Thursday, April 2, 2009

Preserving a pawn shop, in the heart of affluent America …

   When is a LULU (locally unwanted land use) no longer a LULU?  Perhaps when it becomes a comfortable part of the community.  Perhaps when exclusionary land use laws squeeze out an established business.  And perhaps when economic times call for a reassessment of a business that an affluent community might have found undesirable just a few years ago.
Pawnshop     According to the Lookout News of Santa Monica, Cal. (hey, when most of the traditional newspapers are gone, sources such as these will be the best places to find accurate news), the Santa Monica City Council voted last week to order the drafting of a zoning change that would allow for more locations for pawnshops in the downtown area.  (Here’s corroboration from the city, listed after a request that the new Bloomingdale’s store use “a color palette appropriate for Santa Monica” and not so much white.)  The impetus, according to Lookout News, concerns Angelo’s Pawn Shop, the last remaining such business in the city, once famous as a laid-back beach community, but increasingly wealthy over the past decade.  Angelo’s is being pushed out of its current downtown home, which is being remodeled, and can’t find another location in the small area that is currently zoned to allow pawnshops.  Lookout News quotes the city’s mayor as saying that the pawn shop is good for downtown.
   We’re likely to hear more mayors of wealthy communities express such opinions in the coming years …

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April 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Helping the homeless with housing first ..

   Which should come first in responding to homeless persons with alcohol or drug addictions:  cleaning them up or getting them into permanent housing?  Much of traditional thinking has been that addressing the personal problems needs to come first.  But a notion called “Housing First” argues that permanent housing should be the first step; with the security of safe housing, homeless persons are more likely to be able to fix their personal and abuse issues.  If this seems like a pie-in-the-sky insight – along the lines of: studies have shown that giving  homeless persons a million dollars each helps them with their problems – is the more down-to-earth benefit that a homeless person who is given housing first tends to necessitate far less public dollars, over the next few years, than those handled in the more traditional order, according to new report.  Here’s the press release from JAMA and a story from NPR.  This advantage should make an urban taxpayer smile.
 Homeless    My chief concern, however, surrounds the housing for these homeless persons.  Where are we going to find enough permanent housing for persons that still have serious alcohol or drug abuse issues? The organization “Beyond Shelter” discusses success here with Housing First in Los Angeles.  But not every city in the country can find hundreds of apartments that will readily accept residents with serous substance abuse issues.  We know that the federal government’s Section 8 housing program serves only a fraction of those who might desire it.  In a sense, this concern with Housing First reflects my thoughts about school vouchers – it’s great for those who get one, but there is unlikely to be enough to go around.
 One benefit of the current housing slump is that NOW, when prices are so low, is the time for governments to buy, build, or lease housing that can serve projects such as Housing First.  A few years from now, it may be too late …              

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April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Summertime is coming … and the book is about Euclid …

   This is the time of year to start making one’s summer reading list.  At the top of my list is a new book by Professor Michael Allan Wolf, “The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler.”  In the epochal Euclid case from 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court broke from its early 20th century record of disapproving regulations of the free market and property rights to uphold a suburb’s zoning law.  Wolf, who is both an historian and a lawyer, explores the making of the case and its wide-ranging effects in creating modern American land use law and modern American human geography.  I can’t wait to toss down that beach towel, steady the pastel umbrella, and plunge into the tale …

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March 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)