If the Galveston City Council votes Dec. 14 to give away the rights of way on Porretto Beach, then The Daily News is wrong — that will have been the relevant question, and it will be too late to do anything about it.

Editor Michael Smith is likewise wrong when he said the real question is whether the people have any compelling reason to keep their beach rights of way (“Porretto right of way deal beside the point,” The Daily News, Nov. 28). The better question is whether we have any good reason to surrender them. If the city council goes that route, it will be one of worst examples of good ol’ boy backroom politics Galveston has seen in years, with The Daily News playing the part of cheerleader for Houston developers.

Murky history aside, there are two very good reasons to retain control of those streets and alleys. The first is so obvious that both the mayor and city manager have found it necessary to argue against it publicly before anyone else thinks to bring it up. That is, whether the city will ever build streets there. “Never,” they contend. But if development proceeds, police, fire and EMS must have ready access, i.e. streets and alleys — the very rights of way that some are so anxious to surrender. Imagine a fire in a crowded beachside tourist mall that the fire department can’t get to because city hall gave those streets away to their friends.

More importantly, there’s going to be a storm. A big one. That’s just a fact of life here at the edge of the continent. A 20-foot storm surge on that part of the beach can do unimaginable damage. This isn’t East Beach with miles of empty space into which the surge can dissipate. The Porretto area is a small, contained space unfit for high-rises and condos. It becomes a boiling caldron of nature’s rage in a storm surge, and the larger the battering ram we provide, the more damage it can do to the seawall itself.

Far from giving public rights of way away, let’s fix the obvious oversight in the 2015 Land Development Regulations and rezone the entire seawall core, from Sixth to 103rd streets, as a Seawall Protection Zone. Limit building south of it to single story structures, with full street and alley access, and don’t let people live there. The property damage will be bad enough; the loss of life would be unforgivable.

Don’t say that we can’t rezone it, because we can. We have the right, and the responsibility to protect lives and property, starting with the seawall. All that’s missing is common sense and political backbone.

If the Galveston City Council surrenders the rights of way on the beach, whether they give them away under some old rubric or sell them on the cheap under a new scheme now being conceived, it will be the largest blunder since the 1960s wholesale destruction of historic homes on Broadway, and will be an albatross around our necks for the next 50 years.

David Collins lives in Galveston.

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(8) comments

Don Schlessinger

Thank you for interesting column. Unfortunately we have a city council that is TOURIST oriented rather than residents oriented.

A question I have is, how will the new monstrosity be designed for vehicle traffic? Will the seawall be breached/ cut through/whatever? Is the city even interested in what happens to residents living north of the seawall when a storm comes? Will water from a storm that would normally not be a problem for these residents floods the neighborhoods then fill them? Does the city council even care?

Kelly Naschke

There are already 3 “breaches” in place Don. They are called ramps that ingress and egress the property. They have been there for DECADES. Your lack of knowledge of what you are talking about diminishes your opinion. At least know what you are talking about. And at what point do some of you look forward...not backward. Porretto Beach has been marginalized property for way too long. Your council is attempting to increase the tax base that contributes to addressing every one of the issues you address

Mark Aaron

Leroy: [Your lack of knowledge of what you are talking about diminishes your opinion. At least know what you are talking about. ]

I agree with Jarvis. Lighten up Leroy.

Jarvis Buckley

Kelly perhaps you were a little abrupt.
But in my opinion you are 100 percent right. But have you ever heard the old saying you can get more bees with honey than vinegar?
I think it's worth a try.👍

David Doe

I respectfully disagree with this article. One, you can't stop progress, and if you do you will have a limited tax base. Two, construction would Never allow structures to be built without sufficient access by emergency personnel. Galveston is a vacation spot, and trying to stall progress is something that would be catastrophic. The east end of Galveston isn't exactly made up of housing akin to River Oaks. The more major development on the island the higher property values will go. Miami should come to Galveston and likely is. If you want a retirement community then move to east Texas.
Wake up Galveston, open the development doors and let's bring in some tax dollars to improve the streets, sewers and flood control. Without development this isn't going to happen.

John Grossman

I respectfully disagree with the idea that implication that development equals progress. Maximizing the natural role of the beaches as part of our marine environment and the protective edge of our island is real progress.

John Grossman

The rights of way are the issue because they give the city leverage over future use of the beach. I think the city should keep it's leverage and use it to return the beach to the people of the city.

Jack Reeves

I think that Galveston's overall appearance has improved significantly in the past couple of years. And, part of the credit for that improvement goes to both past and present city councils and the attendant City Managers. But, a quick drive around The Island will reveal any number of not so public areas which are begging for development. The vacancy created by the relocation of the flight museum and the proximity to other major attractions should be promoted by the city government. And, this is just one example.Instead, there is a preoccupation with the tug-of-war over Poretto Beach. It's obvious that income and development are the focus of this argument and development is not only necessary but, inevitable. But, it does not have to occur in an area that the City could clean up, retain and utilize as an important part of the natural beach experience, while maintaining or enhancing the ecosystem of the coast. The beach is a living thing and it belongs to the public; let's not sacrifice our stewardship of this gift when we can bring in the same tax dollars by allowing and promoting development elsewhere on The Island.

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