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 SarahWesely
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New City Parking Ordinance to “Turn Montrose into a Parking Lot”

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CAR PICHouston is a city defined by a lack of zoning. While the majority of US cities plan which areas they want designated for shopping centers, businesses, bars or residences, Houston isn’t tied down by that invisible government map. That lone bar down the street from your house, the adult video store next to your church, the scattered clusters of skyscrapers , all these phenomena are gifts of Houston’s non-zoning approach to city planning. The parking problem, largely created by the lack of zoning laws, has ironically prompted the city to pass parking ordinances. These ordinances have the potential to become the most influential factor for the future of the densest areas of Houston.

The city is presently proposing an amendment to the current city parking ordinance. This amendment would increase the required parking spaces for all public establishments such as schools, beauty parlors, hotels and restaurants. The requirements for a bar, club or lounge is increasing by 40 percent and the requirements for restaurants is increasing by 20 percent. The only type of establishment not to see an increase in required parking spaces are shopping centers, whose parking requirement would drop by 20 percent.

While the amendment is aimed at solving the congested parking dilemma, it is clear that this amendment would have severe implications for the spatial use of our city. Businesses required to increase their parking would either redistribute their land or acquire more land for a parking lot. It could also mean the end of many small businesses, since some establishments are confined by space and any establishment can be fined $100 to $500 dollars each day they are not in compliance with the parking ordinance. It is clear that the creators of the amendment are aware of the fatal implications for small businesses since they included a clause for Historic Landmark buildings to be exempt from the ordinance.

A coalition of small local businesses is making their parking ordinance concerns known to city council. OKRA or Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, has been involved since November 2011. Bobby Heugel, the President of OKRA, owner of Anvil and part owner of Underbelly commented on why he views this ordinance as important for the future of Houston:

“They are asking for a 40 percent parking increase to bars and a 20 percent parking increase for restaurants. This creates a barrier to [the success of] the business. This is not only a discussion about parking. The bigger concern is that leaders in our city want to rely on cars instead of creating a city with mass transit. We are asking that city council take a slower, more manageable approach to addressing the parking problems. Do we want to see Montrose turn into a giant parking lot where only developers will be able to afford parking lots large enough for the ordinance?”

OKRA’s full point of view can be found on their Facebook page. One can personally voice their concerns to the council at the  sub-committee hearing on the parking ordinance. The meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday January 30, 2013 at City Hall which is located at 900 Bagby. You can also send your comments to Houston City Council Members through their website.

10 Responses to New City Parking Ordinance to “Turn Montrose into a Parking Lot”

  1. Allison January 30, 2013 at 10:46 am

    You know what happens when bars have less parking? A lot of people who want to go there will walk or bike or take a cab instead. Less drunks on the road, and the city is against this?

  2. Healthy skeptic January 31, 2013 at 10:50 am

    You’re sort-of missing the point there, Allison. What happens is that small businesses - in Montrose, The Heights, Garden Oaks, wherever - that can’t obtain more land for parking are going to hit with fines because there isn’t any land for them to buy more spots. This will cut into what is already a pretty razor-thin margin. Your end result is less “fewer drunks on the road” and more “why did my favorite tattoo parlor/bookstore/bar/restaurant turn into a Chili’s Express,” which I would hope most people in the city oppose.

  3. Katy January 31, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I’m not the most savvy when it comes to the government’s motivations for pusing certain ordinances, but the only benefit I can see for the government is that they’re pleasing the portion of the population who is upset about the lack of parking at some establishments. Will these businesses increasing their parking help the city or the city government in any other ways? Will it help economically? I’d guess it would hurt more than help, since portions of businesses might have to close down for construction. Some may even lessen the space in which they do business, which is also a decrease in encome. It certainly doesn’t place a positive impact on the environment either, since there will be construction and, as mentioned above, this whole ordinance encourages the use of automobiles versus alternative transportation.

    With other seemingly more pressing issues at hand, why is this a focus for the government, and what do they seek to get out of it? As stated before, I’m admittedly not the most savvy when it comes to this subject and it’s quite possible I’m missing something obvious.

  4. Barry Klein January 31, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    City’s with zoning also have parking codes and there is much variety in those codes.
    Zoned cities have lots of land use conflicts, just like Houston.

    Folks with a greater interest are welcome to contact me….

    Barry Klein
    Houston Property Rights Association
    713-224-4144
    bjklein@swbell.net

  5. Auby January 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    The amendment is COMPLETELY unrealistic for inside the loop… You cant turn us into surburbia.. Its a little late for that now… maybe there are exceptions to the rule besides historical markers that we arent aware of?? BUt I doubt it.. There is no way I can see this going through. Tell people to quit moving to Houston.. We are good! haha

  6. Allison January 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Didn’t miss the point at all, HS. Just pointing out another reason this is unbelievably stupid.

  7. Zedn January 31, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    The Houston Drunk Driving Encouragement Act of 2013.

  8. Rob February 1, 2013 at 8:29 am

    A parking garage with a local shuttle service would be all that is needed. Anyone out there willing to put up a parking garage? Each business could count a portion of the garage as their quota. Even a parking garage just outside the area with a shuttle should work.

  9. Cory February 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

    After reading this article, I’m truly saddened… If this preposterous proposition passes, Houston will and all the best most characteristic places we love soo much will rapidly loose their “charm”! I certainly hope it doesn’t pass!

  10. Bob February 1, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Excellent Article.

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