Houston Heights could get city's first green corridor

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Heights residents want Yale Street to receive the conservation designation to safeguard live oak trees.

A 1.6-mile stretch of Houston roadway could become the city's first ever green corridor. Neighbors with the Houston Heights Association said they want Yale Street to receive the designation to safeguard their live oak trees.

Jonathan Smuilan is with the Association's Urban Forestry Committee. He told abc13 they stumbled across an obscure municipal ordinance from the 1990s.

"We can't find anybody who knew why it was there or what it was intended to do. We decided to use it," said Smulian. "Our real concern was that the street is changing its character very quickly with new development, large apartments, some commerce and particularly traffic."

Smulian explained that, in the 1980s, the group helped raise 90,000 dollars to plant almost 500 trees along the street. He told us they cared for the trees for two years and have fought for them ever since.

To receive a green corridor designation, the neighbors had 90 days to get at least 75 percent of non-residential property owners to sign a petition supporting the measure. They got 76 percent.

The petition is now in the hands of city leaders, who have the final say.

"The whole gist of the green space corridor is to protect those trees that have aged over the years, " said Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday. "This is not where those of us here, mayor and city council members, are going to say this is what we want in your geographical area. This is where the people in the community, people along the streets and corridor, are asking us to do it and simply asking us to ratify something they already want."

If a street is designated a green corridor, another layer of protection goes in effect for trees in the public right-of-way.

Barry Ward is the Executive Director for Trees For Houston. He explained the new protections do not prevent the trees from ever being chopped down. Permits would be required to remove the trees for certain reasons.

"It slows down the process of removing trees and encourages people to keep big, healthy trees and to plant more. It improves the aesthetics. It generally makes for a more valuable place, a more pleasant place and certainly makes for a cooler place," said Ward.

"Houston is quickly becoming known as one of the upcoming green cities in the United States. In my opinion what makes it a good rule, consensus has to be built with homeowners and property owners. That takes a long time. Nobody is getting something they don't want."

Ward hoped other neighborhoods will look to the Height's model as an action place for their area.
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