City of Houston
Planning and Development Department
Census 2020 Deadline:
Final Countdown to Sept 30
Time is ticking. It’s the final push to get a complete and accurate count for Census 2020 and Houston is lagging behind the city's 70% response rate from 2010, as well as the current national response rate of 65.5%. The self-response deadline has changed from October 31 to September 30, cutting short our opportunities to count each and every Houstonian.
Take a look at your next water bill. Planning and Houston Public Works teamed up to print 400,000 Census-themed water bill inserts. Drive safely, but glance up at the digital signs on the freeways. These are just a few of the many ways the Yes! to Census 2020 campaign is reaching out to Houstonians in every community.
We depend on the census for federal funding, and the census depends on you to respond. If we don’t increase our self-response rate of 56.6%, Houston stands to miss out on hundreds of millions of federal dollars that support medical care, pre-school and after school programs, affordable home development, infrastructure repairs and disaster recovery.
Join the Planning team, the entire city and nation by saying Yes! to Census 2020. If you’ve already completed the Census, tell your family, friends and neighbors to respond by September 30 by visiting my2020census.gov or calling 844.330.2020 for English, 844.468.2020 for Spanish.
A Bright Spot in My Day:
From the Planning Director
Round of Applause:
“Let’s be the best trained Planning Department in the country.” This is the clarion call I issue to my team. I’m passionate about equipping our staff to provide optimum service for you, our constituents. Our department’s professional training and development goals are to serve you, our public, better than ever.
In an ongoing effort to engage our team members in professional development without making it feel like another task on our to-do lists, Chief of Staff Misty Staunton organizes popular and creative webinars such as the Learn Over Lunch and Think Tank series. These sessions make professional development enjoyable, interesting and easy while presenting best practices, trending industry updates and historical perspectives on current challenges such as affordable housing and growing communities.
We recently co-sponsored a three-part virtual discussion and viewing of the documentary “This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale,” with the Housing and Community Development Department, and the Houston Sections of the American Planning Association (APA) and National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA). We also offer Think Tanks such as “Virtual Burnouts: How to Engage A Community Remotely” and a webinar titled, “The City of Waller: Small Town Feel, Big Town Opportunities.”
Our employees also take the initiative to join professional organizations and work toward advanced certifications. A recognized measure of professional capability and industry knowledge is the APA’s American Institute of Certified Planners AICP designation. It’s a challenging certification that is held by many of our Planning and Development staff including the latest addition, Transportation Planner Lauren Grove, who recently passed the exam.
While we celebrate the professional accomplishments of our team, we also encourage our employees to be well-rounded and seek balance and excellence outside our daily work. In that vein, congratulations are in order for Planner Manager Lynn Henson who was recently selected for the 2020 City of Houston Bravo Awards. These awards are among the highest honors bestowed to city employees each year, and Lynn is one of only 6 winners citywide. These employees excel on the job and carry their spirit of public service into the community, volunteering time outside of work. Read more about Lynn’s Bravo Award https://bit.ly/30Tqdpu.
Margaret Wallace Brown, A.I.C.P. Director, Planning and Development Department
Sasha Marshall Smith
Yellow-clad Marshall Smith works that Census hustle.
In the office, online and out in the community, it’s not hard to spot Planner Sasha Marshall Smith. These days, she is sporting a signature color – the sunshine yellow of the Yes! to Census 2020 campaign.
Whether she’s wearing or distributing Census t-shirts, masks, yard signs or actively promoting the Census at community events, virtual meetings and media interviews, Marshall Smith is infusing passion and creativity into the campaign. She is setting a trend and urging everyone to get on board and be counted in Census 2020.
This native Houstonian has advocated for low-and-moderate income households and neighborhoods for the past 10 years. Before joining the Planning Department, Marshall Smith served as a senior planner for the City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department, where she spent six years administering federally funded grants to improve housing conditions and revitalize neighborhoods. She created nationally recognized campaigns that educated the public about their fair housing rights and raised awareness for the need for more affordable homes. Marshall Smith’s work on affordable housing opened doors for national public speaking engagements, workshops, and panel discussions.
She graduated with honors from Langston University with a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism with an emphasis in public relations and a master’s degree in regional and city planning from the University of Oklahoma. Her previous professional experiences in planning, community development and public relations include working for the State of Texas, State of Oklahoma, City of Oklahoma City, U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of the Interior-Bureau of Land Management.
Marshall Smith is shown above taking the Census in person with her neighbor.
Vision Zero Goal:
6,687 Comments & Pins
The Transportation Planning division held a series of virtual public engagement meetings in August to further program's goal of gathering 6,687 public comments, map pins and Vision Zero pledges to represent the 6,687 lives lost and seriously injured on Houston streets in the last five years from 2014-2018.
This is your opportunity to speak out. Tell us your concerns or complaints about road safety in Houston. Do you see a need or opportunity to increase street safety for people walking, biking, driving, or using a wheelchair in your neighborhood?
Go to www.letstalkhouston.org/vision-zero:
• Place a pin on our map to show what streets or intersections make you feel unsafe when driving, walking, using a wheelchair, or riding a bike.
• Complete the survey and tell us which actions we should prioritize. The public comment period will reopen in mid-September.
• Take the pledge to help end traffic deaths and serious injuries.
For more information on Vision Zero and to look at some of our draft actions, please visit www.visionzerohouston.com, write to [email protected], or call
GIS Team: On Hand for Laura
The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team set up shop in the Houston Emergency Center to prepare for the expected landfall of Hurricane Laura. During emergencies, the mapping capabilities of this team are relied upon heavily by local government officials, public safety agencies and first responders to formulate and coordinate emergency action plans and rescues throughout the Houston-Galveston area.
During this activation, the team created:
• preliminary voluntary evacuation zip code maps
• researched and updated the status for high water vehicles and boats
• monitored satellite imagery for storm landfall and monitored the call floor in case of potential problems.
If Laura had been a direct (or closer hit) the team would have contributed the following emergency resources:
• mapping concentrations of HFD, HPD and 311 calls for assistance and rescue
• mapping support for FEMA search and rescue
• boundaries for evacuation zones
• mapping affected properties based on Harris County Flood Control District data
• mapping requests for power outages, impassable roadways, additional shelter activations, 911 call heat maps and FEMA Points of Distribution (PODS) statuses.
Geographic Information Officer Larry Nierth tipped his hat to the GIS team.
“Thank you again everyone for being such a reliable force during such an uncertain storm,” Nierth said. “God has truly blessed us with a major dodge on this storm.”
The Planning and Development Department’s plans to educate the public about several traffic management solutions is getting a boost thanks to a 2020 Community Challenge grant that AARP is awarding the department.
The $2,120 grant will support the creation of a Temporary Transportation Demonstration Tool Kit intended to show the benefits of using bike lanes, crosswalks, and other traffic and mobility solutions.
“The Temporary Transportation Demonstration will allow Gulfton community members hands-on, real-life experiences with a bike lane,” said Planner Manager Lynn Henson. “If community comments and feedback are favorable, bike lanes may be permanently installed.”
The Planning and Development Department is one of five Texas organizations – and among 184 organizations nationwide – receiving 2020 AARP Community Challenge grants, with more than $2.4 million awarded in total.
The Community Challenge grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which helps communities become great places to live for residents of all ages. View the full list of grantees and their project descriptions at www.aarp.org/communitychallenge. View an interactive map of all of the Community Challenge projects and AARP Texas’ livable communities work at www.aarp.org/livable.
Visit www.letstalkhouston.org/gulfton-cc for information about upcoming Gulfton community events.
The Late Gerald D. Hines
shaped Houston skyline
Builder, urbanist, and engineer Gerald D. Hines passed away August 23 leaving a marked legacy on the skyline of Houston. Hines moved to Houston in 1948, and quickly formed an engineering and real estate partnership, initially focusing on small scale commercial and industrial development.
In 1967, Hines was commissioned by the Shell Oil Company to construct their new downtown Houston headquarters. Hines would be responsible for more than 900 developments throughout Houston, two of which, the Pennzoil Place building and One Shell Place, were constructed in the early and mid-1970s and designed by renowned mid-century modern architect Phillip Johnson. The building’s design celebrated a distinct and functional modernist style of architecture unlike any other, putting Houston on the map for modern commercial buildings. The Planning and Development Department offices at 611 Walker are within a stone's throw of these iconic buildings.
Hines supported the credo that good design is good business. He appreciated well designed architecture and regularly collaborated with iconic mid-twentieth century architects such as I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson and Kevin Roche, to name a few. Through these partnerships with large commercial entities and architects, Hines was able to develop architectural sculpture that will continue to stand in our city as an example that good architectural design can influence and inform the community and city on a grand scale.
Article and photo by Historic Preservation Office Planner Caitlin Mee.