3 neighborhoods designated as historic districts

June 29, 2011 4:10:59 PM PDT
It was a fight that pitted neighbors against neighbors and city leaders against city leaders. Now that bitter battle over historic preservation is over and three Houston neighborhoods are dealing with the fallout.

We've been following this battle for months now and on Wednesday, city leaders designated three neighborhoods as historic: Glenbrook Valley, Woodland Heights and Heights South.

The designation affects about 1,300 people. Some residents say they like the ordinance, while others say they didn't like the ordinance or the process.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nowhere is that more clear than in Houston's Glenbrook Valley where 1950's charm meets modern comfort. It's a mix that has pitted neighbor against neighbor in a fight against City Hall and each other.

"The majority of the homes in this community are ranch-style homes. There's 1,255 homes that are considered ranch-style homes," said Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza, who opposes the designation. "In my opinion, they're not truly architecturally significant."

Significant or not, they are now historic. City Council passed an ordinance making the Glenbrook Valley, Woodland Heights, and Heights South areas into historic districts. The move limits reconstruction and requires the city's approval, even for minor changes to a home's facade.

Some say it will keep the area pretty.

"I'm so thankful that we have it. We are truly deserving of it. Even though we're not as old as some of the other neighborhoods, that doesn't make us less worthy or less important. We have to protect what we have now," said Ann Collum of the Glenbrook Valley Civic Association.

The battle over the ordinance has been ugly. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and other civil rights groups say hundreds of signatures on petitions favoring the designation were obtained by non-English speaking residents who were lied to about what they were signing. It's a claim the mayor says has no merit.

"I'm not aware that there were any allegations raised, formal complaints, that were not investigated," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

The mayor went on to say that they did try to contact people who were represented by groups that were claiming they were duped by this process or lied to about the process, but no formal complaints were filed.

LULAC told us that it did in fact happen. We tried to get some neighbors to speak on camera who said it happened to them, but they said since it has passed, they were too intimidated to talk on camera.

LULAC says there could be a lawsuit filed.

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