In case you missed it last time, yeah, West University Place is a pretty nice place to live. Last year, the 2-square-mile, Inner Loop haven topped 24/7 Wall Street’s list of “America’s Best Cities to Live.” While I disapproved of the grammar, I couldn’t argue with the result. I’m lucky, I live here.
Now 24/7 Wall Street is back, this time crowning the “Best City to Live in Every State.” And it stands to reason that if West U is the bestest of the best cities in America, it would rank No. 1 in Texas.
The website crunched West U’s numbers. Population: 15,318. Median home value: $917, 800. Median household income: $220,868. That’s four times more money than the average household makes in the U.S.
Why West U?
According to 24/Wall Street, “a dollar goes far in the city as goods and services are about 5 percent less expensive than they are nationwide on average. In addition to entertainment and culture in nearby Houston, West University has a far greater concentration of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, museums, and theater companies than is typical nationwide.” Take that, Bellaire, Kingwood, Sugar Land, and Clear Lake.
By the way, the best city to live in Louisiana? Answer: any city in Texas. I kid because I love ... the beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.
Let’s discuss — but first, an explanation of 24/7 Wall Street. It describes itself as “insightful analysis and commentary for U.S. and global equity investors.” Uh-oh, that sounds like the billionaire bank that just bought Whataburger.
The website used a formula involving housing costs, transportation, affordability, community involvement, crime rate, recreational facilities, and cultural opportunities to rank more than 20,000 cities across the U.S.
In other words, the “best” cities simply scored high on 24/7 Wall Street’s mumbo jumbo roll of Yahtzee dice. They didn’t send staffers to live and breathe and touch a city’s heart and soul. I would say that everything about the rankings are meaningless and silly and based on faulty methodology, and we shouldn’t give it a moment’s thought. But, since my hometown won, let everybody on my street open our windows and shout, “We’re No. 1!”
When I moved to Houston, I didn’t know much about the city, and rented homes in a few parts of town. It took me a few years to learn my way around; Houston is not the easiest city for new arrivals. It takes time to figure out which roads to avoid, how come streets suddenly change their name, and why is there a monkey on that car dealer’s shoulder in TV commercials?
Straight outta Mayberry
When I discovered West U, and knew my son was on his way, I bought a home here and haven’t moved. I believe in public school, and West U Elementary is a magical place straight out of Mayberry. I loved waiting outside with other parents and nannies to put my kid on the back of my bicycle and pedal home. (Well, until he told me that I was embarrassing him, and why can’t we drive five blocks in a car like everybody else?)
I loved coaching in West U Little League, one of the biggest in the world. How Norman Rockwell is this? The most popular night spot in downtown West U is called “Milk and Cookies.” And by downtown, I’m talking about one street, two blocks.
Location, location, location
I can drive to the Astros at Minute Maid Park, the Rockets at Toyota Center, and the Texans at NRG Stadium without getting on a freeway. There are eight supermarkets within a 10-minute drive from my house — three Randall’s, two H-E-Bs, a Kroger, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.
Jeff Van Gundy, the best TV analyst in sports, lives in West U. Craig Biggio, Houston’s baseball legend, lives in West U. Bill O’Brien, a coach in the NFL, lives in West U.
We have our own police and fire departments. I know my mayor and city manager. (The mayor is a Beatles fan.) The city manager’s father worked for a newspaper in Tacoma. I had lunch with the city manager last week at Goode Company Taqueria. He had the pork chop plate; I had a grilled chicken sandwich and fantastic onion rings, maybe the best in town. I asked him, what keeps West U on top?
City manager Dave Beach said, “It’s a host of facts. We are distinguished by our beauty, our safe community, our small-town feeling, our location, elementary school, residential neighborhoods, parks and green space. I also believe that the city’s services are a good value for the taxes paid, and the residents’ commitment to reinvest in their community to maintain and improve it.”
Strange but true fact: the property tax rate in West U is lower than in Houston.
The West U markup
I’m calling bull on 24/7 Wall Street’s claim that goods and services are 5 percent cheaper in West U than that national average. I watch those home improvement shows on the HG channel. Chip and Joanna tell the homeowner, “We need to put in new hardwoods throughout the house, add on a garage apartment and an entire new kitchen. That will cost you about $20,000.”
Really? I once had a loose brick in my front steps, and the repair guy wanted $15,000 to fix it. That's the cost of doing business in West U. We have inspectors on top of inspectors.
It’s nice to see that West U topped a list of great places to live, but if you live here, you already knew that.