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Urban Corridors passes

City of Houston wants TOD

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UPDATE (08/20/09 10:44): Mayor Bill White’s Press Conference following passage of the Urban Corridors ordinance, wherein he talks about the time frame for realizing the development potential of transportation infrastructure, noting that it took 20 years for Beltway 8 to really impact development and that the Main Street Line should not be expected to have already fulfilled its potential. He believes that we will not see the full realization of dense urban development that some hope for with the implementation of light rail for 20 years.

UPDATE (08/19/09 2:34): Houston City Council Member Melissa Noriega’s office sent us her reaction to the passage of the Urban Corridors Ordinance today:

These changes will shape the quality and connectivity in these areas and provide for public and private investment in the corridors. The mandatory requirement will bring about better pedestrian access to transit stops while the opt in provisions allow property owners the flexibility Houston is known for.

Council Member Noriega’s office also clarified that a provision was added to address the concerns of Houstonians for Responsible Growth over conflicts between the Urban Corridors ordinance and the new City Design Manual. The following section taken from the Request for Council Action that was unanimously approved today solves this problem for projects following the Urban Corridors ordinance, while it takes no action in regards to the provisions in the City Design Manual as they apply to the rest of the City:

Section 8 to the adopting language that states, “To the extent of a conflict between the goal of this Ordinance as set forth in the preamble hereto and Section 40-86 of the Code of Ordinances as applied to any development on a transit corridor street, the goal of this Ordinance shall prevail.” Amendments to Chapter 15 of the Design Manual will be amended to reflect this position.


The Houston City Council unanimously passed the Urban Corridors ordinance designed to encourage transit oriented development within the 65 future light rail neighborhoods across the City, according to the Houston Chronicle. As explained in a KUHF story that aired yesterday, the ordinance will mandate six-foot sidewalks near stations while increasing the citywide sidewalk standard from four feet to five feet. The ordinance creates an incentive program to entice developers to build more livable, walkable, and urban places. In return, the developers will be exempted from the 25-foot setback required in the rest of the city, allowing them to build on a greater percentage of land.

The Chronicle does not mention whether there was any discussion about the controversy over recent changes in the City Design Manual that some believe may counteract the intent of the Urban Corridors ordinance. These changes were brought up at the hearings on the Urban Corridors ordinance by Houstonians for Responsible Growth (HRG), although technically they were administrative changes done by the Public Works and Engineering Department and are not part of the ordinance. The new section of the City Design Manual would give the City some power to stop or alter developments if they were found to have a significant impact on local traffic, but HRG fears that the design manual might stop transit-oriented projects and deter investment in Houston because of the risk of running up against this provision.

City of Houston Agenda - August 19, 2009

We have covered the Urban Corridors ordinance for almost two years.

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.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) said:

Thank you!  Houston needs to be a much more pedestrian friendly city if we are going to be able to grow and increase the quality of life for people in the city.

Wider sidewalks?  That’s awesome!!  I can’t tell you how difficult it is sometimes to squeeze by when passing someone just to stay on the sidewalk.

Can we get more bike paths now please?

Posted on Aug 19, 09 at 10:07 pm

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