Sunday, May 30, 2010
We have posted several times on the movement towards urban agriculture (and chickens) and neighborhood gardening. But sometimes The Man (and zoning and other land use codes) won't allow it. From the Wisconsin State Journal, Guerilla Gardeners: They leave a garden when no one else is looking.
True “guerrilla gardening” — planting in a public place, where one doesn’t have permission — is difficult to confirm and by nature is secret. It’s also illegal, although the city prefers to educate residents rather than enforce a $500 fine for violating tree planting rules, said George Hank, the city’s director of building inspection.
Guerrilla gardeners have their own code of conduct, said John, the East Side guerrilla gardener who the State Journal is not identifying because he also is a volunteer gardener with the city and does not want to lose that position.
“My thought is always that people not mess with other people’s gardens,” John said. “There are so many places that need attention around this city.”
Shortly after Justice Stevens announced his retirement, we posted an article by Prof. John Echeverria on Justice Stevens' career legacy in property law, taking a generally positive view. Last week, Prof. James W. Ely, Jr. (Vanderbilt, law & history) published an op-ed in the Washington Times with a critical view of Justice Stevens' record on property. From Stevens, Kagan, and Property Rights:
However, in at least one important area of constitutional law--the rights of property owners--Justice Stevens' record fell woefully short of protecting the interests of average citizens. In fact, Justice Stevens consistently dismissed property rights claims and voted to strengthen government control over the lives on individuals.
In Kelo, Justice Stevens virtually eviscerated the public use limitation of the Fifth Amendment at the federal level. Under his reading of public use, legislators appear to have almost unlimited power to take homes and businesses for economic development. The beneficiaries likely will be corporations and others with political clout. In practice, developers and local officials often work in tandem to eliminate neighborhoods and displace residents in order to achieve hypothetical economic gains.
Hopefully Elena Kagan, Mr. Obama's nominee to replace Justice Stevens, holds a more balanced view of the importance of property rights in the American constitutional order. As in many other fields of law, however, Ms. Kagan's record with respect to property rights is a blank slate. It certainly would be appropriate for senators at Ms. Kagan's confirmation hearing to ask her about her thoughts on this subject.
If you thought my recent post about the Hue development in Raleigh, N.C. was troubling, check out this recent story regarding Las Vegas:
Earlier this month, Houston-based Metrostudy reported that Las Vegas has more than 8,200 condominium units that are sitting empty, including those still vacant in CityCenter.
Murphy said Las Vegas has a 20-year supply of condominiums whose prices are down 60 percent from the peak of the market a few years ago. Some high rises aren’t selling for that much more per square foot than single-family homes, he said.
Our fellow blogger, Prof. Pindell lives in Vegas. Ngai, is it as bad as it sounds from this article?
--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.
The ongoing land development crash is filled with amazing anecdotes. I've followed many of them as part of my research and writing. Recently, though, I ran across one that shocked and awed me more than any other before.
It's the story of a infill mixed-use project that, since it could not obtain enough presales, could not tap into the massive amount of federal monies floating around out there:
Hue wasn't able to get the presales needed for Fannie Mae or FHA approval, something that two of its downtown Raleigh competitors, the RBC Plaza condos and Bloomsbury Estates, have achieved.
Highwoods Properties, the developer of RBC Plaza, has sold 105 of the tower's 139 condos, but just five in the past four months. Bloomsbury has sold four of its 56 units, according to Wake County property records. Hue's units were priced between $147,000 and $388,000. The entire project, including a parking deck, has a tax value of $33 million.
New condo projects have a reservation period in which they accept commitments from buyers before they can actually sell units. Hue frustrated many prospective buyers because its reservation period dragged on longer than expected. The project began selling units only in January, and it offered a variety of perks to get people in the door.
Instead of buying a unit outright, a resident could sign a contract to lease one and live in it until the building reached the presale requirement that made it eligible for federal loan assistance. Buyers were offered a free washer, dryer, refrigerator and parking space.
This is really pretty startling that a project of this size and cost is essentially sitting empty across from Raleigh's city hall.
--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Now, I completely understand that there are many people in the homebuilding industry who really want to start working again and expanding. It's their livelihood and who wouldn't want a bigger paycheck in these tough economic times.
But, the idea that the federal government should essentially start financing new home construction even though there is a huge glut of unsold inventory is, well, just foolish. Here are the details of this dubious nominee:
H.R. 5409, the Residential Construction Lending Act, would create a new residential construction loan guarantee program within the Department of Treasury to provide loans to builders with viable construction projects. Designed to unfreeze credit for small home building firms, the measure would expand the flow of credit to residential builders on competitive terms.
Think about it this way. You have a field full of The Veggie That Nobody Wants. Because nobody wants it, the growers are laid off based on the lack of demand. But, rather than diversify into something that there is demand for, the government just steps in and finances/guarantees the funds to plant many more fields of The Veggie That Nobody Wants.
All in the name of job preservation and economic growth.
Folks, its this type of strained and really intellectually dishonest logic that caused the current problem in the first place. It's like making a drunk feel better by giving them more alcohol. Sure, it might work in the short term but, in the long run, its just causing more damage to the system.
--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Patricia Salkin (Albany) and Amy Lavine (Albany) have posted Community Benefits Agreements and Comprehensive Planning: Balancing Community Empowerment and the Police Power, forthcoming in the Journal of Law and Policy. The abstract:
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
This weekend is the always-excellent annual meeting of the Law & Society Association in Chicago. I haven't scoured the program, but there is sure to be a plethora of interesting panels and events. I do have firsthand knowledge, however, of one particular land-use panel that is guaranteed to present fascinating projects from interesting up-and-coming scholars.
Panel: Fri., May 28, 12:30-2:15
Chair: James J. Kelly, Jr. (University of Baltimore)
The Effects of SmartGrowth on the Preservation of Historic Resources, William J. Cook (Charleston School of Law)
Debtors' Environmental Impact: Structured Finance and the Suburbanization of Open Space, Heather Hughes (American University)
Sustainability and the Practice of Community Development, James J. Kelly, Jr. (University of Baltimore)
The Artifice of Local Growth Politics: At-Large Elections, Ballot Box Zoning, and Judicial Review of Land Use Initiatives, Kenneth Stahl (Chapman University)
May 26, 2010 in Charleston, Chicago, Community Economic Development, Conferences, Environmental Law, Finance, Financial Crisis, Historic Preservation, Local Government, Politics, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Suburbs, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, May 24, 2010
Benito Arrunada (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) & Amnon Lehavi (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliyah--Radzyner School of Law) have posted Prime Property Institutions for a Subprime Era: Exploring Innovative Models of Residential Development and Finance. The abstract:
Eloisa C. Rodriguez-Dod (Nova Southeastern) has posted Stop Shutting the Door on Renters: Protecting Tenants from Foreclosure Evictions, from Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 20. The abstract:
I am really glad to be joining Land Use Prof Blog as a guest blogger. Over the next few weeks, I look forward to contributing to an already lively discussion. My scholarship and practice interests have recently focused on land trusts, land banks and any other form of direct community control of land resources. If you wish to contact me with an idea or item, email me at JKelly[at]ubalt[dot]edu.
2010 marks the 100-year anniversary of the nation’s first racial zoning ordinance. (see Garrett Power’s law review article here). The Baltimore City Council passed it in the wake of nationwide race riots that followed Jack Johnson’s defense of the world heavyweight boxing title. I have just been reading a copy of Antero Pietila’s Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City lent to me by my colleague, Odeana Neal. It is an engaging chronicle of de jure and de facto residential segregation in 20th century Baltimore, exploring the exclusion of both Jews and African-Americans.
Pietila brings out the characters and stories that illustrate the high-minded racism of the eugenics era and the market-justified redlining of the FHA-predecessor, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation. The book kicks into high gear with its exploration of the moral ambiguity of “blockbusting” (civil rights advocacy? cynically manipulative profiteering? both?) in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1948 decision in Shelley v. Kraemer. Amidst these essential narratives are a few hidden gems such as the stories behind the siting of Morgan College (now Morgan State University) and the Social Security Administration and the roles these institutions played in anchoring Baltimore's largest African-American middle-class enclaves. Those considering the book for supplemental reading in land use and property courses might want to check out this 4/27 NPR local radio interview with the author.
Many of you might be familiar with the controversy over Columbia University's plans for expansion; the plans, however, raise numerous land use issues besides eminent domain. Keith Hirokawa (Albany) and Patricia Salkin (Albany) have posted an article that situates Columbia's plans within the broader context of university expansion in the urban environment: Can Urban University Expansion and Sustainable Development Co-Exist? A Case Study in Progress on Columbia University, Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 37 (2010). The abstract:
Heather K. Way (Texas) has posted Informal Homeownership in the United States and the Law, from St. Louis University Public Law Review, Vol. 29, No. 1 (2009). The abstract:
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Benjamin Schwarz has written a fascinating article in The Atlantic called Gentrification and its Discontents: Manhattan never was what we think it was. The intro:
This article asks us to rethink the basic assumption that the urban life Jane Jacobs describes was really a traditional and organic manifestation. For Jane Jacobs fans like me this is a really intriguing historical argument. More from the article:
Marchitect and critic, and Sharon Zukin, an urban sociologist, have each written what they describe as books about contemporary New York City—but that’s putting things far too broadly. Zukin’s does make forays into the white-hot center of hipness, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, and to rapidly gentrifying Harlem. But the bulk of her book, and all of Sorkin’s , is confined to fine-grained observations of the streets and neighborhoods within roughly 20 blocks of their apartments in Greenwich Village—that is, west to the Village’s Meatpacking District and new Gold Coast along West Street, east to the fringes of Alphabet City, north to Union Square, and south to SoHo and Tribeca. This area today is in every sense rarefied, and for most of its history was in crucial ways set apart from the rest of Manhattan, which to some extent leaped beyond it. Still, the precedent for using the Village to draw lessons and issue prescriptions about New York generally, and indeed urban life writ large, was of course sanctified in 1961 by that doughty urban observer and community activist, Jane Jacobs. She largely formed her conclusions in —the ur-text for contemporary writing about urban life and the most influential American book ever written about cities—by closely reading the neighborhood life around her house on Hudson Street (about six blocks from Sorkin’s apartment and, by my reckoning, about 10 from Zukin’s; it’s all a bit clubby). . . .
Inevitably, behind cries of decline is a conception, conscious or not, of a time and situation that was better—when the city had a soul. In her invocations of laundries and shoe-repair and hardware stores, Zukin betrays a vague nostalgia, shared by many chronicles of New York (Robert Caro’s , Ric Burns’s documentary , Pete Hamill’s ), for the Old Neighborhoods characteristic of what was once an overwhelmingly working-class city. . . . [Noting that the Triangle Shirtwaist fire was only one generation before Jacobs, it] means that even hazy melancholy for the New York of regular Joes with lunch pails returning after a good day’s work to their neighborhoods of kids playing stickball and corner drugstores dispensing egg creams can only evoke scenes pretty much limited to the years of the LaGuardia administration.
Stickball. That cracks me up. When I lived in Tennessee, I had a friend who loved to insist (with complete knowledge and humor) that because I was from "New York" (well upstate in a suburb of Albany, actually), my childhood must necessarily have been replete with games of stickball in the alley, scampering around with mischievous moppets, stealing apples from the fruit carts, and so on. But this article's challenge to the Jacobs thesis of urban neighborhood decline is quite serious:
Thanks to the profound influence that The Death and Life of Great American Cities has exerted, the West Village circa 1960 has come to epitomize—really to be the blueprint for—the urban good life. But in its mix of the new and the left over, in its alchemy of authenticity, grit, seedy glamour, and intellectual and cultural sophistication, this was a neighborhood in a transitional and unsustainable, if golden, moment. Which meant that it was about to lose its soul.
It's a great article, challenging to many of the assumptions that people have today about the basis for the urban good life, and you really should read the whole thing. h/t to Matt Berger.
In another example confirming my belief that every legal and policy issue ultimately has land use implications, here's an article that touches on border control, the federal stimulus package, agriculture, and eminent domain. From the northern border: Vermont farmer draws a line at US bid to bolster border: Homeland Security threatens to seize 4.9 acres.
Would it make more sense to close such a little-used facility, whether on fiscal grounds or to avoid resort to federal eminent domain?
FRANKLIN, Vt. — The red brick house sits unassumingly on a sleepy back road where the lush farmlands of northern Vermont roll quietly into Canada. This is the Morses Line border crossing, a point of entry into the United States where more than three cars an hour constitute heavy traffic.
The bucolic setting of silos and sugar maples has become the focus of a bitter dispute that pits one of America’s most revered traditions — the family-owned farm — against the post-9/11 reality of terror attacks on US soil.
The Department of Homeland Security sees Morses Line as a weak link in the nation’s borders, attractive to terrorists trying to smuggle in lethal materials. The government is planning an estimated $8 million renovation here as part of a nationwide effort to secure border crossings.
It intends to acquire 4.9 acres of border land on a dairy farm owned for three generations by the Rainville family. Last month, the Rainvilles learned that if they refuse to sell the land for $39,500, the government intends to seize it by eminent domain.
The Rainvilles call this an unjustified land-grab by federal bullies.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its annual list of endangered places. The list is varied and reflects the expanding nature of preservation. For example, it includes Connecticut's Merritt Parkway and Virginia's Wilderness Battlefield, which may be the site of a Wal-Mart if litigaton by local residents fails. Click here for a report by Brian Williams, and here for a link to the full list at the National Trust.
Will Cook, Charleston School of Law
Earlier this month I was in Baltimore for the AALS Clinicians' Conference. The conference itself was a really fantastic opportunity to learn and be with my fellow clinicians. This year the setting was also quite spectacular - we were at the Renaissance Hotel right in the Inner Harbor.
While walking in the area I've happened upon a little gem, previously unknown to me. The Baltimore Public Works Museum is a fantastic historic building that is still part of the city's water and sewer system. Unfortunately the museum is currently closed to the public, due to budget cuts. I hope to visit it on a future trip to Baltimore, because I'm sure it's quite fascinating (at least to a land use geek like me).
Jamie Baker Roskie
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
From the folks at the National Community Land Trust:
A new collection of essays, assembled for the first time, traces the roots, evolution, and prospects of the community land trust -- an innovative model of affordable housing shaped by the likes of Henry George and Ebenezer Howard, and flourishing today in hundreds of U.S. communities.
The Community Land Trust Reader, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and edited by John Emmeus Davis, brings together the seminal texts that inspired and defined the community land trust movement. The essays - many of which have never before appeared in print, and others written expressly for this volume -- trace the intellectual origins of an eclectic model of tenure that was shaped by the social theories of Henry George, Ebenezer Howard, Ralph Borsodi, and Arthur Morgan, and by social experiments like the Garden Cities of England and the Gramdan villages of India.
For more information about The Community Land Trust Reader, go to www.cltnetwork.org.
Sounds pretty interesting, although if I bought it I'd have to add it to my huge stack of professional reading that never gets done...
Jamie Baker Roskie
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