December 08, 2011
Senik on Direct Dysfunctionality (initiative & recall)
Last month I posted a rant on Election Day and State Constitutions based on the referendum for new Texas constitutional amendments; Ken Stahl posted a thoughtful response with a qualified defense of direct democracy in ballot-box zoning, which set forth some thoughts that he more fully elaborates in his excellent article The Artifice of Local Growth Politics: At-Large Elections, Ballot-Box Zoning, and Judicial Review.
My complaints--prompted by my frustration with a slate of ten poorly-articulated and confusing process amendments for which the State Legislature required a nominal thumbs-up from the people-- were more focused on (1) statewide (more than with local) lawmaking through referenda; and (2) the over-constitutionalization of public policy in fundamental state law. Troy Senik has written an article for City Journal that articulates some of the points of this (hardly original) critique: Direct Dysfunctionality: California celebrates 100 years of the initiative, referendum, and recall.
Golden State voters can approve or reject public-policy changes at the ballot box through the use of the initiative and referendum. They can also remove unpopular elected officials with the less frequently employed recall, made famous when it chased out Governor Gray Davis in 2003. While nearly half of U.S. states have an initiative process of some kind, nowhere is it as central to the political process as in California, where, in 2010 alone, 14 issues appeared on the ballot. As a result, voters constitute a de facto fourth branch of government. . . .
These measures were introduced in the salad days of the early Progressive movement, when California Governor Hiram Johnson (who would eventually serve as Theodore Roosevelt’s running mate on the Bull Moose presidential ticket of 1912) pressed for their implementation as a firewall against political domination by special interests—particularly those of the well-heeled railroads. . . .
But statewide direct constitution-making has its problems:
Expediting policy shifts, however, is a relatively modest benefit in exchange for the dramatic cost of the initiative process: inducing widespread public-sector sclerosis. Rather than simply providing an outlet for popular grievances, direct democracy actually annexes huge swaths of policymaking from the legislature. When voters mandate a policy directive from the ballot box, the legislature has no way to override the decision, even by supermajority. As a result, any issue that voters weigh in on directly becomes their exclusive purview in perpetuity—amendable or repealable only by another popular vote. This also has the ironic effect of slowing down the democratic process that the initiative system is supposed to make more responsive, ensuring that policy shifts can only come on election days spread years apart. And many of the ballot measures take the form of constitutional amendments, a trend that has given California the unenviable distinction of having the third-longest constitution in the world, after India and (believe it or not) Alabama. Because altering the state’s foundational political charter only requires a simple majority, California ends up inhabiting a bizarro world where it’s relatively easy to amend the constitution but can be nearly impossible to alter basic public policy.
So as with any political process tool, it's a mixed bag with some good things that can be contorted into bad results; my tentative thesis is that direct democracy is less effective the broader the polity (i.e. state vs. local) that engages in it. I know, James Madison and others had something to say about this too.
Soon I'll blog about an interesting local-government direct democracy land use requirement that is a little different from the ones that Ken has written about.
November 14, 2011
The Fate of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
This article from the L.A. Times discusses recent changes to California's stringent environmental review statute (CEQA) that permit the governor to "fast-track" certain development projects through the review process. The merits of CEQA are certainly subject to debate, with business and development groups claiming the law is a job-killer and environmental groups crediting it with preserving important natural resources. I have not read enough to opine on the merits of CEQA, but if there's one thing I do know it's that giving elected officials discretionary authority to decide what gets fast-tracked and what does not is a recipe for trouble. As the article notes ominously, there are already complaints that only politically-connected parties are qualifying for special treatment.
November 09, 2011
Ballot Box Zoning -- A Response to Festa
OK, I'll bite. Matt has laid down the gauntlet with his criticism of the initiative process. This subject is of great importance to land use profs because, at least in many sunbelt states, a good deal of land use policy is made through direct democracy -- so-called "ballot box zoning." In this post, I want to respond to some of Matt's criticisms and offer a very tentative defense of ballot box zoning. For those who are interested, I have defended ballot box zoning at greater length (although I ultimately call for its abolition anyway) in this paper.
I must first concede to Matt that the initiative process has serious deficiencies. He mentions transparency and voter ignorance. The social science literature confirms that these are major problems. I would also add a few more: the initiative process is often captured by special interest groups, as money and organizational resources are often decisive in initiative contests; the initiative tends to favor the affluent and well educated, which is not surprising since the affluent and well educated are more likely to vote on initiatives; voters are easily confused by deceptive wording on initiatives, and initiative advocates often deliberately use deceptive terms to confuse voters; the initiative process reduces complex issues to a simplistic yes/no dichotomy in which hyperbolic sound bytes replace rational discourse. I suppose I could go on, but you get the point.
So what virtues could the initiative process possibly have? I want to focus specifically on the land use initiative, although some of my comments may be generalizable. Although it is often asserted that local politics are controlled by homeowners who seek to limit or manage growth, that is generally true only in smaller municipalities. Sunbelt states like Texas and California, however, have a disproportionate number of medium to large-size municipalities, dubbed "boomburbs" by sociologists Robert Lang and Jennifer LeFurgy. The larger size of these municipalities gives homeowners less political power. At the same time, sunbelt boomburbs have often pursued headlong development as a means of economic growth and to overcome fiscal constraints imposed by constitutional or political limitations on raising tax revenue. Lang and LeFurgy accordingly assert that these municipalities tend to be in thrall to the "growth machine," a matrix of developers and related cohorts who facilitate urban growth. As I further argue in my paper, the fact that many of these boomburbs use at-large voting structures rather than ward voting systems further enhances the power of developers and dilutes the ability of neighborhood groups to fight development.
Obviously, this system is less than ideal for homeowners. And let's face it: while we might hate those NIMBYs, they have some pretty good reasons for opposing new growth. For years it has been national policy to induce Americans to purchase property through a combination of incentives, including low-interest mortgages and municipal zoning ordinances that provide some assurances to homeowners that their property values, and hence their ability to pay off their mortgages, will be protected against unpredictable declines. New growth and the externalities that accompany it are very likely to diminish property values, and hence prejudice the ability of homeowners to finance what is likely to be by far their most significant asset. Existing homeowners are in effect subsidizing new growth through diminished property values, and although city officials claim that everyone benefits from new growth, it is often a concentrated group of homeowners alone who must bear a disproportionate degree of the cost. As I questioned in a previous post, it can even be argued that homeowners have a regulatory takings claim -- but courts have never recognized such a cause of action.
As envisioned by its Progressive-era architects, the initiative is supposed to correct the defects in the ordinary legislative process, particularly the dominance of special interests. And that is exactly what ballot-box zoning appears to do in the sunbelt states -- the very states where boomburbs, at-large voting and the growth machine dominate the political landscape are also the states where ballot-box zoning is most robust. Ballot box zoning has proven to be a powerful weapon with which homeowners can fight back against the growth machine, because prevailing on a local initiative requires only a one-time infusion of cash and a constituency that is easily organized and highly motivated -- ie, a group of neighboring homeowners who are all extremely ticked off about land use changes around their neighborhood. This can counteract the repeat player and other advantages that the developer has in the legislative process. Granted, the initiative process itself invites special interest abuses and all sorts of other problems, but it seems no less messy or dysfunctional than the system of government it is designed to counterbalance.
October 03, 2011
Michael Lewis: California and Bust
Michael Lewis, the author of popular financial nonfiction books such as Liar's Poker, Moneyball, and The Big Short, has published an interesting Vanity Fair article on the looming municipal debt crisis called California and Bust. The intro:
The smart money says the U.S. economy will splinter, with some states thriving, some states not, and all eyes are on California as the nightmare scenario. After a hair-raising visit with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who explains why the Golden State has cratered, Michael Lewis goes where the buck literally stops—the local level, where the likes of San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Vallejo ﬁre chief Paige Meyer are trying to avert even worse catastrophes and rethink what it means to be a society.
While the piece isn't directly about land use, most of us know that land use is fundamentally intertwined with local government finance. The muni debt crisis flows from the real estate bubble, and future land use and development will be driven by the fiscal health of local governments. Also, just about anything by Michael Lewis is worth a read . . . no one else can spin a yarn about the financial world quite like him.
September 01, 2011
Transportation PodCast from the Commonwealth Club of California
Driving today I happened upon a radio broadcast of a talk given by Polly Trottenberg, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at US DOT, to the Commonwealth Club of California. Here's a description of her talk from the Commonwealth's web page:
If you have ever been stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge, late to meetings, or have had a ruined weekend because you couldn’t make it to a destination in time, you know that California suffers from a major transportation infrastructure problem. From pot holes jarring people’s necks and backs, to bridges collapsing nationwide, thousands of commuters are being affected every day by America’s inadequate and faltering transportation infrastructure system. U.S. Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg explores solutions to this serious crisis. Trottenberg works toward implementing the president’s priorities for transportation including safety and creating jobs. The DOT employs more than 55,000 employees with a $70 billion budget that oversees air, maritime and surface transportation missions. For 12 years she worked extensively on transportation, public works, energy and environmental issues in the U.S. Senate, for Senators Barbara Boxer, Charles Schumer and Daniel Patrick Moynahan.
Her talk doesn't focus only on California - I tuned in during the question and answer session, when she took a broad range of questions on high speed rail, TIGER grants, freight movement, transportation safety, and other topics. You can download the podcast here.
Jamie Baker Roskie
August 02, 2011
San Francisco Downtown Plan at 25
I recently read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle and found it interesting at several levels. It's not often you see a jurisdiction reviewing its long term planning, and even less often you see a newspaper covering that review. The report itself is also pretty fascinating - I lived in the SF Bay Area when the plan was drafted (although I was a freshman in college and not much interested in planning) so I've seen how things have changed. For example, here's an interesting point:
Planners in 1985 couldn't foresee the effect computer technology would have on everything from the printing industry to low-level office jobs now more likely to be found in Asia than on Howard Street. E-mail didn't exist. Reverse commuting to the Silicon Valley or the East Bay was an oddity, not a trend.
The full report is available on the SF Planning department's website.
Jamie Baker Roskie
August 01, 2011
The Carmageddon That Wasn't
Just as summer semester was ending for me, there was a media frenzy in Southern California about a scheduled 53 hour closing of the I-405 freeway. The closure earned the nickname "Carmaggedon" and, like so many media-hyped doomsday-type events, it turned out to be much ado about not much.
For the record, traffic fell to 65 percent below its usual volume on LA’s freeways as many people wisely passed a summer weekend close to home or took advantage of the free transit available in many parts of the city, and the road itself opened 17 hours early. The only remarkable story was the one where a handful of cyclists and transit users raced the JetBlue passengers across the city. The riders of bikes and subway trains won handily, reaching the finish line before the Burbank-to-Long-Beach flight had even touched down and setting the intertubes all a-Twitter with their apocalypse-defying exploits.
There are lots of potential take-aways from this non-event, from the obvious benefits of relying less on our cars to the potential fun in pitting bikes against planes in all kinds of races. It seems as if, hype aside, good planning and an effective public education campaign helped avert a lot of traffic-related suffering. It's good to remember the benefits of cooperation, given the news coming out of Washington lately...Maybe we should let traffic engineers solve the budget crisis.
Jamie Baker Roskie
July 11, 2011
NIMBY Beverly Hills
In a kind of ultimate "not in my backyard" move, the City of Beverly Hills is setting aside $350,000 to fight the LA Metropolitan Transit Agency's attempt to run the subway under Beverly Hills High...
Jamie Baker Roskie
June 27, 2011
Stahl on Neighborhood Zoning
Kenneth Stahl (Chapman)--former Land Use Prof guest blogger--has posted All Power to the Neighborhoods?: The Delegation Doctrine and Neighborhood Control of Zoning. The abstract:
Whether cities should delegate some of their zoning power to neighborhood groups is one of the most hotly contested issues in municipal politics, yet it is also essentially a moot point. Since a bizarre series of Supreme Court cases in the early twentieth century, it has been largely settled that cities may not constitutionally delegate the zoning power to sub-municipal groups, at least where the power is delegated specifically to landowners in a certain proximity to a proposed land use change.
This article argues that the judicial prohibition on delegating zoning power to proximate landowners – a scheme I designate a “neighborhood zoning district” – is doctrinally illogical and indefensible as a matter of public policy. As a doctrinal matter, the cases barring the neighborhood zoning district are at odds with another line of cases in which courts have upheld municipal schemes that empower landowners within a territorial area to authorize the financing of services or improvements through a mandatory assessment, known as a “special assessment district,” or in its modern incarnation as a “business improvement district.” As I argue, neighborhood zoning districts are conceptually identical to special assessment districts. Both restrict the franchise to individuals deemed to have a particularly substantial interest based on land ownership in proximity to a proposed change in the character of the neighborhood. As such, both devices offer landowners the ability to efficiently manage local externalities and enable large, diverse cities to effectively compete with small, homogenous suburbs by mimicking the most attractive features of suburban government. The article attempts to reconcile the two doctrinal lines on several policy grounds, but finds that, in many cases, neighborhood zoning districts actually represent sounder public policy than special assessment districts. The article concludes that courts should broadly defer to municipal delegations of power to sublocal groups, so that cities can work out their own desired relationship between neighborhoods and city hall, and their own strategy for surviving in an era of intense inter-local competition.
This is a fascinating paper that really goes to the heart of some of the major questions about which level of government is best positioned to regulate land use. I saw Ken present some of these ideas at ALPS (before we played hooky at the National Building Museum) and the article's well worth reading.
March 14, 2011
Building Codes & the Quake
The news seems to get worse from Japan as the Death Toll Estimate Soars. But it's still true that things could have been even worse if it had not been for Japan's careful land and development planning. As James Glanz and Norimitsu Onishi reported in the New York Times, Japan's Strict Building Codes Saved Lives. From the article:
Hidden inside the skeletons of high-rise towers, extra steel bracing, giant rubber pads and embedded hydraulic shock absorbers make modern Japanese buildings among the sturdiest in the world during a major earthquake. . . .
Unlike Haiti, where shoddy construction vastly increased the death toll last year, or China, where failure to follow construction codes worsened the death toll in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Japan enforces some of the world’s most stringent building codes. Japanese buildings tend to be much stiffer and stouter than similar structures in earthquake-prone areas in California as well, said Mr. Moehle, the Berkeley engineer: Japan’s building code allows for roughly half as much sway back and forth at the top of a high rise during a major quake.
So it's sad to contemplate but still probably true that the destruction and loss of life could have been much worse if not for the regulations. Of course, these building codes have made development much more expensive; but the article goes on to note an interest twist in how this has played in the marketplace:
New apartment and office developments in Japan flaunt their seismic resistance as a marketing technique, a fact that has accelerated the use of the latest technologies, said Ronald O. Hamburger, a structural engineer in the civil engineering society and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, a San Francisco engineering firm.
“You can increase the rents by providing a sort of warranty — ‘If you locate here you’ll be safe,’ ” Mr. Hamburger said.
In the meantime, it's a terrible disaster and we wish the best to the rescue and recovery efforts. Thanks to James McKechnie for the pointer.
March 01, 2011
Victory for EJ Clinic at Golden Gate
From Susan Ruthberg at Golden Gate Law:
Today, in Potrero Hill, the last fossil fuel power plant in the City of San Francisco will close after a decade of legal efforts by community groups, the City of San Francisco and Golden Gate University School of Law’s Environmental Law & Justice Clinic (ELJC). On December 21, 2010, local and state figures gathered to announce the closure. Late last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) made official the decision for today’s closure. For San Francisco residents in Bayview Hunters Point, Dogpatch and in the Potrero neighborhood where the plant is located, this means a future free of noxious air pollution.
ELJC Director Professor Helen Kang describes the significance of the final closure this way, “This is an environmental victory, but an equally important social justice coup, as these polluting plants were inevitably located in the low-income and working class neighborhoods of San Francisco, affecting a high percentage of non-white residents.”
Golden Gate Law’s ELJC and community groups have worked for decades on a regional level to reduce dependence on fossil-fuel based energy generation. Along the way, the Clinic filed a lawsuit against the Potrero power plant owner Mirant (now GenOn) to enforce the Clean Air Act, and law students testified before hearings held before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
ELJC was also involved in efforts that shut down the plant in Bayview Hunters Point in 2006. Eliminating fossil fuel plants in San Francisco required community groups (with ELJC performing legal work) to exhaust every possible avenue. Community groups organized and put on demonstrations, and legal advocates, including the Clinic and the City Attorney’s Office, monitored the power plants’ compliance with environmental laws and advocated for eliminating the use of bay waters as cooling sources for the plant—a practice that environmentalists say endangered aquatic life in the Bay.
Golden Gate Law Professor Alan Ramo, who led ELJC efforts in the early years, reflects on the decade-long, collaborative effort that made this monumental day possible. “I am grateful to ELJC’s clients such as the Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates and Communities for a Better Environment for giving our Clinic the opportunity to support their tireless and heroic efforts. Likewise, we are deeply thankful for the consistent support of The City Attorney's office, and in particular Theresa Mueller, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and (former) Supervisor Aaron Peskin.”
While today’s closure represents a tremendous effort and victory for environmental justice, it is one component of multi-faceted, global effort aimed at increasing renewable energy sources. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2010, scientists and environmental leaders agreed upon the need to address climate change globally. More stringent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in particular by industrialized nations (and in states like California), cannot be postponed much longer. Still, today’s plant closure is a powerful symbol of community solidarity. Resident and community leader Karen Pierce of Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates describes the meaning of today’s closure this way: “This final closure demonstrates that communities working together along with their government can successfully eliminate fossil fuel and other pollutants that affect their neighborhoods and families.”
You can also read Helen Kang's blog post about the victory here.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Three Dimensional Master Plan?
For years cities, such as Montreal (the RESO), have been developing space underground. In what CNN reports as a "first," Helsinki has developed an Underground Master Plan. The plan designates a diverse group of uses for the underground area, ranging from industrial to recreation uses, such as an existing swimming pool (which, fortunately, doubles as a bunker when necessary). According to the report, Helsinki sits on bedrock strong enough to support the existing streetscape even when space is carved out for the lower levels. The CNN report claims a host of environmental benefits from the action, many of which are disputed in the comments.
As cities such as Helsinki start to think about the relationship between the street level and the subsurface (as inhabitable space), the next step may be to craft a three dimensional master plan. And who knows, this may be Seattle's chance to recommission its underground, although "[w]hen your dreams tire, they go underground and out of kindness that's where they stay." (Margaret Fuller).
March 1, 2011 in Architecture, California, Common Interest Communities, Community Design, Community Economic Development, Comparative Land Use, Comprehensive Plans, Density, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, History, Homeowners Associations, Housing, Local Government, New Urbanism, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, Real Estate Transactions, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Sprawl, State Government, Subdivision Regulations, Urbanism, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 27, 2011
Teaching Outside the Box
We're now entering week 4 of the spring semester at Buffalo. I'm very excited about my classes this e. Both of which are firsts for me.
I am teaching Natural Resources Law. This is a fun course and I have a great group of students. I was a bit taken aback when I learned how many of my students are from Buffalo. Place matters for many reasons, but it is especially strange feeling to teach a public lands class without one person in the room from west of the Mississippi.
I am also teaching a distributed graduate seminar called Land Conservation in a Changing Climate. "A distributed what?" you say? Yep, a distributed graduate seminar. I believe it is the first seminar of its type in the legal academy. A group of eight professors at six different schools (Buffalo, Denver, Indiana,South Carolina, Stanford, Wisconsin) are all teaching a course with roughly the same title at the same time. We have similar but not identical syllabi and take slightly different approaches to our classes. Although law students probably dominate the classes, we have opened up our classes to graduate students in other departments. All students are examining case studies, collecting data, and inputting results of interviews and research into a joint system. At the end of the semester, both the faculty and students will have access to the collected data. I am excited about this project for many reasons. First, our students are learning how to work with social scientists and understand scientific reports and papers. Second, students are actually collecting data and interviewing people who are conserving land. Third, the data collection will enable us to think both about our own states and do comparative work. Studying conservation easements is often challenged by the lack of available data. We are specifically examining how conservation easements will react (or not) to climate change. I think this project will be good for the students of course, but I also hope they learn things that will help others.
- Jessica Owley
February 24, 2011
How do you sell a town?
is not a question answered by this article in Newsweek magazine, but the article does provide an interesting perspective about the past, and future, of company owned towns. Timber town Scotia, California is on the market, but at the same time Google and Facebook are providing extensive commercial services and housing to their employees.
Jamie Baker Roskie
February 17, 2011
Kahn, Vaughn, & Zasloff on the Housing Market Effects of Discrete Land Use Regulations
Matthew E. Kahn (UCLA, Inst. of Environment; Economics; Public Policy), Ryan Vaughn (UCLA, Economics), and Jonathan Zasloff (UCLA, Law) have posted The Housing Market Effects of Discrete Land Use Regulations: Evidence from the California Coastal Boundary Zone, Journal of Housing Economics, Vol. 19, pp. 269-279, December 2010. The abstract:
The California coast line borders most beautiful and expensive land in the entire world. The California Coastal Commission was created in 1976 to protect the coast line and to regulate land use within the coastal boundary zone. This well defined regulatory boundary offers a unique opportunity to study the consequences of land use regulation on nearby housing located in the same political jurisdiction. Using two different geocoded data sets, we document gentrification within the boundary and discuss possible explanations for these patterns.
January 26, 2011
Land Use in the State of the Union
I didn't have time to watch it last night, so I asked my students this morning to identify the land use issues in the President's speech. They mentioned two things: high-speed rail, and clean energy. From the Associated Press report, here's the key quote on HSR:
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying - without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already under way.
Potentially faster than flying, and they won't touch your junk! And here are two early responses. First, from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's Fastlane blog, America has a Future to Win; DOT stands ready to help:
As the President said last night, American businesses and workers are now competing in a global economy. If we are to thrive in competitive markets, we must be able to move goods and people faster and more reliably than ever.
At DOT we have been working hard to help do just that. And the projects we are supporting to rebuild America's transportation infrastructure are creating good jobs for American workers.
But the Reason Foundation's Samuel Staley is not so sanguine. Noting that the President cited China's massive investments in HSR, Staley argues that historical, economic, and geographic factors will render a similar HSR program impractical in the U.S. From President Obama, China, High-Speed Rail and the Sputnik Moment:
A key factor in ensuring high-speed rail's success is the closeness of employment and population centers. The largest Chinese cities aren't nearly as spread out as U.S. cities in terms of distance and the high speed rail lines are connecting larger urban cities.
China has 120 cities with populations of one million or more, and its cities are expected to add the equivalent of another United States - 300 million people - by 2025. The high-speed rail line will connect to most cities with populations greater than 500,000. Given existing levels of very low mobility and income, rail would be a natural beneficiary of rising travel demand as the travel market matures.
It will be interesting to see where the debate over HSR goes from here, particularly in light of the new fiscal and political constraints. I'm also curious about how many people out there may not have thought very much about the HSR issue before the President gave it a mention in the State of the Union.
UPDATE: I was planning on posting this anyway, but then as I was preparing for my afternoon Property I class, I realized it's a great tie-in to the famous INS v. Associated Press case that was assigned for today: If INS can't report the news it learns from AP's public bulletin, how come it's OK for me to blog about information I got from the AP's website? Discuss! Fun stuff.
December 24, 2010
Only in Hollywood - Film School vs. Farmers' Market
In an interesting variation on "coming to the nuisance," the Los Angeles Film School has moved next door to the Hollywood Farmers' Market and is now contesting renewal of the market's permit. Apparently, the market - which operates only on Sunday - blocks access to one of the school's parking lots. There's a Joni Mitchell song in there somewhere. Read about it in The New York Times.
Jamie Baker Roskie
December 10, 2010
Marijuana dispensaries are growing like weeds. The recent ABA article, "Up in Smoke," chronicles some of the chronic problems plaguing states that have legalized medical marijuana. This Blog has already noted Kansler and Salkin's article on zoning law and regulation of "dispensaries."
The fact that municipalities have regulatory power through zoning is part of the problem. Of the fourteen or so states that have legalized medical marijuana, none have a comprehensive regulatory scheme. California, for example, passed a very generalized statute, but local counties and municipalities are left with no guidance on the particulars. Vanderbilt Law Professor, Robert Mikos, posits that "no one has any idea how many medical dispensaries are out there [in California]." To reign in dispensaries, Los Angeles recently cut the number of allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to seventy.
Now that Arizona voters have approved (this past November) medical marijuana, the problem of uniformity and new zoning regulations again arises. Perhaps Justice O'Connor's justification for federalism -- that states serve as laboratories -- rings true for Arizona. In other words, Arizona may have learned from California's mistakes. A model ordinance from the League of Arizona Cities and Towns at least gives some guidance to Arizona municipalities as they struggle to implement the state's newest law.
December 07, 2010
Dolan on the Salazar cross, historic preservation, and federal land transfers
Mary Jean Dolan (John Marshall-Chicago) has posted P.S. Untold Stories and the Cross National Monument. We've mentioned the land use aspects of the Salazar decision before. Dolan's abstract:
This Article offers an interesting post script to the Supreme Court’s Salazar v. Buono Establishment Clause decision. It presents some surprising non-record facts and additional issues raised by Congress’s 2002 designation of the Mojave Cross as a “National Memorial.” This Act deserves more exploration, particularly because it appears wholly extraneous to the government policy approved by the Supreme Court plurality: ending the appearance of government endorsement of religion, while simultaneously “avoid[ing] the disturbing symbolism associated with the destruction of the historic monument.”
Included in the new information is evidence that National Memorial status is not as lofty or rare as it would seem, the cross does not appear to be the sole WWI memorial for the nation, and in the past, Congress has abolished National Memorial status upon transferring the land. The Article also looks at the intersection of historic preservation law and Congress’ requirement that the Secretary of the Interior fund and install a new replica cross on Sunrise Rock.
November 18, 2010
Food Truck Scholarship
Chad has a great post below on the latest craze, food trucks. By coincidence, just yesterday I saw this SSRN paper by Ernesto Hernandez Lopez (Chapman): LA’s Taco Truck War: How Law Cooks Food Culture Contests. The abstract:
This paper examines the Los Angeles “Taco Truck War” (2008-9), when the city of Los Angeles and LA county used parking regulations to restrict “loncheros,” i.e. “taco trucks.” It describes the legal doctrine used by courts to invalidate these local restrictions. The California Vehicle code makes local food truck regulations illegal. Decades of court decisions affirm this. The paper sheds light, legal and cultural, on food truck debates, which will surely expand nationwide. It examines: the cultural and business arguments for food truck regulations; food’s role in migrant, community, and national identities; Mexican food’s influence in California culture; and recent trends in food trucks such as Koggi BBQ.
And from earlier this year, Alfonso Morales (Urban & Regional Planning, Wisconsin) and Gregg W. Kettles (Law, Mississippi College) posted Healthy Food Outside: Farmers' Markets, Taco Trucks, and Sidewalk Fruit Vendors, published in the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy, Vol. 20 (2009). The abstract:
This paper explores the many dimensions of street vending and public markets, the multiple intersections vending and markets have with food regulation, and the historical connection markets have with other policy problems. We develop the article in four parts, following the introduction found in section one the article touches on three elements of law and public policy. The second section considers markets and merchants in public goods with their associated dilemmas. Our approach is to reconfigure the emphasis on public space as transportation by justifying the use of the street and sidewalk for street vending. The importance of public space for commerce and other creative activities bridges the second and third sections of the article. The third section chronicles the history of law and regulation around street and public markets. Here we emphasize how cities historically used public markets as public policy tools to address food security, employment, and to help those growing cities accommodate new immigrants. The fourth section focuses on public health by examining the law of outdoor food sold on the street. Through our analysis we set forth numerous suggestions for advocacy, policy, and legal reform.
Chad's right, food trucks are becoming a big deal. I was skeptical at first, but it looks like they have come a long way from the "roach coaches" I remember on Army posts. Check out the articles that he linked to, and for an even less highbrow alternative you can watch the Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race (you know that a trend has arrived when it gets a reality show). It's a serious question, though, how cities are going to choose to accommodate or regulate this phenomenon through their land use laws.