August 28, 2008
Tacos 1, L.A. County 0, but the game isn’t over …
In the latest development in the growing field of mobile-food vending land use law, a Los Angeles county judge struck down yesterday a county ordinance (applicable outside the city of Los Angeles) that made it a crime to park a taco truck in one spot for more than one hour. According the L.A. Times, the judge ruled that the law was unenforceable in part because it was too vague.
Now, it’s easy to speculate that such a law, adopted in April, was spurred by brick-and-mortar restaurants that have to pay rent or property taxes (but not necessarily gasoline)and that fear competition from cheap and mobile food vendors, of which there are hundreds in LA. County. But let’s remember that there are good reasons for restricting certain land uses –- just as a homeowner might not like a steakhouse next door, it wouldn’t want a taco truck parked all day in front of the house. Perhaps the county, which has promised to appeal, needs to craft a more subtle law that focuses on preventing land use harms. After all, I want to make sure I can get a street taco next time I’m in L.A. County …
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August 26, 2008
Sprucing up foreclosure lanes …
While Congress is busy mortgaging the nation’s financial future to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, local governments are busy with more urgent efforts to ameliorate the social harms of abandoned and foreclosed homes, especially those concentrated in low-income neighborhoods.
In Boston, Hendry Street is a bleak site of abandoned and boarded up houses (see the picture on the Boston Globe site). Not only does this situation attract crime and vandalism, it further decreases the value of existing occupied homes, sometimes pushing extant homeowners closer towards foreclosure. So the city’s plan is to take title to some houses and to sell them to developers who promise to maintain and repair them for new housing (probably many in the form of rentals). The city has already reached a deal with one developer.
Here’s hoping that the plan (which, to be clear, is funded in large part by federal assistance) works, and that the money is spent more effectively at the local level than the larger expenditures may be at the federal level …
August 25, 2008
Which kind of downtown should government offer?
What sort of walkable “downtown” do Americans like? The answer may inform what types of projects that governments foster and approve, in an area when vitalization of the city is the mantra of urban land use law.
Here’s an anecdote from a recent visit to Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Mammoth is a resort town in the eastern Sierra, favored by Angelenos for skiing and summer hiking. It is a fairly new resort and holds little of the history or sense of community of an established city such as Aspen, Col. Because of its recent success, however, Mammoth’s developers have rapidly built the usual upscale commercial developments of a resort town –- European bakeries, fancy cafes, and “high end” clothing stores, often in fairly dense strips. Where do visitors (and residents) walk on Friday night? Not along the established streets, but within the wholly planned “Village at Mammoth,” which offers food, ice cream, and piped in music in a fully controlled environment. Visitors appear to like the wide "streets" without cars (although one can park underground just steps away), the visual appeal of the prefectly maintained cute architecture and stores, and the sense of complete security and control that a planned “village” provides. Urbanists may disparage such “fake” towns, but the typical American –- or at least the typical visitor to Mammoth –- likes it.