Thursday, September 29, 2011

McLaughlin on Conservation Easements and Merger

Nancy McLaughlin (Utah) has made another fine contribution to our understanding of the use of long-term land protection devices with her essay Conservation Easements and the Doctrine of Merger, 77 J. Contemp. Probs ___ (forthcoming 2011).  Here's the abstract:

Conservation easements raise a number of interesting legal issues, not the least of which is whether a conservation easement is automatically extinguished pursuant to the real property law doctrine of merger if its government or nonprofit holder acquires title to the encumbered land. This article explains that merger generally should not occur in such cases because the unity of ownership that is required for the doctrine to apply typically will not be present. This article also explains that extinguishing conservation easements that continue to provide significant benefits to the public through the doctrine of merger would be contrary to the conservation and historic preservation policies that underlie the state enabling statutes and the federal and state easement purchase and tax incentive programs. 

Jim K.

September 29, 2011 in Conservation Easements, Property, Property Rights, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

City Plan Scarves and Ties

Planetizen has long offered City Map Ties, featuring the plans of world-class cities like Chicago and London.  They've now unveiled a line of women's City Map Scarves. To my eye the scarves aren't quite as beautiful as the ties, but at least now they are equal opportunity fashion statements.  Might be fun to wear one to your Land Use class or as a handy way to carry a city map next time you're in New York or D.C.

Maybe we need a "land use and fashion" sub-category?

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Alexander on Lawmaking and the Debate between Place-Based and People-Based Community Development

Lisa Alexander (Wisconsin) has posted Cultural Collective Efficacy, Social Capital and Place-Based Lawmaking: Revisiting the People Versus Place Debate.  In it she renews the debate between those who advocate improving geographic communities and those who emphasize increasing options for economically and socially mobile households.  Here's the abstract:

U.S. housing law is finally receiving its due attention. Scholars and practioners are primarily focused on the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crises. Yet, the current recession has also resurrected the debate about the efficacy of place-based lawmaking. Place-based laws direct economic resources to low-income neighborhoods to help existing residents remain in place and to improve those areas. Law-and-economists and staunch integrationists respectively attack place-based lawmaking on economic and social grounds. This Article examines the efficacy of place-based lawmaking through the underutilized prism of culture. Using a socio-legal approach, it develops a theory of cultural collective efficacy as a justification for place-based lawmaking. Cultural collective efficacy describes positive social networks that inner-city residents develop through participation in musical, artistic and other neighborhood-based cultural endeavors. Cultural collective efficacy can help inner-city residents mitigate the negative effects of living in a poor and segregated community as well as obtain more concrete benefits from urban revitalization. It provides a framework to examine important microdyanmics in the “inner-city” that many scholars and policymakers have ignored. This Article devises new combinations of place-based laws that might protect cultural collective efficacy such as: (1) historic districts with affordable housing protections secured through transferable development rights, (2) foreclosure prevention strategies, (3) techniques to mitigate eminent domain abuse, and (4) re-interpretations of the Fair Housing Act’s “affirmatively furthering” fair housing mandate. These examples of place-based lawmaking may more effectively promote equitable development and advance distributive justice in U.S. housing law and policy. 

Jim K.

September 28, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Property Theory, Race, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Congestion data, part 3: density and congestion

One common argument for anti-density regulation is that dense population leads to traffic congestion caused by packing lots of cars into a small area. A common counter-argument is that if population is compact enough, people will walk and take transit more and drive less. Does the TTI congestion data support either side?

To test the proposition in a fairly primitive way, I examine the central city* density of the 15 largest urbanized areas, and compare the congestion levels of these cities. In particular, I divide urbanized areas into three categories:

1.High-density regions where central cities have over 10,000 people per square mile- Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Miami. In all but one of these cities (Miami), over 20% of commuters use public transit to get to work.

2. Medium-density regions where central cities have 5000-10,000 persons per square mile- Washington, Seattle, Los Angeles, Detroit. These regions have varying levels of transit ridership. Washington has almost 10,000 persons per square mile and its ridership is comparable to that of the cities in category 1. In the other cities, between 7 and 20% of commuters use transit.

3. Lower-density regions where even central cities have less than 5000 people per square mile- Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, San Diego, Phoenix. In all but one (Atlanta) of these regions, even in the central city less than 5% of commuters used transit.

What do we find? In the high-density regions, hours lost to congestion as of 2010 were as follows: New York (54), Chicago (71), Philadelphia (42), Boston (47), San Francisco (50), Miami (38).

In the medium-density regions, hours lost to traffic were as follows: Washington (74), Los Angeles (64), Seattle (44), Detroit (33).

In the low-density regions, hours lost to traffic were as follows: Atlanta (43), San Diego (38), Phoenix (35), Dallas (45), Houston (57).

The average low-density region lost fewer hours to traffic (43.6) than the medium (53.8) or high (52) density regions.

It nevertheless seems to me that there is no clear pattern here. Although the low-density regions, on the average, suffered from traffic congestion less than regions with compact cities, residents of Houston lost more hours to traffic than residents of New York, Philadelphia or Boston. Moreover, there was no real gap between medium- and high-density cities.

*I use central city density because I think central city density is a better predictor of transit use and automobile dependency than overall regional density. For example, Los Angeles has a fairly high level of regional density but a medium level of central city density, because its population is spread more evenly throughout the metropolitan area than that of other cities. Its transit ridership tends to be on the low side, as compared with New York City which has a very compact central city and very low-density suburbs.

Michael Lewyn

September 27, 2011 in Density, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Congestion, part 2

The Texas Transportation Institute has issued its 2011 report on traffic congestion. Although TTI changed its methodology somewhat, the results seem to be pretty similar to those of its last report (which I discussed in a post last week). The recent report, like last year's report, showed that over the past decade, congestion decreased in five of the nation's largest metropolitan areas: Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Detroit). And as I discussed in last week's post, these metro areas have a wide variety of approaches to transportation policy: in San Francisco and Detroit, highway lane-miles per person increased, but in the other three, lane-miles actually increased more slowly than population.

It might be argued that congestion decreased in these cities because economic distress reduced the number of commuters. But in fact, the number of commuters actually increased faster than population in most cities. For example, in San Francisco, population increased by only 2% (from 3.93 million to 4 million) between 2000 and 2009, while the number of commuters increased by over 10% (from 1.71 million to 1.87 million)- more than the increase in the number of lane-miles during this period (from 2335 to 2510, or about 7%). When TTI averaged figures for the fifteen largest urban areas, it came up with a similar result: the average big-region population increased by about 10% (from 5.5 million to 6 million) while the number of commuters increased by about 17% (from 2.34 million to 2.73 million). So if you measure transportation demand by the number of commuters rather than the number of humans, it is even clearer that these regions reduced per-capita highway space.

In sum, it appears that a region can reduce congestion without materially increasing highway capacity.

What happened in the regions that most clearly failed to address congestion? In Chicago, New York, Houston and Philadelphia, hours lost to congestion increased by over 20 percent. In three of these four cities, increases in freeway lane-miles actually outpaced increases in population between 2000 and 2009. In Chicago, population increased by 6% and lane-miles by 13%. In Philadelphia, population increased by 6% and lane-miles by 17% (even more than the i14% ncrease in the number of commuters); in Houston, population increased by 11% and lane-miles by 19% (even more than the 17% increase in commuters). In New York lane-miles increased by slightly less than population. While population increased by 10%, lane-miles increased from 6600 to 7220 (just under 10%).

In sum, the regions that reduced congestion generally did not bother to let road capacity catch up with population growth (let alone the usually higher growth in the number of commuters). By contrast, another group of cities that built roads more rapidly experienced rapid congestion growth instead. This data supports the view that the "road lobby" strategy of widening and building limited-access highways does not relieve congestion.

Michael Lewyn

September 27, 2011 in Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai Dies at 71

I am saddened to hear news of the death of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan who was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Maathai won the prize for founding the Green Belt movement, which empowered Kenyan women to plant more than 40 million trees.  Although I haven't been to Kenya in 15 years, I follow events there closely.  Having seen first hand the challenges women face in traditional Kenyan society - spending hours of their day walking for water, struggling for control over their lives and bodies - I have been so gratified to see Maathai's success over the years.  She will be tremendously missed.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 27, 2011 in Environmentalism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Diamond on Shared Equity Housing

Michael Diamond (Georgetown) has posted Shared Equity Housing: Cultural Understanding and the Meaning of Ownership, a chapter in the recently published book The Public Nature of Private Property (Ashgate, Malloy and Diamond, eds.).  In it, he examines the place of affordable homeownership resale restrictions in broader notions of private property.  Here's the abstract:

In this paper I examine whether shared equity limitations that are sometimes applied to subsidized affordable housing creates for the owners of such housing a second class ownership status. I conclude that they do not. In support of this conclusion, I look at the meaning of property from both cultural and historical perspectives. I argue that property and ownership are culturally constructed concepts that are understood differently in different cultures and in the same culture over time. I examine the series of limitations that have been placed on property in industrial societies and argue that the limitation on equity is just another in a long list of limitations that society has imposed on ownership in favor of a supervening social good, in this case, the preservation of affordable housing for future generations of low-income homeowners. 

Michael and the other contributors to this book have presented at the wonderful Association for Law, Property and Society annual meetings that he and Robin Paul Malloy have organized these past couple of years at Georgetown.  Registration for the 3rd Annual Meeting this coming March has recently opened and will remain so until January 20th.  

Jim K.

September 27, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 26, 2011

PIELC Seeks Panel Suggestions

The students at University of Oregon are seeking panel suggestions for their annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.  Submit your panel ideas here.  For more details on the conference, which is March 1-4, 2012, visit this page.  And details about previous conferences are available here.

Thanks to John Bonine for the heads' up.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 26, 2011 in Conferences, Environmental Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bicycle Diaries

At our house we just finished reading Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne (Penguin Group 2009).  Byrne, who most know as the lead singer for the rock band Talking Heads, is also an author, conceptual artist, and bike rack designer.  Here's the fly-leaf copy for the book:

Since the early 1980s, David has been riding a bike as his principal means of transportation in New York City. Two decades ago, he discovered folding bikes and started taking them with him when travelling around the world. DB's choice was initially made out of convenience rather than political motivation, but the more cities he saw from his bicycle, the more he became hooked on this mode of transport and the sense of liberation, exhilaration, and connection it provided. This point of view, from his bike seat, became his panoramic window on urban life, a magical way of opening one’s eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city’s geography and population.

Bicycle Diaries chronicles David’s observations and insights — what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about — as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities. In places like Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, and London, the focus is more on the musicians and artists he encounters. Politics comes to the fore in cities like Berlin and Manila, while chapters on New York City, and on the landscaped suburban industrial parks and contemporary ruins of such spots as Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are more concerned with history in the urban landscape. Along the way, DB has thoughts to share about fashion, architecture, cultural isolation, globalization, and the radical new ways that some cities, like his home town, are becoming more bike-friendly — all conveyed with a highly personal mix of humor, curiosity, and humanity.

Byrne seems remarkable well versed in urban planning - he's a big fan of Jane Jacobs, for example - and he provides many unique insights into transportation policy and city life.  I'm thinking of adding this book to my students' optional reading list.

Jamie Baker Roskie

PS Yes, I realize this is my second rock-band-related post in a row.  Maybe we need a new subject category?

September 25, 2011 in Books, Comparative Land Use, New York, Planning, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 23, 2011

R.E.M. is Breaking Up

So the big news around here this week is the breakup of Athens-based rock band R.E.M.  Sad news for music fans, but why is this Land Use Prof blogable?  Well, first off, R.E.M. - through band manager and UGA law alum Bertis Downs - has given financial support to the UGA Land Use Clinic, including the money to buy our first real office furniture.  Also, association with R.E.M. has made icons of several community features or locations.  The most prominent of these features is the railroad trestle featured on the cover of their 1983 album "Mumur" - music fans have rallied multiple times to save the trestle, which is now onthe local Oconee Rivers Greenway.  The other most commonly associated structure is the steeple of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, where the band played an early (possibly their first) show in 1980.  The church is now gone, and the steeple molders in the parking lot of a local condominium association while the Athens-Clarke Heritage Assocation and local leaders try to figure out how to save it.  The band itself has steered mostly clear of these battles, which are likely to continue.  Athens won't be the same without R.E.M., but the town is permanently changed by the bands' legacy.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 23, 2011 in Architecture, Georgia, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Pet Friendly Home Designs from Japan

Given all the bad real estate news around the world, it's nice to see something from the lighter side - cutting-edge, pet-friendly home designs from Japan.  (As an interesting sidelight, note the tiny footprints of these houses.)

According to [the designer's] estimates, the cost to design a two-story, detached wooden home built to cat specifications ranges from 3.2 million yen (about $42,000 in U.S. dollars) for a 20-square-meter space (about 215 square feet) -- on up to 13 percent of the total construction costs for a space measuring more than 50 square meters (about 538 square feet), the company reports.

[C]at-friendly features...include:

    a cat-accessible loft that features skylights and windows;
    a multistage cube of shelves with cat beds; and
    a floor-to-ceiling scratching post column, wrapped in hemp rope.

And for dog lovers?

Features of a dog-friendly home typically include proper ventilation to eliminate hair shed; odor absorbent materials; and a dog shower or toilet. Other dog-friendly home features include: dog-level peepholes in garden walls, pet-door installations in each room, outdoor courtyards in dense urban housing areas, and scratch-resistant flooring.

"For dogs it's ... more difficult (than designing a home for cats)," Koyama said, adding that special attention must be given to materials used for the floors and stairs.

The cost to design a two-story wooden home to dog specifications can range from 3 million yen (about $39,000 in U.S. dollars) for a 20-square-meter space (about 215 square feet) up to 12 percent of total construction costs for a space exceeding 50 square meters (about 538 square feet).

American home designers and real estate developers, take note of this potential niche market in an otherwise troubled housing sector!

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 23, 2011 in Architecture, Real Estate Transactions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Seaside at 30: Conference at ND on New Urbanism, Sept. 29th-Oct. 1st

From the Better-Late-than-Never Dept. comes this announcement of a three-day conference at the Notre Dame School of Architecture celebrating Seaside at 30: Lessons from the First New Urbanist Community and the Future of Traditional Town Building.  Here's the description:

The conference will examine the successes and failures of Seaside, Fla., by bringing together the architects, planners and builders who created it. By examining the founding of this seminal work in the history of urban design—the planning, the creation and testing of the code, and early building designs, experts will address the ongoing influence of Seaside today and look to the future of the New Urbanism movement.
Seaside is an unincorporated master-planned community on the Florida panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin. The town has become the topic of lectures in architectural schools and housing-industry magazines, and is visited by design professionals from all over the world. It was also the setting for the 1998 satirical film “The Truman Show.”
Robert Davis, Seaside founder and developer; Andrés Duany, Seaside’s first architect and town planner; and Léon Krier, architect and master-plan consultant, will deliver keynote addresses at 5 p.m. Thursday in 104 Bond Hall. It will be followed by the launch of the Seaside Research Portal, an online resource for students and enthusiasts of architecture, urban design, planning and real estate that will serve as a digital archive of Seaside featuring maps, plans and images in a variety of media.
Friday’s presenters include Dhiru Thadani, a practicing architect, urban designer, educator and author of “The Language of Towns & Cities: A Visual Dictionary;” Scott Merrill, principal, Merrill, Pastor & Colgan Architects; and Christopher Leinberger, a land-use strategist, developer, researcher and author.
Saturday’s presenters include Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, a partner in the firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company and dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture; Daniel Parolek, a 1995 Notre Dame graduate, architect and urbanist committed to creating walkable, sustainable places; and Marianne Cusato, a 1997 Notre Dame graduate well known for her work on the Katrina Cottages and ranked the No. 4 most influential person in the home building industry in Builder magazine’s annual “Power on 50” list.

The conference is open to the public.  Although on-site registration is available, reduced-cost pre-registration ends Sept. 27th. 

Jim K.

September 23, 2011 in Conferences, DPZ, New Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

congestion data

Both land use and transportation policy are often driven by the fear of traffic congestion. If you're interested in congestion comparisons, the most widely cited resource is the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report.

TTI’s most recent report revealed a startling development: congestion actually decreased in a lot of places. Out of the 15 largest urbanized areas, five (Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Detroit) had decreases in congestion between 1999 and 2009, measured by yearly hours lost to congestion per driver. Most major metropolitan areas had 10-20% increases in congestion, and a few had much greater increases: in Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia, hours lost to congestion went up by 20-30%, and in Houston yearly hours lost increased by 38% (from 42 to 58).

What separates the winners from the losers? I’m not prepared to answer that question. But what I am prepared to do is address (and debunk) a couple of possible scapegoats. One possible argument might be that if it weren’t for those pesky environmentalists and fiscal conservatives fighting new roads, we could just build our way out of congestion. If this was true, we would find that the congestion “winners” had higher levels of road- building than the congestion “losers”- that is, the congestion-beating regions would increase freeway lane-miles at a rate higher than population growth. We would also find that the four regions that experienced the greatest growth in congestion built new lane-miles at a lower rate.

Neither proposition was consistently true. To be sure, two of the five congestion-reducing regions increased lane-mileage per person (San Francisco and Detroit). But three others failed to do so. In Atlanta, the number of lane-miles increased by 7 percent between 1999 and 2009 (from 2350 to 2520) while population increased from 3.7 million to 4.2 million (about a 13 percent increase). Yet hours lost to congestion decreased slightly (from 49 miles per year to 44). In Seattle, a 20 percent increase in population (from 2.65 million to 3.18 million) was not matched by road growth: freeway mileage increased from 1690 to 1855 miles, only a 9 percent increase. Yet congestion decreased from 52 hours to 44. In Los Angeles, freeway mileage and population were almost evenly matched: regional population increased from 12.3 million to 13 million (about a 6 percent increase) while freeway miles increased from 5400 miles to 5610 (about a 4 percent increase). But in Los Angeles, congestion plummeted more rapidly than elsewhere, from 76 miles to 63. Bottom line: the regions that beat congestion didn’t need to build more roads to do it.

What about regions that most obviously failed to beat congestion? In three of the four regions where congestion increased by over 20 percent, freeway mileage increased fastesr than population (all but Dallas). Score one for the environmentalists.

If roads failed to reduce congestion, was public transit more successful? Here the picture is equally mixed. If increased public transit ridership had a major effect upon congestion, we would find that the five successful regions would have experienced public transit ridership that increased faster than population. This was certainly the case in two such regions, Seattle and Los Angeles. According to TTI, metro Seattle’s public transit ridership increased from 142 million in 1999 to 188 million in 2009. Similarly, in Los Angeles, transit ridership increased from 562 million to 671 million. But on the other hand, transit ridership actually dipped slightly in both Detroit and Atlanta during the 2000s, and went up only slightly (from 420 million trips to 425 million, a 1 percent increase) in San Francisco. Yet congestion declined in those cities as well.

Our bottom line seems to be that the link between infrastructure and congestion is weaker than one might think.

Michael Lewyn

September 22, 2011 in Transportation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

are law reviews slower this year?

I sent an article out in August to numerous journals, and have only received a decision from only about 15 percent of them; I'm pretty sure most journals made decisions more quickly last year.  Does anyone have any personal experience either similar to or different from mine?  If similar, what's going on out there? 

September 22, 2011 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Vermont Law & Irene

Immediately after Hurrican Irene hit Vermont I blogged a bit about the situation at Vermont Law here and here.  Now the Vermont Law folks have posted their own account of the storm and the excellent response of the students and the South Royalton community in the aftermath.  I'm particularly proud of the response of Vermont's Land Use Clinic (which I consider a sister institution to Georgia's LUC).

Completing the paperwork for federal assistance or insurance claims can be a daunting task for anyone, let alone for residents traumatized by losing their most cherished possessions or having pieces of their home swept downriver. Many victims of Irene also didn't have computers or phone lines available to do so. That's where the VLS Land Use Clinic and the South Royalton Legal Clinic stepped in.

Just three days after the storm hit, the clinics started to help residents file FEMA's required paperwork or refer them to attorneys for legal help. The Land Use Clinic aided 25 residents in the first two weeks after the flood, said Kat Garvey, a staff attorney and assistant professor. The clinic was staffed by 30 students who volunteered their time, along with 10 faculty and staff members. Its doors will be open six hours a day for six days a week until the end of September.

I know everyone in LU Prof blog world wishes the folks in South Royalton (and everywhere damaged by the storm) the best of luck in their recovery. (Thanks to Christine Cimini for the heads up to the web story.)

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hoffman on Right-of-Way Claims under Revised Statute 2477

Hillary M. Hoffman (Vermont) has posted Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs: The Wilderness Society v. Kane County Leaves Everyone Confused About Navigating a Right-of-Way Claim Under Revised Statute 2477. The abstract:

The Tenth Circuit’s recent decision in The Wilderness Society v. Kane County has changed the landscape of litigation arising out of Revised Statute 2477, a provision of the Mining Act of 1886 repealed by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. Prior to this decision, the presumption was that the United States owned all federal public lands unless an adverse claimant proved otherwise. Moreover, any adverse claimant was required to bring an action under the Quiet Title Act to divest the federal government of title to its property. This decision turns both of those presumptions inside-out, provided that states and counties assert rights under R.S. 2477, regardless of whether they can be proven. This Article explores the history of R.S. 2477, its repeal by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the Tenth Circuit’s historical treatment of R.S. 2477 claims. It also discusses why the Tenth Circuit’s holding in the Kane County case misconstrues the nature of an R.S. 2477 dispute, overlooks long-recognized presumptions about federal ownership of federal land, and ignores the myriad of legal issues involved in an R.S. 2477 dispute. Lastly, it makes specific suggestions about how the Tenth Circuit should address litigation surrounding the growing number of R.S. 2477 battles in years to come, to enable litigants and lower courts to more easily navigate this complex area of law.

An important issue, and on a tangent, the title reminds me how I keep trying in Property I to illustrate the right to exclude with clips from the Five Man Electrical Band, but kids today don't seem to dig it.

Matt Festa

September 21, 2011 in Federal Government, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Anderson on Dissolving Cities

Michelle Wilde Anderson (Berkeley) has posted Dissolving Cities, forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal, 2012. The abstract:

During the twentieth century, 3,000 new cities took shape across America. Stucco subdivisions sprawled and law followed, enabling suburbs to adopt independent governments. That story is familiar. But meanwhile, something else was also happening. A smaller but sizable number of cities were dying, closing down their municipal governments and returning to dependence on counties. Some were ghost towns, emptied of population. In those places, jobs were lost and families struggled; crops died off and industries moved on. A larger group of dead cities were humming with civic life: places with people but no longer with a separate government. In these cities, citizens from the political left and right, often in coalition, rose up to eliminate their local governments.

As an end in itself, understanding these changes would be worthwhile. But this past has not passed. An unprecedented groundswell of cities and citizens are currently considering disincorporation in response to economic crisis, tax pressure, and population loss. The dissolution law they are turning to, as it is written in state codes and as it is understood in theory, is immature and thin. Cities’ experiences with dissolution are unknown, constraining our ability to judge the values it serves or undermines. If dissolution is to grow in importance as part of the legal machinery of urban decline - as cities themselves are asking it to become - we must understand what it meant in the decades that passed before.

Dissolving Cities tells the story of municipal dissolution. It is an article of law, theory, and urban history - a reminder that urban growth and local government fragmentation, which have long dominated academic discourse on cities, may not be the upward ratchet we have assumed them to be. Cities can die (legally at least), and when they do, they raise critical questions about decline, governance, taxes, race, and community.

This is a critically important topic for the future of land use in American communities, and Prof. Anderson's article looks like a must-read piece.

Matt Festa

September 21, 2011 in Downtown, Economic Development, History, Housing, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Scholarship, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cul-de-sacs may be unsafe

This month's Atlantic has an interesting article about the work of two University of Connecticut engineering professors, Norman Garrick and Wesley Marshall, on the relationship between street design and traffic safety. (Garrick is an engineering professor at the University of Connecticut). The article notes that cul-de-sacs are in part a result of government pressure rather than the free market, and goes on to discuss Garrick's empirical work on traffic safety.

Garrick examined crash data from 24 medium-sized California cities, and discovered that:

the safest cities had an element in common: They were all incorporated before 1930. Something about the way they were designed made them safer. The key wasn’t necessarily that large numbers of bikers produced safer cities, but that the design elements of cities that encouraged people to bike in places like Davis were the same ones that were yielding fewer traffic fatalities.

These cities were built the old way: along those monotonous grids. In general, they didn’t have fewer accidents overall, but they had far fewer deadly ones. Marshall and Garrick figured that cars (and cars with bikes) must be colliding at lower speeds on these types of street networks. At first glance such tightly interconnected communities might appear more dangerous, with cars traveling from all directions and constantly intersecting with each other. But what if such patterns actually force people to drive slower and pay more attention?

“A lot of people feel that they want to live in a cul-de-sac, they feel like it’s a safer place to be,” Marshall says. “The reality is yes, you’re safer – if you never leave your cul-de-sac. But if you actually move around town like a normal person, your town as a whole is much more dangerous.”

In other words, a cul-de-sac alone is safer than a gridded street alone. But cities dominated by cul-de-sacs force more traffic onto a few big commercial streets- and because those commercial streets tend to be wider and accommodate faster traffic, accidents on those streets are more likely to lead to death or serious.

The article discussed in the Atlantic article can be found at Marshall's home page, and Garrick has a home page full of presentations and slide shows.

Michael Lewyn

September 19, 2011 in Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Salkin on Bee Siting

Patricia Salkin (Albany), the quintessential "busy bee", has posted Honey, It's All the Buzz: Regulating Neighborhood Bee Hives (B.C. Env. Aff. L. Rev., forthcoming 2011).  Here's the abstract:

Urban beekeeping, along with other types of urban agriculture, sustainable development and green building, has generated quite a buzz in recent years. Small-scale beekeeping has proven to be especially popular among people looking to obtain more of their food from local sources and urban bees provide important pollination services to community gardens, home vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Some people also believe that honey contributes to a healthier lifestyle by providing a minimally-processed sweetener and through its various uses as a homeopathic remedy. Small-scale beekeeping may augment local economies too. Despite the benefits and growing popularity of backyard beekeeping, apiaries are not always welcomed by the neighbors. This article is designed to provide information to land use regulators about the benefits and drawbacks of beekeeping in residential areas, and it offers strategies for addressing beekeeping activities through local laws and ordinances.

Jim K.

September 19, 2011 in Agriculture, Food, NIMBY, Nuisance, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Brooke Shields as Susette Kelo

Coming to the small screen. From the Hartford Courant: Brooke Shields To Star In Movie Based On New London Eminent Domain Case; Author Jeff Benedict Announces Deal On His Blog

"Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage," a book written in 2009 by Jeff Benedict about the Fort Trumbull eminent domain decision in New London, is being made into a Lifetime TV movie starring Brooke Shields as the decision's most prominent opponent, Susette Kelo, according to an announcement made Friday on the author's blog,

Rick Woolf, Benedict's editor at Grand Central Publishing, confirmed the report. "We're thrilled that this is going to be a movie on Lifetime," Woolf said. "Susette is a folk hero and Jeff has done a tremendous job telling the story."

Wonder if they'll get John Cougar Mellencamp's permission to use "Pink Houses" for the soundtrack. Thanks to Jason Kercheval for the pointer.

Matt Festa

September 16, 2011 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Humorous, Property Rights, Redevelopment, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)