I am writing as a Metro board member to reiterate the statement I made at last week’s Real Estate Committee Meeting, “This is not a Metro project!” The Pinemont Park-n-Ride lot is no longer used by Metro and the board, over a year ago, declared it surplus. We have been approached by the Houston Housing Authority, which wants to buy the property and which has publicly stated that it will use eminent domain to take the tract if we sell it on the open market to a private purchaser.
None of the Metro actions concerning this property were taken in secret. Every board meeting, and every committee meeting, is posted in advance as required by Texas law, and all these meetings are streamed live on the Metro website for anyone to watch. Visitors are always welcome at Metro’s board and committee meetings and are welcome to speak during the public comment portion of the regular meeting which is held on the third Thursday of each month beginning at 9 a.m.
That said, I am publicly on record as being opposed to a sale to the Housing Authority because I believe that building a 300 unit housing project that close to single family residential neighborhoods–irrespective of who might construct it, manage it, or live in it–will depress the value of nearby homes. I have only my own vote as a Metro board member, but am committed to casting it in opposition to this sale.
Co-chair of METRO’s Real Estate Committee
I am more than a little annoyed with the elitist editorial in the Leader about the proposed “low income” apartments that the Houston Housing Authority plans to build on the site of the former Pinemont Park and Ride. While developers run wild around the Heights, Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and other neighborhoods, the Leader has chosen to focus on this one project for people of modest means. The editorial snidely states that “eight complexes in the immediate area just aren’t enough. The proposed apartments are intended for people with an income of $36,000–$42,000. The median household income in Houston is probably under $50,000, so these folks are ordinary, average people. Where are ordinary people supposed to live? In a $600,000 town house? In a “loft” apartment that rents for $5,000 a month? People with a master’s degree are lucky to make $40,000 a year, if they work as a librarian, teacher or social worker. Meanwhile, they are trying to pay off huge school loans.
Why don’t you write an essay that asks if we really need more giant front garage door town homes in fifty shades of gray? Developers run wild destroying the character of the neighborhood where I live (Shady Acres) and replacing it with bland, over priced townhomes. I no longer enjoy living in the neighborhood; it is no longer a community and no longer are there trees, grass and gardens, only concrete and beige and gray. To my knowledge, nobody has studied the effects of this added development on the low water pressure, the traffic on narrow streets without sidewalks, or any of the other effects of the increased density. The developers will walk away with buckets of cash and leave us to deal with the aftermath.
The editorial advises that residents of Forest West and Forest Pines should demand to be heard by City Hall. My council member, Ellen Cohen, never did answer my email and I was not able to reach her on the phone. I’ve never seen her around the neighborhood, never heard of her scheduling a town hall meeting or reaching out to the community in any way. I don’t know if she is really aware of the needs of the community, or if she’s even read a Jane Jacobs book. For that reason, I have contemplated running for the District C council seat, if nothing else, I can at least get some answers from Mrs. Cohen that way, and, if elected, my focus wouldn’t be on making the city a cash cow for “bidness;” I would make those people who make money from our neighborhood accountable to those of us who live here.
I am thrilled you wrote your column this week about the Pinemont Park and Ride sale by Metro to the Houston Housing Authority. I think you very accurately described the reason so many people in our community are alarmed about this sale. This is, in part, about the way this deal has been so secretive as well as the threat the Houston Housing Authority is using to acquire this property just because they want it. How unfair that is not only to our communities, but to our taxpayers who ultimately bought this property in the first place. Metro should be seeking to sell this property for the highest and best use…not because they are being pushing into it by the Houston Housing Authority with their threat of using eminent domain.
And you are right, our communities are not concerned with whether this is a low income housing complex or a workforce housing complex…the fact of the matter is we don’t think that any apartment complex of this size will bring benefit to our area. We already have SEVERAL complexes in our immediate area…we need more retail development to help this area grow and to positively impact property values in the area. We also have yet to see any studies that have been done on how bringing this many people to this area will affect traffic (car and foot), our drainage/sewage systems, and our surrounding schools.
I want to thank you for the guidance you gave to us in your article. We have several communities that have pulled together to protest not just the sale, but the way these events have taken place.
I am writing regarding the recent news of the low income housing project on the site of the former Pinemont Park and Ride. I owned a home in a nearby neighborhood 25 years ago. By the time I was able to move out the crime was rampant. I, myself was a victim of someone following me home from the grocery store, thefts, someone trying to gain entry into my home at 3 a.m. and a carload of thugs chasing me down the street brandishing an automatic pistol. A bizzillion apartment and townhouse complexes were built that were left half empty. The owners began offering “Free Rent”, “No Deposit” and rented to anyone who would sign the lease. These huge complexes became a haven for transients and an area once nice enough to warrant a country club and top notch golf course became dangerous slums filled with drug dealers and criminals.
Flash forward 25 years: the area is just beginning to be become revitalized thanks to the boom in the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest. Some, but not nearly enough, of these abandoned complexes have been torn down. Housing is still very affordable. There are too many complexes to count on Pinemont, Antoine, Tidwell and in between. The very last thing this area needs is another large, multi family housing project. I have taken a chance and purchased a home in a neighborhood off Pinemont, Candlelight Oaks. Those of us who have been willing to pioneer our way to reclaim these neighborhoods could really use the aid of the city to continue to clean up this area, not add to the demise… for the second time. Please don’t pour salt on an open wound that has only started to heal. There are many projects that the HHA could spend their money on where it’s really needed. This is not one of them.
As a resident of Forest West since 2003, I was certainly pleasantly surprised to see values of our homes on the increase and look to our neighborhood approaching a status now being appreciated by the Oak Forest area. I also noticed trees planted along Antoine. Yea! An effort to hide crime from one side of Antoine to another, lol.
Thinking about your suggestion of writing to our city planners/mayor, what about FBI – why you say. Recall the FBI building just next to the area made basis for this land deal, maybe they may help in having the land become something the neighborhood may appreciate and make for more of an inviting landscape! I recall when Pinemont Crossing (I think that’s the name of that new community across from the library on Pinemont) was built, the homes sold quickly and have good curb appeal. I believe many of the residents may be employed at the FBI building for convenience. I say we get David Weekley, Perry Homes and the FBI to roll against HHA. I’m ready too!
Yea for you and the Leader News for addressing an issue which is current and more than pressing for those of us in the vicinity of the old Metro Park and Ride. You accurately addressed our concerns and did so with both front page and editorial news.
I am a native Houstonian and have lived in this area since 1949, I am now a resident of Forest West since 1969. I am on the board of directors for this neighborhood, and obviously the use of that land area is of great concern to all of us.
The Leader is a weekly read for me, but with your attention to this matter, it will be done with even more pleasure.
Thank you again.
Loved the piece on the Metro Pinemont sale. Thank you for putting it out there for us. I wanted to see if I could clarify something of my understanding about the HHA. Even though they are called the Houston Housing Authority, they are entirely beholden to HUD and the feds. They are not affiliated in any way with the city except in name. This came up at a local meeting on April 8, and was clarified for us. Even Ellen Cohen is adamant about the fact that they have no say on this whole deal which, isn’t entirely true of course as they have indirect influence on the Metro board.
I would say contacting the FTA (Federal Transit Authority) who are apparently 4/5ths owners of the land and to a lesser extent HUD would probably be more fruitful. Thanks again for the hard work!
What I am not following here is why would anyone take a prime property on a major freeway that is obviously commercially advantageous and use it for housing at all! Much less for low income housing. We travel to HEB Bunkerhill and Kroger at Ella because the nearby grocery stores are really not that great! We would love an HEB!
HHA and Metro may have held public meetings but neither the meetings nor topic were circulated to the public: via direct mail, notices in newspapers or TV, even mailings to the affected Super Neighborhood or its constituent groups.
The absence of attendees cannot be ascribed to lack of interest. These plans only came to light last Saturday when the story first broke.
Elaine W. Krause
I am part of a “working family.” I have lived within walking distance of that property most of my life (1972-1980 and 1988-present).
So, let me ask you, if HHA has their way, will the city then demolish some of the thousands of low rent apartment homes which surround this SAME area?
We truly have entirely too many apartments in our area. Most of which have been there at least since the early 1970’s.
We need a nice HEB on that property! (My own opinion!) we have to drive quite a distance for groceries. No, I don’t shop Joe V’s or Food Land. Parking lot is too scary. I’ve actually driven past Food Land while it was dark out, but still early enough for shopping. There was not a single light on in the parking lot. Seriously.
So METRO is taking public transportation services away from the community then HHA wants to add several individuals who will likely depend on public transportation in the same spot. BRILLIANT!!
I can understand why you would choose to send your kids out of your zoned schools….
Forest West Resident
I understand the need for section 8 housing, but why has HHA abandoned the vacant housing and land located a few miles away off Antoine and De Soto? HHA should utilize the land and property that is already in their possession. Is there anyone out there able to find information on current De Soto housing? I’m interested to know how many units are vacant and how many lots are un-developed. What I find funny is the person who is in charge of HHA lives in River Oaks and wouldn’t welcome section 8 housing right in his community.
The individuals sympathizing for HHA should stop fighting the surrounding neighborhoods about this and realize we can work together to keep our neighborhoods moving in the right direction. Thank you “The Leader” for following up on this story.
Forest West Resident
I read that Metro will not be adding a new route to the area, so there will be a LOT of foot traffic through the area.
Re schools: I have 3 children I have reared in this area. There is not one public school that we are zoned to that I would send them to in the area. In fact, all of the children I know of that live in my immediate area are either bussed to other schools in other areas of town to a better school, or pay to go to private.
Pinemont land deal creates a bunch of losers
Your group looked great at the Metro meeting, you are on the right trail to go to City Council and get this issue out in the light of day.
The Mayor has certainly been eager to do 380 deals for retail all over town, why not your area? The City sustainability director loves to talk about “food deserts”, would not your area qualify for this urban planning term and get needed retail and a grocery store? Then you could buy fresh vegetables, just like they brought to City Hall and told the Council and Mayor that everyone needed to be eating more of them.
Use their own urban planning against them.
The proposed apartment complex is not public housing, but it is the successor to Section 8, AKA the credit voucher program.
What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8) provides tenant-based assistance, in the form of a voucher, to low-income families, for rental units of their choice in the private market. Program applicants choose from a variety of housing options, including apartments, duplexes, single-family homes and townhomes. Vouchers can also be used to help families buy homes.
No. of Family members, Income Limit:
1 – $23,350, 2 – $26,650, 3 – $30,000, 4 – $33,300, 5 – $36,000, 6 – $38,650, 7 – $41,300, 8 – $44,000
Please correct me if I’m wrong regarding Section 8!
Note that HHA has some very nice “mixed income” properties, for example Heatherbrook Apartments in the same part of town. Driving by these look like expensive condominiums.