Bellaire is a city in southwest Harris County, Texas, United States, within the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the city population was 16,855 and is surrounded by the cities ofHouston and West University Place.
Bellaire is known as the "City of Homes" as the city is mostly residential,while there are offices along the 610 Loop within the city limits.
The Bellaire water tower, commemorating the city's little league team
Bellaire was founded in 1908 byWilliam Wright Baldwin, who was the president of the South End Land Company. Baldwin, a native of Iowa, was well known as the vice president of the Burlington Railroad. Bellaire was founded on what was part ofWilliam Marsh Rice's 9,449 acres (38.24 km2) ranch. Baldwin surveyed the eastern 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of the ranch into small truck farms. He named those farms "Westmoreland Farms". Baldwin started Bellaire in the middle of "Westmoreland Farms" to serve as a residential neighborhood and an agricultural trading center. South End Land Company advertised to farmers in the Midwestern United States. Baldwin stated that the town was named "Bellaire", or "Good Air" for its breezes". Bellaire may have been named after Bellaire, Ohio, a town served by one of Baldwin's rail lines.
Six miles of prairie was a buffer zone between Houston and Bellaire. Originally the town was bounded by Palmetto, First, Jessamine, and Sixth (now Ferris) Streets. In 1910 Edward Teas, a horticulturist, moved his nursery to Bellaire from Missouri so Teas could implement Sid Hare's landscaping plans. Bellaire was incorporated as a city with a general charter in 1918, ten years after its founding. Bellaire had a population of 200 at the time. Because of the 1918 incorporation, Houston did not incorporate Bellaire's territory into its city limits, while Houston annexed surrounding areas that were unincorporated.
Bellaire's population had reached 1,124 in 1940. After 1940, Bellaire had a rapid population explosion in the post-World War II building boom. On December 31, 1948, the city of Houston had annexed the land around the city of Bellaire, stopping the city of Bellaire's land growth. Bellaire remained independent of Houston; Bellaire adopted a home rule charter with a council-manager government in April 1949. By 1950 the city's residents had numbered 10,150. Bellaire High School was established in 1955.
According to a Bellaire resident quoted in the Houston Post, prior to 1992, the tax base of the city of Bellaire had been decreasing. After neighbor West University Place eased restrictions on developers, new houses were constructed in West University Place, and the city gained a larger tax base. Bellaire decided to also liberalize its development restrictions to allow for new development by streamlining its no-growth building permit process. According to Karl Lewis, a vice president and sales manager at John Daugherty Realtors, when the prices of West University Place land reached about $20 per square foot, area home buyers began to consider Bellaire, which had an average price of $10–12 per square foot. Don Stowers of the Houston Press said that Bellaire and West University Place had "comparable" attributes such as independent fire and police departments, zoning, recreation facilities and parks, and schools "among the best in Houston." Michael Blum, president of Blum & Associates Realty, said "Bellaire is a bargain." Blum added that Bellaire was affordable compared to similar American neighborhoods and that Bellaire had proximity to business districts, "excellent" municipal services, and "superior" schools. Affluent families increasingly moved to Bellaire. The price of an average house in Bellaire increased from $75,000 to $500,000 from 1986 to 2006.
In 2002 the City of Bellaire attempted to acquire all or part of the 10 acres (4.0 ha) Teas Nursery, Bellaire's oldest business and the oldest nursery in Greater Houston, for park development. The company fought the city's take-over attempt. During that year the owners of Teas sold 5 acres (2.0 ha) at the rear of the property to Lovett Homes, a home developer. Frank Liu, the owner of Lovett Homes, said that it had an option to buy the remaining 5 acres (20,000 m2). When the City of Bellaire denied a replat application sent by Teas Nursery, in June 2002 the nursery filed a lawsuit against the city and its zoning commission. In 2005 the lawsuit was settled out of court.
During the Hurricane Rita evacuation, a bus filled with residents from Brighton Gardens, a nursing home in Bellaire, caught on fire and exploded in the city of Wilmer. The September 23, 2005, explosion killed 24 people out of the 38 residents and employees in the bus. The resulting lawsuit was settled in June 2009. On March 23, 2008, a tour bus carryingTejano singer Emilio Navaira crashed in Bellaire. By 2008, an increasing number of houses sold for over $1,000,000.
On December 31, 2008, Bellaire police officers confronted Robbie Tolan, the son of former Major League Baseball player Bobby Tolan, in the driveway of his house at the 800 block of Woodstock. Officers suspected Tolan, who was unarmed, of stealing a sports utility vehicle in the driveway and shot Tolan in the chest; Tolan's family owned the vehicle. Tolan was hospitalized with injuries to one lung and a liver. The incident sparked allegations of racial profiling. Members of minority groups reported that Bellaire police racially profiled people. In 2002, José Cruz, Jr., son of baseball player José Cruz was stopped since his vehicle was missing a front license plate. He was arrested by Bellaire police and spent one night in jail after Bellaire law enforcement told him that he had a warrant for his arrest. The Houston Chroniclesaid that the Bellaire police decision to arrest Cruz was a mistake. In January 2009, Cruz accused the police of racial profiling. Mayor Cindy Siegel said that she was unaware of racial profiling by police. Siegel announced that the city will investigate racial profiling and hire an independent consultant to look at traffic stop data. The local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP) branch said that it established a pact with the City of Bellaire; people may report civil rights violations from Bellaire Police to the branch if the people do not wish to contact the City of Bellaire. However, the NAACP branch has not yet provided the city with any civil rights violations. On April 6, 2009, a Harris County grand jury indicted Sergeant Jeffrey Cotton, the police officer, for aggravated assault by a public servant. If convicted, Cotton could face up to life in prison. In addition the family sued the police department and the police officer. The upcoming trial in Harris County District Court on criminal felony charges against Cotton began on January 25, 2010. Jury selection was scheduled to begin on May 3, 2010. The officer was found not guilty in his criminal trial in May 2010.
Teas Nursery closed in 2010; the company president, Tom Teas, intended for the property to be redeveloped into single-family houses. The Teas Nursery business was either going to move to a new location or be liquidated. In December the Rubenstein family bought the Teas property; the family planned to donate it to the City of Bellaire for community purposes. The Teas property has two historic buildings. Scott Rubenstein, who handled negotiations for the Rubenstein family, described the Teas lot as "the last largely undeveloped tract in the city and, frankly, in the inner loop of the city of Houston where you can do something that can be used by people from all around the city." Mayor of Bellaire Cindy Seigel said "I am just thrilled we’ll be able to preserve a historical property that is an important piece of Bellaire’s history."
In January 2010 Siegel announced that she would oppose a plan to locate a permanent, privately funded Houston Dynamo stadium at the intersection of South Rice and Westpark, near Bellaire. In April 2010 it was announced that the Dynamo stadium, now known as BBVA Compass Stadium, will be built in East Downtown Houston.
Bellaire currently has a city manager style of government. The home rule government was established on April 2, 1949, replacing the general law form of government. The city council is made up of the mayor and six city council members. All are elected at large. The mayor is elected for two-year terms, while each city council member is elected for four-year terms. The mayor may not serve for more than four terms in that position. A council members may have no more than two terms as a city council member. Bellaire has zoning ordinances that dictate types of structures and uses throughout sections of the city. As of 2010, the mayor is Cindy Siegel. The six council members are, in order of position, Roman Reed (1), Jim Avioli (2), Corbett Daniel Parker (3), Phil Nauert (4), Andrew Friedberg (5), and Mandy Nathan (6).
The Bellaire Fire Department is housed at 5101 Jessamine Street. The fire station includes two fire engines (a main engine and a volunteer/backup engine), two medic units (a main medic unit and a backup unit), an on shift commander vehicle, a vehicle for each the chief and assistant chief, a cascade unit, and a hazardous materials trailer. The fire department operates the Citizens Fire Academy, a fire and life safety program for Bellaire citizens held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The old fire station was demolished on December 4, 2009, with demolition continuing on Monday December 7, 2009, and operations are temporarily relocated at the Chevron building. A new fire station was scheduled to in the location of the previous fire station. The groundbreaking for the new station was held on December 17, 2009.
The Bellaire Police Department is housed at 5110 Jessamine Street. As of 2008 the Chief of Police is Byron Holloway. The police department's patrol division, the organization's largest division, includes patrol, detention, motorcycle, and bicycle units. The support services division includes court, records, and communications divisions. The police department offers the "House Watch Program," where interested residents allow police to check their houses while they are away on vacation.
Zoning and land use controversies, common throughout Bellaire's history, resulted in the 1977 recall of the mayor and three council members. The City of Bellaire voted against banning smoking in bars and restaurants on Monday January 15, 2007. Mayor Cindy Siegel and Pat McLaughlan, one council member, voted for the ban, while the other five members, including Peggy Faulk, voted against the ban. The National Restaurant Association asked Bellaire to consider adopting a smoking ban to put it in sync with the City of Houston, which adopted a similar ordinance in 2005.In December 2009 the city voted to ban texting while driving.Bans of texting while driving were passed in Bellaire and West University Place, Texas within hours of one another.In 2010 the city voted 5-2 to ban the feeding of cats on public property and establish a rule requiring the permission of the owner of a piece of private property in order to feed cats on private property. The city received negative e-mail feedback from various locations, including Switzerland.
In 2011 Phil Nauert was elected as the new Mayor of Bellaire.
Bellaire is within Harris County Precinct 3. As of 2008 Steve Radack serves as the commissioner of that precinct. It is in Constable Precinct One. As of 2008 Jack Abercia heads the constable precinct.
Bellaire is located in District 134 of the Texas House of Representatives. As of 2011, Sarah Davis represents the district.Bellaire is within District 17 of the Texas Senate.
Bellaire is in Texas's 7th congressional district; as of 2008 John Culberson is the representative. The designated United States Postal Service office is the Bellaire Post Office along Bellaire Boulevard in Bellaire. Bellaire first received a post office in 1911.
Bellaire is a member city of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO).The city is served by bus lines 2 (Bellaire), 17, 33 (Post Oak Crosstown), 49 (Chimney Rock Crosstown), and 65 (Bissonnet). The Bellaire Transit Center, located at 5100 Bellaire Boulevard at South Rice Avenue, has four lines (2, 33, 49, 65). As of 2010 METRO has proposed to build the Bellaire Station as part of the METRORail University Line.
In Bellaire's early history, Bellaire Boulevard and a historic street car line connected Bellaire to Houston. The street car line, which ran a four-mile (6 km) stretch from central Bellaire to Houston's Main Street, started construction in 1909. The streetcar line consisted of one railway track and an overhead electric wire. A waiting pavilion and a turnaround loop were located at the terminus in Bellaire. The Houston Electric Company had simultaneously constructed a south end line from Eagle Avenue to what is now Fannin Street to connect to the Bellaire Boulevard line. Service, with one required transfer at Eagle Avenue, began on December 28, 1910. The streetcar was nicknamed the "Toonerville Trolley". On September 26, 1927, the trolley line was abandoned and replaced by a bus line. This was due to frequent derailments caused by a worn-out track and the advent of the automobile. In 1985, a similar streetcar was acquired in Portugal and brought to Bellaire for permanent display.
The City of Bellaire has property zoned for light industrial, commercial, and mixed-use residential and commercial uses.Bellaire has some high-rise office buildings along Interstate 610. Frost Bank's Houston-area offices are located in Bellaire. AT&T Inc. operates its Houston-area headquarters in an office building at 6500 West Loop South in Bellaire; the building was with SBC Corporation before it absorbed the former AT&T. The Houston Metropolitan Chamber, previously the Greater Southwest Houston Chamber of COmmerce, assists economy activity in Bellaire. The main offices of the Greater Southwest Houston Chamber of Commerce were previously located in Bellaire. Chevron has a 33-acre (130,000 m2) campus at 4800 Fournace Place in Bellaire that is the headquarters for the Chevron Pipe Line Company along with several other business units. Prior to the merger between Chevron and Texaco, the facility belonged to Texaco. Texaco built the 502,000 square feet (46,600 m2) square foot facility. South Texas Dental has its corporate headquarters in Bellaire.
In 1953 the Consulate-General of Sweden moved to Bellaire. At one point the Consulate-General of Honduras in Houstonwas located in Suite 360 at 6700 West Loop South in Bellaire. As of 2009 the Honduran Consulate-General and the Swedish Honorary Consulate are located in Houston.
Bellaire had 8,120 employed civilians as of the 2000 Census, including 3,835 females. Of the civilian workers, 5,368 (66.1%) were private for profit wage and salary workers. Of them 689 (8.5% of the total Bellaire civilian workforce) were employees of their own corporations. 952 (11.7%) were private non-profit wage and salary workers. 446 (5.5%) worked for local governments. 479 (5.9%) were state government workers. 111 (1.4%) were federal workers. 754 (9.3%) were self-employed; none of them worked in agriculture, forestry, fishing, or hunting. 10 (.1%) were unpaid family workers.
Bellaire has several parks within the city limits operated by the city. Bellaire Zindler Park, a 7.5-acre (30,000 m2) park, was given its current name in honor of Marvin Zindler, a Houston journalist; it was originally named Bellaire Park. Bellaire Zindler Park includes a neighborhood pool, two lighted tennis courts, a gazebo, a picnic area, a jogging trail, an open playground, the Bellaire Recreation Center, and the Bellaire Civic Center, which includes auditoriums and meeting rooms. The .875-acre (3,540 m2) Vic Driscoll Park consists entirely of open green space. The 2.1-acre (8,500 m2) Evergreen Park includes a neighborhood pool and a playground and picnic area. The 4.7-acre (19,000 m2) Feld Park includes an adult softball field, a playground, two lighted tennis courts, and the Feld Scout House. The .2-acre (810 m2) Joe Gaither Park includes a play structure with swings and green space. The 3.1-acre (13,000 m2) Horn Field (Avenue B at Holly Street) includes two lighted baseball fields, youth soccer (football)fields, and a T-Ball field. The .489-acre (1,980 m2) Jacquet Park consists of a playground and picnic area. The 1.5-acre (6,100 m2) Lafayette Park includes a playground and picnic area, an open play area, and the Officer Lucy Dog Park, a dog park. The .75-acre (3,000 m2) Locust Park consists of an open play area and a shaded picnic area. The 1.795-acre (7,260 m2) Loftin Park consists of open green space. The 2.547-acre (10,310 m2) Mulberry Park at 700 Mulberry Lane includes a playground area, a picnic shelter, a youth baseball field, and three lighted tennis courts. The 6.6-acre (27,000 m2) Paseo Park along Bellaire Boulevard includes an esplanade, the Bellaire Trolley and the Special Event area. The 7-acre (28,000 m2) Pin Oak Park along the West Loop South (610 Loop) includes two lighted baseball fields, one lighted soccer and American football field, one jogging track, and three basketball/tennis courts. The 4.1-acre (17,000 m2) Russ Pitman Park includes the Henshaw House, the Nature Discovery Area, a playground area, a sheltered picnic area, a self-guided nature trail, two pavilions, and an aviary. The dedication ceremony of the future Evelyn's Park was held on June 25, 2011.
As of 1996 Bellaire prohibits smoking in public parks and dogs in all non-dog public parks; as of that year smoking in public parks brings a fine of $500. The ordinance was adopted around 1996 on a 4-3 vote.
Bellaire holds annual Fourth of July parades and annual "'snow' in the park" Christmas celebrations. Bellaire's Little League baseball team entered the Little League World Series in 2000; the team lost to the team of Maracaibo,Venezuela.
The city is served by Houston Independent School District (HISD). Bellaire is within Trustee District V.
Pupils who live in Bellaire inside of the 610 Loop are zoned to Paul W. Horn Academy for elementary school, while students in Bellaire outside of the 610 Loop are zoned to either Condit Elementary School or Lovett Elementary School, the latter of which is in Houston. In addition, all Bellaire pupils are zoned to Pershing Middle School in the Braeswood Place neighborhood of Houston andBellaire High School in Bellaire. In addition, a middle school called Pin Oak Middle School, which was built in 2002, is located in Bellaire. Students zoned to Johnston, Long, and Pershing Middle Schools may choose to attend Pin Oak instead; therefore Bellaire students may attend Pin Oak. Pin Oak was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2008.
In 2012 HISD opened the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet SchoolChinese language-immerson magnet school in Bellaire, in the Gordon Elementary School building.It is HISD's first Chinese immersion school. In the future the school will move to the St. George Place area of Houston.
Gabriela Mistral Early Childhood Center is the closest public early childhood center to the city of Bellaire and Kolter Elementary School is the closest school with a tuition-based early childhood program. Only economically disadvantaged students, homeless students, students who are not proficient in English, or children of active-duty members of the U.S. military or whose parent has been killed, injured, or missing in action while on active duty may be enrolled in tuition-free HISD preschools. Students who are eligible for HISD's preschools may attend any Early Childhood Center in Houston ISD for free. Students not eligible may enroll in tuition-based HISD preschool programs.
HISD is building a new campus for Condit Elementary School.
Bellaire's first school opened in 1909; the school moved to a new site in 1914 and an addition opened in 1927; when the addition opened the school was renamed "Condit." Horn opened in 1949, Pershing opened in 1927, Bellaire High School opened in 1955. Pin Oak opened in 2002. Pershing's current campus opened in January 2007. The current Horn and Lovett buildings were scheduled to open in August 2011. The rebuilds of Horn, Lovett, and Herod Elementary of Houston together had a cost of $49 million and were a part of a $1 billion bond program approved by HISD voters in 2007.
Maud W. Gordon Elementary School in Bellaire does not have a zoning boundary; before 2012 it drew excess students from apartments west of Bellaire, in Houston, to relieve other schools in Houston west of Bellaire such as Benavidez, Cunningham, Elrod, and Milne. From its opening to 1953 to 1983 Gordon served as a neighborhood school. After its closure Gordon temporarily housed the Post Oak School and later served as administrative offices. It re-opened as a relief school in 1988 for Elrod and Cunningham schools. It was scheduled to re-open in September of that year.
On April 29, 1992, during an attendance boundary hearing committee for Southwest Houston, residents of a small portion of Bellaire zoned to Cunningham Elementary School, a school in Houston that was one block away from the city limits of Bellaire, advocated for a rezoning to Condit Elementary School, a facility in the City of Bellaire that was about 1 mile (1.6 km) away from that section. Condit was about 50% White and had a middle class student body while Cunningham was 95% Hispanic. On May 21, 1992, the HISD board voted to rezone that portion to Condit.
Around the early 1990s portions of Bellaire west of the 610 Loop were zoned to Jane Long Middle School, while portions inside the 610 Loop were zoned to Pershing. During that decade, the Bellaire Area School Improvement Committee, or BASIC, was formed to improve the reputation of HISD in Bellaire and to improve Bellaire area schools. The committee opened after HISD's failed attempt to acquire property in Bellaire for the West University relief school. An attempt to buy land at Bissonnet Street at Newcastle Drive in the City of Bellaire for a school to relieveWest University Elementary School failed since City of Bellaire officials and parents living in Bellaire complained when they learned that they would not be zoned to the new school while losing what Tim Fleck of the Houston Press described as "a prime chunk of taxable property."
After its formation, BASIC installed a gifted and talented magnet at Jane Long, a school which Donald R. McAdams, a former HISD school board member and author of Fighting to Save Our Urban Schools-- and Winning!: Lessons from Houston, described as a school that was "unacceptable" to Bellaire residents since it was less than 10% white. McAdams added that even with the new program, to many parents in Bellaire, Long was "never going to be acceptable" due to the overwhelming Hispanic presence. Therefore there was a proposal to convert Gordon into a small middle school for Bellaire. The school would have space for about 500 students and would be at least 50% White, so it was popular among many Bellaire residents, particularly those outside of the 610 Loop. However those inside the 610 Loop did not want to lose access to Pershing, a full service middle school that was about 40% White. An attendance boundary committee for at HISD met from December 1992 to March 1993. McAdams wrote that the committee was "an all-out war" between the two sides. In February 1993 pro-Gordon persons argued that HISD should purchase a commercial building north of Long and renovate it into an elementary school which would relieve Gordon Elementary and other overcrowded are schools. McAdams wrote that the staff members of HISD superintendent Frank Petruzielo "liked the idea, but unfortunately, on close examination the building proved to be inadequate." In April 1993 the HISD board declared that the Gordon campus would continue to be an elementary school. McAdams wrote that the Gordon supporters and many Bellaire residents were "furious".
Three independent (private) schools, including Episcopal High School (9-12), The Post Oak School (Montessori K-8), and the Veritas Christian Academy (K-8), are located in Bellaire. Episcopal High School opened in fall 1984; its campus previously housed Marion High School and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, a Roman Catholic school operated by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament and within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The current campus of The Post Oak School opened in 1986; the school had been previously housed in the Gordon Elementary School campus. Pilgrim Lutheran School is located just south of Bellaire on Chimney Rock Road. Holy Ghost School, a Catholic private K-8 school, is located in Houston and adjacent to the Bellaire city limits. Private schools near Bellaire in areas of Houston include Saint Agnes Academy, Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, St. Francis Episcopal Day School (Texas), and St. Thomas' Episcopal School.
Bellaire is served by the Houston Community College System (HCCS). The community college district operates the HCCS Gulfton Center, located at 5407 Gulfton Drive in the Gulfton area of Houston. Gulfton Center, a 35,100-square-foot (3,260 m2) campus building owned by HCCS, opened in 1990 after Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co. sold the building to HCCS for $700,000 (1990 dollars). The West Loop Center, an HCCS-owned campus at 5601 West Loop South which opened in Spring 1999, is in Houston and in close proximity to Bellaire. Both the Gulfton and West Loop campuses are part of the district's Southwest College.
The city of Bellaire also operates its own library, the Bellaire City Library, at 5111 Jessamine Street. The Friends of the Bellaire Library, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was established in 1951 to support the City of Bellaire Library.
A "Welcome to Bellaire" sign along Bellaire Boulevard on the edge of Bellaire's city limits
A post topped with Spanish tile that shows 1907, the year before theHandbook of Texasstates that Baldwin founded Bellaire