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City Of Houston Getting Started On Developing ‘General Plan’

The goal is to have a strategic vision for the city’s future.


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Joe Webb is an architect and chair of Blueprint Houston, one of the organizations represented on the steering committee for Houston’s “general plan.”


The development of a “general plan” has long been discussed here in Houston. In April, during her State of the City speech, Mayor Annise Parker announced that it will happen.

“I say this outside of Houston all the time: No zoning doesn’t mean no planning,” she said. “We’re planning for the future and we’re doing it aggressively because the future is coming at us at a pace that no other city in America is experiencing.”

The same month, the city’s quality of life committee heard a presentation on the plan’s framework.

Now, Mayor Parker has appointed a steering committee made up of different organizations and institutions to develop it.

Joe Webb is an architect and the chair of Blueprint Houston. That organization is part of the committee and has advocated for the creation of a general plan since its founding in 2001.

He said it’s a like a road map for a city.

“It’s our strategic framework on how we operate as a city,” Webb said. “It helps us make fiscal decisions, it helps us make planning decisions, it helps us make other decisions that impact every part of what you and I experience in the city (that) happens on a daily basis.”

The goal is to have one vision that all city departments and agencies can refer to when they make policy decisions.

Webb said right now, the city has more than 200 area-specific plans. The general plan will help coordinate and consolidate some of them.

The Houston Housing Authority is another member of the steering committee. Its board chair, Lance Gilliam, said there’s already a good amount of collaboration between his agency and others.

“The general plan may memorialize some of that, may broaden those relationships but the foundation has already been laid for this to be an successful endeavor,” he said.

Gilliam said what he hopes to accomplish is to get more city incentives for the development of public housing for low-income residents.

“Those families are easily overlooked in a rising real estate market, when a developer can tear down 300 older 1970s units and replace them with brand new units and double the rent,” he said. “And I encourage that. I think it’s a great thing, but we just displaced 200 families, which would be somewhere, probably, around 550 to 600 people, and they’ve got to find somewhere new to live, and we need to be cognizant of that.”  

Gilliam said about 20,000 Houston families live in public housing, with 18,000 currently on the waiting list.

Webb said the committee is expected to come up with a vision statement for the general plan by the end of next month. The public will then be able to comment on it.

The finished plan is supposed to go before the City Council next summer.