Scenic Houston works with partner organizations on streetscape issues.

photo of metro busScenic Houston is busy at work with several area organizations on issues that support the Scenic Houston mission to preserve and enhance the visual character of Houston. In July, Scenic Houston Executive Director Anne Culver met with the board of directors of the Downtown Super Neighborhood to discuss METRO’s review of new methods to generate revenue, including selling ad space on the sides of its transit vehicles.

Because this will effectively turn METRO buses into rolling billboards, Scenic Houston has asked the Downtown Super Neighborhood as well as other neighborhood groups and area management districts to join Scenic Houston in expressing opposition to METRO.

Scenic Houston is collecting information and coordinating opposition to the proposal to turn METRO buses into rolling billboards. Organizations interested in learning more, or adding their voice to this effort, can email Scenic Houston at:  info@dev.scenictexas.org:8888

Scenic Houston, our predecessors and our partners have worked since 1980, with great success, to improve the visual aspects of Houston’s streets and public spaces. Our efforts have moved Houston from “billboard capital of the world” in 1980, with over 10,000 billboards to fewer than 1500 today, and we will not accept a proposal that adds 2400 new billboards to the streets of Houston.

Also in July, Culver met with the board of directors of the Alliance of North Houston Chambers of Commerce (ANHOC). ANHOC is developing its legislative agenda to include support for scenic issues, including opposition to any legislation that would mandate digital changing-message billboards without local control or decision-making.

Scenic Houston is partnering with the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce to encourage Harris County to bring its sign regulations for on-premise changing message signs in line with City of Houston standards.

A new website provides an interesting tool for gathering community support for neighborhood improvement

A website called Neighborland.com, a social media tool for sharing ideas to make your neighborhood better, is part of a new genre of websites and apps designed to democratize what shows up in our communities. The project is currently active in several U.S. cities, including Houston, Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York.

The site provides a new way to share your ideas, support your neighbors’ insights and ideas, and connect with people who share your issues. No issue is too big or too small to bring up on Neighborland. If it matters to you, then it matters.

photo of neighborland.com houston pageHouston Section of Neighborland.com

There are already several hundred ideas in the Houston section, with the Washington Ave area a center of a tremendous amount of activity.

The site is very simple to use.  After signing in to Neighborland, you can find your neighborhood and post your idea. The posts all start with “I want,” and you fill in the rest.  Describe your idea, add pictures or video, suggest a location, and share it. What would make your block better? What businesses do you think could thrive in your neighborhood? What issue do you care about?

For more information, and to get started go to www.neighborland.com

Kay B. Crooker passes away at 78, former Scenic Houston Board President and longest-serving member of the city’s planning commission.

photo of Kay B. Crooker
Kay B. Crooker, 1933 - 2012

Throughout her extraordinary volunteer career, Kay Crooker was a driving force for preserving and enhancing the visual character of Houston.  Appointed to the City of Houston’s Planning Commission by five consecutive mayors, and the longest-serving member of the city’s planning commission, Kay ensured that Houston’s development rules and the application of those rules support sustainable development and a greener Houston.

As chairman of the Neighborhood Preservation Committee, she made it easier for established neighborhoods to preserve existing lot sizes. As chairman of the Task Force that created the City of Houston’s Tree and Shrub Ordinance, Kay employed grit, charm, intelligence and a laser focus to successfully bring a committee of divergent interests together to enhance Houston’s urban forest.

Beyond the Planning Commission, Kay devoted her valuable time to Scenic Houston, the Houston Botanical Garden, The Park People, Trees for Houston, and Katy Prairie Conservancy.

You can read more about Kay and her remarkable life of service in the Houston Chronicle.

Through her words and deeds, Kay B. Crooker created a better Houston for all and demonstrated that she was a true hero in this community.  We will miss her.

Scenic Houston speaks out against turning METRO buses into rolling billboards.

On Friday, May 11th, the Houston METRO Board of Directors convened a special meeting to hear public comments on the future of METRO’s General Mobility Plan, which must be brought before the public for a vote within the next year.

This review of funding formulas is occurring at the same time METRO is studying the revenue potential of selling ad space on its vehicles and properties.  Scenic Houston Executive Director Anne Culver made a statement at the meeting, which also represented the position of the Uptown Houston, Energy Corridor and Greenspoint Management Districts.

The position of these organizations, all vested in enhancing the visual appeal and economic vitality of the Houston region, is that METRO funding decisions should not change the agency’s long-standing policy of not selling advertising on the exteriors of its vehicles.  Otherwise, METRO could be responsible for turning its bus fleet into rolling billboards in a city that has banned new billboards for more than 30 years.

Here is the complete text of Scenic Houston’s statement:

“Good Morning, my name is Anne Culver, I am the Executive Director of Scenic Houston.  We are proud of our 40 year history or working to improve Houston’s quality of place, including particularly our successful support of a ban on all new billboards. 

In the statement we make today, Scenic Houston also represents the Uptown Houston, Energy Corridor and Greenspoint Management Districts.

Scenic Houston, and our predecessors, have been working since 1980 on the visual aspects of Houston’s streets and public spaces.  From “the billboard capital of the world” in 1980, with over 10,000 billboards, to fewer than 1500 today, the City of Houston, and surrounding areas, have made real progress across a broad agenda of scenic initiatives including freeway landscaping, scenic district development, more effective on-premise sign regulation and enhanced design standards for public projects.

Our commitment to the visual character of our city includes a concern with signage on METRO buses that roll through the neighborhoods every day.  METRO maintains an attractive bus fleet that reflects well on this agency and our region, and we strongly support the agency’s more than 30 year ban on bus advertising. 

Our individual members are also committed to mobility for our region, which is only becoming more critically important as the region is growing.  Every mobility solution has to be part of the mix.

We appreciate the tight economic climate and the difficulty METRO has in funding high capacity transit solutions.   We support METRO’s fiscal responsibility in exploring every angle to finance high capacity transit.  But we believe that one of the worst outcomes of this would be to change the long-held policy of not selling advertising on its vehicles and properties, particularly on the exteriors of buses.

Scenic Houston is in favor of measures to help alleviate METRO’s funding issues, including the freeing up of general mobility funding.   Better to alter that formula than to turn the METRO fleet into rolling billboards in a city that has banned billboards for more than 30 years.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. “

Scenic Houston continues to closely monitor the ongoing discussion at METRO around selling advertising on METRO buses and trains. We would also like your opinion on the possibility METRO will adopt a policy that could turn buses and trains into rolling billboards..

Please take a few moments to send us your thoughts on this issue by going to our METRO Advertising Policy Opinion Page

METRO approves contract to study advertising value of agency assets

At its February Board of Directors meeting, METRO signed a $103,831 contract with IMG Worldwide to conduct an asset monetization study that will seek to forecast revenue METRO could generate by selling advertising on a wide array of the transit agency’s assets, including the outsides of buses and trains, bus shelters and train stations (read more below).

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At the February 15th METRO Customer Service Committee meeting, METRO President & Chief Executive Officer George Greanias stated that METRO’s analysis of forecasts of revenue generated by advertising would be balanced against any perceived cost to the agency’s brand image and reputation, or any impact on advances made citywide to improve the visual landscape and clean up blight.  Also, he stated that IMG would be directed to include public comment in its study, specifically naming Scenic Houston.

It’s clear from watching the comments that the METRO Board intends to pay close attention to the public’s wishes when it comes to forming a new advertising policy for METRO.

You can view the committee discussion on the contract here – relevant discussion begins at the 50:00 minute mark.

photo of a metro bus

 

The City of Houston earns Scenic America’s Clear Vision award

The City of Houston will be presented with Scenic America’s Clear Vision award at a reception being held at WorldFest-Houston International Independent Film Festival on Friday, April 20th.  Houston Mayor Annise Parker will accept the inaugural award in conjunction with the Texas premiere of This Space Available, a ground-breaking documentary about the problems caused by visual pollution, which features Houston’s ban on new billboards.

“The Clear Vision award is being given to Houston in recognition of the city’s persistent enforcement of its no new billboard policy in its 30 year fight against visual pollution ,” said Ronald Lee Fleming, Scenic America Board Chair.  “It’s clear that maintaining and enforcing one simple policy will dramatically reduce visual pollution over time.”

Scenic America logoThe number of billboards on the streets of Houston has dropped from more than 10,000 in 1980 to fewer than 2000 today. “Houston is the best U.S. example of what a city can achieve with a strong policy that stands the test of time,” Fleming added.

The reception and presentation of the Clear Vision award to Mayor Parker will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the AMC Studio 30 Theater on Dunvale, and the premiere of the documentary This Space Available will begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Where:  AMC Studio 30 Theater
2949 Dunvale (between Richmond and Westheimer) 

When:  Friday, April 20th
Reception and presentation of Scenic America’s Clear Vision award:  5:30 p.m.
Texas premiere of This Space Available:  7:00 p.m.

For information on WorldFest-Houston go to their website:  http://www.worldfest.org/

“Chickens, Signs, and Other Hot Topics” a paper on emerging trends in land use

In a new paper from Alan Bojorquez and Joseph Deeb, the authors outline a list of non-traditional land use and development topics that have been confronting Texas municipalities over the last few years.  The paper share insights garnered through their roles as municipal lawyers representing Texas cities. The decision of what to include in this paper was influenced by an increasing tension between the efforts of some property owners to Go Green, and classic municipal regulations involving such routine standards as height, setbacks, and impervious cover. Some cities have been forced to rethink their standards when faced with a resident’s desire to crack open that backyard-fresh-egg, or operate their hot tub with a personal rainwater collection system, wind turbine, and solar panel.

Chickens, Signs, and Other Hot Topics