Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Selective Enforcement

Buckhead Investments, the developers of the Ashby High Rise, have applied for a variance from the city in regard to the loading dock for the proposed project. A story in the West University Examiner News states:

The controversial development at 1717 Bissonnet St. has cleared six of seven departmental reviews, but still lacks clearance from Public Works and Engineering’s traffic section, which last rejected plans June 24.

In the comments section of the most recent denial, Public Works representatives asked for supporting documentation concerning “peak-hour turning movements” and suggested a pull-through loading area, rather than having trucks back onto Bissonnet.

The developers have cited another project not far from their location that uses a configuration similar to theirs. According to the developers, the Fairmont Museum District at 4310 Dunlavy St. does not have a pull-through loading dock.

Whether this is true or not is really an irrelevant issue. The City of Houston has made it clear that it will do everything it can to stop the Ashby High Rise.

The city recently said it will rely heavily on guidelines from an ordinance concerning the connection of driveways into public streets as the method of controlling traffic congestion, rather than continuing work on an ordinance to limit the size of high-density developments.

Those guidelines date back to 1947, and — according to city records — have never been cited in either approving or denying any building permit.

In other words, the city is going to rely on a 61-year-old law that has apparently never been enforced. Why are they starting now?

But a more fundamental issue is the fact that such a law even exists. What purpose is served by having a law that has never been enforced? Apparently the issues addressed by the law have never arisen, in which case we must question why the law was written. That City Hall has chosen to selectively enforce it now, when its attempts to draft new legislation specifically aimed at Buckhead failed, raises some serious questions about motives.

This is the very nature of non-objective laws-- they are subject to a wide variety of interpretations, and those interpretations ultimately determine their application. Combine that with political pressure from constituents and you get the type of selective enforcement we are witnessing in regard to the Ashby High Rise.

The treatment of Buckhead Investments should be insulting to anyone who values the rule of law. City Hall is blatantly and openly resorting to strong arm tactics to kill the project. If Houstonians allow such an atrocity to continue, the ultimate devastation will be much worse than that wrought by Hurricane Ike. Ike destroyed our property; granting such powers to City Hall will destroy our property rights.


A Girl From Texas said...

The fight against these high rises is not a fight that originated with the city. A high rise on a 20,000 sq ft lot yields a lot of tax money for the city.

The fighters of the high rise are coming from the private property owners that are affected by the building. They are the source and they are the ones putting pressure on the city to stop the building. Multi-family housing affects the quality of living in residential neighborhoods. It causes density, the increase in population strains the services that have to be provided to support them. Streets are torn up.

I don't know if you are a property owner. But when you own property, you fight very hard to maintain it's value and increase it's value. It is perceived that multi-family housing changes the neighborhood.

I'm not stating that I agree or disagree with the governments position here. I am merely pointing out that the private sector is the source of the fight. Not the city of Houston.

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...

You are ignoring the nature of the actions taken by the home owners. They want the city to use force to stop the high rise.

Either property rights are sacrocant or they are not. To abandon a principle a single time is to declare it null and void. A is A.

A Girl From Texas said...

You want to only address one portion of your argument. You need to address all aspects: Property ownership, privatizing government services/entitlements and property taxes. And what about schools, should the government be providing public schools? If not, then include it in your argument.

As long as you want to ignore these other aspects then your argument for property rights without consideration of anything else should absolutely be challenged.

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...

Again, you are dropping context. If I am writing about a specific issue, such as the Ashby High Rise, it makes no sense to bring up abolishing public education or any other issue. The topic at hand is what I am addressing, not every implication or tangential issue.

Your position seems to be that unless I write a treatise on every topic I address, then I shouldn't address anything. That position would hold a lot more water if you actually practiced what you advocate.

A Girl From Texas said...

I'm not dropping the context. You're trying to make a three dimensional argument two-dimensional.

I agree with property rights but I also expect there to be no taxes and for the entitlements we receive to be privatized. All three of these things are tied together. And therefore, they have to be addressed.

Why do you think the high rise is beign fought? Do you think it's being fought because people have nothing else to do with their time? Did they just wake up one day and say, let's fight the high rise?

It's being fought because of the strain it places on the neighborhood and their ENTITLEMENTS. It's called density.

That means more cars on the roads, more foot traffic, more wear and tear on the roads, more exhaust fumes, roads being torn up to support the sewage systems (Holcombe is slated to be torn up soon), longer lines at the post office, police officers being less available, larger classrooms. In other words, strains on the entitlements that are paid for by tax payers within the area the high rise is being erected.

Address these issues in your argument. If you understand the full implication of the situation, address it.

Is there enough room in West U to build an additional post office? Is there a place for additional schools to be built. As people scream that they have the right to build a high rise why doesn't the city have a voice regarding the entitlements that tax payers are expecting them to provide?

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...

You have unrealistic expectations. It is not reasonable to address the abolition of taxes, public education, the financing of roads, etc. in a post about a high rise.

The issue in regard to Ashby is the property rights of the owners. I understand the full implications. Does that mean that I should write a treatise on epistemology, since ulitimately that is the real issue?

FYI, I appeared on a panel at Rice University addressing the high rise. The angry mob that I faced was not interested in epistemology, individual rights, or anything other than stopping the high rise. To address other issues would be pointless and self-defeating.

As entertaining as I am finding your comments, I really don't see the point. You keep telling me to address every angle/ issue. Not only is that unreasonable, it defeats the crow.

I don't mind constructive criticism, but I see nothing constructive in your comments. Apparently since I don't lay out a complete discourse on capitalism in each post, the truth of what I do post is irrelevant. That is an irrational position.

A Girl From Texas said...

The concerns that the residents of West U have regarding the high rise and the impact it could potentially have on their lives is legitimate. I know very well what density does to a neighborhood. Notice that Montrose has more officers patrolling it than the Heights. Notice in the Med Center all the apartment communities protected by constertino (sp) wire.

I think where you and I differ on this point is that I see this high rise and the impact it has as having an affect on the livelihood of its neighbors. If they wanted to build a townhome community, there would not be this protest. I see this as similar sitting in a public library and the person at the table next to me lights a cigarette.

When is the use of one's property considered an infringement on the rights of it's neighbors?

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...

There is only one way to infringe on anyone's rights-- through the initiation of physical force (or the threat to do so).

In the case of Ashby, this would mean breaking a contractual agreement, such as deed restrictions. But no deed restrictions apply to that parcel of property.

The home owners however, are resorting to physical force (or the threat of force) when they lobby the city to halt the project.