Revealed: The latest secret to world-classness
In today's Chronicle, Jonathan Smulian, who describes himself as "a practicing urban planner with more than 50 years' international experience," offers the latest secret to Houston-world-classness: "appreciation, preservation and promotion of 150-plus years of history."
Like many who fashion themselves experts in planning the behavior of others (or, some might say, restricting the freedom of others), Smulian's approach to appreciating history is a bit heavy-handed:
The demolition of Houston's historic houses in favor of large mansions often out of character with the rest of these neighborhoods has an impact beyond the initial loss of a history that cannot be replaced. It also has a city-wide negative environmental impact. Tons of debris unnecessarily wind up in the landfill. Mature trees that create shade, save energy and lessen carbon emissions are cut down. Drainage problems are exacerbated as larger new homes and their impervious driveways prevent water from percolating into the subsoil, forcing surface water into the streets.
Nobody doubts that speculators can enjoy higher profits by destroying historic houses and building new ones. However, if we are truly to be a world-class city — and wish to preserve Houston's history — profit cannot be the only consideration.
What little is left of Houston's past is quickly being destroyed, but it is not too late to stop the destruction. As the proposed historic ordinance amendments are debated in the weeks to come I urge Mayor Bill White and Houston City Council to weigh the opposition's spurious arguments against the greater good of the city. Preservation of Houston's heritage and our status as a world-class city are at stake.
Experts know better than investors and property owners -- YOU, in other words -- what Houston needs to do with (your) property to be world class. And who can argue with such experts?
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