Houston Considering a ‘Sidewalk-In-Lieu-Fee’ for Residential Projects

Developers and homeowners might be able to opt-out of the Houston’s sidewalk ordinance under legislation under consideration by the Houston City Council this week.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 25, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

An aerial view of a typical suburban neighborhood in Texas.

Allison J. Hahn / Shutterstock

The city of Houston is considering a “sidewalk-in-lieu-fee” that would allow homeowners and developers to pay a price to opt-out of the city’s sidewalk ordinance, according to an article by Yilun Cheng paywalled by the Houston Chronicle.

“Under current regulations, property owners and developers are required to build a sidewalk in front of a property unless the project meets certain exemptions,” according to Cheng. “With the new measure, applicants can choose to pay a fee of $12 per square foot if the required sidewalk construction is unsuitable or unfeasible. The fees would go into a new fund, which is expected to generate $1.7 million a year for the city to build sidewalks in a cohesive manner.”

The ordinance would split the city into 17 areas—70 percent of sidewalk-in-lieu-fees collected in each area would be allocated in the same area. The remaining 30 percent could be used citywide. David Fields, chief transportation planner at the Houston Planning and Development Department, is quoted in the article saying the fee system is intended to balance the need for sidewalk projects throughout Houston.

According to the Greater Houston Builders Association, which has advocated for the $12 per square foot fee, “a large tree, a drainage system or an open ditch” can sometimes make it implausible to build a sidewalk in front of a house. Greater Houston Builders Association Chief Executive Officer Aimee Bertrand is quoted in the article saying the fee will help bring down the cost of housing in the city.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 in Houston Chronicle

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Protesters with signs in Atlanta after Tyre Nichols murder

Memphis: Crime-fighting Camera Sheds Light on Police Abuse

The irony is unmistakable. Public surveillance cameras, long controversial in the criminal justice community, provided pivotal video footage of the beating of motorist Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers at a traffic stop on January 7.

39 minutes ago - The New York Times

Photo of cars on two-way separated highway with illustrated lines between them indicating tech-driven decisions

How Autonomous Cars Could Impact Energy Use

The complex algorithms used by self-driving vehicle technology use massive amounts of energy, which could lead to a steep rise in carbon emissions as autonomous cars become more commonplace.

1 hour ago - Dezeen

Overhead view of crosswalk with pedestrian median

Safe Streets Grants Announced

The federal Safe Streets and Roads for All program funds planning and implementation for road safety projects aimed at reducing traffic deaths and building safe infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users.

2 hours ago - U.S. Department Of Transportation