The trouble with West University Place is the trouble with Houston

Do you ever wonder why Houston has so many more parking lots than parks? Is this really what we want? Maybe we can understand this if we take just one tiny example.

They rebuilt the police office and part of city hall in West University Place. This is the place that all the minorities and young drivers have to go on Tuesday nights when the West U cops have stopped them on Bellaire Boulevard, for a usually imagined infraction in this enclave city of wealthy people. In fact, I’ve had to accompany a child or two there myself. It is almost a teenage rite of passage if you don’t have the WUP sticker on your car.

Before parking was limited to a small lot, with a few spots on the street. Now they paved over the entire area, so there is plenty of parking for this tiny enclave city. They could have left half the land as grass, or even as a shrubby park, with half the parking. Or, if they really felt they needed all this parking, they could have built a small parking garage. But I suppose that would have cost too much, even for this wealthy, wealthy place. According to a site called, the median family income in WUP is $157,312 per year, while the state average is $45,861. Yes, I know that cities are usually funded by property taxes, not income taxes, but there too, WUP looks good. It’s median value for homes is $372,800 compared to a state average of $82,500.

Even this rich place would rather pave everything over than leave anything green. So is there any hope for the rest of us?

The mayor of Houston is facing a 75 million dollar shortfall, and comes on the radio daily to discuss how she is going to deal with this. It will be in salaries, and probably will include firemen and cops, and many services that the most needy in our city depend on. Parks are not even discussed. I have not heard a word about raising taxes so we don’t have to reduce services and parks. Divided among the 2.1 million people living inside the Houston City limits, that 75 million is only $36 a person. Of course the rich in WUP won’t have to pay. Neither will those in Bellaire, where we live. The median value for a home in Houston is $163,692, according to HomeInsight, which might include the surrounding area. The point is, we can afford the services we need, just as WUP can afford to have some green space around its town hall. If anyone cared.


The new police and town hall in West University Place.


They decided that the most important people should have covering for their vehicles. Too bad they don’t have them take the bus.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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