Cite celebration at m+a architecture on Grace Lane. Photos by Raj Mankad.
Cite celebrated the release of issue 93 with a party at m+a architecture on Grace Lane. The firm’s founding principals, Mark Schatz and Anne Eamon, are at the center of an article in the issue about their neighborhood’s struggle with pollution from an adjacent industrial site. Given this history, the presence of Robert Bullard was especially notable. He is Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and a central figure in the environmental justice movement.
Sunday Streets HTX, 2014 Spring. Map by Asakura Robinson.
Yesterday, Mayor Annise Parker announced that on the first Sundays of April, May, and June a street will be closed to motorized vehicles from 11 am – 3 pm and opened to pedestrians and bicyclists. A petition I launched — inspired by an article on this very blog — created much of the momentum for this effort, which is documented here.
Bethel Park in Freedmen's Town. Photo: Jim Parsons.
Last week Preservation Houston celebrated its 35th Anniversary at its annual Cornerstone benefit, handing out 10 Good Brick Awards to recognize excellence in local preservation and restoration work. It was a spirited event that showcased a great variety of projects ranging from a delicate Victorian house restoration to the conversion of the historic Bethel Church into a park following the devastating fire in 2005 that left the building as just a shell. The diverse group of winners was selected from 20 nominees, a sign that Houston continues to gain momentum in building its culture of historic preservation.
Houston Ship Channel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The post below is the second in a two-part series on the complexities of air pollution in Houston. Click here to read Part 1. Each post excerpts “Growing Risks” by Larry Soward, a former Commissioner at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The full article is available in the print issue of Cite 93.
So, given all this growth and economic development that is happening or about to happen in the Houston region, what are the costs in terms of risks to our environment, our health, and our quality of life? The most significant costs stemming from all this growth are the impacts on public health. Out of a total population of almost 4.2 million in Harris County, over 93,000 suffer from pediatric asthma; almost 223,000 suffer from adult asthma; 156,000 live with COPD; almost 1 million have cardiovascular disease; 300,000 have diabetes. At particular risk are the almost 1.2 million residents who are children under age 18; more than 350,000 individuals who are 65 and over; and the more than 800,000 people who live in poverty. Most of the expected major industrial growth will be in communities along the Ship Channel which are already inundated with petrochemical plants and refineries and overburdened with pollution and health risks. Already experiencing higher levels of air pollution, increased incidents of cardiac and respiratory illnesses and increased risks of air toxics-related illnesses, these communities will very likely have their health problems made even worse.
Animation of Air Quality Index (AQI), a combination of ozone and particulate matter, over 24-hour period. Source: airnow.gov.
The map of cancer risk associated with exposure to air toxins shown on the cover of Cite 93 and further discussed on this blog has been picked up by Swamplot, Houston Chronicle, KHOU, and CW39 NewsFix. The brief television reports focused on the east side of town, whereas our coverage stressed that health problems associated with air pollution affects affluent areas to the west as well. The post below is the first in a two-part series on the complexities of air pollution in Houston. Each post excerpts “Growing Risks” by Larry Soward, a former Commissioner at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The full article is available in the print issue of Cite 93.
Population and economic growth in the Houston region create a virtuous cycle of business development, cultural vibrancy, and improved quality of life. There are also some significant costs and risks associated with that growth when it comes to our environment and our health. Let’s look at four growth areas that could significantly inhibit that virtuous cycle by compromising our air quality. The challenges are complex and require the region as a whole to face up to the hard choices ahead.
Houston's original garden suburb, Courtland Place. Courtesy: The Monacelli Press.
It seems in Houston we are forever in search of ways to wrest control over the suburban landscape. So when a new 1,072-page tome from Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern reintroduces a historic suburban model that encourages suburban retrofitting, it is tempting to assume that an answer to our anonymous sprawl is within reach. But Paradise Planned (The Monacelli Press, 2013) is first and foremost a reference book, a monograph that traces the history of the garden suburb movement and the urban planning ideas that drove its creation, listing and describing hundreds of individual garden suburb plans in the U.S. and across the world. The book champions the garden suburb model and urges contemporary planners to consider propagating the largely forgotten plan back into our fractured suburbs.
Rendering of the Menil Drawing Institute. Courtesy: Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection.
Houston total cancer risk per million by census tract as determined by the 2005 National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA). Source: epa.gov.
The above map shows cancer risk by census tract in the Houston region using data from the Environmental Protection Agency. We used the same data to emboss the cover of Cite 93. As in other cities, the areas closer to the center of Houston have a higher risk for cancer. However, one needs only to compare screenshots from the epa.gov mapping tool to see that Houston is exceptional. Let’s look at Dallas-Fort Worth versus Houston.
Interior of gravel silo on Buffalo Bayou. Photo: Allyn West.
OffCite invites short essays, reviews, and observations on specific moments and places. Interested in contributing your own? Let us know.
The gravel silos stand in a row. Vines snake up one side; newer gray rectangles of paint cover up the surfaces that kids with cans can reach. The silos might be familiar to you: David Theis explored them in an essay that appeared in Cite 87; Luke Savisky projected experimental video on them in 2010; the Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP), which now owns them and the land they stand on, thought they might make good climbing walls back in 2006, when the BBP first set about acquiring the easements to build these few miles of hike and bike trail east of Downtown along the Ship Channel.
Brass plate for embossed Cite 93 cover. Photo: RDA.
The image above shows the heavy brass plate that was used to emboss the cover of the new issue of Cite (93), which was mailed and is available now at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. The cover represents a map of cancer risk in the Houston region. Below is a letter from Tom Colbert, the guest editor of this issue, followed by the Table of Contents.
Houston is booming again. Real estate prices are skyrocketing. Apartment buildings and subdivisions are popping up all over the city. Everywhere we look, there are construction cranes, out-of-state license plates, new restaurants, and smiling real estate developers. Industrial developers are happy as well. The Port of Houston is preparing for the arrival of Post-Panamax shipping, coal terminals, expanded refineries, chemical storage facilities, and cruise ships. More industrial expansion is planned for Baytown, Port Arthur, and Freeport as well. The long anticipated arrival of the Keystone Pipeline will only be a small detail in the rush of industrial expansion that is coming to Houston.
It’s great to be in Houston during such good times. But one has to wonder, what are the environmental implications of all this growth? What will our corner of the world be like if this kind of development continues? What are the implications for air quality? Will there be enough water to accommodate industrial growth, projected population increases, and shrimp and oysters as well? What about our increasing vulnerability to storms and sea-level rise as development moves into previously undeveloped low-lying areas? Will some segments of the population suffer the shock of industrialization and others be spared? Will land be available for agriculture? In a previous issue of Cite, Dr. John Lienhard wrote about birds and butterflies as a kind of infrastructure that we are ineffably dependent on, like pipelines and railroad bridges but without the financial backing. Will they have a place here? The list of environmental and public policy questions goes on and on.