When it comes to reporting municipal incidents, heights can be a lot of maintenance.

For the ninth year in a row, Greater Heights is on track to file the highest number of reports to the city’s 311 customer service, registering thousands of missed recycling drives, water leaks, drainage issues and more. nuisances.

The affluent enclave was responsible for around 13,000 reports between January and October, up from 12,600 in the same period of 2020, according to a Chronicle analysis of city data. Its 15,743 complaints in 2019 set the highest score for any neighborhood in the past decade.

Despite its reputation for shady streets lined with 1920s bungalows and Victorian-style homes, the area is not immune to potholes, drainage issues, and delayed solid waste service. Its inhabitants do not seem reluctant to complain either.

Volume is not just a question of population. Greater Heights has less than half of the residents (47,860) of Alief, a frequenting 311 home to more than 104,000 people, according to data from the Planning Department. Alief filed approximately 11,300 reports this year. It was the last neighborhood to surpass heights in 311 reports – in 2012.

So, are the people of Heights smirking neighbors, or just careful stewards of their streets?

“I think it’s an equal amount of the two,” said real estate agent Bill Baldwin, a 23-year-old resident of Heights and himself a frequent user of 311. “There are a number of rights and bitches that go together today is on Facebook, it’s on Nextdoor, and 311 is just representative of the same thing. “

At the same time, Baldwin said, the Heights have a strong civic tradition, spun out of vibrant homeowner associations, neighborhood groups and historic neighborhoods. Its inhabitants “understand that the squeaky wheel obtains the most responsive government.”

City Councilor Abbie Kamin, whose District C includes both Heights and Montrose, another high-volume user of 311, said the data is not shocking regardless of motivation. She said the city is better when its people get involved.

“District C is known to receive most calls and emails from all district offices, so the fact that we have 311 data to take care of is no surprise,” Kamin said.

The council member noted that the heights have aging urban infrastructure – old water systems, old roads, old or no sidewalks. Kamin said voters told him about four sewer overflows in a single week in early December. The heights also have open drainage ditches, which require regular maintenance.

Drainage issues and sewer calls were ranked 3rd and 5th, respectively, among Heights’ complaints to the city.

Glen Austin, a resident near 20th and Ella, has lived in various neighborhoods in Houston. He guessed that the reputation of the Heights might explain the volume of reporting to the 311 system.

“The Heights is considered safe, clean and tidy – you can see it when something goes wrong,” Austin said. “If I saw a bunch of old tires on the ground on TC Jester I would recognize right away that it needs to be fixed and that’s unusual.

Southwestern Houston (11,296), Washington Avenue / Memorial Park (9,562), and Montrose (9,117) are set to complete the top five neighborhoods this year. These findings have been common for at least five years; Northside / Northline is another frequent top finisher.

On a per capita basis, the Heights and Montrose have almost identical volumes: 274 reports per 1,000 population. Fifth Ward, Greater OST, Midtown, and Near Northside also had high ratios by this metric.

The familiar boundaries of the Heights constantly extend from the original neighborhood that dates back to 1891, but the city uses super neighborhood maps to code 311 requests. By this boundary, Greater Heights includes much of the area contained by Loop 610, Interstate-45, and Interstate-10. The western boundary is a combination of White Oak Bayou and Durham Street.

Brad Snead, an attorney who lives in the Heights, offered another theory: There are tensions between longtime residents of the Central Heights and the rapid business development that surrounds it. The Heights scores high in terms of socio-economic and educational factors, which means there is a wider awareness that 311 exists and people know how to navigate it.

The Heights is among the richest neighborhoods in median household income, at $ 116,171, and education. Two-thirds of Heights residents have college degrees.

“The area is ripe for friction, coupled with knowing how to complain,” Snead said.

Daniel T. O’Brien, a professor of public policy at Northeastern University who has researched 311 reports for a decade, said accessibility is probably the simplest explanation for Heights’ position at the top of the battery.

“For various reasons, some populations – given the same level of need, by holding this constant – are more likely to know the system and be able to access it in this very literal way,” O’Brien said. , author of a book on his findings on the Boston 311 data.

“They might trust the system more. There are underprivileged communities that may not believe that the government is going to come and fix things … There is also the other side of the coin, which is the law. There are certainly communities that are, let’s say, well-heeled, and they have high standards for maintaining their community and they will advocate for that.

However, other affluent neighborhoods do not use 311 at the same level, even on a per capita basis. University Place (average income $ 135,766, 86 percent college education) only filed 3,360 complaints this year.

The most common complaints from The Heights were missed recycling pickups (993), water leaks (784), drainage issues (682), and property nuisance (653), a broad category that encompasses everything from lawns overgrown with improper wood storage.

The recycling service is a lingering problem citywide – complaints have risen 30% this year, seventh among all reports – but most other neighborhoods are more concerned with litter and heavy waste roads. Among the top 30 neighborhoods, missed recycling pickups were the main complaint only in the Heights and Montrose.

These neighborhoods also stood out when it came to reports of COVID-19 capacity violations in 2020. The city used fire code complaints to document advice on capacity limits when pandemic restrictions were in place. in place, and that Heights, Montrose and the Washington Avenue corridor were responsible. for a disproportionate number of such tips.

It was the second most common report in the Heights that year, and the first in the hallway of Washington Avenue and Montrose.

This could be because these areas had more bars and restaurants with capacity complaints. The Washington Avenue gang, for its part, was known for its rowdy bars that broke the rules. This area led the city with 1,091 such reports.

O’Brien, the professor, said the onus is on the government to ensure it combines 311 reports with more objective data, so as not to funnel a disproportionate amount of resources into communities that use the system more.

“If you just answer calls, you perpetuate the disparities,” he said.

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