The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 141
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Houston Anti-Zoning Movements
roads and parks, but could not dictate the use of private land. Wharton
was frank in his opposition. "Many people have borrowed money on
property which is semi-business. Now comes a map saying it is residence
property. When the debts come due, they are having trouble renewing
Thus, while in other cities small property holders and realtors sup-
ported zoning as a means to protect their property, in boomtown Hous-
ton it was feared that zoning was going to injure the speculative in-
terests of men attempting to get rich. Unlike the rhetoric of later
controversies, that of 1930 was not developed; rather, it decried zoning
as a device that would hurt a number of small, speculative landholders.
Thus, the major argument against zoning was a defense of private-
property rights against outside interference.14
The initial purpose of the meeting had been to decide whether or
not to go ahead with the public hearings, but it actually became a mini-
referendum on zoning. Commissioner Amerman noted that "a few
people can make a lot of fuss." 1 On January 7, after joint meetings of
the City Planning Commission, the city council, and a twelve-member
delegation from the Houston Property Owners Association, the three
groups adopted a resolution abandoning zoning. It declared:
it is the sense of the city council and of the planning commission that the
principle of zoning is sound and should be employed in the orderly develop-
ment of the city [but] any zoning plan should meet the approval of the
citizenship generally before its adoption should be urged. .. . In the ap-
parent state of public opinion, the presenting of a zoning ordinance would
be inopportune.... It is the sense of the city council and the planning
commission that whenever a demand of a majority of citizens for a zoning
ordinance shall become apparent, that the same shall be considered.16
According to Commissioner Amerman, the major reason for zoning's
defeat was that "you can't convince the man who is outside the black
lines (business property areas) that he [hasn't] been destroyed, so we
might as well give it up for the present." The zoning ordinance was
13Houston Chronicle, Jan. 7, 1930 (quotation); Minutes of the Houston City Council.
Book BB, Aug. 29, 1929-Aug. 31. 1930 (n.p., n d.) 183-184 (microfilm; HMRC). There
was no mention of the protest in the minutes. For retrospective articles on the first
struggle, see the Houston Press, May 31, 1938; Houston Chronicle, April 9, 1938, Oct. 14,
1959; Houston Post, April 17, 1938.
14Houston Chroncle, Jan. 7, 1930.
15Houston Chronicle, Jan. 8, 1930.
16Ibid, Jan. 7, 1930; Houston Post-Despatch, Jan. 7, 8 (quotation), 193o.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/177/: accessed April 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.