Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summertime = Family Time

I am actually a little late in posting this notice, but this is the time of year when I stop worrying about the Heights Life and focus more on family life. As anyone who has small kids, or was once a small kid themself, knows summer is a pretty special time. We'll be having lot of fun all around the neighborhood... and beyond! These are the days that define a childhood.

We'll still be sharing neighborhood news, food, local shopping, and other tidbits on 


Hope to see you there!

Sing it, Belinda!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Magnolia Grove's Petition to Save a School

While I don't have a horse in this race, I feel the pain of this community. Right now many of us feel at the mercy of developers who see our communities as cash cows instead of neighborhoods (See: Morrison Heights). 

Magnolia Grove Civic Association and Super Neighborhood 22 are making efforts to have HISD keep the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in it's current location. Here is a explaination from resident and Board Member Marlene McCourt about the issue:
This Thursday afternoon, the HISD trustees will be voting on the sale of the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (HSLECJ).  HSLECJ was ranked one of the top high schools in the country by the Washington Post.   HISD does not have to sale this property; nonetheless, the trustees are seriously considering the sale.  There are two bids.  One is from St. Thomas High School.  The other is from a developer, A.V. Dickson St., LLC.  A very quick web search for A.V. Disckson St. LLC and Alara Ventures found little to no information. 

St. Thomas High School wants the land to expand their school.  They are a private school but they also give back to the community.  Thirty-five percent (35%) of their students receive financial aid which adds up to about $1.45 million annually. 

Alara Ventures has also purchased the Buffalo Bayou Apartments.  These apartments are adjacent to St. Thomas.  The additional purchase of the HSLECJ property will allow Alara Ventures for a bigger development.  This development will be a mixed use development.  It will include offices, retail and residential (probably apartment) spaces.  Do we want that type of development without the infrastructure to support it?   That traffic will go through our already taxed, narrow, old streets. Our neighborhood is plagued by constant issues with water pressure.

One thing to keep in mind is that HISD does not have to sell this property.  In my opinion, it is a shame to sell and destroy beautiful mature trees, green space and another historic building, which is still in use.  Now, it has been said by some of the trustees that the building is beyond repair; however, we see old buildings getting repaired all of the time.  (The Heights Life note: Have these people ever been to Boston, Washington DC, or any other city with many buildings over 100 years old? Tearing down is so wasteful. How long do we think we're going to have landfills to dump entire buildings in? Maddening.)
HSLECJ, photo from panoramio.com- Wolfgang Houston
Additionally, the students at HSLECJ have nowhere to go if this sale goes through.  This is why there is a Triple Net Agreement attached to the sale.  It is being proposed the HSLECJ be moved to a location in the third ward, a very unsafe part of that ward. There is no facility there and it would have to be built. 

This sale comes with a Triple Net Lease for either buyer.  In a Triple Net Lease, the tenant (which HISD would become for five to six years) would be responsible for taxes, building insurance and maintenance.  With Alara Ventures, the taxes would be paid by HISD.  On the other hand, St. Thomas is tax exempt so the cost of property taxes would be non-existent, thereby lowering the amount spend on the Triple Net Lease.   HISD must look at this when doing the numbers. 

Here is the way I see it:   Our first option should be for HISD to keep HSLECJ.  HISD should repair this beautiful building.  If HISD cannot do this, then sell it to Saint Thomas.  HSLECJ at its current location is at an easy distance to the courts.  Its central location is convenient for the students who come from all over the city to attend HSLECJ. 

Often, we feel we need things from our elected officials.  Often, we feel ignored.  I know it’s frustrating.  The only way we are going to make a difference is to STAND UP and BE HEARD.  We must attend the meetings, we must make phone calls, we must write letters, we must send emails.   A few people will not make a difference.  It needs to be a lot of us.  We need to let them (the city government and HISD) know that we want a say in how our tax dollars are spent.

Here are some things you can do: 

1.  Be informed.   Here are some links with additional information. 

http://www.theleadernews.com/?p=10795   Please note, this article DOES NOT take into account the difference is tax payments for St. Thomas (no tax) vs. Alara Ventures. 

2. Be heard.  Send emails.  Make phone calls.  See the information below containing procedures for speaking to the trustees as well as email addresses. 

3. Get others involved.  Let your neighbors know what is going on.  Encourage them to go to this meeting with you.  If you don’t know who your next door neighbor is, now is a great time to meet them. 

4. Sign the petition.  Get your neighbors and friends who live in the HISD areas to sign the petition.  Here is the link: https://www.change.org/petitions/houston-independent-school-district-keep-the-law-enforcement-and-criminal-justice-hs

5. Work fast.  The meeting is this Thursday afternoon.  Let’s get this done. 

If you wish to address the board at the upcoming meeting, you must register the day before the meeting.  Please follow this link for information on how to register:  http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/32478

Here is the list of HISD Trustees:

Anna Eastman, District I

Juliet K. Stipeche, District VIII
First Vice President

Manuel Rodriguez, Jr.  District III
Second Vice President

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, District II

Michael L. Lunceford, District V
Asst Secretary

Paula M. Harris, District IV

Greg Meyers, District VI

Harvin C. Moore, District VII

Lawrence Marshall, District IX

There have been a lot of people in the Heights who have sung the usual refrains: What about property rights? You don't like it, you buy it. You can't stop the progress. These people are now seeing unwanted developments closer to home than they ever suspected. They're going to start fighting harder. Will they win? Well, that's going to take a lot work and some serious changes, but it can happen. In the meantime, the least we can do is work together to show developers that we CARE about our neighborhood. We have already made an investment here. We bought more than just four walls when we bought our homes. We bought a neighborhood character and sense of community that developers refuse or don't care to see. That's why Terry Fisher, who is building the Morrison Heights development, basically told the Woodland Heights Assoc "I know this will reduce your property values... You should move to Spring where I live. I couldn't do this there." You can hear this BS and other amusingly sad sound files on the Facebook page put together to fight this development. 

Anyway, take a couple minutes of your time and help the residents of Magnolia Grove fight for their neighborhood. You may find sometime soon you're asking them to do the same.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

I'm taking the rest of the week off to hang out with the family. Hope you and yours have a safe and fun weekend!

See you next week for more Heights Life...