Thursday, August 6, 2020

Houston City Council Approves Ordinance to Encourage Walkable Development

HOUSTON Houston City Council adopted amendments to development ordinances – Walkable Places and Transit Oriented Development – that aim to change the urban streetscape in designated areas and move Houston a step closer to embracing walkability and development that relies less on cars.

The Walkable Places and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) initiatives promote pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development. The new ordinances encourage combined commercial, office, and multifamily residential developments to create more vibrant, walkable streets that support alternative modes of transportation.

These programs are the result of three years of planning, research and public engagement by the Walkable Places Committee and help to achieve the goals of Plan HoustonResilient HoustonHouston Climate Action Plan and Complete Streets.  

“This is an exciting and meaningful moment for our city, a paradigm shift, where we are building a framework for the future and moving away from the auto-centric development standards that prioritized parking over people,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner “By approving these ordinances, we are changing the way people think about moving about in our city and making it easier for developers and property owners to join this forward momentum.”

Current auto-centric surburban development versus new pedestrian-friendly urban development
Click each image for larger view or view on the Walkable Places site. 

Effective October 1, 2020, the standards will apply to new developments or redevelopments in three pilot communities: Emancipation Avenue in Third WardMidtown and Hogan/Lorraine Streets in Near Northside.

Walkable Places may be designated on any street within the city limits by either the City of Houston or property owners and established with unique planning standards to address the neighborhood characteristics. Transit Oriented Development streets within a half mile of walking distance from transit stations may be designated by the City of Houston.

Both programs will benefit:

  • property owners by allowing more buildable area and adjusting parking requirements;
  • pedestrians by creating safer and more walkable streetscapes and public spaces; and
  • neighborhoods by creating an activated area with more eyes on the street.

“Houstonians will still drive cars. Change won’t happen overnight or in every corner of our city, but these three pilot communities are ideal locations to launch the new Walkable Places development standards,” said Planning and Development Department Director Margaret Wallace Brown. “We hope these communities will be open to new mobility possibilities, ready for transformative change and ready to pave the way for Walkable Places yet to come.”