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August 2022
Bright Spot In My Day: From the Planning Director
Hurricane season is upon us, and it’s time to make sure you and your family are prepared for what many experts are predicting to be a busy one. This is especially important as we reflect on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Harvey this month. Houston’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) publishes a free Disaster Preparedness Guide published in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic and French. View and download the guide from the OEM webpage.

Beyond assisting with emergency preparedness, the Planning & Development Department is leading an effort to help individual neighborhoods create their own Neighborhood Resilience Plans. Currently, we are working with East Houston, Edgebrook and Independence Heights Super Neighborhoods.

Resilience Districts weave together climate adaptation and risk reduction, promote economic opportunities, identify critical infrastructure improvements, and leverage social empowerment within a neighborhood-specific strategy. These plans will be community and data-driven with input from relevant City departments and collaborating organizations. Neighborhood Resilience Plans leverage future investments in these communities to reduce the damaging effects of climate related events and equip communities with the tools needed to continually thrive.

While the plans build on a replicable framework that additional neighborhoods could follow in creating their own resilience plans, they are specific to the conditions and needs in the individual neighborhoods. For instance, surveys and map exercises are available for residents to identify critical assets and demonstrate ways neighbors communicate during emergencies. Communication and community cohesiveness is critical in resilience planning. Multiple studies have shown that the number one determinant for how quickly an individual can recover from a disaster is the strength of community. 

If you would like to join one of the three neighborhood planning efforts, visit Letstalkhouston.org or sign up for notifications. Even if you’re not a resident of these neighborhoods, you can improve your resiliency by reviewing the free Preparedness Guide. With luck, the experts’ predictions will be proven wrong. But, just in case, stay informed and connected to neighbors. If we have each other’s back, we are all stronger.

Margaret Wallace Brown, A.I.C.P.
Director, Planning & Development Department
City Awarded RAISE Grant to Revitalize Telephone Road
The City of Houston will receive $20.96 million in federal funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability & Equity (RAISE) grant program for the Telephone Road: Main Street Revitalization Project.

The 2.8-mile rehabilitation project will prioritize safety and enhance mobility for the community by modernizing the roadway within the existing right-of-way to include upgraded sidewalks, bus stops, protected bike lanes, street crossings, and safety treatments. The project begins at the intersection of Lawndale Drive and Telephone Road and extends 2.8 miles to Interstate 610.

“This transformative, multimodal revitalization project will uplift communities based on data-driven solutions, actions, investments, and provide more equity to a key part of our city,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Planning & Development and Houston Public Works staff coordinated to complete the application: review the previous plans, refine the design, write the narrative, analyze the data, and obtain letters of support. Key staff included Peter Eccles from Planning, and Katherine Summerlin, Valerie Luna, and Patrick Nguyen from HPW. 
The improvements to Telephone Road support the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan and the Houston Bike Plan. The redesigned roadway will include new paving and striping, protected bike lanes, ADA compliant sidewalks, as well as reconstructed curbs and drainage outlets. Safety modifications to Telephone Road include:
  • Restriped crosswalks
  • New green “cross-bike” markings
  • Tighter corners to slow vehicle speed & improve visibility
  • CCTV cameras installed at three fully rebuilt intersections
  • Median refuge islands at nine locations
  • Upgraded METRO bus stops

Read the full press release.
Keep Up With Development Activity Near You
Did you know that you can stay informed about development activity in your community by subscribing to the Plat and Permit Activity Reports. The bi-weekly Plat Report provides information about plats, replats, variances and special exceptions to be considered by Planning Commission at their next scheduled meeting. The spreadsheet can be sorted in several ways, allowing you to search by subdivision, zip code, Council District and more. The Permit Activity Report uses data from Houston Public Works to inform residents about additional activity in their neighborhoods. It provides information about any new construction, remodeling, or change-of-use permits. Learn more about Plat and Permit Activity reports.
Request a Livable Places Presentation For Your Organization
While the Livable Places Action Committee (LPAC) recessed in August, Planning staff continued to work with City departments to refine details on LPAC recommendations, build public engagement outreach materials and make neighborhood presentations.
Our goal is to meet with various neighborhood organizations throughout September to grow awareness and receive community feedback. Let us come to you! If you know of an organization that would be interested in learning more about Livable Places, email LivablePlaces@houstontx.gov, and we will reach out to schedule the presentation.

Our next virtual meeting will be held Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 3 p.m. Visit Letstalkhouston.org for meeting links and details.
Discussions will focus on the draft Conservation District ordinance and infrastructure improvement needs with new development. We want to hear what you think. Before the next meeting, view and comment on the proposed recommendations .
Map of the Month: Single-Family Permits 2015-2020
Geographic Information Systems Supervisor Sona Zechariah's work received national recognition when her map was shown in the Plenary session of the ESRI 2022 User Conference, which is hailed as the world's largest GIS conference. Data from 2015 to 2020 was analyzed to show single-family permitting trends in Houston. Click on the map for the full view.
ADU | HOU Earns Local APA Best Practice Award
The ADU | HOU program earned a Gold Award for Best Practice from the Houston Section of the American Planning Association Texas Chapter. Funded by an AARP grant, the program advanced the City's goals to expand affordable housing opportunities and awareness about the benefits of Accessory Dwelling Units.
ADU | HOU engaged the community through an ADU design competition and informational workshops. The outcome of the design competition was a how-to guide, a design book and a preapproved master set of construction documents that will be made available free to any homeowner.
Vision Zero Educates Youth about Traffic Safety with Custom Coloring & Activity Book
Do you want a fun way to teach your kids (or anyone young at heart) about safety for travelers walking, biking, riding, and driving? Download our new Vision Zero Houston Coloring and Activity Book for free. The book, illustrated specifically for Vision Zero Houston by Vanessa Sanez, is designed for youth from Kindergarten to 12th grade, but these safety reminders are important for people of all ages. The book features activities about bicycling, street crossing, bus safety rules, driving distractions, and more. Planning and HPW staff shared the new educational tool with families that visited the Mayor's Back to School Fest. We encourage you to share the book with youth, parents, and teachers in your life.
Houston BCycle Celebrates 10th Anniversary
This month marks the 10th anniversary of Houston BCycle and the City's partnership with Houston Bike Share. The bike share program began as a City pilot project in 2012 with three bike stations funded by an Environmental Protection Agency grant. The City and volunteers worked together to establish Houston Bike Share, a nonprofit organization to operate the city bike share program known as Houston BCycle. Today Houston BCycle is a successful bike sharing program with 155 bike stations and more than 1,100 bicycles throughout Houston. The program is thriving and continues to grow due in large part to the City’s partnership with Houston Bike Share, whose mission is to provide equitable access to bike sharing that fosters recreation, mobility and personal wellness, including public and private partnerships.

Most recently, with oversight from the Planning & Development Department and funding support from a federal grant and local
partners, Houston Bike Share helped lead a
$4.7 million project to expand the Houston BCycle network, adding 97 bike stations and 767 bicycles throughout communities inside the 610 loop. Some of these communities included the Washington Corridor, Greater East End, Third Ward, Near Northisde, Texas Medical Center, Rice University, University of Houston and Texas Southern University.

Visit the Houston BCycle website for news on upcoming events, membership and maps. Download the Houston BCycle app from your app store to check out bikes while you're on the go.
Employee Spotlight: Maribel Torres
Reflects on 20 Years with the City
Last month, we introduced you to six Planning & Development Department employees who were celebrating years of service milestones. This month, we checked in with Maribel Torres, a Financial Analyst IV, who has worked for the City for 20 years. She reflected on her City career and advice to new employees.

Q: Why have you chosen to devote 20 years of service to the City of Houston, and make the Planning Department your career home?

MT: I have enjoyed a career in public service because of the stability and flexibility it has given me. I have worked with so many good people who have taught me so much along the way, whether it be in Planning or other City departments. The knowledge and experience I have acquired thus far cannot be taught in a textbook or manual.

Q: What do you consider to be your accomplishments and contributions to the team over the years?

 MT: For the past 17 years, I’ve had the responsibility of controlling and analyzing the department’s general fund budget, and I work each day to ensure the department can afford the personnel, tools and resources we need to serve the citizens of Houston. It’s very challenging at times!

Q: What advice do you have to new employees joining the city and the Planning Department?

MT: In the course of doing what you are hired to do, take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way. Ask questions about other projects and job functions going on around you. Do not limit yourself. In the end, the more you learn the more helpful it will be to you along your career path.