Hundreds call Galveston's west end home and thousands more visit it every year, but some people said it should be abandoned.
The area is not protected by the seawall and was devastated by Hurricane Ike.
A new study, co-authored by Rice University Professor John Anderson, is a 200-page road map for future development.
"I think we're going to have to change the way we do things in terms of our development strategies on the island," Anderson said.
The study advises curtailing development on the west end.
Homes and businesses along the West End, where about 10 percent of Galveston's population lives, are at sea level. Property there is vulnerable to future storms. The beachfront is eroding at a rapid rate, up to 6 feet annually.
The report suggested consolidating future development behind the seawall to safely develop tourism and the Port of Galveston.
"It makes economic sense, it certainly makes scientific sense, to shift development to the east end of the island," Anderson said.
The suggestion also irritated many Gavleston residents who live and work beyond the seawall. Pam Gabriel's husband is a builder and she's a Realtor who sells houses on the west end.
"We're going to have storms. We're on an island," she said. "People love the coast. People come to the coast. People buy on the coast.?
Anderson, who owns a house on the island, said old ways need to change. That's not likely to happen soon, though.
"There is no chance the west end is going to sort of close shop and send everyone east," Mayor Joe Jaworski said. "What this can be seen as is a helpful debate point for what's next for the west end."
Galveston is facing more immediate problems rebuilding its infrastructure and regaining population lost during Ike. About 11,000 fewer residents live there than before the hurricane.