BELLAIRE – OUR TOWN
By Lynn McBee © June 12, 2008
The Sixties – Momentous World Changes
When Time Magazine, Inc. published its, “Time 1968 40th Anniversary Special” (© 2008 Time, Inc.) in which it describes that year and the 1960s era as, “War abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Loner Dreams: The Year that Challenged the World.” And this week, a new museum opens in New York to commemorate Woodstock, famed music festival in 1968. The events during that time were indeed momentous (see breakout box) and to some degree were mirrored in Bellaire and in Houston.
But in Bellaire — Rezoning Applications West Loop IH 610 through Bellaire (the “Post Oak Freeway”) opened in June 1964 with new drainage, minus 250 former Bellaire homes and added frontage/feeder lanes. The main West Loop lanes north of Bellaire, between the Southwest Freeway (US 59) and the Katy Freeway (IH 10), were completed in November 1966. Gerald Hines had begun work at the corner of Post Oak and Westheimer in the late 1960s; the first Galleria shopping mall opened in November 1970.
Pressure built for new zoning changes in Bellaire to permit commercial development along the Bellaire segment of the West Loop, as well as for townhomes, a new form of denser housing. Grant Webster was Mayor from 1960-1962, followed by Bob Watts (1962-1966) and Bill Rouse (1968-1970). Bellaire’s population in the 1960 Census was the highest ever, at 19,872, after which it began to decline.
Once the Loop opened in Bellaire, zoning changes were sought. Kenneth Zindler, on behalf of the heirs of the Abe Zindler family, filed an application to rezone the old Zindler property at Bellaire Blvd. and the West Loop to allow business and hotels. The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) in a preliminary report on January 15, 1968, recommended it and a joint public hearing of P&Z and City Council was held on February 7th. Representing the Zindlers was Mr. Leonard Finger, an attorney who had resided in Bellaire since 1939 and who opened the hearing by stating:
“There were two considerations that the governing body would have to consider in reaching a decision on whether or not this piece of property should be rezoned for a Motel and Office Building: One being whether or not there had been such a change in the City of Bellaire that it would justify a change in the Zoning Ordinance, and two, is whether or not what we propose to do will be of benefit to the City of Bellaire. He also stated that Abe Zindler had died in 1963 and the heirs had tried to find (without success) some use for the property. …”
The plans included office space of about 100,000 square feet, space for about 1,000 people, and a motel with rooms for approximately 200 people, meeting rooms to accommodate 300-400 people, restaurant, cabanas, a swimming pool and an 8-foot fence separating the project from the property owners from the south, one parking floor in the basement of the motel and a total of 1100 parking spaces for both the office building and motel.
At the February 7th hearing the meeting minutes listed forty-nine persons who spoke and six letters that were received. Some believed this to be spot zoning and called for a new master plan for zoning with changes proposed within the context of the entire city, not just at one property on the Loop.
On February 12, 1968, another public hearing was held on two proposals to subdivide lots and create new Townhouse Districts by W.C. Broussard immediately north and south of Palmetto Street.
On March 18, 1968 the Council (Mayor Rouse, Councilmen Holmes, Watts, Carl, Kelly, Geyer and Webster) approved Zindler’s application with modifications for parking and with a two year limit for construction to commence or the property would return to the previous zoning.
Petitions for Referendum and Initiative At the very next meeting on April 1st a petition for referendum of Ord. 1636 was presented by Virgil Hancock on behalf of a Committee of Petitioners (Donald Atwood, Arthur Ginzbarg, Virgil Hancock, Dorris Scanlan and Beverly Van Siclen). Under the City Charter, a referendum petition would allow the Council to either repeal the ordinance or call an election to allow citizens to vote whether to support or defeat the ordinance.
The next day, April 2d, the general election for Mayor and Council was held. Mayor Rouse and Councilmen Earl Kelly and Grant Webster were reelected and Councilmen Edwin Milwee, Jack Randolph, Norman Gohlke and Sam McKinney were newly elected.
Two weeks later on April 15th, four ordinances were passed, three for townhouse districts and one for the Zindler office/motel rezoning. On April 15th, Ordinance 1636 was adopted that created a new zoning “District UUU, The Multi-Story Hotel and Office District” allowing for “at least six stories” in height for “offices, retail stores and retail service shops” and for “hotels and motels.”
At that same meeting the City Manager reported that plans were proceeding for staff collection of City data and to conduct preliminary interviews of city planners for Council consideration. The Committee of Petitioners asked to participate in the selection of a Citizens Committee who would be responsible to hire a City Planner, not domiciled in Harris County.
Litigation resulted over the Committee of Petitioners’ quest for a comprehensive plan and participation. The Court ruled that zoning was not a permissible issue for a public vote, but only the governing body was empowered under state law to make zoning decisions. All of those who supported planning versus spot zoning watched, waited and reorganized.
Comprehensive Plan Contract Political and zoning divisions were again heard in the community. The Bellaire Texan printed many letters about commercial zoning, townhouses, and a city of homes. But by November 1968, a contract was approved to hire Dallas urban planner, Marvin Springer & Associates, to propose a comprehensive plan for revision of zoning standards and zoning map of the City, at a cost of $12,800, for completion within six months of the execution of the contract. Ultimately a variant of the Springer Plan and Map was adopted on February 9, 1970 (Ord. 1711) representing new districts, which now included an Office District (O), a Commercial District (C) and new Planned Development Districts.
Zoning in Bellaire began in 1939, was revised in 1949 and did not stop in the 1960s, but continued for decades that followed. The 1970 Master Plan and Zoning Code was amended in 1972, (Ord. 1842), amended in 1974 (Ord. 1990), redrawn in 1980, modified in 1982, updated in 1996-97 and is about to be reviewed again in 2008. The courts were turned to not infrequently by citizens. But as conditions in the city, or community values and/or the economy undergo change, so do pressures emerge for change of existing land use.
Lynn McBee, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elsewhere, cataclysmic changes occurred in the 1960s. In 1960-1967 – The Cold War became the conflict in Vietnam and racial tensions spread through the U.S. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Black Panther Party, National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (the “MOBE”) evolved in reaction to Vietnam.
1960 John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson win Presidential and V-P election, defeating Richard M. Nixon
1961 The Bay of Pigs – anti-Castro invasion crushed; Communists seal off east Berlin with wall; John Birch Society still represented in Houston, found even among some members of the Houston Police Department. Hurricane Carla hits Texas Gulf Coast and Houston Astronaut John Glenn became the first American in orbit and Houston the center for the Manned Space exploration of NASA.
1963 President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas; Lyndon B. Johnson takes office
U.H. became a state supported institution with an enrollment of 11,000; Rice Institute began admitting students of all races and introduced tuition fees. Houston saw new construction: 21-story Jefferson building; 44-story Humble Bldg., 35-story Tennessee Bldg, American General complex begun on Allen Parkway; Albert Thomas Convention Center begun; Alley Theater dedicated; Intercontinental Airport opened (1969); Astrodome opened (1965); Public School desegregation still resisted; Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee perish in a launch-pad fire during a countdown rehearsal (1967)
1968 Jan. U.S.S. Pueblo captured by North Korea. 82 survivors of an 11-month ordeal of jailing, torture, starvation and humiliation ended by year’s end; Vietnam’s Tet Offensive was launched by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong.
Mar. Eugene McCarthy won 42% of the vote in the N.H. Democratic Primary; Lyndon Baines Johnson announced he will not run for a second term as President.
Apr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis; Riots took place in over 140 U.S. cities. Siege of Khe Sanh ends in South Vietnam; Columbia University students seize university buildings over “Gym Crow;” HAIR, the rock musical opens on Broadway.
May Rioting students in Paris, 367 injured, strikes, opposition to Charles de Gaulle
June Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” achieves No. 1 spot; Andy Warhol shot in his studio by Valerie Stevens; Sen. Robert E. Kennedy wins California Democratic Primary; two days later is assassinated in Los Angeles; James Earl Ray arrested for murder of Martin Luther King.
July Coup in Iraq puts Saddam Hussein on the nation’s Command Council; Pope Paul VI issues encyclical, “Humanae Vitae”, condemning birth control.
Aug. Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks roll into Czechoslovakia, ending the “Prague Spring;” Beatles release, “Hey, Jude”; “Yellow Submarine” film opens in Britain; Rioting protesters and police at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Hubert Humphrey nominated for President.
Oct. Riot by students in Mexico City, 200 believed killed; Olympic Games open in Mexico City; Jaqueline Kennedy marries Aristotle Onassis; President Lyndon B. Johnson announces U.S. bombing halt in Vietnam.
Nov. Richard Nixon elected U.S. President.
Dec. Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower wed; U.S.S. Pueblo crew set free; Apollo 8 astronauts circle the moon and broadcast images live TV to earth.
Films: 2001: A space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clark); The Graduate (Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft, Katherine Ross), Rosemary’s Baby (Mia Farrow), Planet of the Apes (Charlton Heston), Barbarella (Jane Fonda, Funny Girl (Barbra Streisand), Night of the Living Dead.
TV: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In; 60 Minutes debut (Mike Wallace & Harry Reasoner); Andy Griffith Show with Don Knotts.
1969 The Eagle spacecraft lands on the moon with Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11, July 16), “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
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