Members of OKRA, Houston's newly-minted Organized Kooperative on Restaurant Affairs, made an official public appearance at the City of Houston Planning Commission on Thursday. The topic was, yet again, the much-debated proposed Off-Street Parking Ordinance.
At a previous public meeting on Nov. 17, Anvil co-owner Bobby Heugel voiced concern with not only the city's parking ordinance alterations, but also what he saw as a larger-scale attack on small, local businesses. He alluded to an organized effort on the part of independent restaurants and bar owners in the near future to combat infringements.
That organization came to light this Tuesday, more than a week after a formal written response was sent to the Planning Commission regarding the proposed parking ordinance.
"This is how we make sausage here at the city."
At the start of Thursday's meeting, Marlene Gafrick, director of Houston's Planning and Development Department, acknowledged that concerns and input from community organizations like OKRA and Bike Houston will continue to be taken into account in revisions to the ordinance.
"This is how we make sausage here at the city," said Gafrick, by way of apology for the thorough break downs and drawn-out explanations. Through forums, meetings and work sessions, the commission will think through and consolidate proposed changes to the current ordinance, which has hardly been altered since its adoption in 1989.
Which makes a meeting like this one — when players list endless pros and cons for changes to parking regulations and bicycle-parking-for-vehicle-parking exchange rates are calculated over and over again — an exercise in patience.
The commission granted several concessions to OKRA, including the consideration of a tiered approach to parking requirements for restaurants and bars based on square footage. However, this approach would only be applied to freestanding buildings within the "urban area" (that boundary, either the 610 Loop or Beltway 8, is as yet undecided), and city officials plan to closely examine square footage breakdowns before dividing restaurants/bars into small, medium and large tiers (read more in Section IV of the response).
After another work session on Dec. 8, the Planning Commission will present the proposed parking ordinance to the City Council for consideration.