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The District Journal April 20, 2018

Floodplain Changes Pass Council

Chapter 19 revised to raise new construction to a 500 year base flood elevation plus 2 feet

On Wednesday, April 11th, City Council passed major changes to the City’s flood plain regulations found in Chapter 19 of the City’s Code of Ordinances. These changes will directly affect how future construction and development will take place within the city’s current 100 year floodplain – and for the first time: the 500 year floodplain.

The measure passed Council in a close 9-7 vote. I explain my vote below.

In a nutshell, the changes pertain to newly constructed homes and structures, and if any, construction of new improvements or additions, where the new addition is larger than 1/3rd of the current footprint of the structure. These new height restrictions will require that newly constructed buildings be built at the new elevation standard of 2 feet above the 500-year base flood elevation (BFE). The 500 year base flood elevation is the approximate height water is estimated to rise during a 500-year rain event. By way of example, if the BFE of a particular property is determined to be 3 feet, then the threshold of the new structure or addition must be built to an elevation of 5 feet (500 BFE of 3 feet plus 2 feet). The 500 year BFE is infinitely variable and is directly dependent upon the elevation of each parcel of land upon which construction is intended.

Unless you plan to build a new structure or a new addition, your current structures will not be required to be elevated to this new height. These changes do not pertain to any properties currently located outside of the 100 or 500 year floodplains.

District J has experienced flooding within the 100 floodplain during the 2015 Memorial Day Flood, the 2016 Tax Day Flood and in 2017 with Hurricane Harvey. Neighborhoods that have consistently flooded due to flood waters that have risen from the banks of waterways or drainage ditches are located along Braes and Keegan’s Bayous and lie within the floodway or 100 year floodplain. On a much more limited basis, other neighborhoods situated some distances from bayous or ditches have experienced localized flooding due to the City’s inadequate or antiquated storm water infrastructure. Such infrastructure flooding locations can be found in both the 100 and 500 year floodplains, as well as outside both floodplains. To be sure, the greatest majority of consistently flooded neighborhoods are located in the 100 year floodplain.

Additionally, approximately sixty percent (60%) of all the land mass within the District J boundaries lie within the 500 year floodplain, which is further from waterways, and the 100 year floodplain, which is closer to waterways. Virtually all of the current residential neighborhoods of the District, such as Sharpstown and the Braeburn-area neighborhoods, fall within the two floodplains. Structures and residences located in the 500 year floodplain have never been subject to building elevations until now.

Those who followed the debate on implementation of the new flood elevations will recognize that no member of City Council argued that nothing should be done to raise future construction heights. The debate consisted of questioning where, when and how high such changes should be implemented.

In the end, I chose to vote against this specific proposal for the following reasons:

  • The negative and unintended consequences of extending the building height restrictions to District J neighborhoods lying within the 500 year floodplain — that do not have a history of flooding; including a loss of equitable valuations of properties and the increased costs associated with raised construction notwithstanding the fact that systemic flooding does not exist in these locations;
  • The City produced data concerning District J flooding did not match the on the ground reality of flooding in the District. Incredibly, the City suggested that 4,887 properties were “affected” by Harvey. The estimated amount of 1,393 affected properties located within the 100 year flood plain may be credible – especially if you include apartment units in the count. However the amount of 1,558 affected properties within the 500 year flood plain, and the amount of 1,936 affected properties lying outside of either flood plain simply could not be replicated. In short the data driving the debate did not match the on the ground experience of flooding in District J; and,
  • I am supportive of the more directed and structured approach of first raising flood elevation requirements within the current 100 year flood plain — where there is historic and verifiable evidence of flooding. Once implemented, these new flood elevations could and should be extended to new areas of the City that are scheduled to be included in the anticipated new Harris County Flood Control/FEMA 100 Year Flood Plain boundaries which are scheduled to be presented within the next two years.

I trust this description will assist you in better understanding how the new Chapter 19 revisions will affect you or your property.

If you would like to see an approximation of the 500-year BFE where your property is located, please click here for instructions on using the City of Houston’s GIMS portal.

As always, please feel free to contact your District J office if we can be of assistance to you.

Thank You,
Council Member Mike Laster

SER-Ninos Community Fair

SER-Ninos Community Fair

A new public children's library is opening in Gulfton! SER-Ninos Charter Schools will be hosting a community fair to get a sneak peak of the library and meet community leaders and partners. Come to the fair!

When: Friday, April 27, 2018, 10am-2pm
Where: New Children's Library at SER-Ninos Charter School
5815 Alder, Houston, TX 77081

SWMC Farmers Market

Look for the orange tents! The Houston Health Department will be holding multiple Farmers Markets at the Southwest Multi-Service Center this year.

SWMC Farmers Market

HCAD Property Tax Workshops


Unsure about how Harris County Appraisal District has appraised your home after Harvey? There will be a free workshop in District J to answer these and other general property tax questions!

When: Saturday, April 28, 2018, 10:00am
Where: Sharpstown Community Center
6600 Harbor Town Drive, Houston, TX 77036

Pictures from the Month

Alliance for Multicutyral

The Alliance for Multicultural Services was presented a proclamation at City Council

Seeds of Sharpstown

Seeds of Sharpstown honored Tanmay Thakker for winning the Prize for Architecture

SER-Ninos Gala

Council Member Laster was presented an award at the SER-Ninos Charter School Gala