"Mine is a one story, brick Craftsmen bungalow, it's got its all original hardwood floors..."
For 17 years, Megan Mastal has lived in Woodland Heights, a small residential neighborhood just west of I-45, and just north of I-10. Tonight, she and the Civic Association have organized a meeting to educate residents about an on-going project: getting historic designation for their neighborhood.
"One of the reasons why I was attracted to this neighborhood, is it's charm. For Houston it's a pretty old neighborhood, more than 100 years old, and there's a lot of Craftsmen bungalows, people know each other...there's a lot of opportunity to share and be a real community.Î¾ So we're very interested in protecting that."
"If everyone grabs something to eat and drink, we're going to get started in just a sec..."
Residents sip gazpacho and munch on eggplant tapenade as Courtney Tardy, from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, explains what historic designation means.Î¾ Residents must get approval from a city historical commission if they want to make structural changes to the front of the house, like adding doors or demolishing a wing.Î¾ They can do what they want with landscapes or interiors. Tardy says the city will work with residents to keep the character of the neighborhood intact:
"So you're going to see if there are lot of front porches. You might replicate a front porch. You might add a second story onto a block of one story homes, but you mayt do that in the rear of the house where it can't be seen from the front."
And in a typically Houston move, there is an opt out clause-if you wait 90 days, you can do whatever you want.Î¾ Civic Association volunteer Sharon Greiff says that leaves people plenty of flexibility:
"Well I want to be able to paint my house purple with pink polka dots. Actually, that doesn't stop you-well, the good taste stops you, but not historic designation."
The Woodland Heights subdivision is close to getting the designation.Î¾ 41% of residents have signed the petition since October of last year. But in many people's minds, there may still be a tension between preserving historic charm-and preserving individual rights.
"I guess, though, if I have mixed emotions about it, it's because I'm not a big fan of people restricting my freedom to use my property the way I want."
Matt McCracken lives in large forest-green house with red and beige trim, and a welcoming porch.Î¾ He supports historic designation, but he echoes the sentiments of residents who may not be comfortable with the idea:
"When I bought my house here, I didn't sign on for having restrictions on modifications to my house. My house was built in the '30's, and has been added on to over the decades.Î¾ And if I want to do another addition, I want to have that freedom to do so."
"It was built in 1912..."
Sean Haley is a block captain for the historic designation project.Î¾ He says all but two residents on his block have signed, but he doesn't know about other areas.Î¾ He hopes that his neighborhood can be a model for others in Houston:
"Somebody has to at least make a presence so that we can maybe set an example, and hopefully Houston will try and save what we've got from the past.Î¾ We don't have that much!"
In a city like Houston, many residents will likely want to preserve their right to do what they want with their own property.Î¾ History buffs hope they can strike a compromise to preserve some sense of their charming streets.
From the KUHF NewsLab, I'm Melissa Galvez.