Fighting Against Townhouses

Houston's Hidden Jewel neighborhood fights against townhouses, insists it doesn't want to be new Heights

Houston's Hidden Jewel neighborhood fights against townhouses, Heights

Lindale Park Houston sign in neighborhood
Lindale Park is hoping to stave off a townhouse development with a pair of city ordinances. Photo by WhisperToMe/Wikipedia
Lindale Park Houston Gale Street
Lindale Park resident Kathy Gutierrez has secured more than 30 properties on and around Gale Street. Google Maps
Lindale Park neighborhood Fourth of July parade July 2009
A resident of the neighborhood for for nearly 35 years, Gutierrez calls Lindale Park a "true community." Lindale Park Civic Club/Facebook
city of Houston flyer on special minimum lot size area designation Lindale Park Chapter 42
The City of Houston is promoting building line and lot size restrictions as a form or community sustainability. LindalePark.org
Lindale Park Houston sign in neighborhood
Lindale Park Houston Gale Street
Lindale Park neighborhood Fourth of July parade July 2009
city of Houston flyer on special minimum lot size area designation Lindale Park Chapter 42

Residents of Lindale Park have a special moniker for their quiet northside neighborhood, "The Hidden Jewel." But with real estate bursting at the seams in the nearby greater Heights area, homeowners there fear their peaceful enclave will find itself overrun with townhomes.

"We're one of the few remaining subdivisions inside the Loop that hasn't been re-developed," area resident Kathy Gutierrez tells CultureMap. "I've lived here for 34 years and absolutely love it. It's not exactly a fancy place, but my neighbors are like family. This is a true community and it's something we want to preserve."

In a city that long has prided itself on its lack of zoning, two small-but-powerful planning ordinances are giving established neighborhoods like Lindale the means to battle rampant townhouse development — minimum building lines and minimum lot sizes (MBL and MLS, respectively).

" This is a true community and it's something we want to preserve."

Once approved by residents, the rules freeze existing lot sizes and ensure that future construction won't push beyond current building lines. In other words, no more jam-packed condo lots squeezed around a vintage 1930s bungalow.

"These ordinances work more or less like deed restrictions," says Suzy Hartgrove with the City of Houston. "Ultimately, the effect is that developers can't subdivide lots into multiple pieces for 20 or 40 years, depending on the type of petition."

Hartgrove notes that many older portions of the Heights have actively pursued MBL and MLS rules in recent years, along with Hyde Park, Riverside and parts of the Third Ward and Spring Branch.

Gathering signatures on and around her own block, Gutierrez has protected more than 30 Lindale properties from being subdivided on lots of less than 7,000 square feet. Working with the Lindale Park Civic Club, she has expanded efforts throughout the entire 75-year-old neighborhood.

Once signatures are certified by the planning commission, the city will mail ballots to area residents. If 51 percent of homeowners approve (without any public protests during a 30-day waiting period), Lindale Park will one more of a growing number of Houston communities successfully pushing back against developers.