Cris Feldman Reaches Settlement For Neighborhood In White Oak Music Hall Lawsuit

Houston is notorious for its lack of zoning laws and while makes our neighborhoods unique, homeowners in the Houston Heights have been suffering from the lack of rules. The White Oak Music Hall, a popular music venue, is disturbing homeowners up to half a mile away who say the venue’s loud noises rattle their windows and awaken their sleeping children. Feldman & Feldman filed a lawsuit against the venue in 2016 to help homeowners get some peace, and now Cris Feldman has successfully negotiated a settlement on behalf of these homeowners.

White Oak Outdoor Shows Cause Problems

In April 2016, the White Oak Music Hall began holding outdoor shows and performances, causing its residential neighbors to begin filing noise complaints. Residents made noise complaints with the Houston Police Department, but the disputes stalled in municipal courts and nothing was ever done to stop the noise.

Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman stepped in and filed a lawsuit against the venue in December 2016. The lawsuit also named the City of Houston as a defendant after the city failed to respond to numerous resident complaints. In early 2017, Feldman & Feldman successfully obtained an injunction restricting the number of outdoor shows the venue could hold. In addition, the venue had to install sound monitors and submit weekly reports of sound readings.

Successful White Oak Music Hall Settlement For Greater Heights Homeowners

The Greater Heights homeowners’ settlement with White Oak Music Hall includes limitations on when and how long shows can be held at the venue. The music venue is limited on the number of outdoor shows it can hold and shows on school nights can’t last past 9:30 p.m. The venue is also prohibited from holding any outdoor concerts during state STAAR testing.

In addition to these limitations, the venue must also set up a sound monitoring system showing real-time sound levels. To ensure there is no tampering with the sound monitoring device, the venue must also set up a camera to record activity around the monitor. If White Oak Music Hall violates any of these conditions, the venue can be fined up to $15,000 per violation.

Feldman & Feldman: Representing Houstonians

Cris Feldman and the entire legal team at Feldman & Feldman are proud to represent residents of their local Houston community. While we have high hopes the White Oak Music Hall settlement will bring peace to the neighborhood, we will also work to ensure White Oak Music Hall complies with terms of the settlement.

Neighbors Tell White Oak Music Hall “It’s Too Loud”

Originally Published by KHOU 11

After another loud concert booming into their homes, people living near White Oak Music Hall are saying if the venue won’t turn it down, the city should shut it down.

People more than a half-mile away say their windows were rattled by the bass and their kids were woken up with explicit lyrics during a set by A$AP Mob Thursday night.

“I also have an autistic son, and it was very hard for him to go through that show last night,” said Theresa Cavin, who says she lives about 400 feet away from the venue. “Every other word was a profanity.”

Noise coming from the venue’s outdoor stage has been an ongoing issue with some residents since the outdoor shows began in April 2016, eventually leading to them to take legal action against the venue and the City of Houston.

Cris Feldman, who is representing some of those residents, says repeated pleas to turn the music down have gone nowhere, and the situation has only gotten worse.

Feldman said the Houston Police Department issued a citation during the concert Thursday night.

“But this is the pattern,” said Feldman. “HPD will issue a citation, it gets hung up in municipal court, and nothing ever happens. We have ineffective laws and ineffective leadership.”

Feldman, like some neighbors, also had strong words for the area’s City Council Member, Karla Cisneros, who he claimed “hasn’t done anything”.

However, Cisneros disagrees, telling KHOU 11 News she’s helped convene several meetings between neighbors and developers to reach a resolution.

“I’m not ignoring anything,” said Cisneros. “To say I’m unresponsive, that’s unfair.”

Cisneros also said now that the case is in the judicial system, the judge will make the key decisions, not the city.

The Council Member says the issue has been “very divisive in the neighborhood”, with some residents appreciating the economic boost.

Constituents like Sarah Lankau said Thursday’s concert woke up her young children inside of her home, nearly three-quarters of a mile away.

She said she welcomes development and loves having new businesses come in; she just asks that those new arrivals respect their neighbors.

“I wouldn’t do that to my neighbors, I wouldn’t expect them to do that to me,” said Lankau. “So just be courteous, follow the rules, work with us, and we’re happy to have you.”

A judge says White Oak Music Hall can hold four more shows on their outdoor stage before the December 11 trial, which was originally set for the current week but delayed by Harvey.

William Moye, the venue’s attorney, had no comment Friday due to the ongoing lawsuit.

Victory for White Oak Residents

Originally Publish by The Houston Press

Cris Feldman, the lead plaintiff’s attorney in the lawsuit filed by several nearby residents against White Oak Music Hall, said Thursday morning his clients were “very happy” with Harris County district judge Kristen Hawkins’ ruling the previous day, which granted a temporary injunction prohibiting more than two events using amplified sound on the venue’s outdoor stage, the main point of contention in the dispute, before the trial’s scheduled start date of May 15.

In a sidewalk news conference in front of the venue, surrounded by several of the plaintiffs in the case, members of their families, and other nearby residents, Feldman called the ruling a positive step toward reining in “rogue developers” from building whatever they want whenever they want in the zoning-free city. He also called upon White Oak’s owners to disclose a full list of their investors, claiming the public deserves to know “the real money” behind the project.

“We’re going to hold White Oak Music Hall and its investors liable for this activity that they’ve done – the nuisance, the invasion of privacy they’ve caused to every single person in these neighborhoods, and we’re going to hold them liable for $1 million in damages,” Feldman said. “And it’s not just White Oak Music Hall; we’re going to hold their investors responsible for this as well.”

Feldman added that last week’s court hearings also proved the city’s current noise ordinance is “unenforceable,” and that White Oak’s owners had misrepresented the plans for the facility, specifically regarding the capacity of the outdoor stage area, when entering into their partnership with the city. Known as a 380 agreement, the contract allows the city to reimburse White Oak a portion of the taxes it would otherwise incur in exchange for making certain improvements on the property, including the installation of landscaping, lighting, sidewalks and a sewer line, among other things.

He called for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner to place the “deep dive” into the agreement’s origins, which the mayor promised at a recent City Council meeting, on the agenda of next week’s meeting.

“It is time for City Council to act,” Feldman said in a statement released late Thursday afternoon. “We want Mayor Turner to detail what his investigation has shown, and what the City plans to do to protect Houstonians from noise polluters. Taxpayers deserve transparency and full disclosure next week.”

Ultimately, Feldman said, the plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction on the outdoor stage, known as the Lawn, but have no designs on White Oak’s two indoor stages. “They need to keep it inside,” he said at the news conference. “They’re giving live music a bad name by having mosh-pit parties in the middle of the neighborhood.”

As for the part of the ruling that allowed outdoor music at Raven Tower to continue as long as the sound levels stay within the limits prescribed by the court, Feldman said, “that’s fine.”

“If they’re abiding by the court order, we’re not going to complain about it,” he added. “We’re watching ‘em.”

Although several shows are listed on Raven Tower’s website, the owners say they are currently upgrading the Pavilion and those shows may be moved to White Oak or other venues. Tonight’s show featuring Consider the Source and Thank You Scientist, for example, has been moved to The Secret Group. Shows booked for the patio, however, may take place under the court-stipulated monitoring, they said. Only one such gig is on the books, the Bayou Saints on February 11.

Back at the press conference, the lead plaintiff in the case, Theresa Cavin, said she was “really happy” with the judge’s decision: “It’s going to make a real difference…I deserve a place to raise my kids in peace and quiet.” Standing with her son, Cavin added that she was “delighted” that the ruling had allowed only two concerts on the Lawn until the trial starts, and that she hoped the sound monitoring at Raven Tower — the results of which Judge Hawkins required be reported weekly to both the court and the plaintiff’s attorneys — worked.

Addressing the question that the residents bringing the suit could represent a minority of public opinion within the community about the venue, another plaintiff, Heidi Landen-Greene, claimed numerous neighbors in the area have reached out with words of encouragement: “Hundreds of families [have been] affected by amplified sound by this venue,” she said.

After Feldman and his clients left the cluster of microphones, one of White Oak’s owners, Will Garwood, took his turn. Saying he and his partners were “hopeful for a resolution everyone can live with,” he called the outdoor stage a “great asset to Houston and the neighborhood.”

“We’ve heard that from the neighborhood,” he added. “It’s something they want to see preserved.”

Later, in a phone conversation, Garwood likened White Oak’s situation to that of other open-air venues like Stubb’s in Austin or the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, places he said “are on notice that any nearby resident can file notice and shut them down at any time.”

A lawsuit that could hobble the upper tier of their booking calendar has been difficult to work through, he admitted, meaning lots of “extra work, extra cost, extra time.” Besides the Pixies on April 30, White Oak is planning to announce another show on April 15 soon, so Garwood says he’s hopeful the venue can reach an arrangement with the judge about the Randy Rogers Band date on May 20, which could potentially fall in the middle of the trial. Or the trial could be over by then, but at the moment no further shows are booked on the Lawn.

“At least we can rely on a product history that has been extremely high quality, so at least the agents know what we’re working through,” Garwood says. “They understand that we’re gonna get there, and they have the feedback from production managers and tour managers that the shows have been executed really well with world-class sound.”

Furthermore, Garwood says the other side has been blowing the amount of music on the Lawn way out of proportion, making it sound as if there are many more shows than there actually are.

“Of course their plan is to try to paint a fictitious story where the music lasts all night, all year,” he says. “But we had nine events, nine shows, in 2016. If you look at any outdoor/lawn music venue, those types [of] talent don’t come through every day. Whether it’s Stubb’s, whether it’s Cynthia Woods, whether it’s Miller Outdoor Theatre, you’d be doing well to program the thing 40 nights a year.”

For the time being, Garwood says the indoor stages at White Oak average about 30 shows a month between the two, among them by Archie Bell with the Allen Oldies Band next Wednesday and Glitchmob next Thursday. Numerous birthday parties and other private events also keep the staff “super-busy,” he adds, but those few hours of outdoor music every month remain fundamental to the venue’s identity.

“The ability to activate in that open-air environment is very much a part of the vision that we’ve always had,” Garwood says.

Attorney Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman Fights for Neighborhoods in White Oak Music Hall Nuisance Case

Originally Published by KPRC Channel 2

The legal battle surrounding a controversial near northside concert venue continues this week as attorneys representing a group of residents who live near the venue, seek to put an end to its operations.

A hearing in Harris County civil court began Thursday morning, in which a judge must decide whether or not to grant a temporary injunction to stop all concerts at the White Oak Music Hall, until the end of a trial regarding a lawsuit filed by a group of residents who say the venue creates too much noise.

A start date for the trial has not yet been set.

On Thursday, several residents who live near White Oak Music Hall took the stand, describing how the concert venue has negatively impacted their lives since it opened last spring.

One resident, a former Navy pilot who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and tinnitus, said the noise level from the concerts keeps his young family up at night, which creates stress, then triggers his health issues.

Another resident said the noise and crowds from the concerts negatively impacts her autistic child, who is sensitive to loud noises.

“The whole neighborhood is experiencing sleepless nights and there are children with special needs who are being traumatized by this situation, who literally go into meltdown mode,” said Chris Feldman, the attorney representing the near north side residents.

Feldman announced the lawsuit on behalf of the residents last month.

It came after the city of Houston gave the green light to White Oak Music Hall to erect a permanent outdoor stage, despite months of complaints from neighbors who say the loud noise traumatizes children and lowers property values.

“Our house was built in the 1920s, it was a very quiet, little idyllic neighborhood, that has changed dramatically since the music hall opened,” said Brett Clanton, who lives three blocks away from the concert venue.

Late Thursday, the courtroom also listened to, and watched, body camera video from a Houston police officer who was responding to a noise complaint at a home near White Oak Music Hall, on the night of a concert.

In the video you can hear the music playing loudly.

In mid-December, a judge issued a temporary restraining order that prohibited the use of the venue’s outdoor stage, but that order has since expired.

In the meantime, the concert venue has already booked its first outdoor show of 2017, set for May 20.

Venue representatives have said they are working with the city and will continue to work with the city to make sure the operation is in compliance with all regulations.

Johnny So, a White Oak Music Hall spokesperson, told members of the media on Thursday: “White Oak Music Hall is a project supported by a variety of residents, musicians and music fans. Today is just a preliminary hearing and we’re as eager as anybody else to go to a full trial as soon as possible.”

The hearing for the temporary injunction continues Friday at 9 a.m.

White Oak Residents to File Bond to Preserve Silent Nights

Originally Published by The Houston  Chronicle

Families from three Houston neighborhoods spent Sunday in the frigid cold raising money for the legal fight against the developers of the outdoor White Oak Music Hall.

Monday morning at 10:30 a.m., Houston Attorney Cris Feldman will join neighborhood representatives on the steps of the Harris County Civil Courthouse to address the media.

Feldman will call on Mayor Turner to yank permits for an outdoor permanent stage. “It is time for the Mayor to choose,” says Feldman. “Will he stand with the children who just want a good night’s sleep, or with the greedy developers who put an outdoor concert hall in the middle of established working class neighborhoods.”

Residents hosted a community garage and bake sale to help raise the $7,500 bond to enforce their recent restraining order against White Oak Music Hall.

Harris County State District Judge Michael Gomez on Friday temporarily stopped outdoor concerts at the White Oak Music Hall after nine neighbors sued the venue, preventing the live music complex from hosting any events outside that feature electronically amplified sound.

Gomez, the Harris County judge, made his decision despite objections from the music hall, which argued it could lose its reputation and revenue.

The temporary restraining order expires Dec. 30, but residents are looking to extend it until their Jan. 12 injunction hearing.

They are trying to raise money for legal fees “for the big courtroom battles ahead.”

“This is ongoing, thunderous music that shakes homes,” said Houston attorney Cris Feldman. “It’s a constant rock festival in everyone’s backyard.”

“We never know, the noise could come on a Monday, a Wednesday night, a Friday,” said Kiki Przewlocki, a resident who said her home is in the music’s “direct line of fire.” “The windows rattle … I mean, I can feel the bass in my bones.”

Przewlocki, a musician, said it’s not just the music, but the collective frustrations that different events at White Oak bring to the neighborhood, even on school nights.

That’s why another neighbor, Linda Longoria-Vargas, joined their effort. The night before the first day of school this year, Longoria-Vargas had to console her young daughter who was crying and couldn’t sleep.

“Mommy, don’t they even care about us?” her daughter said.

If the sporadic loud noises weren’t enough, there’s also the neighborhood traffic and safety concerns that accompany the venue’s functions. Neighbors also complained that some concert-goers urinate in front yards and on neighbors’ cars.

“It doesn’t actually end with the concert,” Longoria-Vargas said. “You still hear cops, or screaming, or dogs.”

On Sunday, residents sold everything from cookies and doughnuts to school supplies and mini-terracotta soldiers.

“It is sad that these good folks have to now raise money to stop this sound invasion from their greedy corporate neighbors, just so their kids can sleep at night,” Feldman said.

The Noise Must Stop

“The noise must stop”, says Cris Feldman. “Hundreds of families, some with challenged children, have had their lives turned upside down by the constant amplified noise and thumping bass at this outdoor concert hall,” says Feldman. “The City of Houston should have never allowed this to happen. We will fight to stop this public nuisance in the courtroom.”

Originally Published in The Houston Chronicle

The White Oak Music Hall was forced to pull the plug on outdoor amplified music – at least temporarily – after a Harris County judge ruled Friday that noise from concerts would cause “imminent” harm to the neighbors.

District Judge Michael Gomez issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits White Oak from playing amplified music on its outdoor stage for about two weeks. The order was sought by 10 neighbors who sued White Oak Music Hall and developers WOIH Partners, claiming that the music complex at 2915 N. Main has created a nuisance and interfered with their property rights.

The residents, who are seeking class action status, are ultimately seeking a permanent order to stop the venue from playing amplified music on an outdoor stage.

The court found that the residents would be “irreparably injured” if the temporary restraining order was not issued because it would cause “unreasonable discomfort and disturbance” from the “loud and disruptive noise” coming from the events at the music hall. The restraining order allows the music hall to host a previously scheduled event on Saturday, which is the only event scheduled before the order expires Dec. 30.

The music hall objected to the restraining order, saying that news would spread in the entertainment community and damage the hall’s ability to line up new acts. The owners said in a statement that they operate within the confines of Houston’s sound ordinance and do not believe the concerts produce unreasonable noise.

White Oak Music Hall, a complex that includes Raven Tower, a bar and live music venue, an indoor hall and a large outdoor stage, was developed with economic development funds provided by the city. Since it opened earlier this year, it has sparked neighborhood complaints of window-rattling noise from outdoor shows. Residents also argue that the developers have flouted city rules and cause parking and traffic congestion in the area dominated by single-family homes. The Houston Police Department has issued several citations to the venue for violating the sound ordinance.

The two-hour hearing was conducted in front of Gomez’s bench, which made it difficult to hear at times for the neighbors gathered in the courtroom. At one point Gomez took a five minute break and asked the parties to try to work out a solution. They came back to say they couldn’t reach a deal.

In granting the temporary restraining order, Gomez told Marrick Armstrong, the Pearland lawyer representing White Oak Music Hall, that the music complex could have resolved the problem before it got to court but instead continued to create noise problems for the neighborhood that are affecting property values.

“You seem one step behind on what is happening here,” Gomez said.

Neighbors praised the ruling. “I feel like this is a really great victory,” said Theresa Cavin, a plaintiff who lives about a block away from the music hall. Cavin has a nine-year-old son who has autism. During the outdoor shows, she said, he goes inside a closet and wraps towels around his head to handle the noise pulsing from the venue several times a week.

In the hearing, Armstrong disagreed that the music is loud. He also argued that some of the performances are not organized concerts, such as a Thursday night show with four guitar players. “It wasn’t a show, show,” said Armstrong, drawing laughs from people in the courtroom.

Cris Feldman, the lawyer representing the neighbors, played an excerpt of the four-member musical group recorded from the bedroom of one of his clients.

“That is not somebody’s bedroom,” Armstrong responded. Feldman shot back: “You don’t know.”

The city of Houston helped to finance the venue by agreeing to reimburse the developers up to $1.1 million for public improvements to sidewalks, landscaping and street lighting and for an upgrade to the public sanitary-sewer line. In exchange for the funds, the developers agreed to hold at least one fair for the community, offer at least four rehearsal times for John Marshall Middle school and Northside High School and allow roughly 500 parking spots to be used by the public on days the hall is not used.

Under the terms of the agreement between the city and the music hall, the venue can be used only Thursday through Saturday, among other restrictions.

Neighbors contend that the city has not aggressively enforced the noise ordinance because of its investment in the project. City officials did not respond to a request for comment.

In court documents, lawyers for the developers argued, in part, that the residents are asking the court to “usurp” the authority of the city of Houston for granting a permit to build an outdoor stage. They invoked a 2014 decision in Harris County against the residents who filed suit against the Ashby high-rise, the tower planned in a neighborhood near Rice University. The judge in that case said that it would not stop the 21-story tower from being built in the residential neighborhood. The White Oak developers say the same arguments apply in this case.

A temporary injunction hearing is set for Jan. 12.

Feldman & Feldman Files Major Lawsuit Against White Oak Music Hall

Originally Published by The Houston Press

After months of complaining about the annoyance, neighbors in Near Northside have sued White Oak Music Hall developers, seeking to permanently stop the construction of an outdoor stage or any future outdoor events at the expansive music-venue playground.

The complex — an indoor music hall, an outdoor stage under construction and the stage and patio at Raven Tower — has held shows since January, including some outdoor festivals. Calling it “essentially a bar with really big amps all over the place,” the residents’ attorney, Cris Feldman, said children have been kept awake, people’s houses shake and parents can no longer enjoy a quiet evening.

“Since this opened in January of 2016,” he said, “thunderous bass and amplified noise has ricocheted through the Near Northside, jumping nine lanes of I-45 into the Woodland Heights. This should have never been permitted in the first place, and these citizens are filing suit to stop it. No more outside noise. Everybody wants to return to their normal lives.”

Feldman said the developers of the White Oak have not been held accountable for sound-ordinance violations and that the ordinance has been poorly enforced. The suit is being brought on public- and private-nuisance grounds, and alleges that the amplified noise from outdoor shows interferes with homeowner property rights since the noise and resulting vibrations are so invasive.

In a statement sent by White Oak Music Hall spokeswoman Erin Woolsey, from the PR firm On The Mark Communications, the music venue denied the accusations that it had violated sound ordinances and said the developers will continue to comply once the permanent stage is complete.

Families with small children gathered in front of White Oak Music Hall’s front doors to tell reporters how the concerts, attended by thousands, have disrupted their homes.

One mother, Theresa Cavin, said her autistic nine-year-old son sometimes hides under the coffee table or inside his closet, with a towel wrapped over his ears, to block it out.

“Austin…is very noise-sensitive, and this impacts him more than any of us in our household,” Cavin said. “Sometimes he’s aggressive if he didn’t get a good night sleep the night before. So there are lots of things this venue has caused us to go through, and it’s just really disruptive to his whole life and our whole family.”

Other parents said their kids crawl into bed with them on nights when there are outdoor concerts — which often go past 10 p.m. — and that, on one occasion, there was a show before the standardized STAAR test.

After the press conference, Cavin and her son, Austin, did the honors of taping a notice to appear in court on White Oak’s glass door. A hearing for the temporary restraining order is set for today to block further construction on the outdoor stage. Houston building permitting officials approved White Oak’s plans for the construction after the venue skirted the city permitting process with its earlier, temporary stage.

No shows are currently scheduled on the lawn. Upcoming shows at the Raven Tower pavilion or patio, however, include Bayou Saints on Saturday and American Wrestlers and NE-HI on January 13.

Music lovers, not to worry: Feldman said the neighbors are not seeking to dismantle shows at the indoor stages. “For now,” he added.