Friday, December 22, 2006
[Southern California week, final post ...]
Don't like competition from businesses with locational advantages? Don't like the kind of people who rent next door? One potential solution is use the power of government regulation to hinder unwanted land uses -- without having to go so far as to legally ban the land use. The power to regulate for the public interest turns into the power to regulate for the benefit of some.
Big Bear Lake, Cal., is a mountain oasis surrounded by tall trees and meadows that looks more like Colorado than its true location in the San Bernardino Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. It is also a center for thousands of popular vacation homes and rentals. This fact both annoys some permanent residents, who dislike the traffic, noise, and other minor nuisances of vacationers, and annoys competing hostelries in nearby communities. Opponents have combined in an effort to impose a host of burdensome government land use regulations (paved parking lot requirements, etc.) on rentals in Big Bear Lake. This story appears to highlight once again the difficulty of distinguishing land use regulations that are reasonable and proportionate to address true public harms and land use regulations that are the product of local protectionism.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
[Southern California week, continued …]
One upon a distant time (Was it in the 1960s? In California, perhaps?), someone suggested: "Perhaps the restaurant should have a section in which smoking isn't allowed." There were laughs at first, I'm sure, but eventually, of course, both private property owners and then the government restrained the ability to smoke in public places. By such small steps, the world is transformed.
In the San Diego community of Ocean Beach, there is an effort to designate a stretch of the beach as off-limits to alcohol. In southern California, the beach is not simply a resort, but is part of the fabric of everyday life, especially for young people. And on the beach, unlike on city streets, alcohol use generally is permitted. Today, some of the same reasons why drinking is banned on the streets is being asserted for a limited ban at the beach. Deciding when and where it is fair to limit alcohol will raise many difficult policy decisions -- the type of balancing with which public park managers, for example, constantly struggle. But it seems to me that drinking in a public space, like smoking, is one of the few public activities that justifies reasonable government restriction.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
[Southern California week, continued …]
Los Angeles is most famous for its entertainment industry, but its diversified economy has often been at the forefront of land use law. One of the landmark victories for modern land use regulation was Hadacheck v. Sebastian, 239 U.S. 394, decided in favor of the Los Angeles police chief by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1915. Through a land use ordinance, the rapidly growing city (autos were starting to crowd city streets) outlawed the plaintiff’s successful brick kiln operation, costing him (according to the plaintiff) more than 90% of the clay-laden property’s value. Concluding that neither financial hardship to the landowner, his vested interest, or any other factor limited the city’s police power to enact ordinances to further “progress,” the Supreme Court upheld the ordinance (Justice Scalia was not yet on the bench!), helping pave the way for cities to shape the direction of land uses within their borders.
A 21st century echo was recently heard in the San Fernando Valley north of the city, with the final demise of the remnants of “Egg City,” once called the world’s largest egg farm. Founded after World War II by a refugee from Nazi tyranny, Egg City at its peak produced 2 millions eggs per day, despite a growing chorus of complaints from residents who filled the valley in the ‘50s and ‘60s, forcing the operation to move a number of times. Unlike Hadacheck’s brick kiln, however, Egg City survived a number of zoning changes. Eventually lawsuits and other factors forced a shrinkage of the egg farm. Abandoned buildings burned down earlier this month. Here’s a fuller story from the L.A. Times.
Monday, December 18, 2006
As the weather turns colder (efforts of global warming notwithstanding) and daylight reaches its nadir, one may think of southern California –- that land of sunshine (El Nino permitting) and 20 million people trying to live together in a stretch of unstable land between mountain and beach. So I present “Southern California week” …
Southern California presents some surprisingly sharp lines between city and rural areas. One such remaining line exists in the Rancho Equestrian district of Burbank, just north of the city, adjacent to mountainous Griffith Park (think “Rebel Without a Cause”). The special district permits backyard horses under special zoning rules; horses have always been an important part of the community. Local advocates are mobilizing to stop the introduction of a planned Whole Foods Market, which many think will clog the streets with cars, which already co-exist uneasily with the horse community.