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Inside District I Newsletter, Dec 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, I want to take a moment to highlight a few of the projects and initiatives that we worked on this year.

Harvey Recovery & Resilience

We began the year by continuing to assist neighbors who are still recovering from the affects of Harvey. We worked with those residents to help connect them to needed resources such as financial assistance and programs that assist with home repairs.

Flood Mitigation Projects

swatIn April City Council adopted stronger construction rules so that new development is built high enough to save lives and property in the event of future flooding, and Harris County voters approved $2.5 billion in bonds to complete channel improvements, floodplain buyouts, and creation of more detention basins throughout the entire county.

In July, Flood Control began excavation of the Lauder Stormwater Detention Basin, a project that will help reduce flood risks in the Greens Bayou watershed. When complete after additional construction phases, the basin is expected to hold at least 1,200 acre-feet, or more than 391 million gallons of excess stormwater that otherwise might flood homes and businesses.

I'm currently in preliminary discussions with area community leaders, county and city officials to explore the benefits of adding additional detention basins along Greens Bayou near the Woodshadows community in the northeast part of our district.

In addition, through the SWAT drainage program, we continue to prioritize the maintenance and rehabilitation of ditches to reduce the likelihood of neighborhood flooding. The work includes repairing collapsed culverts, regrading, cleaning and mowing neighborhood water channels. Two of the first repairs in District I, include Plum Creek and Pine Gully between I-45 and Broadway which will eliminate drainage chokepoints in the Pecan Park and Reveille Park Place neighborhoods.

Replacement of Brays Bayou Bridges

brays bayou bridgesThe City Council also approved a funding agreement to expedite the reconstruction of 8 vehicular bridges as part of a major flood control project along Brays Bayou. Four of the 8 bridges covered under the funding agreement are located in District I.

Reconstruction of the Forest Hill bridge began at the end of July, work on the Lawndale and Telephone bridge is expected to begin in August 2019, and 75th Street bridge is expected in August 2020. The bridges, which span over Brays Bayou, are being re-built to improve the flow of stormwater during heavy rains.

Wayside Bridge Under Reconstruction

Additionally, in October TxDOT began work to replace the Wayside (US 90A) bridge over Country Club Bayou (near Polk Street). The $3.8 million project will include the complete reconstruction of the four-lane vehicular bridge, including wider sidewalks, and decorative concrete railings.

Public Safety Initiatives

public safetyThis past spring I allocated over $70,000 from the District I Service Fund to increase police overtime to target drug and prostitution hotspots in our community. The overtime initiative focused on bars, cantinas, and along the Gulf Freeway corridor where the community and police have seen an increase in criminal activity. The four month initiative was highly successful and resulted in the arrest of 96 suspects charged with various crimes including open warrants, drug possession, and prostitution. Along with the arrests, officers seized 3 guns, 87 grams of LSD and 28 grams of PCP. I intend to commit more funding to continue police overtime next spring.

While the overtime initiative aimed to crack down on criminal activity, officers also made contact with individuals in transient camps underneath our freeways, and issued dozens of warnings to aggressive panhandlers. In partnership with HPD's Homeless Outreach Team and Solid Waste, TxDOT also cleaned up encampments at several of our underpasses.

New Tools for HFD & HPD

hfd hpd toolsThis past year, we completed the installation of a new permanent restroom facility at HFD's Val Jahnke Training Academy. We proudly contributed $140,000 from the District I Service Fund to provide for this much-needed restroom building which is located in close proximity to the simulated training course on the academy campus where our cadets and firefighters train.

The restroom building includes multiple stalls for men and women, as well as wash stations where cadets and firefighters can clean up after fire drills that sometimes include exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Equipment for HFD & HPD

I also worked with HFD to purchase four new power saws that have proven to be a critical tool often used by our firefighters when rescuing victims trapped in mangled cars after accidents as well as cutting through burglar bars of homes and businesses engulfed by flames. The new saws were purchased with District Service Dollars and were delivered to stations in the district in September.

In addition, I allocated funding to purchase more surveillance cameras to catch illegal dumpers, as well as electronic speed feedback trailers to crack down on speeding near schools and neighborhoods. These important public safety tools have been deployed and are currently monitoring areas throughout District I.

Enhancing Quality of Life

quality of lifeLast year we launched a pilot initiative to pick up shopping carts abandoned on public property in District I. That program, funded through Service Dollars, continued through this year. Abandoned shopping carts are not only unsightly, but they can create road hazards and even lead to drainage issues if they end up in ditches. While the final numbers of the pilot have not yet been calculated, over 2,000 shopping carts had been retrieved in just 9 months of collection from roadways, sidewalks, esplanades, ditches, and parks in District I. This is in addition to the number of shopping carts picked up by retailers such as Fiesta Mart, Walmart, and others during that period.

BARC Funding

Working with BARC, we funded additional overtime for animal enforcement in neighborhoods where there are large amounts of aggressive stray dogs that pose a threat to residents.

Traffic Calming Devices Installed

traffic calmingOver the past year we also worked with several civic groups and associations to fund the installation of traffic calming devices and speed humps in Eastwood, Idylwood, Glenbrook Valley, OST Acres and Manchester (south), Tropicana Village and Houston Country Club Place.

Funding for Quiet Zones Approved

This past September the City Council was presented with agreements to upgrade four rail crossings (Navigation, Harrisburg, Canal, and Hughes streets) that need to be improved to establish the East End I and East End III quiet zones. Unfortunately, due to the considerable involvement of the railroad companies in the implementation process, as well as other agencies (like TxDOT and Metro), developing the plans and securing the necessary funds has taken time. While Union Pacific expects it will take 16 to 20 months to complete upgrades and establish the quiet zones, once complete, the quiet areas will span from the Gulf Freeway to the Ship Channel. We will continue to monitor and push the railroad for an expedited process.

New Trails & Park Enhancements

new trailsOne of the most important park amenities we focused on this year was adding new walking trails and enhancing existing pathways. In November, we joined the Parks Board and the community in opening the new signature pedestrian bridge at Mason Park that spans over Brays Bayou, and we also completed a new 8-foot-wide trail connector (replacing the narrow 3-foot sidewalk) along Tipps and 75th Street and connecting to the Brays Bayou Greenway Trail.

The District I Office also partnered with BikeHouston to install a Fix It bike repair stand that is located off the trail near the main parking lot entrance on 75th Street. In addition, new decorative light poles and lighting were installed along the pathway around the gazebo, finally illuminating the area so it can be used in the evenings. Over at Clinton Park and Songwood Park, we completed repairs and re-asphalted the 8-foot-wide trails that loop around both parks, and next spring we will also be resurfacing the walking trails at Dow and Reveille Park. The completed trail repairs, new lighting, and a portion of the Mason Park bridge were funded using District I Service Dollars.

Wider Trail Coming to Gus Wortham

Just last month, we began widening the public sidewalk that surrounds Gus Wortham Golf Course along Lawndale, Wayside and on the north side of the golf course property. When completed, the new 8-foot-wide trail will loop around the golf course and provide users - walkers, joggers and cyclists - direct connection to the Brays Bayou trail system and beyond.

New Trail near Botanic Garden in the Works

Over near the Botanic Garden, the Houston Parks Board is proposing a new concrete hike-and-bike trail on the south side of the bayou from Glenbrook Park to an existing golf cart bridge near the Botanic Garden, crossing over the bayou then continuing on the north side of the bayou to a welcoming greenway 'gateway' on River Drive before it heads under I-45 to the existing trail system. As part of the project the Parks Board would improve the existing golf cart bridge closest to I-45 and transform it into a pedestrian and bike bridge. Design is underway now.

New Green Spaces

new greeen spacesThis year, we also formally opened and dedicated a new green space and dog park in the Fonde neighborhood. The park was named after longtime civic leader and dog lover, Jody Miller, who sadly passed away before the park was completed. The Jody Miller Dog Park, located within Fonde Park at 5500 Carrolton Street, was designed with the help and support of Fonde residents, and funded with District Service Dollars.

Mobility Study Underway in Hobby Airport Area

Working with the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the Houston Planning Department, Gulfgate TIRZ 8, and area stakeholders, we initiated a comprehensive study (inclusive of vehicular, transit, pedestrian, bicycle and freight) that will be used to guide the city's short and long-term multi-modal mobility planning efforts and to identify projects that will improve mobility and access in the southeast. The study will help identify options for improving mobility in the area, and provide ideas for eliminating the confusing traffic circle at I-45 and Broadway, expanding our bike network, enhancing our public transit system and extending Metro's Green and Purple Light Rail lines to Hobby Airport.

Botanic Garden Continues to Grow

botanic gardenThe horticulture staff is studying the plant life at the site to understand what plants are hiding in the soil and ready to emerge, and there is also a research project going on to determine the more effective and economical method to naturally rehabilitate the soil to grow a variety of plants that will be on display and support healthy ecosystems.

To date, private philanthropy has contributed more than $27 million of the $35 million goal to create a beautiful place to appreciate and learn about plants. The Botanic Garden was also awarded a grant by the Texas General Land Office to create stormwater detention wetlands to improve water quality on the site, mitigate flooding, and create natural habitat for native aquatic plants and animals. Site construction is expected to begin in 2019. Phase One, known as Botanic Beginnings, is scheduled to open in late 2020.

Gus Wortham Park Golf Course Reopend

wortham golfIn October, I partnered with the Houston Golf Association (HGA) and the East End Community Coalition to host an Open House for the community to tour the restored golf course and see the work completed under Phase One. Approximately 300 residents stopped by the course throughout the event to tour the site, take practice shots on the newly extended driving range and new putting green.

Phase One work included the restoration of the golf course, new cart paths, bridges, overhauling the irrigation system for better water conservation, adding a new irrigation lake for storm water retention, and reestablishing creek banks, as well as extending the driving range. The entire restoration was funded through private dollars raised by the HGA. We are looking forward to phase two, which will bring a new club house and other amenities.

In addition, we are working with the Houston Parks Board and the community to develop a new green space and dog park near the corner of Brays Bayou and Lawndale, across the street from the golf course. We expect construction to begin in 2019.

Looking Ahead

looking aheadMy team and I remain committed to being advocates for better green spaces and investing District I Service Dollars to enhance neighborhood parks, sports fields, and build new greenspaces for people and pets. In fact, one of the items we will work on in 2019 is to identify and secure funding for the design and future construction of Phase One of the Mason Park enhancement project.

We will also be celebrating two new affordable apartment communities that will help us meet the housing needs in our growing community. Fenix Estates, a 200-unit development located at Cullen and 45, will begin leasing in the spring, and in January we will break ground on a 144-unit apartment community in the Hobby area for senior citizens.

And just as I have done over the past five years, I remain focused on developing solutions to address neighborhood nuisances just as we are doing with our multi-pronged approach to reduce the number of stray dogs, retrieve shopping carts from public spaces, and to eliminate overgrown lots, install traffic calming devices in neighborhoods that need it, as well as strategically deploying resources to crack down on illegal dumping and criminal activity.

Working together with community stakeholders, residents and local leaders, we have made great strives toward improving the quality of life in our community and we are looking forward to 2019. So, on behalf of the District I team - Celia, Gloria, Joaquin, Citlaly and Daniel - it is our joy and honor to serve you.

We wish you the very best of holidays and healthy new year!

Robert Gallegos
Houston Council Member
District I