A group dedicated to preserving old houses in the historic Heights neighborhood will hold a public meeting Sunday, in their effort to get the City to help protect and preserve old houses everywhere in town. Houston Public Radio’s Jim Bell reports.
The group’s name is Save the Bungalows, and spokeswoman Sheila Sorvari says that’s also their goal. To help urban neighborhoods that don’t have deed restrictions to protect them.
“Cause as everybody know Houston doesn’t have zoning. So without deed restrictions, you’re left pretty much unprotected as a neighborhood. And those neighborhoods happen to be urban, and many of them happen to be historic.”
Houston is the largest city in the country without zoning, which means residential areas are at the mercy of developers. Many neighborhoods with stiffly enforced deed restrictions have managed to prevent commercial encroachment, but many neighborhoods either don’t have them, or do have them and don’t enforce them. Sorvari says in the absence of deed restrictions, they’re trying to get the City to get involved and put controls on what developers can do in residential areas.
“An awful lot of urban neighborhoods the land has been purchased by speculators and developers, and they want to be able to build whatever they want. Take my own neighborhood. They’ll tear down a house that they paid 200 thousand dollars for, and put up a house that they can charge 800 thousand dollars for, and they can build it lot line to lot line.”
Sorvari says building lot line to lot line just destroys the residential character of older neighborhoods, and it’s going on all over town in areas with no deed restrictions. They’re pleading with City Hall to help.
“We would like to see an ordinance that would allow neighborhoods to decide on the size of the houses that may be built in that neighborhood, as a proportion of the lot size. A giant house requires a much bigger lot is our feeling. That you ruin the character of the neighborhood when you’re building town homes and and starter castles.”
To underscore the urgency of this problem, Sorvari says in the six months that ended May 1st, the City of Houston issued demolition permits for 72 addresses in the Heights area alone. She says something needs to be done soon, and they’ve invited several Houston City Council members and Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee to a public meeting Sunday to hear what they and people in the Heights and other neighborhoods have to say about all this. The meeting will be at the Heights Women’s Club at 2pm. There’s more information about the meeting, and the effort to Save the Bungalows on our website KUHF dot ORG. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.