March 31, 2012
Planner Andy: A New Paradigm in Urban Planning?
Urban planning schemes have often been criticized for failing to solicit meaningful public participation. Now, the city of Burbank, California, is trying to put that criticism to rest in a very creative fashion. As Curbed LA reports, the website for Burbank's draft 2035 general plan includes an avatar named "Planner Andy" who will "help crowdsource ideas about how residents view their city." Here's a screen shot of Planner Andy:
I guess nothing really fires up the public imagination like a hirsute, bow-tied nerd. Now at least I know that if the law teaching thing doesn't work out, I can always try being an avatar.
Furman Center Reports on NYC Housing and Parking
We are pleased to share with you the latest policy brief from the Furman Center and its Institute for Affordable Housing Policy: Searching for the Right Spot: Minimum Parking Requirements and Housing Affordability in New York City. The report examines the minimum residential parking requirements in communities throughout the city, and explores the effects the requirements may have on housing affordability and the city's sustainability goals.
Our findings suggest that the requirements generally cause developers to provide more off-street parking than they think buyers and tenants really demand, potentially driving up the cost of housing and promoting inefficient car ownership. The report provides examples of tools other cities have used to refine their parking regulations to better balance concerns about housing affordability, sustainability, and traffic congestion with the needs of car owners.
The Center has also released its Fourth Quarter NYC Housing Report:
We are pleased to share with you our latest New York City Quarterly Housing Update (Q4 2011). We find that home sales volume continued to decline, with the number of transactions citywide down 15 percent from the previous quarter and 11 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.
The report finds, however, that foreclosure starts were down in most of the city, with 33 percent fewer foreclosure notices issued in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the same quarter in 2010. Manhattan was the only borough where the number of foreclosure starts increased, although the number of foreclosure notices issued in Manhattan remained well below the numbers issued in any of the other boroughs. You can read the full report here, or the press release here.
The Furman Center's Quarterly Housing Update is unique among New York City housing reports because it incorporates sales data, residential development indicators, and foreclosures. It also presents a repeat sales index for each borough to capture price appreciation while controlling for housing quality. The publication is available on a quarterly basis at:
Very valuable research and analysis, as usual.
March 30, 2012
Schindler on The Conflict Between Local Governments and Locavores
As regular readers know, we have a fondess for blogging about chickens. Now our friend Prof. Sarah Schindler (Maine) has given us another opportunity with her new article Of Backyard Chickens and Front Yard Gardens: The Conflict between Local Governments and Locavores, forthcoming in the Tulane Law Review, Vol. 87 (2012). The abstract:
Locavores aim to source their food locally. Many locavores are also concerned more broadly with living sustainably and decreasing reliance on industrial agriculture. As more people have joined the locavore movement, including many who reside in urban and suburban areas, conflict has emerged between the locavores’ desires to use their private property to produce food — for personal use and for sale — and municipal zoning ordinances that seek to separate agriculture from residential uses.
In this article, I consider the evolution of this conflict and its implications for our systems of land use, local government, and environmental law. Specifically, I investigate the police power rationales for the existence of ordinances that disallow urban homesteading in urban and suburban communities. I then demonstrate that public health, civic virtue, and free market principles can be used to justify the passage of ordinances that would expressly permit these behaviors. Central to this analysis is a discussion of the problems caused by industrial agriculture and the lack of access to locally produced foods — food insecurity, food deserts, obesity tied to processed foods, monoculture-induced environmental catastrophes, harm to animals, and greenhouse gas emissions — all of which could be alleviated, at least in part, through urban agriculture. In recognition of these changing conceptions of harm, some local governments have begun to pass ordinances expressly allowing gardens, chickens, and the sale of produce in residential areas. I conclude by considering what this movement toward loosening restrictions on the use of private property says more broadly about the decline of Euclidean zoning controls and the future of land use law.
While the urban agriculture issues are very interesting in their own right, the implications of this article go to the heart of the modern discomfort with the legacy of traditional Euclidean land use regulation. Well worth a read.
March 28, 2012
Saxer on Managing Water Rights Using Fishing Rights
Shelley Ross Saxer (Pepperdine) has posted Managing Water Rights Using Fishing Rights as a Model, forthcoming in Marquette Law Review Vol. 95 (2011). The abstract:
This Article addresses the need to view water rights as licenses subject to government revocation, without just compensation, in the same way that fishing rights are viewed as licenses subject to government management. It focuses specifically on the methods used to address water resource allocation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in California, and on fish allocation issues in the Pacific Northwest. It explores property rights in water and fish, particularly in regard to Fifth Amendment takings challenges when government regulations diminish water rights and fishing rights. The Article concludes by recognizing that both water and fish resources should be managed as ecosystems and governed by the public trust doctrine, and rejecting private property rights in either fish or water as a violation of the public trust doctrine, in which public resources are given away to private interests.
Waldman on Yglesias, Avent, and Zoning and Property Rights
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and read Matt Yglesias’ The Rent Is Too Damned High and Ryan Avent’s The Gated City back to back. Both were a pleasure to read, for their content, and for the opportunity to kick a couple of bucks to two of my fave bloggers behind an ennobling veil of commerce. As an avid reader of both authors’ online work, there were no huge surprises, but reading the ebooks took me deeper and inspired some more considered thought on their ideas. Ryan Avent and Matt Yglesias (and Ed Glaeser too!) are separate humans with their own identities and ideas. But these “econourbanists” share a core view, and I hope they will forgive me if I consider their work together. Although they arrive at a similar place, the two books take very different roads: Avent’s book is a bit wonkier and more economistic, focusing on the macro role of cities in enhancing productivity through economies of scale and agglomeration; Yglesias treats the same set of issues more polemically and with an emphasis on the personal, thinking about how individuals should expect to make a living in an increasingly service-oriented economy, the importance of accessible cities to the kind of prosperity he envisions, and the perils of any obstacle that makes urban life inaccessible (“the rent is too damned high!”). Read both!
This is a long post with extensive analysis of the reviewed work and the authors' own insights. Waldman is a qualified skeptic of the authors' approaches. A very insightful essay that grapples with the issues I am trying to address in my own scholarship. I am glad to add a new term-- "econourbanist"-- to my land use lexicon! Thanks to Geoff Corn for the link.
Sullivan & Solomu on Comparative ADR in Land Use Disputes
Edward J. Sullivan (Portland State) and Alexia Solomu (International Court of Justice) have posted Alternative Dispute Resolution in Land Use Disputes — Two Continents and Two Approaches, published in The Urban Lawyer, Vol. 43, No. 4, p. 1036, Fall 2011. The abstract:
This paper notes the increasing use of alternative dispute resolution ("ADR"), which includes negotiations among parties, mediation, and arbitration) generally and specifically examines its use in resolving planning controversies in two jurisdictions -- England and Wales in the United Kingdom and the State of Oregon in the United States. ADR is less expensive, more efficient, and may well result in a more satisfactory outcome to the parties. In the United States, the siting of locally unwanted land uses ("LULUs"), property rights, and litigation pose profound conflicts for the land use process. In the United Kingdom, initial issuance of permits without hearings, local resistance to major public works projects (such as airport runways and power plants) and lengthy and costly planning inquiries are similar concerns. ADR may be helpful in the resolution of these disputes.
After briefly examining the legal structure of the two planning systems, the authors provide concrete examples of ADR in Oregon (a system that tends to be more informal and geared to solutions in individual cases) and examine the proposed new structure of ADR in planning law in the United Kingdom, including the recent and thoughtful "green paper" on the subject.
March 26, 2012
NYU's Controversial Expansion Plans
Property Prof Blogger extraordinaire and official Land Use Prof Blog Buddy Steve Clowney draws attention to an interesting recent column from NY Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman about NYU's plans to expand within Greenwhich Village. I agree with Steve's assessment that the column focuses too much attention on the effect the expansion would have on a little used plot of park space. It is curious that Kimmelman opens the column describing NYU's expansion plans as "acrimonious" but then immediately pivots away from describing any of the actual acrimony to an issue that only he seems to care about, to wit, this "underrated" park that nobody know exists.
Kimmelman's main argument appears to be that NYU itself is responsible for the park space in question falling into disuse, and so the city should leverage its zoning power to force NYU to make the park more accessible. At this point, I was running for my land use casebook to consult the Supreme Court's exactions jurisprudence (For land use newbies: governments are generally not allowed to leverage their zoning power for concessions absent an "essential nexus" between the concession sought and the land use approval requested).
In any event, I can't say Kimmelman is wrong as a policy matter. He may be right that the village needs more open space and that NYU's plan is antithetical to that need. To me, the most interesting part of Kimmelman's piece was his contention that the original Modernist "tower-in-the-park" design that spawned the endangered park space had actually done a good job of bringing much-needed open space to the village before NYU messed it all up. This is at odds with the conventional wisdom that the tower-in-the-park idea was a monstrosity that necessarily brought about extremely alienating public spaces (wisdom made conventional, of course, by a previous crusader against Greenwhich Village construction plans, Jane Jacobs). For an example of such an alienating space, check this out:
For those wondering, this is Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York, a gift of Modernist-loving governor Nelson Rockefeller.
I see an interesting parallel between Kimmelman's affection for Modernist park design in this column and his paean to the virtues of Modernist housing complexes in another column about which I blogged previously. Kimmelman seems committed to resuscitating a form of urban design that has been largely relegated to the dustbin of bad planning ideas. For that, I commend him!
"Patterns of Pollution" - New EJ Report on Atlanta
I'm proud to announce that today UGA Law Public Interest Fellow David Deganian and the fine folks at GreenLaw published "The Patterns of Pollution: A Report on Demographics and Pollution in Metro Atlanta." They were assisted by the consultants of NewFields LLC (who have also helped us in our work in the Newtown community of Gainesville, Georgia).
From GreenLaw's media release:
The report analyzes publicly available information to identify eight types of air, water, and land pollution points and compares this pollution information with demographic data on people living in the 14-county region. Using cutting edge mapping technology to visually combine these areas, we were able to see an overall pattern across the region indicating that a person’s race, income, and primary language spoken have a strong relationship to his or her distance from pollution.
The report website features an interactive map where you can enter an address in the metro Atlanta area and view pollution points nearby.
This report contains extensive fact-based analysis of the impact of pollution on communities of color in Atlanta, and I think it will be an influential part of environmental justice initiatives in the region for years to come. Land Use Clinic students have been working with David and GreenLaw throughout his fellowship, and it's so exciting to see the work come to fruition in such a palpable way.
Jamie Baker Roskie