Sunnyside Plan: Progress on a community planning process in Houston

Melissa Beeler, Texas Housers community planner

Melissa Beeler, Texas Housers community planner

Houston co-director Chrishelle Palay and I have been hard at work conducting research and engaging residents to produce the community-driven Sunnyside Neighborhood Plan.

In partnership with Texas Organizing Project (TOP), we embarked on this plan in August in order to take a deep dive into the history of public disinvestment and current interests of residents in a distressed Houston community. The Sunnyside neighborhood in southeast Houston reflects the challenges facing many of the historically minority neighborhoods in the city: High poverty and crime, failing schools, historical and current environmental hazards and deteriorating housing and infrastructure conditions.

Developing a plan for Sunnyside driven by the goals and objectives borne from the community will allow us, TOP and community residents to make the case for how public agencies have contributed to disinvestment, blight and dangerous conditions in Houston’s low income neighborhoods – and what they should do about it.

The overall goals of the plan are to outline public actions that have led to the conditions we see today in Sunnyside, develop measurable and attainable policy and fiscal demands of the City to improve these conditions and organize and empower Sunnyside residents to get involved in improving their communities. Our partners at TOP have been organizing residents to attend our meetings and will take the lead in post-plan implementation to assist residents in demanding that their recommendations be enacted.

four sections of plan

From left to right: Plan section titles, a brief description of each section and the main engagement strategies for each section.

So far, we have held weekly stakeholder meetings with existing and aspiring leaders of the community to vet our progress and gather continuous feedback. We have also held two community meetings open to the general public to listen to their concerns for the community, what they love about their community and their hopes for the future of Sunnyside.

Over 20 community leaders and representatives for elected officials attended our first stakeholder meeting on August 20th.

Over 20 community leaders and representatives for elected officials attended our first stakeholder meeting on August 20th.

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Residents share a summary of what was said at their table at the community meeting, September 3rd.

This week, we will be holding a vision and goals workshop to understand how residents would know when the problems are fixed. Based on this feedback, we anticipate having a draft version of the plan for public review by early October and a final version by mid-October. To follow our progress and to keep up with the latest updates on the plan, please like Sunnyside Neighborhood Plan on Facebook.

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