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Shenandoah’s response to HUD investigation abling ordinance \(the “Neighborhood Trafpressure from a citywide investigation by HUD, the city’s legal department is performing a “civil rights review” of the program for what it calls “unintended discriminatory effects.” At least one suit has been filed against gates \(within Houston’s internal neighbor, Bellaire, where mediation others are likely to follow. Opponents of the gates insist that they will not be pacified by cosmetic changes in the ordinance. The outcome of these arguments may well determine whether Houston will attempt a future based upon its uniquely multi-racial, multi-ethnic and notoriously free-wheeling heritage, or will instead move toward an increasingly segregated, raceand class-stratified metropolisin which it will be even easier than it already is to tell who’s “in” and who’s “out.” The use of street gates as a city planning option is a product of the administration of Mayor Bob Lanier, who proposed them as an offshoot of his “Neighborhoods to Standard” program which targeted for improvement substandard streets, lighting and other servicesduring his first term, 1992-94. Previous administrations had not been enthusiastic about civic association requests for gates, and particularly the fire departmentwhich also has responsibility for other emergency vehicles, including EMS and ambulanceshad strongly frowned on gates. But Lather, who made his fortune in real estate and generally thinks of city problems in developer’s terms, saw restrictive gates as one more tool to compete with nearby “planned cornmunities”like Kingwood to the south and The Woodlands to the north. If suburban homebuyers have controlled access and private subdivisions, argued Lanier, why shouldn’t the city have them too? The gates option received an additional boost as an alternative to citywide zoning, elections of 1993, partly for lack of committed support from the mayor. Houston remains the largest city in the nation without zoning, relying instead on the property deed restrictions provided in scattershot, patchwork fashion by civic associations that have balkanized Houston politics for decades. Civic associations, frustrated in their desire to create permanent zoning barriers around single-family-residential sub divisions, looked to the new NTP ordi nance to provide physical barriers instead. Lanier, with the support of a compliant city council, strongly endorsed the new ordinance, and gates projects that had been stalled for years by neighborhood opposition were suddenly fast-tracked. Local fire personneland some neighborhood policestill objected, but Lanier-appointed fire chief, Eddie Corral, quickly came around to his boss’ point of view. In official theory, street gates represent both a democratic and technical solution to neighborhood problems. Civic associations, representing self-declared neighborhoods, apply to the city traffic management division for a solution to cut-through traffic by “outsiders.” Following an engineering riod for public comment \(including a hearmended to city councilwhich almost never rejects staff recommendations. In practice, what happens is much more complex and problematic; even the definitions don’t quite parse. In the first place, the “neighborhoods” represented by civic associationswith widely varying degrees of resident involvementmost often coincide exactly with the street boundaries of single-family, residential subdivisions, excluding de facto any businesses and restaurants, apartment houses, or even nearby subdivisions which might be slightly more mixed in character. Once self-defined as a neighborhood, such subdivisions exclude from the discussion the very neighborsnow officially deemed “Outsiders”most likely to be negatively affected by restrictive street gates. By the time a proposal gets to the public comment or hearing stage, it already carries a presumption of “neighborhood” support, as well as the presumed objective recommendations of consultants and engineers; negative comments from “outside the neighborhood” are given little standing. Similarly, defining the whole issue as a traffic problem, and handing it over to the traffic engineers and managers, gives the appearance of traffic management to what is more often an issue of social policy. That is, instead of elected officials asking what solutions ‘are best for an entire neighborhoodor indeed for the whole citythe question becomes, “What do these particular residents want?,” regardless of the larger consequences. And larger consequences there certainly are. The gates in Houstonwhether installed or only proposed have already polarized neighborhoods, pitting neighbors against neighbors, homeowners against apartment dwellers, residents against small businessmen, whites against Hispanics and blacks. Demonstrations against the gates have been held in several of the affected neighborhoods, and the threat of lawsuits has been persistent enough that at one point the city refused public access to the NTP files, citing “possible litigation” \(the state Attorney General overruled the areas filed discrimination complaints, HUD began an investigation, triggering a “civil rights review” of the program by the city’s legal department. \(Both are still in associated with the street gates, an ambulance delay resulted in the near death and permanent disablement of a man who had suffered a heart attackand who happened to live on the wrong side of the gate. In that instance, which took place last March 24 in my old neighborhood, fire department personnel responded to an emergency call at the home of Timothy Walters, on Fourteenth Street in the Clark Pines/Timbergrove neighborhood near THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5