Walkable Places (Sidewalk Ordinance)
In August of 2020, the City of Houston adopted a sweeping set of new regulations designed to improve walkability, but, in the process, broadly affected the rights of property owners by altering requirements pertaining to sidewalks, building lines, and parking spaces.
City Council approved the Walkable Places Program and Transit Oriented Development ordinance on August 5, 2020 under the guise of enhancing the pedestrian experience and traffic safety throughout Houston. Since that vote, much has been brought to my attention concerning the unintended consequences of this ordinance relating to sidewalks.
Essentially, sidewalk variances are no longer given, rather, homeowners are expected to submit an application for modification along with a $1,144 application fee. The applications are reviewed by a committee made up of representatives from the Planning Department, The City Engineer’s Office, and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. All of these representatives report to the Mayor. City Council Members, who are elected to represent the interest of their respective districts, are shut out of the process.
As a result of the changes approved in August, the city has implemented a host of new codes that pertain to sidewalks. Generally, sidewalks in Houston are governed by Chapter 40; Article XXII of the Houston Code of ordinances. Section 40-551 through Section 40-557 of this code offers specific guidance for sidewalks in our city. online These sections can be found here.
The following resources are available from the Planning & Development Department:
- Sidewalk Requirements: Chapter 40 Code of Ordinances – Frequently Asked Questions
- Application for Modification of Sidewalks Standards
For more information about Houston’s new sidewalk requirements, click here.