Tag Archives: Montrose

Montrose Residents Mobilize For Better Sidewalks

More than a century old, Montrose is one of the most well-known neighborhoods in Houston.  In that time, it’s been home to American Presidents, world-famous celebrities and various counter-cultural movements. It’s also quite possible that many Montrose residents and visitors are walking on 100-year old, original sidewalks.  One can only imagine the poor condition when many sidewalks haven’t been repaired since the Wilson administration.  As KPRC Local 2 reports, many in the neighborhood are fed up.

Families in Montrose are circulating a petition demanding the city to fix a dangerous problem in their neighborhood. We’re talking about sidewalks, or the lack of them, in some areas of Montrose.

The group has sent out a letter to residents asking them to sign a petition to ask the city for help in getting some repairs to the sidewalks. The sidewalks are chipped, broken or missing altogether, but the city says the repairs are not necessarily its responsibility.

Montrose is one of the trendiest neighborhoods inside the Loop, filed with little shops, restaurants and quaint homes. But now, more than ever, residents say the neighborhood’s aging sidewalks and streets are in desperate need of repair.

“They are always uneven, they are always littered, they’re impassable, so I end up walking in the street,” said resident Anna La Perna. “You can’t use the sidewalk.” The Montrose Sidewalks Coalition, a group made up of residents, sent a letter to neighbors asking them to sign a petition to encourage Mayor Annise Parker and the city to help with the issue.

“I think she is doing nothing and not enough. She is worried about a select few and not all of us,” said La Perna. The group also says people are tripping and getting hurt because of the mess.

Full disclosure… I am both a resident of Montrose and a frequent pedestrian and user of public transportation.  Just like the above, I end up walking on the street rather than risk tripping on large, broken pieces of sidewalk.  That said, I fully share the frustration of my neighbors and want these sidewalks fixed.  But under current municipal law, the City of Houston is not responsible for fixing sidewalks, and instead passes that burden on to property owners.

As the Montrose Sidewalks Coalition points out in their petition, the current ordinance may also present some bigger problems…

Our community’s children do not have safe routes to school and are forced into the street with oncoming traffic due to missing and broken sidewalks. We have many schools within easy walking distance, however the state of our school routes is appalling.

Many visually and mobility impaired citizens live in or visit Montrose for specialized services available in Montrose. The infrastructure is not ADA compliant and a significant barrier to access. Accessible design for the visually impaired is almost non existent. As older residents age in place, this will increasingly become a safety issue of large proportions.

Several sections of Montrose, suffering from a triumvirate of poor sidewalks, jagged curbs and pothole-ridden streets do not meet basic compliance standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Could the lack of maintenance on Houston’s sidewalks leave the city liable in an injury or death case?  Would it leave property owners liable if someone hurts themselves on a poor sidewalk?

Poor sidewalks are a problem in every corner of Houston… not just Montrose.  A constant complaint shared by Houstonians, it is starting to capture major attention in the city’s  political debate.   Jenifer Rene Pool, a long-time public advocate and candidate for Houston City Council, made sidewalks a central issue of her 2013 campaign, and even recorded a YouTube video to state why these repairs are so important. As Pool points out below, sidewalks should be a cornerstone of the city’s general mobility plan.  For seniors or someone with a disability, it’s just not safe to get around by foot or in a wheelchair.  If other neighborhoods follow the lead of the Montrose petitioners, you can be sure sidewalks will be a hot topic in the 2015 elections.

This is not to say that nothing has been done.  Mayor Parker has made some good faith efforts to address the problem, most notably a complete streets executive order that ensures any future construction done by the city will take into account all forms of mobility, including safe, usable sidewalks.  Even if city government can’t immediately correct mistakes of the past, at least someone has a better plan for the future.  But until this executive order becomes an ordinance, there’s no guarantee that a future Mayoral administration would follow these practices.

Houston is changing rapidly, and perhaps no area has experienced those changes faster than Montrose. But every resident of the Bayou City deserves top quality infrastructure.  After so many decades of neglect and a massive amount of ground to cover, it’s going to be a massive challenge to accomplish and pay for such repairs.  But waiting any longer is also not an option.  If Houston is to be a true national leader in the 21st century, we can’t do it on infrastructure from the early 20th century.  True leadership has to start from the ground up.



Montrose, Meet Your ‘Poe’ Excuse for a Congressman

Houston is very diverse city, and few areas give a better taste of that diversity than the neighborhood of Montrose. It’s the heart of the GLBT community, and home to much of the city’s progressive (yes I said PROGRESSIVE) community. And in 2013, we have a “new” United States Congressman… Ted Poe.

So just what does Congressman Poe have in common with Houston’s progressive community? As it turns out, absolutely NOTHING. He has worked hard to earn a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which means that he is the absolute enemy on all GLBT issues from marriage equality to hate crimes prevention. Had Ted Poe had his way, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for our nation’s military would still be in place. And of course the Congressman is new to our area, but it’s worth noting that he was one of only 7 house members to vote against the Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization in 2009. Named after an Indiana teenager that died of the disease, Ryan White CARE is “insurance of last resort” for poor advanced HIV and AIDS patients when they can’t get medication or healthcare elsewhere. It’s also a critical funding source for clinics in the Montrose area that treat these patients. Well guess what, neighbors… it’s up for Reauthorization again this year.

Another issue that is certainly of concern to the citizens of Montrose is Immigration reform. We are in Texas, afterall. Regardless of how Immigration reform plays out, it will have a major effect on the the city of Houston, the state of Texas and all over. Most Montrose residents in fact probably know someone that will be directly affected, it not themselves. So if you were wondering where Mr. Poe stands in regards to Immigration reform, don’t expect him to have much empathy, or insight for the complex situations of Texas families. He likens illegal immigration to something that can be cured with insect repellant. Listen to what he said…

“Now it seems to me that if we are so advanced with technology and manpower and competence that we can capture illegal grasshoppers from Brazil, in the holds of ships that are in a little small place in Port Arthur, Texas on the Sabine River… If we’re able to do that as a country, how come we can’t capture the thousands of people that cross the border everyday on the southern border of the United States? You know they’re a little bigger than grasshoppers and they should be able to be captured easier.

If you’re looking for an adult conversation about our nation’s immigration system, you ain’t-a-gonna get it from Ted Poe.

Thankfully, the Congressman has recently softened his stance, saying in a recent Politico Op-Ed that he even supports Immigration reform now. But thanks to clips like the one above, I’ll have to believe it when I see it.

Perhaps what is most disturbing was a the recent vote to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, which Ted Poe gladly voted against. Of course when the citizens of Southeast Texas needed 1.7 Billion dollars in federal funds to recover from Hurricane Ike, Congressman Poe was a thankful recipient. So when it’s Texas families that need help repairing their homes and getting loans for their businesses, it’s “aid”, but if those families are in New Jersey it’s “wasteful spending”?

So Montrose there you go… this is the guy we’ve been stuck with thanks to Texas’ shoddy redistricting program. But our neighborhood does not have to be ignored. In fact, we should introduce ourselves to the Congressman with some phone calls, emails, Tweets and throw in a couple of invitations to the Pride Houston this summer.

We’re already in a Red State, right? Let’s show Mr. Poe just how red we can get.

Tracking Inner Houston’s Growth: Grocery Stores

I thought this would be an interesting thing to compare. We all know that the inner loop of Houston is growing… there’s a fast pace of infill occurring right now. But are all of these apartments and townhomes equating to actual population growth?

Instead of going on the normal real estate data, I decided to track grocery store development inside a portion of the inner loop between 2008 and 2012. Two things to note…

1) This is within the bounds of basically four neighborhoods… Downtown, Midtown, Montrose and Rice Military. Some stores are on the boundaries of other areas (like the Heights)

2) This is only “major” grocers… chain stores in large format. It doesn’t include corner stores. Phoenicia in downtown isn’t exactly Super-markets, but in my opinion is large enough to be considered a major grocer.

In 2008 here were the area’s major grocers…

Spec’s Midtown, Fiesta Midtown, Randall’s Midtown, Kroger Montrose, Fiesta Montrose, Whole Foods River Oaks, Randall’s River Oaks, Kroger River Oaks

Here’s the list in 2012, with opening dates for the new additions…

Spec’s Midtown, Fiesta Midtown, Randall’s Midtown, Kroger Montrose, Fiesta Montrose (closed), Whole Foods River Oaks, Randall’s River Oaks, Kroger River Oaks, Phoenicia Downtown (2011), Whole Foods Montrose (2011), Target Sawyer Heights (2009), HEB Montrose (2012), Wal-Mart Market Heights (2012?), Trader Joe’s Montrose/River Oaks (2012?)

Between 2008 and late 2012/2013, it appears that inner Houston’s major grocery stores will grow by 40%. Inner city Houston is definitely transforming… FAST!