City of Houston Seeks Proposals for Planning Lily Pads

Could you design a neighborhood center with the resources people need in floods and other emergencies? Could you develop a plan to implement a network of them throughout the City of Houston? If so, then maybe this is for you. The City seeks vendors to help it develop a network of “lily pads” that can act as refuges during emergencies.

Seniors at Kingwood Village Estates trying to evacuate to higher ground during Harvey when floodwaters rose in the middle of the night. Twelve people died: six from injuries sustained during evacuation and six from the heartbreak of seeing their condos destroyed.

Preparing for Emergencies

The City’s first resilience effort was somewhat of a utopian effort. It focused on helping people thrive after floods, not eliminating flooding. This one looks to gain more traction. It will take survival planning down to the neighborhood level and help people dislocated during adverse events such as Hurricane Harvey.

During Harvey, churches, schools, libraries, and businesses became gathering centers. However, many of these spaces were not equipped to serve as temporary shelters. The City seeks to identify and develop a network of unflooded spaces that can become locations for individuals to obtain basic needs, assistance, and recovery resources during floods, heat events, or air quality emergencies. They will become “lilly pads” that help the City distribute food and emergency supplies, telecommunications access, and federal assistance guidance. These spaces will also become gathering centers for the dissemination of relief and recovery for individuals.

Citizen Led, Government Supported

Instead of being led by local government, lily pads are intended to be supported by local government. Community members, community-based organizations, and/or faith-based groups will lead and manage them.

The City hopes such lily pads will help prepare for future disruptions and disasters. The request for proposals states, “For Houston to become more resilient, we must be able to adapt to future risks from chronic stresses such as addressing environmental justice issues and acute shocks including: extreme heat, poor air quality, flooding, hurricanes, and public health emergencies.”

Emphasis on Social Vulnerability

The selection of the strategic location and design elements of each Lily Pad will include social vulnerability and “equity.” The City intends to use these criteria to ensure locations benefit the most vulnerable and disproportionately affected populations. Social vulnerability and equity will also be taken into consideration when developing the lily pad master plan, toolkit and pilot project.

If you work for a company that does this sort of planning, consider responding to the RFP. It certainly sounds like a worthwhile effort as far as it goes. Personally, though, I think anyone rescued half naked from 20 mph floodwaters in the middle of the night deserves help.

You can find additional documents here on the City’s bid website. The City will hold a pre-proposal bid conference on May 26. The bid deadline is June 10.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/13/2021 with thanks to Carla Alvarez for the heads up

1353 Days since Hurricane Harvey