897 units, and 3,000 families are for bus transportation and shop on their waiting lists. Negroes, who pay most of the high rents for the tumble-down shacks, are not satisfied with their surround ping. Because of this proximity, because a third of the courts were vacant, and because of the 3,000 Negro families waiting for units, ings, as the 3,000 waiting list evithe HHA board discussed build dences. There is simply little else ing 600 new units for whites \(with available. preference given to those now backs are pointed out. One objector is City Planning Director Ellifrit. San Felipe into a Negro project. It was decided that the public would not support another proj “One architect’s ideas are used ect. Then the board discussed for the entire project,” he says. “All units are just alike;’ people lose the ability to express themselves in their housing. It’s sanitary, but has no personality. People don’t like to live in them.” The HHA has had a stormy his building a fence down the middle of San Felipe,turning half into Negro units. During the storm that followed this proposal, Hofheinz was defeated. A week later, the terms of a majority of the board were up, Holcombe ap Slums Growing in Houston’s Center drastic surgery. The legislature must pass the act before many otherwise eligible and willing cities can participate in the program. Many city planners and people dealing with –trie slum problem feel that for complete elimination of slum areas, a broad, heavily financed program of this type is the only one that can produce results. In January, 1955, urban redevelopment was debated in Houston before a panel of Harris County legislators, at their request. The subject was before the legislature, and they wanted to test the feeling of their con ., stituents. On one side, supporting, was Mayor Hofheinz, who said it offered an. American free enterprise solution to the slum problem as a substitute ‘for public housing. On the other was Councilman Gail Reeves, who may run for mayor in November, who said it was socialistic and a threat to property rights. Also opposing were county Democratic chairman Presley Werlein, several members of t h e Constitution Party, and a vocal opponent of compulsory vaccination. If the legislature passes the enabling act, and the city council, in the face of Councilman Gail R e,e v e s’s opposition, approves, there is one more hurdle for urban renewal in Houston. That i Houston’s lack of zoning. The federal government will not participate in a project unless its investment is protected by zoning laws. Nearly 160 American cities are participating in urban renewal projects because they believe that slums are a community problem and a community menace, regardless of who owns the property. Week OGovernor Daniel asked Pres! ident Eisenhower to declare the state’s flooded sections as disaster areas and sign grants for needed federal aid. A few counties are still on drouth relief. OHouston narcotics squad De tective D. R. Smith was suspended after he refused to make a statement in answer to charges he had been peddling part of the heroin he obtained as evidence. Housing Authority. A shack city on Buffalo Drive has been replaced by San Felipe Courts. Notorious Shrimp Alley, -with its marijuana gr6 -Wing in back yards, no longer exists because Mrs. Will Clayton bought the land for $290,000 and gave it to the HHA in 1952 after a public housing refprenciiim for more _purehazo of building sites was defeated at the polls. The HHA built the Susan V. Clayton homes, in which only Latin Americans live. Irvington Courts, on the north side, is the most popular of the housing units for whites because it is located near schools, churches, and shopping districts. The two projects for Negroes, Kelly Courts and Cuney Homes, never have vacancies in their attempted. The only innovation attempted by the Hofheinz-ap, painted board and by Booker was the partial desegregation of San Felipe Courts. The board foundered on this issue and the defeat of Hofheinz suspended the argument. San Felipe Courts is an island cf 9R7 unite, 361 of which are unoccupied. T h e Gulf Freeway bounds the east, eight-lane Buffalo Drive the south, Jefferson Davis hospital and businesses the west. The north is bounded by the Fourth Ward, one of Houston’s main Negro districts. Residents of San Felipe Courts must cross Buffalo Dr iv e by pedestrian bridge to go to school. They must go to West Dallas, the main business street of the Fourth Ward. Oscar Holcombe and his slate returned to power, defeating the city manager advocates. The new city council said they knew nothing of the proposed zoning plan and asked for a referendum vote en the issue. This was unprecedented; Houston is the only large city -which has had a relerclik-win vote on the zoning ?ssue. Battle su ttleli p n p e o s r ware drawn. Jesse Jones zoning; Hugh Roy Cullen opposed it. Thousands of dollars were spent on the campaignfall-page newspaper advertisements, radio time, handbills, mailings. The opponents of zoning won, 2 to 1. Zoning appeared dead. In the last six months, there has been renewed interest in zoning, Ellifrit said. He also said that any further action will have to come from the people, as far -as the City Planning Commission is concerned. “Houstonians are living in an economic frontier,” Ellifrit said. “Civic problems have to compete with this deep interest in making money, and. this is hard to do.” Houstonians are infected with a speculative fever, he said. People living in good residential areas I believe that their property may be worth even more someday if it is not restricted in use by zoning. “Also, many people feel that Houston is a place to make money innot a place to live in and to build residentially for the future. There are no compelling loyalties to the city. I have talked to substantial people whose attitude is ‘Houston’s getting along all right economically. Let’s don’t do anything to upset this. We can make our money here and go live somewhere else’.” A Murder When Hofheinz took office in 1953, three city ordinances on sub-standard housing were enacted. One dealt with health hazards, the second with fire hazards, and the third set up two committees: one composed of the heads of interested city departments to supervise and prescribe a program of community action for the abolition of sub-standard conditions; the other composed of citizens to arouse public interest in the problems of sub-standard housing. Vituperation is heaped upon those who advocate condemnation of slum land and shim clearance. The man whose job it is to force slum owners to repair or vacate is used to curses and ugly replies. In fact, it was he, E. M. Duer, supervisor of general sanibtation, who was shot down with a neck wound when a building inspector was killed by a landlord. A third man, another building inspector, was also wounded. The trio were placarding the house as a health hazard, and the landlord, now serving life in the penitentiary, s=aid his property rights were being invaded and he was defending them. Duer administers the health ordinance through the health department, headed by Dr. Fred K. Laurentz. At the time the ordinance was passed, Duer had other duties, and he was given no additional help by the council in handling the enforcement of the new ordinance and getting a court test of the constitutionality of the ordinance. Then came the shooting, April 13, 1954. Duer was in the hospital for months, during which no action was taken. He has been plugging away since his recovery, but in his own words, “We can handle just the very worst cases. We can’t handle whole slum areas. We just scratch the surface.” amount of .we-13:. “I think we’re Dr. Laurentz so that his department is doig a tremendous doing more -Klan any other city in Texas on 1 individual and small group r. }-usis,” he told this re porte-. ;There -is no doubt that Duer works hard and is dedicated to the ordinance for which he nearly gave his life. Last November, the Houston Chronicle, wlute editor, Emmett Walter, is acting chairman of the City Planning Commission, ran a series of articles on slum conditions and the difficulties Duer encountered in trying to enforce the ordinance by himself. As a result, the City Council approved funds for the hiring of two assistants for Duer. \(By comparison, New Orleans has 26 men working on -The ordinance itself is not as strong as Dallas’s, for example, It is designed to force the repair or the vacating of only the worst slum housing. It provides no authority to compel an owner to tear his place down, although many do so in preference to repairing them. It provides no requirements for spacing of dwellings. The Houston building code sets up these restrictions: wooden construction, six feet from another structure; asbestos siding, 28 inches from another structure; masonry, side by side. With the exception of masonry structure, all dwellings must be located at least three feet from the property line. Masonry structures can be built right on the property line. The City Planning Commission tried to plug this loophole by recommending the following spacing restrictions to the City Council: minimum front yard. of 20 feet, minimum side yard of 5 feet, minimum back yard of 15 feet. In his report to the planning commission, Mr. Ellifrit says: “This recommendation has not as yet been acted upon. The Mayor has, however, suggested that the Commission reduce the requirements if possible.” The fire ordinance, administered by Fire Marshall P. W. Clooney, can force vacating or repair of certain fire hazards. However it is limited to dwellings nhabited by ten or more persons. Under other ordinances, however, the Fire Department can’ deal with vacant houses as fire hazards, over which the health department has no jurisdiction. Here is a record of achievements of the health and fire departments under the 1953 ordinances. Health 1954 1955 1956 Demolished 19 130 144 Repaired 42 82 172 Fire 1954 1955 1956 Demolished 296 248 Repaired 206 197 * Not available The third ordinance suffered by the change in city administrations. The committee of City department heads to prescribe and supervise a program to eliminate substandard housing apparently has not met since Hofheinz was defeated in 1955:Neither has the citizens committee, though opinions differ on whether it has actually been abolished or not. It is a subject city employees do not care to talk about. In any event, it is probably safe to say that public housing is not, at the moment, a practical option for those who wish to help fight Houston’s blight. The only available course seems to be urban renewal, provided the legislature says all right and the zoning hurdle can be cleared or circumvented. Slum Clearance Several of Houston’s former slum areas no longer exist as a result of slum clearance and subsequent housing projects built and administered b y the Houston OThe Gulf Oil Corp. and The Texas Company, two of the world’s largest oil companies, reported estimated record incomes of $94.9 million and $86.4 million, respectively, for the first quarter of 1957 due to the Suez crisis. During the same period of 1956 they earned $71.9 and $69.9 million. OAn eleven-year-old Houston boy was arrested for drunk driving after he wrecked his mother’s car while she was in a Galveston County gambling hall. A six foot San Antonio showgirl. Pat Gaston, announced she will wed asbfftos heir Tommy Manville in her first marriage and his tenth. OThe number of major crimes noted in El Paso last year increased nearly 30 percent over the year before, according to Federal Bureau of investigation records. The Court of Criminal Ap peals threw out the convic thoroughly sorry proceeding. A new director, Thomas Booker, was brought in by Hofheinz, who rebuilt much confidence in the administration of the HHA, although no new projects were in Texas tion of B. R. Sheffield, partner of Bascom Gilds in a land scandal! deal, and ordered a new trial fOr former district attorney Raeburn Norris of Alice, who had been convicted ‘of misapplying public money from the Duval County road and bridge fund. The Sheffield case was thrown cut because McCUlloch County was misspelled in the indictment as “McCullough Counck.” District Attorney Les Procter announced plans for a new trial. The Norris case was reversed because the indictment alleged there was a conspiracy to misapply public funds and, according to the court, no conspiracy was proven. O”Faith Healer” Asa Alonzo Allen, one of the nation’s fastest rising evangelists, was exposed in Houston by the press as having been arrested for drunk driving in Knoxville, Tenn., after conducting one of his “miracle revivals” there. O
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