us. The Harvey aftermath will last much longer than previous storms—and thus will provide a longer “teachable moment” for us to think about our future. Let’s make this teachable moment about much more than flooding. Maybe thinking about how to be a great city will help us deal more rationally with the flooding as well. (more…)

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Were the impacts of Harvey in Houston a result of no zoning in the city of no limits? This assertion seems to be the catch-all phrase used by Houston’s detractors for all that was exposed by Harvey in terms of planning or the lack thereof.  On the other hand, critics of regulation like to point out that zoned cities fared just as badly as Houston during Harvey. Our Mayor famously said that “zoning wouldn’t have changed anything. We would have been a city with zoning that flooded.” (more…)

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There are many things that we must think about as we begin to consider how to rebuild Houston. But one thing stands above the rest, literally: elevation. Elevation is the number one predictor of flooding and flood damage.  Water seeks the low spots; we need to seek the high spots. It is just that simple.  Elevation needs to be our watchword.  Elevation needs to be the metric but which we gauge all new development as well as all redevelopment.

Elevation is about getting people and structures above the level of the floodwaters. All of the practices and policy issues that involve getting people out of harm’s way involve elevation. (more…)

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Capture

An example of floodplain tailgating?

As I drove into work this morning I found myself behind an 18-wheeler. I was keeping the required distance—one car length for every 10mph, more or less, when the truck swerved just a wee bit, getting pretty close to the concrete divider of the inside lane we were traveling in. (more…)

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