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Moving to Houston... general info?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Scott Wong, May 27, 2006.

  1. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    John:

    Not a big deal. I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion... *shrug* I was born and raised in Hawaii. Lived there for the first 19 years of my life before moving to Minnesota. I guess I'm equally amazed by the amount of people who think Hawaii is great and would do anything to live there. I laugh everytime I hear that. "Oh, you lived in Hawaii? That must've been so cool!" And I shrug... and say, "It was OK. But not really..."

    I suppose the same goes for Houston. I don't believe for a second with over 5 million people in the city that EVERYONE hates it. As Chris already mentioned the obvious - if EVERYONE hated it (and 'hate' is such a strong word) then no one would live there and it wouldn't be the 4th largest city in the U.S.

    *shrug*

    I'm going there to make the best out of an already bad situation. I can't sit here and think about how much Houston sucks. I guess at this point... I want opinions... but I want constructive ones. Advising me of the same thing numerous different ways about how traffic sucks and the head sucks and the city is covered in a thick black goo does nothing to help me out. The heat and humidity is fact. I'm not really prepared for that... but I've obviously lived near the ocean before so I'm used to humidity... just not to that degree.

    We'll be staying with my in-laws 'til my wife and I can get on our feet financially... after that, we'll have to get an apartment. After doing some looking online, I think I'm set at this point on The Woodlands. I've not been able to find any other information regarding any other communities similar to that one... middle/upper class... outlying suburban area... yet, close enough to the city.
     
  2. Chris Souders

    Chris Souders Stunt Coordinator

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    Scott,

    I would just encourage you that your first apt. or place of residence you don't sign a long lease. Use the time to look around the city (this will take a while) and find the area that suits you and your family. The Woodlands is nice (it almost hurts me to say that)... all the restaurants and shopping you want is there.. but it lacks the major cultural venues and the uniqueness of areas in the loop such as the heights or montrose or river oaks. The woodlands is a planned community, and it is like someone said 'lets not leave any chain store or restaurant out'... I would caution that for most people, it is not a 'casual' thing to drive into the city.. it's about 25-30 min without traffic, up to an hour or more with..so it takes some gumption...specially that long drive home after the show or whatever. The woodlands does have a major (outdoor) concert venue though..cynthia woods mitchell pavillion.

    Other suggestions... we're a casual city, don't dress up much due to the heat, so make sure you have plenty of shorts, sandals, light weighted clothes. Having access to a pool is very helpful. Get access to the Houston Press which is our corporate alternative weekly paper because it lists all the things to do in the city. Oh, don't drive through water you can't see the bottom of on streets you don't know...you might get wet. Learn to drink iced tea, unsweetened. coke isn't always Coke.

    Let's see.. as for other areas of town...like it or not, houston is still fairly segregated along money lines and racial lines. Seeing as how I know neither about you, I'll offer some characterizations...

    Inside the loop:
    E to NE of downtown : hispanic/black, more industrial. Go to the original Ninfa's on Navigation St. for authentic texMex ..sorta oxymoronic but nevertheless...
    E to SE of downtown : mostly black, TSU, U of Houston, I-45 South.
    S of downtown : starts with midtown, a formerly hispanic neighborhood bought and destroyed and rebuilt by greedy old white men... Perry Homes/apt complexes, etc... is fairly trendy, urban, young now with some good restaurants. South of that is the Medical center area and Condoland which is mostly students attending school in the med center. It is mostly culturally void.
    W to NW of downtown : mostly the Heights with a few smaller neighborhoods thrown in. The heights is an old part of Houston (As far as houston goes).. houses from the teens or so... Lots of unique stores/restuarants, old trees..pretty popular and getting a bit on the expensive side.
    W to SW of downtown : lots of residential here... westheimer/montrose closest to downtown... it is the mecca of uber culture we tell ourselves... punks, fags, bohemians and the restless middleaged who move here after their kids have gone away to college. Just West of Montrose is Kirby/River Oaks area which extends pretty much to the loop.. it's high society, old oil money, Ken Lay type of folks. Good food and shopping. South of these two areas in the Loop are a conglomeration of little cities within Houston... Bellaire, West University (they have own police/fire/mayor etc...though they are surrounded by Houston).. Rice University in this area too. Very nice, sorta suburban looking but close to all that's important. Sorta pricey.

    Outside the loop.. well, why bother?
    Oh, two good reasons.. the Galleria (shopping) http://www.acetx.org/images/westin-houston.jpg and it's cheaper (but not in the Galleria area)...
    If you have no kids, you might like the Galleria area.. it's just west of the loop and is it's own downtown in many ways. It has Williams tower which is the tallest office building in the nation not in a cities 'downtown'. Food, shopping, tons of apartments. Houses are expensive. Traffic is a bitch. But there are cool traffic signs.. I don't know who this dude is but here's some pics of the area... http://www.donovanmartin.com/roadtrips/houstonday3.html

    If you like the Woodlands, you might also like..
    Kingwood (out 59N).. very similar idea, but maybe cheaper...
    South of the city on 288 is Pearland which is up and coming...
    Sorry but I can't offer you too much on suburbs.. I grew up in Spring/Klein/Champions area, which is 1960 and 249 (those are roads) area...very nice too adn a bit closer in...


    Any other specific questions I'd be more than willling to offer my opinion.
    chris
     
  3. Kevin Hewell

    Kevin Hewell Cinematographer

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    Was that really necessary?
     
  4. CapnSharpe

    CapnSharpe Stunt Coordinator

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    I left Houston - Spring actually - a little over a year ago. Spring is between The Woodlands and Houston, slightly off to the Northwest of Houston (east of 249 and through I-45).

    Talk about not knowing how good you have until you leave...I'm really only starting to get over it now. Contrary to some of the bigotted, out-of-line misinformation stated here, Houston is a fantastic place to live. If it exists, you can find it in Houston. If you can't find, you aren't looking.

    Summers are meant for air-conditioning. It is possible for the humidity to reach 100% and still not rain. Try to always park your car inside or under cover somewhere.

    All other seasons are to be enjoyed outside. The trees and plants remain green throughout the winter. Landscaping is something Houstonians take very seriously.

    Like many cities, the cost of living is very reasonable out in the burbs but gets more expensive the closer to the downtown area you get. Traffic is bad but can be reasonable if you are willing to pay for the toll highways and take longer routes than you would expect (the long way can be the faster way if everyone else takes the shorter route).

    Various areas within and outside Houston exist as their own little communities. I rarely had to leave Spring to get anything I wanted. I lived across the street from a park (and down the street from a second park), a small but nice public library, and a public auditorium that had concerts and plays I never attended. I walked to those areas - on a sidewalk!

    For concerts I went in or near downtown Houston. Public transportation wasn't bad where I lived. I parked the car and took the bus 3 times downtown for jury duty. I drove the car there on weekends for concerts and other events.

    Houston is really a city of people from somewhere else. I only heard a true Texas accent once or twice in my 5 years there. At no time will you really feel like you are living in the South. If you do, you need to travel to the true South.

    You'll enjoy the Houston home theater meets. [​IMG]
     
  5. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    Theresa:

    Thanks for that.... I appreciate the info.
     
  6. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Congrats Scott. Another positive is that you will be only about 90 miles from College Station...home of THE 12th Man & Texas A&M. [​IMG]

    Seriously, though, hope this move for you and your family will be a good one.
     
  7. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    Thank you so much, Tim!! June 7th is the lucky day... I'm getting our moving truck on June 5th... allowing myself two days to get it all packed... and then shove off on June 7th.
     
  8. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    The Woodlands is way up north by Spring, isn't it? It's a nice area up there.
     
  9. Chris Souders

    Chris Souders Stunt Coordinator

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    I only say it cuz I'm gay and if you know what walks around montose/westheimer, it is apropos.

    Chris
     
  10. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    Scott,

    I live in the southeast suburbs, ~20 miles from downtown in the Clear Lake area, by the Johnson Space Center. If you are more interested in the outlying suburbs you'll have a good pick of homes. New home construction is booming just about everywhere 20 to 30 minutes from downtown, so it's a good time to buy once you get back on your own. If these are the kinds of places you're most interested in then it's critical to know where you'll need to commute. If you have a job lined up then you need to know the hot spots to avoid when looking for a place to live.

    The first bit of bad news is that there isn't anywhere that has a decent commute into houston, but some are worse than others. West of town along I-10 is currently one of the fastest growing areas, and subsequently one of the most horrendous commutes. Also horrendous are any of the highways that pass by the Galleria area: 610 West Loop, I-59 south, etc. I'll give you a few links here to scope out the traffic. First, here's a nearly real-time map showing the speeds on the major highways:

    http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?se...fic&id=3266799

    It has a lot of clickable links. Here's a site for Houston TranStar, who operate the traffic cameras. There's a lot of them, so you can always see an image of what the traffic looks like just about anywhere.

    http://traffic.houstontranstar.org/cameras/

    Here's I-45 North at the Woodlands (Live as YOU read this):

    [​IMG]

    One of the main reasons for the poor traffic in Houston is that the city and outlying areas grew relatively recently into sparsely settled ranch land. There was no existing network of roads that develop between communities, but a very large net of farm roads. So unlike older urban areas in the East, Houston frequently has only one road that goes from A to B. The only alternative to the highways is frequently surface streets through residential areas, which isn't really a viable alternative. If you check some maps you'll se that I-45 is the ONLY way to get from the Woodlands to areas south of Spring. If there's an accident before Spring you're screwed: nowhere to go.

    Price of gas this week is $2.90.

    On the positive side, from the Woodlands you're only about 30 minutes away from Lake Conroe, and a little further to Lake Livingston. Both are man-made reservoirs where the major fishing is found. For salt water fishing from the shore, the best place is the western point of Galveston Island, which is a long ways away. Be prepared to love chain restaurant dining outside of the 610 loop, but you can find almost anything within the loop. As other have pointed out, the 610 loop is the frontier for culture in Houston. All the art, food, eccentrics, etc. are inside the loop. But it's not really a problem to drive into Houston as long as you avoid the rush "hour", which is usually two hours. We enjoy a day trip in to the zoo or night trip for a concert.

    Lessee, what else; Temperature! Hot and humid. We've just ended a pleasant spring and entered the "sweat-soaked shirt from your car to the building" season, also indicated by the blooming of the gorgeous native orange barrels all along the highways. Be prepared for temps to be 95F to 100F all summer with 95% humidity, and a 10% chance of afternoon rain. You're going to LOVE the winter, though. Rarely ever goes below freezing, and you don't have to plug in your car. In 14 years here I've only twice seen snow that didn't melt immediately, and it was gone in two days.

    Since you're moving in such a short time, and you know where you'll be staying, you'll be making most of these decisions after you're already here, so you'll be able to experience the city before you need to find a place. Start up another thread once you get here and we'll help you along.

    Andy
     
  11. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    Andy:

    Wow... thanks a ton for the info. That is awesome!! I'll be sure to most up a new thread once I'm there. [​IMG]
     
  12. D. Scott MacDonald

    D. Scott MacDonald Supporting Actor

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    I lived in Houston for seven years and absolutely loved it. After that I moved to Dallas (which I also loved), and now I've lived in Seattle for 10 years (and I also love it).

    Houston is a real different place. It's pretty dirty, and you will meet a lot of rednecks, but none of this bothered me too much. Your hatred of the place will be in direct proportion to the length of your commute (which is also true of Seattle). The one thing that about Houston is that if you live in the Woodlands, Kingwood, Clear Lake City, etc. but work downtown, you will have a very costly commute. The upside is that a lot of these communities have (or at least had) a pretty good park and ride system that took the sting out of it.

    There's no real one thing that makes Houston great, but it does have a good cost of living and a decent quality of life (if you can get used to heat). It will also help if you learn to embrace TexMex.
     
  13. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    Scott,

    You're quite welcome! One other thing that new-comers don't realize is that Houston sprawls over most of Harris county, and county taxes, fees, and auto insurance are high. Many of the suburban communities are now in adjacent counties (Galveston to the south, Chambers to the east, Fort Bend to the west, and Montgomery to the north.) The Woodlands, Kingwood, League City and some of Clear Lake, and others are outside Harris county and so have much more reasonable taxes, and auto insurance is much lower. I'm unfortunately a stone's throw inside Harris.

    Also, no state income tax.

    Andy
     
  14. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    I'm from Houston originally and I very much like the place, although I don't think I knew how much until I started living other places. The main things I miss about Houston are the restaurants, the warmth of the people (well, the natives, anyway. Transplanted yankees can be a mixed bag to say the least [​IMG]), and the amount of stuff to do there. As was said earlier, if you can't find something in Houston, it's not because it isn't there; it's because you're not looking. Also, FWIW, my wife is from the Washington DC area and she's always been deeply impressed with Houston and with Texas in general (particularly Austin). Granted, compared to the major Northeastern cities, lots of places look like Heaven [​IMG]

    Things I don't miss about Houston: the traffic (although I live in Northern VA now and the traffic is roughly equivalent, although Houston is much easier to navigate); the ugliness of the place...all that hot concrete, strip malls, swampland; and the hot and frequently violent weather.
     
  15. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    Good to know... I'll keep in this mind. No state income tax either?? This I didn't know. Wow. So wait, there's no state tax on anything?
     
  16. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    State sales tax but no income tax.
     
  17. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    What's the state sales tax...? 6.5% here in Minneapolis.
     
  18. Jeff Savage

    Jeff Savage Second Unit

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    Just some general TX Information -

    No State income tax nada zip zero..only have to file Federal on the 15th (Sales tax in DFW is 8.25%). There is of course still property and sales tax. Car inspection (~$30) and registration fees (~$60). Registration fees are paid to the County Tax Office. When you buy your house make sure you apply for the Homestead property tax exemption. You can renew your Drivers License online. Then there is this:

    (d) Notwithstanding Subsection (b), the department may not
    assign points to a person's driver's license if the offense of which
    the person was convicted is the offense of speeding[0] and the person
    was at the time of the offense driving less than 10 percent faster
    than the posted speed limit. This subsection does not apply to an
    offense committed in a school crossing zone as defined by Section
    541.302.

    So tickets within 10% of the posted limit do not get reported to the Insurance Companies. Of course you still have to pay the speeding fine.

    Laters,
    Jeff
     
  19. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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  20. Scott Wong

    Scott Wong Second Unit

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    Jeff:

    Wow. That is insane. I'm definitely not used to that but I'm looking forward to it. [​IMG] I've got two speeding citations on my record right now that are set to fall off next January... I got two within two weeks of each other. [​IMG] My insurance rate reflects those citations. *sigh*
     

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