Saturday, 28 November 2015

'Don't mess with Texas'...

...is the unofficial slogan for the state. Although they may mean this in a patriarchal sense, it also reflects in planning.
From a distance, planning in Texas can appear to be chaotic. However, upon physically exploring the state’s major cities and engaging in discussion with planners, this ‘chaos’ is essentially; organised chaos.

The city of Houston is ‘development friendly’, with no zoning regulations or ordinance; receiving both support and disapproval. The City of Houston has rapidly produced and has just recently adopted the city’s first general plan.
This plan is heavily supported by Houston’s mayor (whose term is near to its end), denoting the City’s rapid implementation of the plan in fear of rejection from the new mayor in office.

Although the city has no planning structures set in place, there are those who enjoy the development friendliness of the city. The no zoning policy essentially means that anyone can develop on land anywhere they want. With no defined urban growth boundary, the city has and is still seeing massive sprawl, which is primarily industrial/retail.

Houston has a growing population and alongside this comes implications for the city; transport, housing, pollution. Houston’s first general policy sets out 32 goals objectives in their plan.
One of which addresses housing; sufficient quality, affordable housing options through the community. This objective provides a framework for affordable housing, however, does not confront the growing population issue, in fact, it somewhat encourages growth.

The city’s objective addressing transport; an affordable, multi-modal transportation network providing convenient access and mobility throughout the region for people and goods.
Houston has an existing light rail system, however, this was only installed due to a large sporting event; as a response to a need. This applies to the idea of a new bus system, similar to a light rail. A member from Houston transport planning spoke to the group about the idea in progress; a flexible, efficient, cheap system that runs from uptown Houston right through to downtown. This system is in response to a need/problem.

Overall, Houston City’s first general plan encourages financial equitability, and incorporates objectives towards creating a more sustainable city, however, it does not address one key issue Houston is faced with; population growth.

Houston city has just very recently adopted their first general plan, so we are yet to see the progression of this; will it lead to the city’s demise, or will it be a step towards creating a more cohesive city?

Bella Morton-Pederson