Tag Archive for: Trammell Crow

Trammell Crow Contractors Still Pumping Silty Stormwater into Street

The persistent after-hours pumping of silty stormwater from the Trammell Crow construction site into the street drains has been reported to Harris County Engineering for several months now. Despite warnings, the practice continues. The danger: accumulated silt in drain pipes and the river can reduce their conveyance, back water up in heavy rains, and lead to flooding.

One small development won’t be catastrophic. But the cumulative impact of hundreds could be.

For all those reasons, construction permits come with instructions to use things that retain and filter silty water such as berms, sediment basins and semi-permeable fencing.

Repeat Offender

In January 2024, contractors began clearing Phase II of an apartment complex on West Lake Houston Parkway without any of these safeguards. Because the complex lies just outside the City limits, Harris County Engineering is responsible for inspections.

They have visited the site numerous times and cautioned contractors about discharges of silty stormwater. At different times, the contractors installed silt fences and erected berms. They also built sediment basins and channeled excess stormwater to them.

On April 10th, the area received approximately 2 inches of rain. And yesterday, April 11, the contractors were pumping water back into the street THROUGH A PILE OF MUD. After quitting time. When inspectors wouldn’t be around. Again!!!

Caught on Camera

Michelle Chavez, a nearby resident, caught the action on camera.

39 second video by Michelle Chavez showing extent and source of pumping

Chavez also took several still photos.

Silty stormwater being pumped through open gate washing out driveway
Note mud on right being washed into street.
Pumping took place near sunset, around 8PM when County inspectors were unlikely to be present.
They appeared to be pumping water from unfinished, underground storm drains, but pumped it through mud. Photo by BR taken around 7PM on 4/11/24.

At least one local resident concerned about flooding reported the pumping to Harris County Engineering. He was told that Engineering would send an inspector out.

Sending Wrong Message: Will Sixth Time be the Charm?

This is the sixth story I have posted about stormwater-control issues at this construction site. See the previous five.

One wonders when the county will level a stiff fine or shut down this site. At this point the Harris County Engineering Department also has its reputation on the line. Tolerating such behavior sends a message to other developers that may be unsafe in the long run.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/12/24

2418 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Trammell Crow Contractors Expanding Stormwater Detention Basin

After a wet winter that saw sediment carried offsite by stormwater on multiple occasions, contractors are finally installing stormwater drainage on Phase II of the troubled Trammell Crow apartment complex on West Lake Houston Parkway and Kings Park Way.

Aerial photos taken on 03/18/24 show order gradually emerging out of apparent chaos on a construction site piled high with mountains of dirt and pockmarked with giant holes, even as contractors lay drain pipe, pour concrete and begin expanding the Phase I Stormwater Detention Basin. See below.

Looking S at Phase II of Trammell Crow’s High Street Residential Apartment Complex on West Lake Houston Parkway.

In the photo above note now the excavator is shaving down the bank of the Trammell Crow Phase I detention basin (foreground).

Expansion of Detention Basin

Plans show that both phases of the 11-foot deep, apartment-complex detention basin will comprise 36.99 acre feet. They also show that the total size of the development is approximately 32.4 acres. That exceeds the minimum requirement of .65 acre feet of detention per acre required by Harris County Flood Control.

Note extension of detention basin past dotted line and how it corresponds to excavation in photo above. Phase I on left, Phase II on right.

Elsewhere on the Trammell Crow site, contractors are busy installing drainage.

The corner that flooded so badly last January and February, leading to citations from Harris County Engineering.

After the run-in with Harris County Engineering, the developer was later caught pumping silty stormwater into the street on a Sunday, when inspectors would likely be off work.

Regardless, there have been no floods since, giving contractors time to move forward.

Father north, contractors are busy prepping and pouring foundations for the apartments.
Freshly poured concrete. Notice men smoothing and compacting it.

At this time, long-range weather forecasts show no major storm fronts for the remainder of the month. That may give Trammell Crow contractors a window to avert more disastrous drainage delays.

Stormwater is the enemy of construction. That’s why most contractors plan for it upfront, rather than trying to deal with it after the fact.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/18/24

2393 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Trammell Crow Contractor Pumped Silty Stormwater into Street…Again

On Sunday, 2/18/24 at 12:27 pm, Michelle Chavez photographed a Trammell Crow contractor pumping silty stormwater from a construction site into Kings Park Way near West Lake Houston Parkway. The silty water appeared to be routed through a filter bag.

Contractors commonly use such geo-textile bags to remove oil, grease, sediment, litter and debris from pumped water. But this bag had several gaping holes, undermining its effectiveness. No one appeared to supervise the operation.

Chavez said the water stunk badly. There was so much that it blocked one of the two southbound lanes on Kings Park Way.

Photos of Latest Discharge

See Chavez’ photos and video below.

Trammell Crow contractors pump silty stormwater into street. Looking N along Kings Park Way on 2/18/24 at 12:27 pm.
Same location. Same time. Looking S.
Note holes in filter. Also note time/day stamp on photo.

Here is a 27-second video that puts all the pieces together and shows the construction activity in the background.

A second resident told me that the pumping continued into Sunday night…well after dark. Discharging on Sunday and at night can help avoid those pesky County inspectors.

Previous Discharges

This was not the first time the contractors had been caught on camera. Silty stormwater from the site has run into the street on several occasions in the last few weeks:

After the last visit by Harris County officials, they finally started channelling the water away from Kings Park Way.

Photographed on 2/3/24. Diagonal channel is taking water toward a sediment basin.
Some of the water from the SW corner of the site was channeled into a sediment basin. But by 2/13/24, they had filled in the part of the channel….
By 2/20/24, two days after the pumping filmed by Chavez, they had filled in most of the channel and were starting to install storm sewers.

Most contractors plan for stormwater before it rains. What a mess!

Why Controlling Discharges from Construction Sites is Important

The EPA had this to say about the importance of controlling stormwater discharges from construction sites. “When it rains, stormwater washes over the loose soil on a construction site, along with various materials and products stored outside. As stormwater flows over the site, it can pick up pollutants like sediment, debris, and chemicals from that loose soil and transport them to nearby storm sewer systems or directly into rivers, lakes, or coastal waters.”

In this case, the water goes straight into Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million people.

County Engineering Notified Again

Harris County Engineering has once again been notified of the latest discharge, though the results of their investigation have not yet been reported.

Remind me never to rent an apartment here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/22/24

2368 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Meritage Begins Clearing 40 Acres for 210 Homes, Many Over Wetlands

Meritage Homes of Texas LLC, a company based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has begun clearing 40.2 acres between Kings River and Pinehurst of Atascocita. The company will reportedly build 210 homes there – 5.2 per acre. Although the new development is far above floodplains, wetlands cover a large part of the first phase.

Two Phases of Development

Meritage told homeowners in the area that it plans to develop the land in two phases, with the second still several years away.

The two parcels bracket Pinehurst Trail Drive. The first stretches along Kings Park Way almost to West Lake Houston Parkway (WLHP) on the west. The second stretches to the Atascocita Golf Club on the east. (See satellite image below.)

Locations of Phases I and II.

Land Not in Floodplain, But Contains Wetlands

According to FEMA, the land sits outside known floodplains. That’s good news.

Phases I and II circled in red. From FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer. Cross-hatched area = floodway. Aqua = 100-year floodplain. Tan = 500-year floodplain.

However, according to USGS, portions of the property contain wetlands. That’s not good news. Homes developed over wetlands often experience a variety of problems, such as shifting foundations, doors that stick, and cracked pavement.

From the National Wetlands Inventory.

The presence of wetlands (and a gas pipeline) may indicate why this property was not developed until now.

The definition of “jurisdictional wetlands” has flip-flopped in recent years as one administration after another has tweaked the definition of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS). Currently, we’re dealing with Biden’s changes to Trump’s changes to Obama’s changes. It’s not simple.

The definition stretches more than 100 pages and determines what the Army Corps protects.

It’s not clear at this time whether the Army Corps has ruled whether these particular wetlands fall under their jurisdiction.

Western Parcel Being Cleared First

Photographs taken on Feb. 13, 2024, show that contractors have already cleared a significant portion of the first phase, which is on the west. See images below.

Looking ENE toward Lake Houston. This shot shows the first part of clearing adjacent to Texas Laurel Trail and Pinehurst Trail Drive. Wetlands cut through this area.
Reverse angle shows full extent of clearing as of Tuesday morning, 2/13/24. Looking W toward CVS (out of sight in background) along WLHP.

Note the small channel that appears to be draining the wetland area. According to the schematic diagram below, homes, driveways and roads will eventually cover this channel and the area it drains.

Layout of Homes and Detention Basins

Plans indicate the area will have 124 30×80 foot lots and 86 40×80 lots. That’s fairly high density. And it will have a high percentage of impervious cover that generates a lot of runoff quickly. Luckily, the development will have four stormwater detention basins, according to the diagram below posted on Facebook.

Harris County regulations specify a minimum requirement of .65 acre-feet of stormwater detention per acre for developments of this size. It’s not clear at this time whether the development will exceed the minimum requirement.

Tree Buffer

A resident indicated that a deed to the property requires Meritage to maintain a buffer of at least 25-30 feet of wooded land along the property boundary. That should help retain/restrain runoff, too. See photo below.

So far, contractors seem to be leaving the required setback.

Construction Plans and Drainage Analysis to Follow

According to residents, Meritage just closed on the property in January. Given the recent sale, I do not yet have full construction plans or a drainage impact analysis. However, I have submitted a FOIA Request to Harris County Engineering and will provide them when I get them.

When I photographed the clearing activity this morning, it had silt fence around most of the perimeter (an improvement from last Sunday).

The silt fence is also an improvement over a neighboring development on WLHP by Trammell Crow.

Neighboring Development Still in Quagmire.

Harris County Engineering and Constables shut down construction at the Trammell Crow site after it flooded Kings Park Way, WLHP, and neighboring properties during heavy rains in late January.

This morning, I noticed that contractors are back at work behind tall privacy fences. However, they still lack silt fences along large parts of their property. Moreover, trenches that they dug to drain the property to a sediment pond had been blocked off to accommodate construction equipment. See below.

Trammell Crow contractors were busy this morning piling dirt over the knee-deep muck on their site from heavy rains two weeks ago.

Stormwater is the enemy of construction. That’s why most contractors implement measures to control it upfront in a project, not after the fact. Let’s pray that Meritage’s contractors protect their neighbors better.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/13/24

2359 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

After Quitting Time, Contractor Pumps Silty Stormwater into Street

1/31/24 – At 5:20 today, about the time government inspectors usually knock off work and the sun was setting, I got a tip from a reader. The reader alerted me to flooding on Kings Park Way near West Lake Houston Parkway, adjacent to a new Trammell-Crow apartment complex that Harris County Engineering had cited for stormwater violations. I hustled down there. Here is what I found.

One Lane Flooded

The contractors were pumping silty stormwater into the street and flooding one lane of the road.

The hose pumping the water into the street appeared to be at least 4 inches.

They had placed sand bags around one storm drain to help filter the silt.

But the silty stormwater was so deep, it flowed in both directions…

…straight into another unprotected City of Houston storm drain down the block.

Mud covered sidewalks ankle deep…

…while an excavator dug a trench to make more muck flow toward the pump.

From the wet marks on the pavement, it appeared that the discharge had covered the entire right lane at one point.

This is Phase II of an apartment complex development. The land you see is owned by Kingwood Residences HTX and HTX II LLC. Both LLCs are owned by High Street Residential, a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Trammell Crow Company in Dallas. Their local headquarters are on 2800 POST OAK BLVD STE 400, HOUSTON TX 77056-6169. In case you chose to write them.

Public-Safety Issue

According to one study, “Sediment pollution is the single most common source of pollution in U.S. waters. Approximately 30% is caused by natural erosion, and the remaining 70% is caused by human activity. Construction activity is the most common source of sediment pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agencysediment pollution causes approximately $16 billion in environmental damage annually.”

Clogged drains affect road safety. Clogged rivers affect flood safety.

After Hurricane Harvey, the Army Corps found that sediment had blocked 90% of the West Fork. Dredging cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And another email from a boater that I found waiting for me when I got home from the disaster site alerted me to the fact that sediment is building back in at an alarming rate.

Perhaps Mr. Crow could help with the next round of dredging. In 2020, Trammell Crow Holdings was worth an estimated $19.6 billion.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/31/24

2346 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Developer on WLHP Cited for Stormwater Violations

In response to citizen complaints, Harris County Engineering has visited a construction site on West Lake Houston Parkway three times and issued an unspecified number of stormwater violations.

Both phases of the development, Kingwood Residences HTX and HTX II LLC, are owned by High Street Residential, a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Trammell Crow Company in Dallas. Apartments are being built on Phase I. Meanwhile, Phase II is still in the clearing phase.

According to Danielle Cioce, Manager of the County Engineering Department’s Watershed Protection Group, “They are in the process of making the necessary repairs. We will continue to monitor the site to ensure it comes into compliance and remains that way.”

However, as of today, the developer appeared to fall short of compliance. I saw no activity on the portion of the site still being cleared. The reason was unclear. Cioce did not respond to multiple requests for comment today.

Effective Stormwater Measures Still Not in Place

I visited the site myself three times in the last week and have seen few changes since my initial post on this subject two weeks ago in response to a reader complaint.

The developer lacked normal safeguards against sediment escaping from the site, such as silt fences. Neither did the developer have sandbags to catch sediment in street gutters before it entered storm drains.

Such sediment escaping into the San Jacinto West Fork has been connected with flooding in the Lake Houston Area. The Army Corps estimated that the San Jacinto West Fork was 90% blocked near here after Hurricane Harvey.

How much of the sediment in the river is natural and how much man-made? One study found that approximately 30% of sediment pollution is caused by natural erosion, and the remaining 70% is caused by human activity. Construction activity is the most common source of sediment pollution, according to the study.

During a break in the rains last week, I photographed the High Street Residential site on West Lake Houston Parkway. It lies between Upper Lake and Kings Park Way. Without any of the normal safeguards, silty water poured off the site straight into storm sewers.

Photo taken 1/24/24 at West Lake Houston Parkway and Kings Park Way shows silt stormwater escaping into street.
Same day. Slightly different angle shows volume of muck.
Same day. Ground level shot shows runoff streaming into unprotected drain. Note lack of silt fence.
Runoff streamed over curb.
The Army Corps, City, and TWDB recently spent $220 million on dredging the East and West Forks.

What Construction Plans Say Should Happen

I received the approved construction plans from HCFCD via a FOIA Request. They clearly state that contractors should have sediment protection controls in place before starting construction. Regulations also require the contractor to:

  • Document the date of installation of erosion control measures
  • Retain measures in place until permanent stabilization of soil
  • Make field adjustments as needed to maintain the effectiveness of all measures
  • Keep a record of weekly inspections that verify measures are functioning properly.

But that’s not all. See the two screen captures below from the construction plans.

Photos Taken 1/29/24 Show Aftermath of Last Week’s Rain

I returned to the site today, two and a half days after the rain stopped. Water was down slightly, but contractors still had not installed effective stormwater control measures.

Silt fence was missing. So were sandbags to guard the storm drains. In some places where silt fence had been installed, it had fallen over from the weight of runoff accumulated behind it. In other places sediment had collected knee-high to the top of the silt fences. See below.

Silt fence guarding the stormwater detention basin overwhelmed by eroded sediment. This suggests volume of runoff in other areas without silt fence.
Phase I has no silt fence along most of the perimeter. Shown here: construction in progress along Upper Lake is guarded by a chain-link fence.

The developer had installed sandbags in a gap in the silt fence, but left gaps in the line of sandbags.

Note gaps in silt fence toward corner. That faint line guarding the corner is a line of sandbags. But…

The gaps channeled stormwater straight toward the storm drain in the first sequence of photos. See below.

Enlargement from previous photo shows gaps in line that channeled runoff toward street drains.

Accidental or intentional. You be the judge.

Someone will have to spend a lot of time in the “how come” room on this one.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/29/24

2344 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Developer Clearing Land Without Normal Safeguards

Kingwood Residences HTX II LLC is clearing 11.5 acres of land on West Lake Houston Parkway (WLHP) without the normal safeguards to control sediment-laden runoff. In recent weeks, concerned residents have emailed me multiple pictures like the ones below.

No silt fence to retain sediment-laden runoff on site.
Instead, runoff is draining into the street and storm sewers.

Normally, contractors would protect storm drains by catching silt with sand bags placed in the gutters. But this afternoon, I saw none of those either…even though the contractors were working furiously on a Sunday afternoon.

The buildup of sediment in our rivers, streams, and channels was a primary contributing cause of flooding. So why don’t contractors exercise greater caution?

Nature of Phase II Still Uncertain

The land in question is adjacent to another 19.7 acres to the northwest owned by the same developer. That land was cleared starting in 2022.

Contractors have been building apartments since then. The work was supposed to be complete by the end of last year, but is still in progress.

Note address.

It’s not clear what the developer plans to put on Phase II’s land, which was purchased from Pinehurst Trail Holdings LLC in June 2023.

However, the address – Kings River Commercial Road – and the developer’s website, suggest it may be commercial. The website boasts that the developer specializes in high-end, mixed-use apartment complexes within walking distance of retail.

Kingwood Residences HTX and HTX II LLC are limited liability companies owned by High Street Residential, a wholly owned operating subsidiary of Trammell Crow Company in Dallas. Their local headquarters are on 2800 POST OAK BLVD STE 400, HOUSTON TX 77056-6169.

More Photos Taken on 1/14/24

All photos below were all taken today, 1/14/24.

Looking N toward San Jacinto West Fork out of sight in background. West Lake Houston Parkway is on left next to soupy area in foreground.

According to the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) gage at the West Fork and WLHP less than a mile north, this area last received rain on January 8 and it totaled only .4 inches.

Reverse angle, looking S. WLHP on right. Kings Park Way cuts through middle of frame.
Detention basin for Phase I (middle left) may or may not serve Phase II.
Cleared trees stacked three stories high.

Enough Detention?

For properties this size, HCFCD requires .65 acre feet of stormwater detention basin capacity per acre of developed land. That comes out to roughly 20 acre feet for these combined properties.

I have requested drainage analyses and construction plans from HCFCD but have not yet received them. More news when I do.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, no wetlands exist on either parcel of land. And current FEMA flood maps show both parcels are out of floodplains.

The primary flooding concerns for these properties appear to be making sure they have sufficient detention capacity and that they don’t clog storm drains with sediment.

Ten Elements of an Effective Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) Plan

The EPA lists 10 elements of an effective erosion control plan.

  1. Minimize Needless Clearing and Grading
  2. Protect Waterways and Stabilize Drainage Ways
  3. Phase Construction to Limit Soil Exposure and Compaction
  4. Stabilize Exposed Soils Immediately
  5. Protect Steep Slopes and Cuts
  6. Install Perimeter Controls to Filter Sediments
  7. Employ Advanced Sediment Settling Controls
  8. Certify Contractors on ESC Plan Implementation
  9. Adjust ESC Plan at Construction Site
  10. Assess ESC Practices After Storms

In fairness, the developer has left a natural border and phased construction. That’s good. But as the resident photos above show, they are not preventing sediment from leaving the site.

Posted by Bob Rehak 1/14/24

2329 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.