The Neighborhood as the Standard of Value

Preservationists aren’t content to preserve single buildings. As one activist told Houston City Council in 2005, “What makes them [historic buildings] unique and what makes them significant is their collection as a whole for the fabric of the entire neighborhood.” Preservationists would have us believe that a single modern building will destroy the historic character of the entire neighborhood.

More significantly, preservationists believe that it is proper to impose this view on other property owners. Randy Pace, the city’s Historic Preservation Officer, once claimed that those opposed to the preservation ordinance are “negating the democratic process of letting people choose what’s best for their community.”

Democracy means unlimited majority rule. It means that the majority may do as it pleases simply because it is the majority. In practice, democracy forces individuals to abide by the demands and dictates of the majority.

If a particular neighborhood meets certain criteria and a majority of the property owners vote to become an historic district, that designation will be imposed upon all property owners in the district. The majority can force all property owners to obtain the permission of city officials to use their property.

Preservation establishes the neighborhood as the standard of value. Anything that allegedly threatens the well-being or character of a neighborhood is deemed offensive and illegal. The values and interests of individual property owners are irrelevant. The individual must sacrifice his values and interests to the values and interests of the neighborhood.

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