Saturday, February 5, 2011
In the UK this week crime maps have been launched on a police website that crashed repeatedly over the first 48 hours as a result of the numbers of hits. The innovation was broadly welcomed in the press despite concerns about privacy and accuracy.
For social science scholars there seems to be a great opportunity to see whether Tiebout's thesis is applicable here, whether residents with the resources to do so will 'vote with their feet' moving away from high crime areas to lower ones. There may even be a reduced incentive in some areas to report crime (particularly for owner occupiers) if this will affect their property prices. It remains to be seen whether residents will use this information to 'hold local police officers to account' thereby reducing crime, which is the Government's prime justification for spending approximately £300,000 on developing the maps. The question remains whether these maps will address the causes of crime or whether crime rates will remain broadly similar but the maps will lead instead to the re-distribution of fearful residents into 'safer' areas (as Tiebout would suggest).
One other aspect that has intrigued me is that any local resident can identify where crime is most likely at the micro-level. Here wealthier locations with more expensive, detached hosues are not necessarily safer than cheaper roads within the same area. Arterial routes, alleyways and the location of late night drinking establishments will all affect where crime occurs. This reflects, as critical geographers have put it, a 'body ballet', since the way in which we use space arises through practice and use not simply the physical construction of a place. Crime maps illuminate this quite strikingly.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Today I am in my hometown of Albany NY, trudging through waist-high ramparts of plowed snow. Much of the US has suffered tremendous snowfalls/blizzards in the past week. Back in my current home of Houston, TX, my family and students are having a "snow day" because they anticipate maybe getting some white stuff. Since the typical transplanted-yankee reaction is to scoff at the inability of southern cities to deal with snowy weather, I think it's worth editing and reprising this post from last year, where I defend the local government choice to take the occasional shutdown over the necessary land use investment for snow removal:
Snow Day in Texas
Hard to believe, but it might snow today in Houston. Such weather is pretty rare in Houston. My law school has closed for the day in mere anticipation of snow.
I grew up in upstate New York [where I am today, in Albany], where the average January temperature is 22 F (compared to Houston's 55 F); average winter snowfall was 64" (compared to Houston's < 0.05"). Tennessee, where I lived for about eight years as an adult, is just far enough north to get some decent snowstorms each winter, but overall it has a much warmer, and shorter, winter. Yet it seemed that in Tennessee the authorities were constantly cancelling school and shutting the city down. Often the schools had to extend their year to make up for all of the snow days. In New York we hardly ever lost a day of school due to snow; perhaps 0-2 per year. Even a 12-inch snowfall was not a problem, while in Tennessee they would preemptively close for a forecast of snow.
Fellow northern transplants and I would snicker at all this. You call this a snowstorm? I chalked up the different approaches to the hardiness of our yankee constitutions. But eventually I think I figured out what might be the biggest factor in the different regional reactions, and it's a land use & local government issue. Albany County's snow removal budget for supplies alone (salt, fuel) is $1,217,500. This doesn't include the operating costs for personnel, nor the capital outlays for the equipment; a new snow plow can cost a city around $200,000. Chicago's total snow removal budget is $17 million.
So while these types of expenditures are necessary in northern cities, it wouldn't make sense in warmer climes to purchase and maintain the equipment, supplies, and personnel necessary for snow removal capability. In Houston a freak storm like today's doesn't happen often enough to remotely justify the expense. It becomes a more difficult question for places in the latitudinal middle, like Tennessee and Kentucky. One could measure the economic impact of lost school and work days and business in the area, and compare it to the costs of snow removal. But even that would still need to make some predictive assumptions based on variance from year to year. (Besides, why invest in a snow plow when Georgia will soon be underwater due to global warming?)
Assuming rational actors, one would think we could draw lines between the places where it is more efficient as a matter of municipal policy to do snow removal, and those where it is more efficient to simply ride out the storms as they come. Obviously there are a lot of other factors for planners in making this decision, including geography, the urban/suburban/rural character of the place, and other unique factors. Plus there are the politics of snow removal (a blizzard is said to have altered the outcome of Chicago's mayoral primary in 1979).
But obviously it would never make sense on the Gulf Coast, so we'll just hunker down as we watch the freak snowfall today (my three-year-old [now four, and still talking about last year's snow] has no idea what this stuff is). But don't feel bad for me-- it will be back up to 74 F by Tuesday.
So take that, yankees. As Jessica points out, in Buffalo they make the social land use adjustments that are necessary, but they take a rational approach in Houston too. I might reconsider this stance tonight after I freeze off my fourth point of contact.
UPDATE: No snow in Houston, but everything's frozen. Contrast the icy fountain in front of my Houston apartment with the snowdrifts piled high in front of my childhood home in NY. Yet the local government responses are as different as the respective amounts of frozen H2O.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
...you can do better than this:
According to city planners and elected officials, residents and activists, the reason is simple: Brickell Avenue, the spine of Miami's densest pedestrian district, lacks sufficient marked crosswalks and traffic signals.
But according to the Florida Department of Transportation and its traffic-engineering manuals, that's not reason enough to undertake substantial pedestrian-friendly changes on Brickell.
FDOT, which is about to embark on a year-long resurfacing of the 1.6-mile roadway, has rebuffed pleas from resident and business organizations, activists, city planners and even Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, all of whom say the $9 million project presents a golden opportunity to better accommodate pedestrians and cyclists on Brickell.
FDOT officials say their hands are tied because of the limited nature of a resurfacing project, which typically doesn't include extensive roadway redesign, as well as regulations which restrict placement of crosswalks and traffic signals along a designated state and federal highway such as Brickell.
The resulting clash is shaping up as the highest-profile example of an increasingly common standoff in Miami and other cities across the country: local officials and residents who want livable, pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhoods going up against state traffic engineers whose mandate is to keep large volumes of cars moving as fast as possible.
``There has been this huge resistance by FDOT to do anything to slow cars down,'' said Natalie Brown, communications director for the Brickell Homeowners Association, the area's largest resident group, which has asked for additional crosswalks and lower speed limits along Brickell's residential stretch, where the posted limit is now a neighborhood-incompatible 40 mph
Read the entire story about FDOT's inability to think outside the manual, here.
Sorry I'm a couple days late with this--blame the weather. If you've been following the blog you know that I like to do a holiday post relating to land use. So on Wednesday I asked my students to play a game of "what-can't-Festa-turn-into-a-land-use-issue." Here's what they came up with:
- For a couple of years, PETA has protested the whole Groundhog Day ritual. While they are mostly concerned with animal rights, it is likely that the legal relief they seek would have to do with regulating land use.
- Snow & winter weather. During a week where so much of the country is snowed under, it seems weird that Punxsutawney Phil is cheerily declaring spring "just around the corner." Regardless, lots of cities, airports, and business centers are still shut down for snowy weather. While I grew up in the north, I understand the economics of snow removal from a southern perspective too. Last winter I tried to suggest the economic reasons why southern and Texan cities take different approaches from the north.
- Groundhog Day the movie. An important commentary on how we choose to live in our communities. Bill Murray is the arrogant city slicker who looks down at the rubes in the small town, until he comes to realize the importance of the small-town community values in Punxsutawney.
So once again my students have helped me make a land use issue out of a holiday. But right now the larger issue is the weather, and I hope you all stay warm.
Heard the news that the Internet has made geography irrelevant to the formation of community? You might want to look at this paper anyway. Jeremy Waldron (NYU) has posted The Principle of Proximity. Here's the abstract:
How should we think about, how should we model the basis of political community. To the extent that it is a matter of choice, what should be the basis on which the people of the world divide themselves up into distinct political communities. This paper seeks to cast doubt on the proposition that it is a good idea for people to form a political community exclusively with those who share with them some affinity or trust based on culture, language, religion, or ethnicity. I want to cast doubt on that proposition by articulating an alternative approach to the formation of political communities, which I shall call the principle of proximity. People should form political communities with those who are close to them in physical space, particularly those close to them whom they are otherwise like to fight or to be at odds with. This principle is rooted in the political philosophies of Hobbes and Kant. The suggestion is that we are likely to have our most frequent and most densely variegated conflicts with those with whom we are (in Kant’s words) “unavoidably side by side”, and the management of those conflicts requires not just law (which in principle can regulate even distant conflicts) but law organized densely and with great complexity under the auspices of a state. The paper outlines and discusses the proximity principle, and the conception of law and state that it involves, and defends it against the criticism that it underestimates the importance of pre-existing trust in the formation of political communities.
From today's New York Times on-line, an article about how lawyers and courts overwhelmed by the sheer number of foreclosure cases in New Mexico have taken to training homeowners to proceed pro se. However, nationwide, attorneys agree that what would really help these folks is better access to legal representation.
“We’re getting the people in here, getting them to the table with the bank, but I don’t know what happens to these cases long term,” said Paul Lewis, chief of staff to New York’s chief administrative judge. “Many of the homeowners would do much better with an attorney.”
Hmmmn. Thousands of unemployed lawyers in the US, thousands of homeowners needing lawyers...seems like a match made in heaven. I know the President has called for a spending freeze, but this seems like a great opportunity to inject some funding into the Legal Services budget and help resolve two crises at once. The HousingPolicy.org blog also has some ideas for foreclosure prevention. Any blog readers working on similar efforts in their community?
Jamie Baker Roskie
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Apparently, some within the environmental movement disagree whether compact and higher density developments oriented around mass transit are really worth the greenspace-saving benefit they bring:
But, increasingly, even the staunchest environmentalists are advocating plans to build up cities near transit hubs in order to curb sprawl and limit emissions of greenhouse gases. That has created a split in the environmental movement.
Nowhere is this trend more evident than in Berkeley, where voters on Tuesday approved a blueprint for reshaping downtown that includes five new high-rises. The blueprint, Measure R, was bankrolled by developers and backed by the Sierra Club, helping the initiative win 64 percent of the vote.
“The Sierra Club has come around to the idea that infill development is the way to go if you’re going to protect open space in other places,” said Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley, who supported Measure R.
The Sierra Club’s affection for so-called smart-growth policies has not pleased all of its members, said Kent Lewandowski, chairman of the organization’s Northern Alameda County group, which has roughly 10,000 members. The policies encourage development of housing near public transit to reduce commutes and curb the growth of suburbs. “It’s controversial in the club,” Mr. Lewandowski said. “We’ve got longtime club members who see efforts to promote density as colluding with developers. That’s not true; we haven’t gotten paid a dime. Others are against living in an urban environment.”
It seems quite odd that some environmentalists aren't interested in the big picture benefits of smart growth development when it comes to preserving open space and using light imprint infrastructure methods. It's almost as if they would rather sacrifice these real world benefits in order to stick with some dogmas of the past. This won't serve their overall mission and efforts well in the long run.
Read the whole story, here.
While the rest of the country is reeling from the huge snow storms, it was just another winter day here in Buffalo. (Most of the schools were closed today, but the consensus seems to be that they shouldn't have bothered because the snow didn't arrive in the amount expected.) Buffalo has already surpassed 60 inches of snowfall this winter, but no one here is fazed by it.
Having grown up in Wisconsin, I am used to snow but I have been impressed with the snow culture here. In particular, I assumed that being a home owner in Buffalo meant buying a snow blower. However, in my neighborhood this doesn't seem to be the case. Only one or two people on each block buy a snowblower snow thrower and then those wonderful souls clear the snow for the entire block. We moved to Buffalo this past summer. When our neighbors told us not to buy a snowblower because someone else already had one, we thought they were kidding. We have two such snowblower owners on our block. One of them even took the time to do our entire driveway. I rushed out to thank our neighborhood snowblower owner one day last week. "Just being a good neighbor!" he said.
Thinking about land use and community here in Buffalo necessarily involves considering weather snow. Locations of public services, uses of public spaces, and protection of natural resources must be approached differently in a place where you can't see the sidewalks for three months. Sure lots of cities are walkable, but how many are cross country skiable? It is always interesting to move to a new city and learn about the different communities, traditions, and landscapes. Although Buffalo is beautiful in the summer (admittedly the best time to visit), you have to be here in the winter to understand how the community comes together.
- Jessica Owley
A fascinating new book is available from Taschen, the publishers of fancy schmancy artsy books.
Trespass. A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art. This book is about more than just graffiti, it also includes performances, protests, and urban reclamation. The Chapter on Environmental Reclamations may be of particular interest to land use and property professors. These ephemeral works of art are great conversation starters for topics such as who decides what communities look like, the role of art and protest in landscape design, and how we interact with urban settings.
- Jessica Owley
Yesterday, I wrote about my epiphany of recognizing myself as a Land Use professor. Today, I want to explore the interplay between Land Use and other subject areas. One of the challenges of the legal field is the way we compartmentalize our subjects. We place things (classes, articles, professors) into categories and sometimes overlook the interactions and synergies among the categories. This mirrors the structure of many of our laws. Environmental laws are notorious examples of this. We regulate land, air, and water separately without acknowledging that one cannot stop land, air, and water from interacting and affecting each other.
While I don’t teach a class labeled “Land Use,” the subject is present in all the classes I teach. This semester I am teaching Natural Resources Law and a seminar entitled “Land Conservation in a Changing Climate: Collaborative Conservation” (more on this in coming weeks). Both of these classes heavily involve discussions of land use, as does my property law class. In fact, I question whether there is any environmental law or property professor out there who is *not* a land use prof.
This raises an opposing question. Can you be a Land Use professor without being an Environmental Law professor? I have at least two friends (both junior scholars) who have balked when I described them as being part of their school’s Environmental Law Programs. Several well-established land use scholars also avoid the environmental law label and decline to attend conferences marketed as such. Why does this distinction persist and does it benefit the students or the field?
Arguably, in a tough job market, it may help students to distinguish themselves. Perhaps developing a Land Use expertise highlights to employers that you are interested in real estate or transactional work, while Environmental Law tends to coincide with litigation? I practiced at a firm that combined the two subject areas (at least in name), but many firms place their Land Use people with the Real Estate section and the Environmental Law people in Litigation. I’ll leave the debate about student specialization to career services. In thinking about law prof specialization though, I’m eager to hear thoughts about why we have these distinctions and what benefits they deliver.
- Jessica Owley
One of the very early discussions we have in my interdisciplinary land use and planning law course is a discussion of the students' examples of good and bad land uses and why they think that they are good and bad. While some of the discussion focuses primarily on preferences and emotional reactions, much of it tends towards a discussion of values and normative principles. But aside from a passing reference to Aldo Leopold's land ethic or a brief discussion of environmental justice principles of land use, how do we really wrestle with the social ethics of land use?
One of the most valuable resources on the topic is a 1994 book by renowned University of Virginia planning professor Timothy Beatley, Ethical Land Use: Principles of Policy and Planning (Island Press). This thought-provoking but highly accessible book starts from the premises that land use policies and practices inherently involve ethical choices (Chapter 1) and that the nature of ethical discourse about land use is often derailed by a focus on value preferences instead of wrestling with a variety of moral theories about what is good and right (or bad and wrong) in land use policy (Chapter 2).
Professor Beatley then explores 6 different sets of land-use ethics and obligations in Part II of the book:
a) Utilitarian and market perspectives on land use
b) Culpability and prevention of land-use harms
c) Land-use rights
d) Distributive obligations in land use
e) Ethical duties to the environment
f) Land-use obligations to future generations
In Part III, he discusses the relationships between land-use ethics and individual liberties, tackling paternalism and voluntary risk-taking (Chapter 9), expectations and promises in land-use policy (Chapter 10), and private property, land-use profits, and the takings issue (Chapter 11).
In Part IV, he explores ethics, communities, and politics, including community character and lifestyle (Chapter 12), interjurisdictional land-use ethics and trans-border duties (Chapter 13), and the ethics of land-use politics (Chapter 14).
Chapter 15 synthesizes the material to present Professor Beatley's proposed principles of ethical land use.
While any of us might quibble here and there with specific categorization decisions or particular analytical points that Professor Beatley makes, the book provides an intelligent and useful framework for thinking through the many competing ethical claims, narratives, and perspectives in land-use policy. Each of us may have our own preferred principles of good and right land-use, but any starting point for acting on those principles necessarily recognizes and understands the ethical pluralism that characterizes land-use policies and practices in the United States (which I discussed in "Structure of the Land Use Regulatory System").
I commend Professor Beatley's book to you. As law school casebooks got more expensive, I ceased assigning it as supplemental reading in my land use class a number of years ago. But I still draw upon its framework in guiding class discussion.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
One of the advantages of teaching a first year Property course that totals 6 hours (over two semesters) is having a great deal of flexibility in course coverage (though, since we are changing to a one semester, 4 hour course, this flexibility is about to be foreclosed upon).
While I'm not a big proponent of showing videos in class (though the opening scene to Lord of the Rings is perfect for initial/subsequent acquisition issues and I'm a huge fan of Tom Metzloff's videos on Kelo and Lucas), during the land transaction/mortgage section of my Property course this semester, I did spend the time to share part of this video discussing the reasons behind the American mortgage crisis, including several of the key legal issues.
Previously, I used the video in my Land Planning and Development course but I've become convinced that it provides an important enough perspective to share with the first year course instead.
Of course, as we move to the 4 hour version of Property here at Faulkner, I'll likely have to use it in a different way. Nevertheless, for an interesting and well-produced primer on the mortgage crisis, I recommend this Four Corners option.
So (continuing from my post yesterday) . . . Judith Wegner's lecture on annexation and land use dilemmas last week at the University of Louisville contains a kernel of wisdom about having distinguished land use scholars come to a university setting to give a prominent lecture and to interact with students, faculty, alums, and those in the community who are interested in land use issues. There is no substitute for a physical gathering in a place or places of inquiry and idea-exchange to hear listen to and converse with an expert who brings a fresh, different, outside perspective. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for blogs (like this one), SSRN, conferences aimed mostly at other scholars, email exchanges of scholarship, etc. But those of us who study land use law -- the law of physical space, essentially the law of geography -- know that physical place is important to community-building, exchange of ideas, and the development of knowledge and understanding.
Picture the following: Professor Wegner gave her lecture, with PPT, to a Law School lecture hall filled with over 150 law students, graduate urban planning students, professors in law and other disciplines, and local lawyers, planners, community advocates, and the like. After the post-lecture Q&A, the crowd retired to the faculty lounge for a reception and countless conversations about the lecture and other land use issues. And then a small group of students (both law and urban planning), professors (law, urban planning, and geography), and a local land use lawyer went to dinner with Professor Wegner at the funky Lynn's Paradise Cafe (very Louisville & good Southern food) to continue discussions on a range of topics.
The Boehl Distinguished Lecture Series in Land Use Policy was established with discretionary funds from my chair's endowment to bring a nationally prominent land use scholar to the University of Louisville every semester. The idea is to enrich land use education and thinking at the University of Louisville far beyond what our existing faculty and programs could do by themselves. There is a free public lecture for which the lecturer receives an honorarium and payment of travel expenses, with no expectation of a publishing the lecture. This allows us at U of L to hear directly about cutting-edge research that may be appearing or soon-to-appear in a publication venue elsewhere, instead of pushing a lecturer to come up with an entirely brand new (and perhaps only half-developed) topic. The lecture is advertised locally quite broadly. The lecturer is expected to participate in a meal with a small group of students, faculty, and community members whom I invite, usually at dinner following the lecture and public reception (with the reception being funded by the Center for Land Use and Environmental Responsibility, which I direct, and the dinner being funded by the chair endowment). The lecturer is also expected to give a faculty workshop, usually at noon the next day.
The Boehl Lectures have been enormously enriching. The past lectures have been:
Winter 2007: Tony Arnold (Louisville), inaugural lecture, "The People's Land: Justice Brandeis, Environmental Conservation, and Wisdom for Today's Land Use Challenges"
Spring 2007: Linda Malone (William & Mary), "Think Globally, Act Locally: A Pivotal Transformation in the Global Warming Debate"
Fall 2007: Eric Freyfogle (Illinois), "The Endless War: Private Land in Law and Culture"
Spring 2008: Julian Juergensmeyer (Georgia State), "Infrastructure and the Law: The Evolution of Infrastructure Requirements"
Summer 2008: Victor Flatt (then at Houston, now at North Carolina), "Act Locally, Affect Globally: Local Government's Role in Addressing Climate Change and Other Large-Scale Environmental Harms"
Fall 2008: Vicki Been (NYU), "Silver Bullet or Trojan Horse? The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets"
Spring 2009: Timothy Beatley (U. Virginia School of Architecture), "Green Urbanism: Planning for Sustainable and Resilient Cities"
[hiatus while I was visiting at University of Florida and University of Houston]
Fall 2010: Michael Wolf (Florida), "Private Property and Public Protection: The Brandeisian Alternative"
Spring 2010: Judith Welch Wegner (North Carolina), "Annexation, Urban Boundaries, and Land Use Dilemmas: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future"
This lecture series has stimulated thinking about and interest in key land use issues, facilitated interdisciplinary collaboration, engaged our students, and developed relationships with lawyers, planners, officials, developers, environmentalists, and others in our community who care about land use issues. It has had far more benefit -- both in breadth and depth -- than investing in any one person's particular research agenda or any single project.
On the other side of the coin, I have been very grateful for opportunities to speak at other law schools and universities (including planning schools) and have been enriched by my interactions with faculty, students, and friends at these schools and universities. To be blunt, being physically present in a guest-lecture setting has enabled me to see the richness of the programming and intellectual activity at these schools in a way that a glossy brochure in October or November just cannot convey.
The bottom line is that I would encourage land use scholars to consider ways of providing and enhancing opportunities for outside speakers and distinguished lecturers at their schools. The network of good, hard thinking about land use issues will continue to develop through electronic media in the virtual world, but not nearly as well or as extensively if it does not develop and flourish through face-to-face interactions in the physical spaces of higher education.
(Also, if you want more information about how we pull this off and the kinds of resources it takes, please contact me at email@example.com)
Here is an announcement that may be of interest to your students:
HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program 2011-2013
The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. Since the plan’s inception, a total of more than 108,600 affordable homes have been created or preserved. For more information, please visit www.nyc.gov/hpd
The NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC)provides a variety of financing programs for the creation and preservation of multi-family affordable housing throughout New York City. In partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, HDC works to implement Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the creation or preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. Since the plan launched in 2004, HDC has financed nearly 47,521 homes for low- , moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers. The New York City Housing Development Corporation is rated AA by S&P and Aa2 by Moody’s. For more information, please visit www.nychdc.com
The HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program is designed to bring talented young professionals to HPD and HDC to expose them both to the inner workings of New York City government and to the field of affordable housing, with the goal of developing the next generation of affordable housing leadership. The Fellowship provides a forum for the exchange of fresh and current ideas with those who shape the City’s housing policy through housing- and community development-related lectures, site visits, hands-on policy work and mentoring.
For more information: http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/jobseekers/fellowship.shtml
- Jessica Owley
Many thanks to Matt for inviting me to participate this month and for his kind introduction. As regular reader of this blawg, I was delighted when Matt asked me to participate. However, I was a bit surprised as well. Beyond the normal trepidations of a junior faculty member wondering if she has enough to say or time to say it in, I found myself asking “Am I a Land Use Prof?”
Here is where I confess that I never took Land Use as a law student. In fact, I don’t even teach Land Use (at least not yet). When asked my subject areas, I tend to say Property and Environmental Law. I might mention my goals of teaching Federal Indian Law one day or perhaps my seminars on conservation easements. The phrase “land use” does not usually pass my lips.
When I got Matt’s invitation, I stepped back to take a look at my scholarship and practice and realized that maybe he understood me better than I understand myself. My dissertation and recent scholarship has focused on conservation easements and exactions. I am particularly interested in actions to preserve private lands and working landscapes. My graduate program involved studying planning and landscape architecture (along with environmental science and policy). My brief foray into practice put me the Land Use & Environmental Law group of a big firm. And, lately I keep noticing that I get slotted in the “land use” section at conferences. So, while it was no surprise to Matt and others, I had a bit of a “Holy Smokes, I’m a Land Use Prof!” moment when looking over my CV. Thus, newly bathed in self-awareness self-recognition, I am delighted to join the ranks and look forward to discussing land use, property, environmental law, and all stops in between.
- Jessica Owley
That's essentially what the Mother Nature Network asks in its article Was Genghis Khan History's Greenest Conqueror? The article reports on the latest research led by Julia Pongratz from the Carneige Institution's Department of Global Ecology:
Over the course of the century and a half run of the Mongol Empire, about 22 percent of the world's total land area had been conquered and an estimated 40 million people were slaughtered by the horse-driven, bow-wielding hordes. Depopulation over such a large swathe of land meant that countless numbers of cultivated fields eventually returned to forests.
In other words, one effect of Genghis Khan's unrelenting invasion was widespread reforestation, and the re-growth of those forests meant that more carbon could be absorbed from the atmosphere.
But thankfully it may not be necessary kill mass numbers of people to save the planet. In fact, it seems pretty clear that looking strictly at forestation, the U.S. has far more forested acreage than it did a century ago, while adding vast population increases. Pongratz says the larger lesson is that we should learn from history to inform the present and future of land use, which I agree with completely:
"Based on the knowledge we have gained from the past, we are now in a position to make land-use decisions that will diminish our impact on climate and the carbon cycle. We cannot ignore the knowledge we have gained," she said.
This is the title for a new radio documentary on the BBC World Service available (from tomorrow) here on the gentrification of Harlem by writer Michael Goldfarb.
I'm looking forward to it partly to see if it will enrage me. Here's a quote from the trailer:
As I say, ownership is a complicated concept. It is bound up with subjective things like memory and personal experience.
My late father-in-law emigrated to Canada from London after the war. Shortly after my wife and I moved to London, he came for what he knew would be his last visit.
He was in his mid-80's and went off for a nostalgia trip down the Mile End road, where he was born and spent his childhood. He came back flabbergasted.
"It's not my London," he said shaking his head in disappointment.
The street markets were still there, the area was as run-down as ever, but what he meant was there was no trace of his cockney past. There were very few white faces. It had become a neighbourhood of immigrants from Bangladesh.
In memory, he owned that territory and now it seemed to have been taken over without his permission.
I deeply empathise."
It will be interesting to see whether this piece is more than superficial, engaging in the difficult questions about gentrification including race, culture and spatial authenticity.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Here at the Land Use Prof Blog we've been incredibly fortunate to have some really bright scholars willing to contribute--from getting Jim Kelly and Tony Arnold join the lineup, to several interesting guest bloggers, including Ken Stahl, McKay Cunningham, and most recently, Antonia Layard. It's a new month (already!) and I'm pleased to announce a new guest blogger: Jessica Owley of the University at Buffalo Law School.
Jessica teaches environmental law, property, and land conservation at Buffalo. She holds both a JD and a PhD in environmental science, policy, and management from Berkeley. Before joining the faculty at Buffalo, Jessica practiced in the land use & environmental law group at a major law firm and taught at Pace Law School. Her research interests are in land conservation, property rights, and using property tools for conservation in the context of climate change. She has posted several interesting articles in recent months on the subject of conservation easements, including forthcoming pieces in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, an ABA book on Greening Local Government, and Law and Contemporary Problems.
We're excited to have Jessica join us this month, and we look forward to her thoughts and observations!
Thanks, Matt, for the wonderfully kind introduction. I am excited to be guest-posting on the Land Use Prof blog. Despite the flood of emails (and steady stream of students and professors wanting an associate dean's immediate attention), I read the Land Use Prof blog every day, and find the posts both helpful and thought-provoking. It is a real honor to be a part of the great work that y'all do!
For my first post, I want to share some insights from Judith Welch Wegner's Boehl Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Policy at the University of Louisville this past Thursday, January 27, and to highlight the value of a land-use lecture series generally. Professor Wegner is well known in legal education for her past roles as a 10-year Dean at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, President of AALS, member of the Order of the Coif Executive Committee, and Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In the land use field, she is known as the Burton Craige Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and for her especially influential article "Moving Toward the Bargaining Table: Contract Zoning, Development Agreements, and the Theoretical Foundations of Government Land Use Deals," 65 N.C. L. Rev. 957 (1987). I predict that she will play a major role in reviving interest in annexation as a land use legal and planning issue.
Judith gave her Boehl Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Policy on "Annexation, Urban Boundaries, and Land Use Dilemmas: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future." Her basic concern is that annexation is often disconnected from land-use planning, which results in problems of sprawl, uncoordinated growth, inadequate infrastructure, and fiscal stress. Drawing on census data and examples from North Carolina's famous "annexation wars," Judith pointed out that there are no quick-fixes, no one-size-fits-all model solutions (a point that I particularly like and have addressed most recently in "Fourth-Generation Environmental Law: Integrationist and Multimodal"). Local culture matters. Some of the worst conflicts do not arise from expanding large cities but from small municipalities in rural or at least non-urban areas, making it difficutl to get a handle on what exactly "smart growth" might mean in these low-density communities. Water and wastewater dynamics play significant roles, as do municipalities' desires to improve their fiscal health by increasing their property-tax base through annexations. When municipal annexation is difficult, though, alternatives to annexation take its place, including the proliferation of special districts, the rise of county authority over land use, and the dominance of gated communities. All in all, according to Judith, annexation conflicts demonstrate why local governance structure is a "wicked problem" but one that is critically important to land use practices and sustainable development. I am looking forward to the publications that will result from her research. Annexation issues have received too little attention in the land use legal literature.
But her lecture implicitly makes another point -- the value of a land-use lecture series. More on that tomorrow . . . . [OK, maybe not as tantalizing as who shot J.R., but hopefully something of a hook to bring you back.] Again, thanks for letting me come aboard!
January 31, 2011 in Agriculture, Common Interest Communities, Comprehensive Plans, Density, Development, Exurbs, Lectures, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Smart Growth, Sprawl, State Government, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)