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FOREST C c. W. 311’1_ NORTH \(d o 0 of N N. ;51 I n I EMORIAL PARK t City \(0 ALLEN w Hell .;,.. e i i I l i l ‘ \( .9. + A k ,……1. g _RICHMOND _ -L:7 ‘,./9qC,,” FREEWAY, sr.. , .r. , /4, 4 i___ / 4S, $…,. N’ .Puthern .; , ,…1—,6TSONNET] Ri ce ..i.t// ”’ 1,, Ontversity i , ,.! West . il k Umversit, ,,,V4 ‘, 7 7 , .,.. r -, / ; -‘ a0 ,, 460′,::,z . F, ..4?” University COURSE -411. t. ”’? zi of Houston ; ,. Br ys k -1——47i \\\\ O. 2-3 , -,”: 90 2.4-6-1-q.9/1 1 i ../to r ,…… 477 GOLFCRESDTR 1.7; COUNTRY CLUB \\I` PSI I iversity 1, I: Southskie Plac e7/ HOLCOMSE BLVD t .1 s 11350 1L94;41’is 2.4 “04;As!ro 9* 221 04 Observation PIatIoIN Basin’ ~4yr ..1 I \\ \( 01.ENBR PARK \(MUSIC” 0 GOLF COU N The order of battle mayor and three of the six members of the city council. The issue sparking the unprecedented recall action was the character and pace of commercial development within the city, and it had been brewing a long time. With the end of World War II, Bellaire boomed, and the number of its singlefamily dwellings went up tenfold in a decade. The suburb managed to remain governmentally independent: it adopted a home rule charter in 1949 and went on to survive the annexation efforts of both West University Place and the city of Houston. Many of Bellaire’s current problems can be traced to events and trends in its post-war period of growth. Houston, by 1949, had incorporated all adjacent undeveloped areas, thus forestalling any possible expansion of its neighbor to the southwest. Five years later, 250 citizens crowded a public zoning hearing to de ,bate a proposed West Bellaire shopping center. Although some insisted that Bellaire “was never planned for business,” ground was broken for the complex after the city council approved the plans by a 4-3 vote. In 1955, construction of a highway that would eventually cut through the heart of town, remove homes, and compromise Bellaire’s bedroomcommunity ambiance, was begun with little opposition. As then-mayor Abe Zindler put it, “I’m not stuck on [the highway], but what can we do about it? If they [Houston’s planners] need it, and that’s the best route, then we can’t stop progress.” The new highway became a stretch of what is now Houston’s 610 loop. With every strip of concrete added to the road, more Houston-bound motorists flooded on, sometimes exiting for a shortcut through Bellaire’s residential streets. The suburb was no longer comfortably isolated from Houston’s big-city problems. Soon, as many as 250,000 people were racing through Bellaire on 610 every day on their way to work. Keeping pace with the commuter traffic speeding through its middle was the crime rate, which soared from four burglaries in 1965 to 138 in 1976last year’s figure represented $132,000 in stolen goods. Ninety percent of those arrested in connection with the 138 burglaries were out-of-towners. Residents in increasing numbers were dismayed that their town was not as “exclusive” as it once had been. Zoning regulations had to be more strictly enforced in a few areas to keep people from parking cars on their lawns. The East Side houses hastily erected for veterans in the late ’40s were now crowded with bluecollar workers. In the ’60s, the Iowa Basic Skills Test scores of Bellaire school children began to decline, and the lower test results were partially blamed on school integration \(Bellaire is part of the Houston Independent School Disdents, a Bellaire official told the Observer, were becoming “traumatic.” Perhaps. But trauma or no, Bellaire householders who wanted to preserve the residential quality of their neighborhoods refused to give up. More and more of them resolved to do what they could to reverse the drift of things. In 1969, the city council approved plans for extensive commercial and townhome development along the free way borders and in previously residential areas, but this was nothing new. In 1965, the council had allowed Texaco to build a huge office complex in North Bellaire. “Texaco got everything they wanted. It was agreeable to us,” recalls Gary Summers, former city manager. By 1975, houses were being torn down to make way for new office buildings. In the 1976 city election, one candidate for mayor, Mimi Superville, ran against incumbent Joe Poindexter on an antigrowth platform. Though few people noticed Superville’s campaign \(Poindexter won re-election with 58 percent of the framed. Pro-development forces argued that offic buildings and other corporate structures would bring in so much added tax revenue that whatever they detracted from the “city of homes” image would be more than compensated for. “My purpose [in supporting commercial development] was to make things easier for the taxpayer,” said Edwin Milwee, one of the recalled councilmen. Anti-growth activists responded that the new tax income would barely cover the outlays for expanded sewage treatment facilities, larger police, fire and water departments, and the control and maintenance of increasingly congested streets and parking lots. Finally, residents began to ask why the argument over growth should be conducted solely in terms of the tax dollar. Strange neighbors Increasingly, citizens were finding that life lived next door to the 25-foot brick walls surrounding the likes of the Prudential Insurance Co. tower or the Big Lift building was a distasteful prospect. While Chamber of Commerce spokesmen were proud that Bellaire had “some of the finest companies in the world Prudential, Getty Oil, Texaco, Sun Oil, Northern Natural Gas”sitting on treelined streets next to old houses, people in the affected neighborhoods were coming to feel differently. At a city council meeting in November 1976, developer Frederick McCord persuaded a city council majority \(Mayor Poindexter and councilmen Jim Hagood, crease the city building code’s floorspace-to-open-acre ratio by 20 percent. \(The code had previously required that for every square foot of floor space, the builder must plan for one square foot of meeting, Clyde Willbern, president of the Northeast Civic Club, got nowhere when he tried to introduce a resolution calling for efforts to keep Bellaire a “city of homes.” Evidently the powers-that-be were unimpressed with the civic club’s pleaand certainly the developers didn’t care. 4 NOVEMBER 18, 1977