Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Squeaky Wheel

The ongoing saga that is the new preservation ordinance is nearing its climax, and preservationists appear to be getting their way. The Chronicle reports:
The key change [in the new ordinance], which would permanently forbid demolition or certain alterations of historic buildings in 16 designated districts and three pending ones, was expected to remain intact, according to city officials and activists on both sides of the issue.
Conveniently ignored in this farce is the fact that city officials and activists are deciding the use of property that none of them own. (Granted, some of those on both sides of the issue do own property in the historic districts, but the ordinance applies to all property in those districts.)

Preservationists have been griping since the passage of the first ordinance in the 1990s. Because that ordinance did not prohibit the demolition of "historic" buildings, they have complained that the ordinance has no teeth. It wasn't enough that they had some voice in how owners of historic buildings used their property. They wanted, and have continued to demand, complete control over the property owned by others. Those demands have found a receptive audience in Ma Parker and she is eager to grease their wheels.

The drafting of the new ordinance has been an orgy of compromise. Even the Greater Houston Builders Association, which has historically shown some level of respect for property rights, has caved and is supporting the ordinance in principle. The association is just bickering over details while conceding the moral high ground to the preservationists.

No matter what is in the final ordinance, this isn't over. The preservationists will continue whining and they will be back for more.

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