Are you in the dry area and Prop 1 is not on your ballot?

Unfortunately, we've heard reports of this occurring at virtually all precincts (from both "for" and "against" voters).

If so, please email us at info@keepheightsdry.com with your address, and thanks to all of those who have voted AGAINST Prop 1 today so far!


As we head toward election day...

The facts are all out there.

We urge you to vote AGAINST Prop 1 to change the dry area. In many non-obvious ways, the dry area has shaped The Heights as we know it today. Not morally or culturally, but in the stark reality of land use and restrictions.

The positive by-product of the dry area has been:

  • A prevalence of small, locally owned businesses.
  • A residential, small-town feel despite the lack of blanket deed restrictions.
  • A predominantly historic look that is not overshadowed by "cookie-cutter" retail development.
  • A distinct character that can't quite be described easily, but that is the reason so many are invested in this issue.

It's been doing this for 104 years already.

 


“Keep The Heights Dry” is truly a small, grassroots group of Heights residents, property owners, and workers who are campaigning with a small budget to inform residents about the implications of changing the dry area, regardless of how it affects an HEB at 23rd & N. Shepherd.

Our campaign is not anti-drinking or anti-progress. We fundamentally feel that it is short-sighted to modify the dry area as a condition of having an HEB, since the dry area has served a land use and restriction function that has directly impacted the neighborhood character of the Heights, making it such a desirable area. Residents in and around the Heights, and businesses looking to enter the Heights, would not be so passionate about this election if the Heights wasn’t so uniquely great. That unique appeal has steadily grown all with the dry ordinance in place: residential, restaurant, and retail development is booming in the Heights.


Regardless of the fact that many Heights residents support and volunteer for the “Houston Heights Beverage Coalition,” it is a campaign that is funded 100% by HEB since, as they have stated, they would need to sell beer and wine at this store in order to make a fair return. It is conducted by a group that specializes in these sorts of campaigns to change dry areas all around the country. In our view, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. However, because of the impact this will have on the neighborhood for generations to come, it is worth emphasizing that Heights residents are being asked to trade in a law that has in many non-obvious ways made the Heights what it is today in order to ensure that HEB easily make a profit. Rather than adapt a model to the Heights or seek an alternative that does not fundamentally change the story of development in the Heights, HEB has chosen to spend over $100,000 to convince Heights residents this is all no big deal and will simply lead to more options. 

We're not saying that changing the dry area would change the Heights on November 9th or even next year. But it would fundamentally alter the direction of the Heights well into the 21st century. Keep the Heights dry not just for the sake of keeping it dry. Keep it dry as a mechanism to keeping it local, residential, and historic.

Now you get to decide. Vote AGAINST Prop 1 on election day.


Too much of a good thing?

Not only is HEB hanging a store over the heads of Heights residents only if they undo 104 years of history, they're doing it knowing they have another lease signed just 2 miles away at Washington & S. Heights. This 97,000 sf store will be the largest HEB in the region.

If this is about more grocery store options and competition, how are other stores supposed to compete in the Heights with two brand new HEBs at each end of the Heights, not to mention the existing store on W. 18th, all within a 2 mile radius of the center of Houston Heights?


Myths About the Dry Area Vote

Myth: Changing the dry area is a grassroots effort and “not driven by businesses wanting to sell alcohol.”

There is really only one business wanting to sell alcohol so adamantly, so this is partially true. Since the petition even came on the radar of Heights residents, this effort has been exclusively backed by HEB. In fact, they have spent over $120,000 as the sole contributor the the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition. Only recently has HEB leadership publicly acknowledged the profit motive of the company’s involvement in leading the charge to change the dry area.

It is also true that Keep The Heights Dry is partially funded by a Woodland Heights resident/voter and residential realtor who owns property in the dry area. If anyone can find a way for one residential realtor to grossly profit from restricting land use to preserve neighborhood character, please email info@keeptheheightsdry.com for forwarding. Our other financial backing is from a Houston Heights resident and property owner who represents no outside interest other than neighborhood character protection.

Myth: We simply need more grocery stores for the thousands of new residents flocking to the Heights.

In reality, the population of the Heights trended downward from 1990-2010. Though a lot has changed in the 6 years since comprehensive available census data, we are still on the low end of population growth rates compared to the rest of the city.

As far as a grocery store imperative in the Heights goes, only 32% of residents are more than 1 mile away from a grocer selling fresh produce (a commonly agreed upon working definition of a food desert). This is even below the entire Houston average of 44%. In other words, the vast majority of Heights residents are within minutes of a grocery store.

Myth: Deed restrictions or the historic districts are what protects the existing dry area from unwanted over-commercialization.

In fact, Houston Heights doesn’t have blanket deed restrictions, and virtually none of Yale, Heights Blvd. or W. 19th have deed restrictions that would prevent large chain operators from entering the market. As far as historic restrictions go, there are plenty of lots without contributing structures that become vulnerable down the line.

Myth: Since this vote is just about off-premises consumption, it would never lead to chain restaurants or a bar.

Actually, Texas Petition Strategies, the direct recipient of over $95,000 of HEB’s expenditures for this election specializes in those sorts of elections, too. Once we are added to their list of “results” that becomes all the more reason for another large corporate interest to hire them to change that law just as easily. As in this campaign, they would draw from years of experience crafting exactly the sort of message that convinces voters there is a groundswell of local support for dry area changes when they are always funded by a large retailer.

Caution: If Houston Heights voters don’t send a loud and clear message to HEB and Texas Petition Strategies, history shows that they are likely to try again.

Myth: The dry area needs to change simply because it’s old and archaic.

It is true that the dry area became the law of the land here in Houston Heights in 1912, before women had the right to vote. So did the Texas Constitution which “gives us the right to have this election.”

Myth: The Heights is experiencing a lack of new development because of the dry area.

Come to the Heights. Look around.


Our Reasons

 
Photo Oct 24, 2 46 47 PM.jpg
 
Photo Oct 24, 2 45 52 PM.jpg

It's not just about HEB.

 We love HEB. They are a beloved regional brand and a great community partner to many neighborhoods. The H. E. Butt Foundation gives generously to an array of causes that benefit the Houston area. They offer great products at great prices, and we welcome them to the neighborhood. For that reason, we regret that HEB's involvement in modifying the dry area implies that they will only move forward with the location at N. Shepherd and 23rd St. if they are able to sell beer and wine. We aren’t telling HEB we don’t want them—they’re telling us they don’t want us, unless we vote to change the fabric of our neighborhood.

Learn More →

We have and can continue to have "nice grocery stores" here.

Once again, we would love to have an HEB. We just want them to choose to call the Houston Heights home for the same reasons we do—its uniqueness, historic character, and amazing quality of life. From HEB’s standpoint, it has been easier to simply throw money at a turnkey political campaign (applied in dozens of other cities by HEB, Walmart and others) to convince Heights residents that changing the dry area is in their best interest than to examine how this seemingly minor law has been one of the biggest factors in creating the look and feel of the Heights and working within it. We risk changing the fabric of our beloved neighborhood simply to help their bottom line.

Learn More →

It would just be the beginning. 

 Our biggest concern is that allowing the sale of beer and wine for off-premises consumption will make it easier for large regional or national operators to come in and apply a “one-size-fits-all” model that is currently anomalous in the Heights dry area.

Our opposition is not moral (we love to drink), and our only commercial interest is in maintaining the conditions that already encourage small, local business ownership and operation. How?

Learn More →


Our View


Our Mission

Keep the Heights dry.

In the simplest analysis, what Houston Heights residents will be voting on this upcoming election day is whether to allow the sale of beer & wine for off-premise consumption. This means that both existing and new retail operators could apply for a permit to sell beer and wine to take home.

Keep the Heights local.

While the Political Action Committee known as Houston Heights Beverage Coalition is led by a Heights resident and does have some support from other residents within the dry area, it is not a community initiative. The political strategists behind the petition to have this local option election, Texas Petition Strategies, specializes in precisely these sorts of ballot initiatives. For them, this is just another job.

When wet-dry boundaries begin to evaporate, larger operators begin to dominate, as shown in other parts of the state. Even though it may seem like an insignificant political relic, the dry area constitutes an important barrier to entry to large retailers looking to apply their one-size-fits-all model. By default, this encourages local business ownership.

Keep the Heights residential.

This is a familiar story in other parts of the country. Outside corporate interests interfere with long-standing norms that are working just fine for communities, creating the illusion that it is a neighborhood initiative. What is sometimes marketed as progress or freedom of choice, is often backed by someone with a vested commercial interest and deep pockets to not only build support but also obscure their involvement.

Residents of the dry area didn’t hire Texas Petition Strategies, so why would be want to be counted among their clients? We’re not their clients, we’re residents of an area that we chose and love because of its unique character, of which the dry area is a key component.

Keep the Heights historic.

Preservation extends beyond architecture.

 

“Heights life isn’t just about architecture; it’s a unique subculture, an artsy little neighborhood that feels like a small town tucked within sprawling Houston. And it seems everyone wants a piece of it.”

(Houstonia Magazine)

Keep the Heights weird.

Residents once flocked to the area to escape the big city, but today it's hipsters and young couples that are drawn to its rich and character-filled architecture, mom and pop-type shops and funky restaurants. Find something you never knew you wanted atone of 19th Street's quaint boutiques. Thrift stores, antique havens and cafes prove to be popular at the Heights-strip. Stop by for the "First Saturday Arts Market" on the first Saturday of each month for live music, crafts, plants and artwork.

(Visit Houston)