Friday, March 8, 2013

Is there a new urbanist, or city-friendly, children’s book out there?

A couple weeks ago, I received a great gift in the mail.  My wife and I had a baby girl back in Little House
September, and the gift was from a mentor of mine, Fred Etzel, an adjunct who has taught land use law at Berkeley’s city planning program for decades.  The gift was The Little House, the 1943-classic by Virginia Lee Burton.  I was so excited to receive this because I realized, as I read it to my daughter, that I had read this book as a child, that I loved the pictures then, and that it was probably the first time in my life that I was interested in land use!  I was excited to be able to share this passion with my daughter.

As we read, though, I began to think about the overarching message of the book.  For those who haven’t read the book (spoiler alert:  plot summary ahead!), it follows the life of a house that lives on a bucolic hill that is in tune with the seasons, that is slowly encroached upon and de-spoiled by the big bad city, and then is removed back to another bucolic hill where it was once again in tune with the seasons.  The gist, as was probably ripe for the suburb-loving Forties, is that cities are scary places out of tune with the environment. 

While I continue to love the book both for nostalgic reasons and because it is the only children’s book I know about land use, I wondered if there was another children’s book out there that might depict the new rise of the city and all of the great things that are happening out there in urban environments right now.  So I thought I’d throw it open to discussion:  any land use-lovers out there with recommendations for children’s books that express contemporary views of cities and urbanism, or otherwise portray strong land use or environmental values?  A newbie parent needs to know!

Oh, and if you don't own The Little House, you can watch a Disney cartoon of the book here.

Stephen R. Miller

March 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Hazard Mitigation Planning

Land use planning can get thrown for a loop where planners fail to adequately account for potential natural or man-made human- caused disasters (although I don’t generally accept the differences we draw between what we consider to be natural versus human-caused, as though perhaps humans are unnatural?). Researchers at the University of Idaho (home of co-blogger Stephen Miller) have been examining local hazard mitigation plans. A forthcoming article in Applied Geography describes hazard mitigation planning and presents a rubric for assessing such plans in both development and implementation. I am particularly intrigued by their findings that urban areas focus on prevention and rural areas on response. Interesting correlation perhaps with perceived resiliencies of those environments?

Tim G. Fraziera, Monica H. Walkerb, Aparna Kumaric, & Courtney M. Thompson, Opportunities and Constraints to Hazard Mitigation Planning, 40 Applied Geography, 52 (2013).

ABSTRACT: Hazard mitigation plans (HMPs) play a critical role in the reduction of societal loss from natural and human-caused hazards and disasters. The occurrence of hazardous events cannot be prevented but hazard mitigation planning when diligently applied has proven to be an effective tool for enhancing local community resilience and reducing societal losses. HMPs are planning documents that aim to increase community preparedness and resiliency, and decrease vulnerability in the event of a hazard. However, due to a variety of reasons many communities often fail to address criteria that could protect against future societal losses. For instance, minimum requirements, as stipulated by the Disaster Mitigation Act 2000, are all that is needed to qualify for federal mitigation grant funding regardless of plan quality or appropriateness of HMPs to local hazards and risks. Additionally local emergency managers and planners also face constraints like integration of HMPs into comprehensive plans and a standardized tool to evaluate plan quality. In essence most communities in the US have HMPs but lack a method of evaluating the quality and effectiveness of their plans for mitigating hazards. Building on the standard HMP minimum requirements, additional criteria established in prominent hazard literature, and information culled from interviews, this study develops an evaluation matrix to assess local HMP quality. Based on the factors mentioned above, researchers explored the opportunities and constraints to HMP development faced by jurisdictions within our Western Washington study area. Conclusions reveal that available resources, level of sophistication, and political complexities affect the quality of HMP development and the actual implementation of mitigation planning strategies.

Jessica Owley

March 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Widener on Citizen 'Visioning' in Town Comprehensive Planning

Michael N. Widener (Phoenix) has posted Moderating Citizen 'Visioning' in Town Comprehensive Planning: Deliberative Dialog Processes, forthcoming in the Wayne Law Review.  The abstract:

This article describes opportunities in Comprehensive Plan (aka General Plan or Master Plan) initial adoption or subsequent amendment processes where stakeholders provide inputs on behalf of a diverse citizens community. The moderation process described here involves the City of Scottsdale, Arizona, currently engaged in developing its 2014 Plan which seeks to extend the city’s planning vision through 2045. Part II of this article provides a brief primer of a General Plan’s role in municipal police power exercise. Parts III and IV describe the history of the Scottsdale experience in amending its General Plan with citizen aid and rebellion. Part V delivers some observations about a citizen input method into planning matters that is subject to popular critique. Part VI summarizes the purpose of citizen inputs into a comprehensive plan, and how professional moderation of the stakeholders' inputs may appropriately channel public contributions to a municipality's land use vision without distortion or corruption of the process.

Matt Festa

March 8, 2013 in Comprehensive Plans, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Scholarship, Sun Belt | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sawers on History, Fourth Amendment Searches, and the Right to Exclude

Brian Sawers (Maryland) has posted Keeping Up with the Joneses: Making Sure Your History Is Just as Wrong as Everyone Else's, forthcoming in Michigan Law Review First Impressions, Vol. 111, p. 21 (2013).  The abstract:

Both the majority and concurring opinions in United States v. Jones are wrong about the state of the law in 1791. Landowners in America had no right to exclude others from unfenced land. Whether a Fourth Amendment search requires a trespass or the violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy, government can explore open land without a search warrant.

In the United States, landowners did not have a right of action against people who entered open land without permission. No eighteenth-century case shows a remedy for mere entry. Vermont and Pennsylvania constitutionally guaranteed a right to hunt on open land. In several other states, statutes regulating hunting implied a public right to hunt on (and, by implication, enter) unfenced land.

Matt Festa

March 7, 2013 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Crime, History, Property Rights, Scholarship, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Owen on Taking Groundwater

Dave Owen (Maine) has posted Taking Groundwater.  The abstract:

In February, 2012, in a case called Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day, the Texas Supreme Court held that landowners hold property rights to the groundwater beneath their land, and that a regulatory restriction on groundwater use could constitute a taking of private property. The decision provoked strong reactions, both positive and negative, throughout the world of water law, for it signaled the possibility of severe restrictions on governmental ability to regulate groundwater use.

This Article considers the deeper issue that confronted the Texas Supreme Court, and that has confronted other courts across the country: how should the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and parallel clauses of state constitutions, apply to groundwater use regulation? Initially, this Article explains why this issue is exceedingly and increasingly important. It then reviews all of the groundwater/takings decisions from federal and state courts in the United States. Finally, the Article considers the implications of foundational property theories for the application of takings doctrine to groundwater use.

The analysis supports two key conclusions. First, it undermines arguments against treating water rights as “constitutional property” — that is, property protected by federal and state takings clauses. Proponents of those arguments generally assert that treating water rights as property has uneven support from prior caselaw and that such treatment will be prevent sensible governance. A review of groundwater caselaw demonstrates that the former assertion runs counter to the weight of authority, and that the fears underlying the latter argument are overstated. Second, and more importantly, the analysis undermines arguments for granting groundwater use rights heightened protection against regulatory takings. Recently, litigants and commentators skeptical of government regulatory authority have widely advanced those arguments. But they find no support in past groundwater/takings caselaw, and no property theory justifies adopting such an approach.

An important issue, and a reminder that state supreme courts continue to play a crucial role in shaping modern property law.

Matt Festa

March 7, 2013 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Takings, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ALPS Deadline extended to March 15

The Association for Law, Property, & Society (ALPS) annual meeting is coming up, and the deadline to register and/or submit paper or panel proposals has been extended to Friday, March 15.  From the CFP:

The ALPS 4th Annual Meeting,, will be held at University of Minnesota Law School, April 26-27, 2013. Our annual meetings attract over 100 participants, approximately one third of whom come from outside of North America and a number of whom do interdisciplinary work.

A couple of additional draws this year: first, Professor Carol Rose will be the honoree and keynote speaker; second, the ALPS conference is immediately following a related conference in energy/environmental law onsite:

The Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences will be hosting a conference on Legal and Policy Pathways for Energy Innovation on April 24 and 25,

So, as someone on the listserv said, it's a Minnesotapalooza!  UM prof and ALPS leader Hari Osofsky is overseeing both. 

Remember, ALPS takes pride in hosting a collegial, accessible conference for scholars at all career stages and with various disciplinary interests.  Including, but not limited to . . .

· Civil Rights & Inequality (including Race, Gender, Religion, Income, Disability, etc)/Critical Legal Studies
· Economics and Property Law
· Energy/Environment/Climate Change
· History of Property
· Housing/Urban Development/Mortgages and Foreclosure
· Indian Law/Indigenous Rights Law
· Intellectual Property
· International Property Law/Human Rights and Property/Cultural Property
· Land Use Planning/Real Estate/Entrepreneurship
· Property and Personhood/Concept of Home
· Property Theory
· Takings and Eminent Domain
· Teaching Property

So if you haven't submitted or registered yet, now's the time to sign up for ALPS in Minnesota this April. 

Matt Festa

March 7, 2013 in Conferences, Property, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Furman Center report on Housing & Superstorm Sandy

The NYU Furman Center has issued a timely report called Sandy's Effects on Housing in New York City.  From the announcement by Vicki Been and Ingrid Gould Ellen:

We are pleased to share with you our latest fact brief: Sandy's Effects on Housing in New York City (PDF) Our report is the first independent, comprehensive analysis of the Superstorm's impact on housing in New York City.


The study revealed some surprising insights into the impacts of the Superstorm Sandy. It found that low-income renters were disproportionately impacted by the storm's surge; over half of the victims were renters, 61 percent of whom make less than $60,000 per year, instead of middle-class homeowners. It also exposed the age of the housing stock affected by the surge; 82% of the properties hit by Sandy were built before 1980, before the latest flood maps and building standards were established.


The report also summarizes newly available information about the characteristics of properties in the area in New York City flooded by Sandy's storm surge, as well as demographic characteristics of households that have registered to receive assistance from FEMA. The study was released in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, who provided a similar analysis on Long Island and New Jersey.


The press release (PDF) and report (PDF) are now available online.


Lots of interesting maps and data in this report, which should be of interest to anyone researching law, land, housing, and disaster planning


Matt Festa

March 7, 2013 in Affordable Housing, Beaches, Coastal Regulation, Community Economic Development, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Housing, Local Government, New York, Property, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 4, 2013

New blog by J.B. Ruhl: Law 2050

J.B. Ruhl (Vanderbilt) has started a new blog that some of our readers may want to check out.  It's called Law 2050:  A Forum About The Legal Future.  He notes that "the focus is the future of law, legal practice, and legal education. It represents an intersection of my interests in climate change adaptation law, legal system complexity, legal futurism, and the transformation of legal practice and education, all of which require some sense of legal future scenarios."  Check it out!

Stephen R. Miller

March 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)