Save the 50’ Height Limit in Mission Hills

| October 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

by Barry E. Hager and Deborah B. Pettry, PhD.

For ten years Mission Hills residents have been telling the City we want a firm 50’ height limit for the Mission Hills commercial core area around Washington and Goldfinch. Our residents have signed petitions, attended Uptown Planners meetings, submitted written recommendations, and testified at City Council meetings to support this.

The City Council listened to us and, after creating the 2008 Interim Height Ordinance and approving multiple extensions at hearings attended by our residents, they set an indefinite extension until the Uptown Community Plan Update (CPU) was completed.

The Uptown CPU is nearing completion – and the City Development Department is trying to weaken the 50’ limit. The City now proposes a 50’ limit as the standard for projects that do not ask for exceptions (“ministerial projects”), but the potential for unlimited height for projects that request exceptions to those standards (“discretionary projects”). This is essentially the same as saying the sky is the limit for development.

Mission Hills residents are working together to let the City know that this is unacceptable. A link to an on-line petition available for signing is available at

Additional Background Information:
Current underlying zoning in Mission Hills would allow buildings of up to 150’ (the approximate height of Green Manor) in the commercial core of Mission Hills, the area centered around Goldfinch and Washington Streets. The concept of a 50’ building height limit for Mission Hills gained widespread support about ten years ago, as a compromise between proponents of lower limits and those of more height. (As a comparison, One Mission at Goldfinch and Fort Stockton is approximately 53’.) In preparation for the Uptown Community Plan Update, residents of Mission Hills and other Uptown neighborhoods convinced the City Council to adopt the Interim Height Ordinance (IHO) in 2008, which included a firm height limit of 50’ in the commercial core of Mission Hills and various height limits in parts of Hillcrest and Bankers Hill. The IHO will expire upon final adoption of the CPU and related zoning.

As the City has embarked on the update of the community plan, MHH has been urging the City to retain the 50’ as the permanent building height limit for the commercial core of Mission Hills.

Earlier drafts of the plan released by the City seemed to confirm that the 50’ limit would become permanent. But a complete draft of the plan released earlier this summer contained a startling surprise: A proposed overlay height ordinance (known as the CPIOZ) included a 50’ limit for ministerial projects (those projects not involving any discretionary approval by the city) but no height limit for projects involving a discretionary approval process. City staff recently confirmed that this was no drafting error, and staff intends to move this proposal forward to the City Council for approval later this year.

 A firm 50’ height limit will prevent this from occurring.

A firm 50’ height limit will prevent this from occurring.

A firm limit of 50’ is necessary to prevent projects of inappropriate scale and height from irreversibly damaging the lower-scale character of Mission Hills. State Affordable Housing Density Bonus laws already require exceptions that allow projects to exceed any height limit in certain circumstances. But unless we insist upon a firm height limit, 50’ will become the starting point for every project rather than the limit itself. Please go to to sign the online petition to help us let the City know that 50’ should be the firm limit for building heights in the commercial core of Mission Hills.

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