Saturday, July 10, 2010

Land Development and LeBron...

Okay, so yes, every blog must post some angle about something to do with the LeBron "Decision".  Indeed, none other than the giant FTC is secretly demanding and monitoring compliance with this hush-hush dictate.

Unfortunately, for land use types, it requires a bit of intellectual dexterity to come up with a logical approach, including a little creep into state and local government, real estate, and tax issues.

With that broadened scope, I ran across an interesting piece by the OC Register that describes the real estate comparisons between LeBron's former city and his current locale.

The median home price numbers were actually quite surprising as was the lower unemployment along Lake Erie. 

Take a look here.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

July 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

NYC Charter Review Commission staff Preliminary Report

The other day we mentioned the New York City Charter Revision Commission.  Yesterday the Commission staff issued its Preliminary Report, available here.  The Commission has noticed a public meeting for Monday, July 12 (viewable by live streaming at the Commission webpage).  

So will the Charter revision include big, sweeping changes in New York's land use law?  It doesn't seem likely, according to the NYC Streetsblog's analysis in Charter Revision Report: Land Use Process Should Stay Untouched, For Now.

. . . . The land use process, which was the subject of an entire commission forum last month, will likely remain unchanged for the time being. . . . 

While a series of major revisions were floated at last month's land use forum -- like requiring comprehensive planning in addition to targeted rezonings, increasing the power of borough presidents and community boards in the land use process, and reforming the weak 197-a community planning process -- today's report recommends any proposals that "significantly implicate important structural issues... should be reserved for future consideration."

With regards to land use, the report makes only two small recommendations, each based on practices adopted by two borough presidents. . . .

Adam Friedman, the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, said that holding off on reforming the land use process is understandable, but that the need for change shouldn't be forgotten. "It's appropriate to take this lead time," said Friedman, "but you do have to begin the process."  

Matt Festa

July 10, 2010 in Development, Downtown, Local Government, New York, Planning, Politics, Redevelopment, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Salkin & Kansler on Medical Marijuana Meets Land Use

Patricia E. Salkin (Albany) wrote to let us know that she and Zachary Kansler (Albany) have posted Medical Marijuana Meets Land Use: Can You Grow, Smoke, and Sell that Here?  The abstract:

Fourteen states currently permit the medical use of marijuana, yet state statutes fail to account for the challenges that confront municipal planners and officials whose agenda includes public health, safety and welfare of residents, including minor children. The intensity of the problem is perhaps most evident in Los Angeles, where there are approximately 800 dispensaries. Varying statutory approaches are provided for individuals to legitimately acquire the drug - they may grow it themselves, they may obtain it from their primary caregiver, or they may obtain it from a licensed dispensary. This raises a number of land use regulatory questions including: whether state law preempts local zoning when it comes to growing, buying and using marijuana for medicinal purposes; whether distance requirements, similar to those used in the regulation of adult business uses, can be utilized to regulate the use of medical marijuana; and, what types of special use permit considerations may be appropriate for considering activities related to the use of medical marijuana. In addition, questions as to whether growing and sale of the drug may constitute a valid home occupation, and whether marijuana is or should be considered an agricultural crop, and if so, what impact this would have on the relationship between agricultural regulation/policy and zoning, suggest a growing number of legal unanswered land use law related questions in this emerging area. This article pulls together information about how the municipalities in the fourteen states with legalized medical marijuana are beginning to sort through and address the challenging land use issues that confront communities faced with the growing, sale and use of the drug.

Interesting and timely, and more support for my theory that every important issue ultimately has a land use angle.

Matt Festa

July 10, 2010 in Agriculture, Local Government, Nuisance, Politics, Scholarship, State Government, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Newly Minted Lawyer Fights Controversial Infill in the Hamptons

From The New York Times, an interesting article about a woman who went to law school as a retirement activity, and is now fighting teardowns and McMansions in her modest subdivision in the Hamptons:

Ms. Konrad has achieved a level of unpleasant notoriety for her relentless and unapologetic campaign against a sacred cow in these parts: luxury real estate.

She has been called irritating, meddlesome, even crazy. To Ms. Konrad, though, the McMansions built by Wall Street’s titans are destroying life as she has known it for the half-century she has been coming here.

She is perfectly at ease in her role as the village nag.

“I seem like a very good target, a little old lady in white tennis sneakers, but they’re making a very grim mistake if that’s who they think I am,” Ms. Konrad, who is 81, said on a recent afternoon, savoring an ice cream cone and wearing a miniskirt over a brown bathing suit. “I’m contentious. I’m obstinate. I’m not going to give this up.”

Wagging her sharp tongue and applying the law degree she earned just five years ago, Ms. Konrad has accused village officials, builders and home buyers of corruption, profiteering and bad taste in court papers and in letters to The Southampton Press. (A sample of her acerbic style: She has described some homes here as “multimillion-dollar penis extensions” that will make a buyer feel as if “he has never left northern New Jersey.”)

Recently Chad Emerson blogged about the dangers of planning new development in areas where there are lots of lawyers.  Now the neighbors are making themselves lawyers!  Things get weirder and weirder...

Jamie Baker Roskie

July 9, 2010 in Development, Humorous, Local Government, New York, Politics, Redevelopment, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

BP Blowout Lecture Series at Tulane Law

From Oliver Houck:

We will be preparing a series of background lectures on the BP blowout this fall at Tulane Law School, covering basic tech, engineering, science, law and policy issues.  They will set a stage for several courses on BP-related issues (environmental, admiralty, energy…), and for research projects for students interested in participating for credit.  The lectures may be of interest to you and your students as well, and we will set up a system to “stream” these lectures live to other schools, as you may wish (unfortunately, we cannot do Q and A with you from this classroom). We will also be happy to share ideas for related research topics, if and as you wish.

The program, subject to changes but at this point firm, is reflected in the notice that follows:
 
THE BP OIL SPILL LECTURE SERIES
TULANE LAW SCHOOL
FALL, 2010

OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC 

The purpose of this series is to provide background on technical, scientific and policy aspects of the BP blowout, including deep water drilling; the blowout; the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem; oil, water and cleanup; containment responses; biological impacts; community impacts; legal issues; and policy implications beyond BP.  The lectures (with Q and A following) will take place in room 110 of the law school, 6329 Freret Street, New Orleans, on Monday afternoons, from 4 – 5:15 pm, with exceptions noted.  While Tulane law students may participate in this series for academic credit with the satisfactory completion of additional work, it is intended equally for all students and the interested general public.  There is, of course, no admission.  For further inquiry, please contact Professor Houck at ohouck@tulane.edu (after August 5) or Forest Wootten, 2L, fwootten@tulane.edu.

Jamie Baker Roskie

July 9, 2010 in Beaches, Coastal Regulation, Environmental Law, Oil & Gas, Teaching, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Homeownerhsip: The Chinese Dream (and prerequisite for love)?

We've posted a few times on the concept of property- (specifically home-) ownership as the central definition of the "American Dream," and I've critiqued the concept.  One of the underlying questions is whether there is something uniquely, culturally "American" in the desire for widespread property ownership, or whether it's a more universal urge.  I've heard good, thoughtful opinions on both sides, from colleagues at conferences and at my last faculty presentation at South Texas.  So here's an interesting piece in the LA Times by David Pierson: China's Housing Boom Spells Trouble for Boyfriends: Many women won't marry a man who doesn't own a home.  The article starts out with the story of what would seem a relatively successful, educated, urban bachelor who got dumped because he is not a home owner.  The analysis:

Home prices in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai have easily doubled over the last year as families and investors rush to grab a piece of the Chinese dream.  [ed.: wow!]  A typical 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath apartment in the capital now costs about $274,000. That's 22 times the average annual income of a Beijing resident.

Unlike in the United States, where home buying traditionally takes place after marriage, owning a place in China has recently become a prerequisite for tying the knot. Experts said securing an apartment in this market signals that a man is successful, family-oriented and able to weather challenging financial circumstances. Put succinctly, homeownership has become the ultimate symbol of virility in today's China.

"A man is not a man if he doesn't own a house," said Chen Xiaomin, director of the Women's Studies Center at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. "Marriage is becoming more and more materialistic. This is a huge change in Chinese society. No matter how confident a woman is, she will lose face if her boyfriend or husband doesn't have a house." . . . . 

Material matters weren't quite so important when previous generations courted. Most Chinese were poor. Property was controlled by the state and homes were doled out through an individual's work unit. When China was more agrarian, marriages were usually arranged, and it was customary for a bride's family to provide a dowry — be it money, bedding or even a sewing machine.

But economic reform and mass urbanization in the last 30 years have upended these norms. In 1998, the central government launched one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history by allowing Chinese to buy their homes from the state, often with subsidies. The privatization of property spurred the creation of a commercialized housing industry with developers and investors.

I wonder what else factors in-- e.g., I've read elsewhere that the one-child policy has resulted in an out-of-whack male-to-female ratio in the generation that is now the young adult class.  Perhaps this alters the balance of power in dating.  But at any rate, it's quite interesting that as China has moved toward economic liberalism, its society has moved towards the normativity of home ownership (as "the Chinese Dream," no less)--just as more voices in the US are calling that norm into question (see, e.g., Thomas Sugure, The New American Dream: Renting?, WSJ 2009). 

Matt Festa

July 7, 2010 in Comparative Land Use, Density, Housing, Property | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Carp-Pocalypse?

We don't do a whole lot of fish-blogging over here, because, well, it is the Land Use Prof Blog.  But land use law and practice is becoming more and more entwined with water, wetlands, environmental, and ecosystem law and policy at all levels.  So some of you might be interested to hear about the impending Carp-Pocalypse: The Great Asian Carp Invasion Begins? from Time.

There's an underwater war underway in the Midwest – an offensive to keep the ravenous Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. On Wednesday, it became clear: The carp are winning.

Late Wednesday night, the Associated Press reported that federal officials have, for the first time ever, discovered a carp swimming beyond the multiple electric barriers that were erected along the Chicago waterways to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes system. A 20-pound bighead carp was caught by a fisherman in Illinois's Lake Calumet, on the South Side of Chicago.

That's beyond the electric fence, and only six miles from Lake Michigan.

For decades, the carp have been making their way up the Mississippi, and then through Illinois rivers and canals that form an artificial link between the Mississippi Basin and the Great Lakes. The problems with this migration stem from the fact that the carp can grow into 4-foot-long, 100-pound monsters who devour 40 percent of their body weight daily. They destroy ecosystems by gorging themselves, and starving out other species.

I've always been interested in the history of canals, commerce, and the human endeavor to connect watersheds across the continent, but it seems there were some unintended downsides.

Matt Festa

July 7, 2010 in Chicago, Environmentalism, Sustainability, Transportation, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lewyn on What Coase Would Do About Parking

Michael Lewyn has posted a new draft article called What Would Coase Do (About Parking Regulation)?  The abstract:

Like many government regulations, municipal minimum parking requirements exist to prevent externalities - most notably the congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that occur when motorists drive around a city searching for scarce parking. But because such regulations make parking (and thus driving) cheaper, such regulations may in fact increase congestion and pollution, thus creating, rather than reducing, externalities.

Lewyn has written widely about the effects of regulation on sprawl, and has addressed the impact of parking requirements among other regulations with respect to Houston in How Overregulation Creates Sprawl (Even in a City Without Zoning).  

Perhaps we should just declare a new acronym for Coasian analysis: WWCD?

Matt Festa

July 7, 2010 in Environmental Law, Local Government, Parking, Scholarship, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Enough with Jane Jacobs Already?

Check out this really interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal: Enough With Jane Jacobs Already, by Andrew Manshel.  Manshel is with the nonprofit Greater Jamaica Development Corp.  He argues that while Jane Jacobs was right about many things, the enshrinement of her views in planning circles should be reassessed.  He says that now is the time, due to Mayor Bloomberg's Charter Revision Commission process.  Lots of interesting thoughts in this opinion piece, so it's hard to know what parts to highlight.    

Jacobs's book is generally regarded as a jeremiad in opposition to the large-scale planning of the '50s and '60s. She is celebrated as the individual who did the most to end that era's Robert Moses and Le Corbusier-inspired, automobile-centric view of urban life. In Jacobs's opinion, the ideal of city living was the West Village of Manhattan, with its short blocks, narrow streets and little shops. She praised the human-scale aspects of city life; the "eyes on the street" of the shopkeeper and the social cohesion promoted by "street corner mayors." In her view, large-scale planning was prone to failure.

Are you with Jacobs, or are you with Bob Moses and Le Corbusier??

Her views have now been broadly adopted and it is conventional wisdom in planning circles that participatory neighborhood planning is best, that preservation of old buildings is essential, and that in cities the car is bad. But Jacobs had a tendency toward sweeping conclusions based on anecdotal information, and some of them were overblown and/or oblivious to the facts. Perhaps most graphically, Jacobs predicted that the grand arts center planned for the Upper West Side of Manhattan would fail. But Lincoln Center turned out to be a great success—igniting the revitalization of the entire neighborhood.

More revealingly, the Greenwich Village she held out as a model for city life has become some of the highest-priced real estate in New York City—it's no longer the diverse, yeasty enclave she treasured. Ultimately, many of the policies she advocated blocked real-estate development—causing prices of existing housing stock to rise and pricing out all but the wealthiest residents.

Manshel calls for more attention to the ideas of William H. Whyte, who inspired Bryant Park and Houston's Discovery Green, among other projects.  Manshel isn't the first to challenge Jacobs' legacy recently: see Benjamin Schwarz's recent Atlantic piece.  What do you think about Manshel's critique of the citizen-participation focus?  Again, it's a quick and thought-provoking read, so check it out.  

 

Matt Festa

July 7, 2010 in Density, Development, Historic Preservation, Houston, Local Government, New York, Pedestrian, Planning, Politics, Redevelopment, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hudson on Eminent Domain Due Process

D. Zachary Hudson (J.D., Yale) has published Eminent Domain Due Process, 119 Yale L.J. 1280 (2010).  The abstract:

This Note analyzes the apparent disconnect between eminent domain doctrine and due process doctrine. Following Kelo, numerous states have reformed their eminent domain laws in an effort to ensure that the takings power is not abused. Whatever one makes of these legislative reforms, at an absolute minimum, the Due Process Clause should guarantee that landowners receive notice and an opportunity for some sort of judicial determination of the legality of the taking before the land is actually taken. After cataloging existing eminent domain laws, this Note traces the evolution of these laws over time in both the legislatures and the courts. In parallel, this Note analyzes the evolving circumstances driving the judicial perception of eminent domain. Examining these facts, the Note explains why courts have failed to rein in the eminent domain power with procedural protections. After establishing the appropriateness of applying modern due process principles to eminent domain actions, the focus of the inquiry shifts to what procedural due process demands. This colloquy explains what process is due, what the content and form of that process should be, and the likely effects of recognizing due process rights in the eminent domain context.

Matt Festa

July 6, 2010 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Property Rights, Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Subway Expansion in the City of Lost Angels...

According to this article, it looks like Los Angeles is finalizing plans to extend its subway system.  If you've been to LA and attempted to use mass transit to get around, you've probably realized that the subway system really needs more connectivity to make it a viable option.

With more connectivity, comes more conflict though as the transit system is debating between a route that goes under Santa Monica Boulevard and one that travels under mostly private property:

Via public suggestion, Metro looked into moving the station two-tenths of a mile toward the center of Century City and found that ridership would increase and thus stand more chance of federal funding. But the new station would mean tunneling under under at least 30 private properties, a mix of residential and non-residential. The original proposal ran the subway under Santa Monica Boulevard.

Not surprisingly, emotions are high over this underground expansion. What is surprising is the amazingly blunt and frank opposition...talk about some straight-to-the-point NIMBYs:

“Months ago, I wrote you a letter pointing out the danger you expose the MTA and the County by choosing a route under our homes in Westwood . I pointed out that your route would pass under more political activists and lawyers than you can possibly imagine,” said Charles Edelsohn, a board member for the Comstock Hills Homeowners Association, according to the Beverly Hills Courier. “Now you are compounding your folly by routing another section under Beverly Hills activists and Beverly Hills lawyers.”

Be afraid.  Very afraid of the activists and attorneys under whose backyard you might end up traveling...

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

July 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Farber on Owning Up to the Environment

Daniel A. Farber (Berkeley) has posted Owning Up to the Environment.  The abstract:

This essay argues that, rather than being a constitutional bulwark against environmental regulation, certain kinds of property rights can actually ease constitutional barriers created by current Supreme Court doctrine. These environmental property rights (EPRs) are either rights to prevent environmental degradation (such as conservation easements) or limited rights to impair the environment (such as tradable pollution permits.) Among other possible benefits, these property rights may help nudge constitutional law in a more environmentally friendly direction in the areas of standing, takings, and the federal commerce power.
Matt Festa

July 5, 2010 in Conservation Easements, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Property Rights, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Citizen Juries?

Here's an interesting idea from a Vancouver Sun writer:

Some are beginning to realize, however, that the process of soliciting the public's opinion on how our cities should be developed has become out of hand, and public engagement is seriously hindering our progress in designing cities that will allow us to keep things going in a healthy way long into an uncertain future. 

Some are floating the idea of a citizen jury process to replace the free-for-all that often allows immediate neighbours, who represent an obvious special interest, to trump the opinions of the broader community. 

Noted new urbanist architect Andres Duany of Florida, who has led two Vancouver area charettes -- weeklong, intensive collaborative community-design workshops -- recently declared that the current state of public participation in planning decisions is out of control. He says "an absolute orgy of public process" is hindering progress in building more livable cities. 

Duany and others are advocating the exploration of citizen juries composed of randomly selected and demographically representative citizens who sit as a panel, learn about an issue, hear from expert witnesses, deliberate together and develop well-informed, common-ground solutions. 

What do you think?

It's not often that I disagree with fellow urbanists like Duany or Mouzon, however, in this case my first reaction is to do just that. 


Why? 

Mainly because I wonder how this citizen jury approach would escape the same challenges that planning commissions currently do. After all, (in theory at least) planning commissions are supposed to engage in much of the same process outlined for these citizen juries. Yet, as the article suggests, these meetings often become gripe sessions where very little thoughtful deliberation and debate occurs. 

Now, I guess if you closed the citizen jury sessions to the general public, you could avoid that potential chaos--but, then again, couldn't you get the same result by just closing planning commission meetings too. I suppose I'm a bit skeptical about creating another layer of land planning bureaucracy before first trying to reform the existing layers. So, rather than codify citizen juries for development projects, I would recommend amending existing laws regarding planning commission appointments and hearings to address these challenges.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

July 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)