Monday, February 6, 2012

Land Use Planning in a Recession - Newton County, Georgia

During his excellent stint as a guest blogger, Stephen Miller posed the question, "Does the best planning happen in a recession?"  Like him, I tend to think that currently most jurisdictions are focused on crisis management rather than forward thinking.

However, one exception is Newton County, Georgia - a community that just happens to be a UGA Land Use Clinic client since we began assisting them in 2003 with sprawl reduction tools like infrastructure planning, agricultural land conservation, and transferable development rights. Newton's forward thinking planning processes are highlighted in a four part series on CoLab Radio.  The first of the series is entitled "Planning for Growth in a Recession."

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

 

February 6, 2012 in Community Design, Development, Georgia, Local Government, New Urbanism, Planning, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Suburbs, Transferable Development Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Saying No to Wal-Mart Downtown

Apparently Athens, Georgia isn't the only Georgia community facing controversy over a downtown Wal-Mart (see my previous posts here and here).  The City of Sandy Springs, in metro Atlanta, just placed a moratorium on big box development in its downtown in light of rumors that Wal-Mart wants to place a store there. As Chad Emerson blogged last year, Wal-Mart has been eyeing the urban market for awhile.  It seems now they're getting some pushback.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 5, 2012 in Architecture, Community Design, Development, Downtown | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zoning "Can't Buy Me Love"

I had an interesting conversation this morning with Meg Mirshak, a reporter from The Augusta Chronicle. She contacted me for background on a series of stories she's doing on a proposed overlay zone that would allowed mixed-use development in a historic African-American neighborhood called Laney-Walker.  The overlay as proposed is very general, but requires specific permission for uses like pawn shops and liquor stores.  The community feels underinformed and is very concerned about the potential impact on their neighborhood. Also, this concept of an overlay zone is confusing to many, and the commission has delayed its vote on the overlay until January due to the confusion and to notice problems.

Mirshak asked me if I could provide examples of where overlay zoning has proved succesful, and honestly, this stumped me.  We've proposed particular types of overlay zoning in some of our client communities - to require more pedestrian friendly redevelopment on aging strip corridors, for example - but the time horizon on implementing these changes is so long that I can't honestly say I know of a "successful" use of overlay zoning.  Also, as I pointed out to her in a follow up e-mail, overlay zoning is really just a form, so it's kind of like asking if any type of form - buildings, novels, movies - are inherently successful.  Yes, those forms can be successful or they can be a disaster, depending on how you construct them and what you're trying to accomplish.  With any zoning tool the trick is to make sure they reflect the community's goals and market realities, and that they deliver what's best for the long term vibrancy of the city. And that often involves a lot of process, more process than they seem to have allowed for in Augusta.

Coincidentally, I stumbled across a blog post on Planetizen, written by an urban planner who lead a group of students to plant trees at a New Orleans school, only to be thwarted in their task by a schoolyard shooting.  The post, titled "Can't Buy Me Love - or Plan for It," points out the importance of human connection in urban planning.

In my first year and a half as a working urban planner, I've consistently come back to the lessons I learned in New Orleans in 2009: For all of the innovative design that you can bring to a city, and for all of the smart planning principles that they teach you in school, there's no match for literally and figuratively digging your heels into a neighborhood, getting residents invested in the work that you're doing, and—together—building a partnership that leads to the kind of community building that can't be taught.

I can't say better than that.  Here's hoping the planners in Augusta can do what it takes to get the residents invested in what they're trying to accomplish.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 1, 2011 in Community Design, Development, Georgia, Historic Preservation, Local Government, Planning, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The 19 Building Types That Caused the Recession"

Over at The Atlantic Cities website, I stumbled across this fun little piece,

Among his favorite examples of all the standard real-estate products built ad nauseum across the country over the last half-century, Christopher Leinberger likes to point to the Grocery Anchored Neighborhood Center. This creation is generally about 12 to 15 acres in size on a plot of land that’s 80 percent covered in asphalt. It’s located on the going-home side of a major four-to-eight lane arterial road, where it catches people when they’re most likely to be thinking about what to buy for dinner. . .

Leinberger, an urban land-use strategist and professor at the University of Michigan, includes the Grocery Anchored Neighborhood Center on his list of the 19 standard real estate product types dominant in post-war America. Also on the list: suburban detached starter homes, big-box anchored power centers, multi-tenant bulk warehousing and self-storage facilities. All of these products are designed for drivable suburban communities. They reflect almost exclusively what investors have been willing to finance for the last 50 years. And as construction picks back up following the recession, Leinberger says we'll need to get away from every single one of them.

It's a slightly fancier way to say we must get away from sprawl, but it's certainly food for thought.

And when you're done with that, check out Richard Florida's article "2011's Best Cities for Trick-or-Treating."

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 26, 2011 in Architecture, Community Design, Development, Finance, New Urbanism, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning, Sprawl, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amazing "Vertical Forest"

Inhabit.com has a beautiful slide show and accompanying article about the world's first residential building incorporating a verticle forest.

The Bosco Verticale is a system that optimizes, recuperates, and produces energy. Covered in plant life, the building aids in balancing the microclimate and in filtering the dust particles contained in the urban environment (Milan is one of the most polluted cities in Europe). The diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, producing oxygen and protect the building from radiation and acoustic pollution. This not only improves the quality of living spaces, but gives way to dramatic energy savings year round.

Each apartment in the building will have a balcony planted with trees that are able to respond to the city’s weather — shade will be provided within the summer, while also filtering city pollution; and in the winter the bare trees will allow sunlight to permeate through the spaces. Plant irrigation will be supported through the filtering and reuse of the greywater produced by the building. Additionally, Aeolian and photovoltaic energy systems will further promote the tower’s self-sufficiency.

It looks like something out of Tolkein - I highly recommend you take a look.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 17, 2011 in Architecture, Climate, Community Design | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Is mixed use crimogenic?

In Euclid v. Ambler Realty, the Supreme Court upheld single-use zoning; one of the arguments that the Court credited was that a “place of business in a residence neighborhood furnishes an excuse for any criminal to go into the neighborhood, where, otherwise, a stranger would be under the ban of suspicion.” After Euclid, cities everywhere adopted single-use zoning codes; nevertheless, crime exploded and cities decayed in the 1960s.

As neighborhoods built under Euclidean zoning began to fail, the intellectual tide turned. In the 1960s, Jane Jacobs wrote that the presence of shopkeepers creates “eyes on the street” and thus actually reduces crime. Her views are popular among new urbanists, who have occasionally created neighborhoods with more of a mix of uses than under typical Euclidean zoinng.

Some recent scholarship has discussed criminological literature which apparently supports the Euclid Court’s point of view, by drawing a correlation between nonresidential land uses and crime or disorder. But in my view, this scholarship fails to support the Euclid Court’s view.

For example, one criminology article by Profs. Samson and Raudenbush in the American Journal of Sociology asserts that “Mixed land use has been shown to be a robust but understudied correlate of crime and disorder.” (1) Samson and Roudebush then discuss a study of Chicago census tracts which (according to them) proves the point.

Based on videotapes of 196 Chicago census tracts, Samson and Raudenbush find a positive correlation between mixed land use and forms of minor social disorder such as littering and “loitering” (whatever that means).

But the kinds of disorder Samson and Raudenbush are interested in did not translate into crime (as measured by surveys of neighborhood residents). According to them, the relationship between disorder and predatory crime is “spurious”; after controlling for a variety of other factors, “the coefficient for [physical and social] disorder is reduced to insignificance.”

The same table they use to prove the point shows that the correlation between mixed land use and personal violence is in fact negative, and that the correlation between mixed land use and burglary is (although positive) insignificant.

Samson and Roudebush also seek to measure crime through police reports (as opposed to surveys, which pick up crimes not reported to police). This measurement also does not support a correlation between crime and mixed use; as to homicide, burglary, and robbery, the correlation between mixed use and crime is not significant.

In support of their critique of mixed use, Samson and Raudenbush cite an article by Ralph Taylor asserting that mixed-use blocks have “more physical deterioration” (to quote the title)(2) But the whole point of Samson and Roudebush’s work is that crime doesn’t necessarily correlate with minor disorder; if this is the case, then a correlation between mixed use and disorder, even if true, proves nothing about the relationship between mixed use and crime.

Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I cannot claim to have reviewed every possibly relevant article, just a couple that I have seen cited in law reviews.

 

(1) Robert J. Sampson and Stephen W. Raudebush, Systematic Social Observation of Public Spaces: A New Look at Disorder in Urban Neighborhoods, 105 American Journal of Society 603 (1999). In particular see id. At 622, 627, 629.

(2) Ralph Taylor et. Al., Street Blocks with More Nonresidential Land Use Have More Physical Deterioration: Evidence from Baltimore and Philadelphia, 31 Urban Affairs Review 20 (1995).

Michael Lewyn

October 2, 2011 in Community Design, New Urbanism, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SGA on Hazard Mitigation Post Irene

From the Smart Growth America website, news about an ironically timely meeting:

Can smart growth help communities avoid the catastrophic impacts of flooding? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought together designers, land use planners, engineers and policy wonks at NOAA’s Silver Spring headquarters last week to examine this question, and to find commonalities and tensions between hazard mitigation techniques and smart growth principles.

Read the rest of the article here.

August 31, 2011 in Community Design, Conferences, Federal Government, Planning, Smart Growth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Urbanology: On-Line Urban Planning Game

This might be fun for students:  the BMW Guggenheim Lab has posted the on-line urban planning game Urbanology.  Answer 10 questions to find your future city (based on your decisions on issues like converting an affordable housing block into a hotel and allowing startup companies to pay less than minimum wage). My future city was most like Toronto, maybe because I would allow the local college to build a 50 story dorm.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 26, 2011 in Community Design, Humorous, Planning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Healing Cities

I recently learned about the Healing Cities movement. From their website:

Healing Cities is an integrated approach to planning and design for the natural and built environment that values holistic health and wellness of people and ecosystems. It explores how to address planning processes and design of our living environments to keep us healthier and more whole.

The healing process in the human body is the ability to rebuild, repair and regenerate cells; regeneration in this case draws upon the body’s innate intelligence to heal itself. What would it then mean for a city to be “healed,” and what methods and processes would support cities to facilitate healing? Is it possible to have cities that then, in turn, can heal and take care of us?

They're also holding a conference in October in Vancouver, BC. While they're calling for "planners, developers, architects, transportation professionals, massage therapists, physicians, counsellors, energy healers, [and] spiritual leaders" to attend, presumably they wouldn't turn away land use profs!

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

July 14, 2011 in Community Design, Conferences, Smart Growth, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hirokawa on Ecosystem Services as a Subject for Local Land Use Law

Keith Hirokawa (Albany) has posted Sustaining Ecosystem Services Through Local Environmental Law, 28 Pace Env. L. Rev ___ (forthcoming 2011).  Here's the abstract:

In the early decades of modern environmental law, local governments retained their prerogative over community design and other essentially local matters, but were largely excluded from the debate on national environmental policy. More recently, environmental lawyers have reignited the question of how and where the local government regulation of land use impacts intersects with environmental quality. It is interesting to note that as the national dialogue has turned to the important role of local governments in achieving our environmental quality goals, there has been a corresponding emergence of an "ecosystem services" approach to understanding nature. It is more interesting to note how many of the stories of ecosystem services – successes, explanations, and illustrations – take place in local governments and in community decision making. Perhaps by coincidence, but likely due to design, local environmental law and ecosystem services have evolved in a complementary manner. 
This article looks at the recent trends in recognizing and regulating ecosystem services at the local level. Local governments are adopting regulations aimed at capturing the benefits of functioning ecosystems by transcending aesthetic values of local nature and focusing on ecological processes and the services they provide. Section II introduces the topic by arguing that because of the manner in which local governments regulate environmental impacts, the value embedded in ecosystem services is commensurable with local regulation. Section III illustrates the relationship between local governance and ecosystem services, as well as the opportunities presented by this relationship, by examining some of the ways that local environmental law has embraced the advantages of an ecosystem services perspective. This article concludes that local governments are leaders in the implementation of ecosystems services-based regulation, that communities are the direct beneficiaries of such action, and that this is exactly as it should be.

Jim K.

 

June 8, 2011 in Community Design, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Local Government, Planning, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Power on Wallace, McHarg and their Plans for (a) Greater Baltimore

Soon after releasing the new version of his electronic land use casebook, Garrett Power (Maryland) has posted Wallace McHarg's Plans for a Greater Baltimore. Here's the abstract:

This essay considers the growth of the partnership between David Wallace and Ian McHarg into one of the nation’s dominant urban design and environmental planning firms. It focuses on the firm’s undertaking in the Greater Baltimore region in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. With the benefit of fifty years of hindsight it looks at the successes and failures of their plans for Charles Center, the Green Spring and Worthington Valleys, and the Inner Harbor. Surprisingly, prize-winning innovations praised in one generation came to be judged as the design flaws of the next. Less surprisingly, their plans to "design with nature" sometimes were used by their clients to promote racial and economic segregation.

This last sentence refers to the use of McHarg-Wallace's plans promoting ecologically sound suburban development for exclusionary planning practices even though the original plans called for environmentally sensitive siting of dense affordable housing. Check it out.

Jim K.

 

June 5, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Design, Density, Development, Environmental Justice, Environmentalism, Planning, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rebuilding in Joplin

As May draws to a close, I’d like to thank the Land Use Prof Blog editors for what has been an enjoyable month of guest-blogging.  This month has been a devastating one for Missouri.  My first blog post of the month discussed legal issues surrounding the flooding of hundreds of square miles in Southeast Missouri, and this post examines land use questions facing Joplin, Missouri, in the wake of a tornado that ravaged much of that town on May 22.

Last Saturday, I went to Joplin to assist in a massive clean-up operation that is now underway.  Despite watching plenty of television footage earlier in the week, I was startled at the degree of destruction.  In the city’s most severely damaged neighborhoods, entire city blocks had been reduced to mere piles of debris.  Without fences or buildings to segregate their respective rights, effected landowners were ignoring property boundary lines and working together in a desperate effort to recreate some semblance of order.  

As we gathered rubble and piled it along roadsides and alleyways, it occurred to me that the tornado had temporarily suspended most property and land use laws in the area.    Laws of trespass, nuisance, and encroachment had been set aside.    Land that deeds, easements, covenants, and zoning restrictions had once sculpted into orderly middle-class neighborhoods had briefly reverted to a sort of regulated commons. 

Of course, property rights enforcement will soon re-emerge in Joplin’s tornado-stricken areas for the same sorts of reasons as those famously described by Harold Demsetz in his article, Toward a Theory of Property Rights.  As order gradually returns to Joplin, the city will need a strategy for rebuilding.  Hopefully, Joplin’s civic leaders will learn from the experiences of other tornado-ravaged towns.  An article published in the Kansas City Star last week discusses what Joplin might glean from Greensburg, Kansas—a town that has redefined itself as a cutting-edge “green” community after encountering its own tornado.   A different article published in today’s Charlotte Observer describes the successes and failures of Wheatland, Pennsylvania, and Xenia, Ohio, in land use policymaking as those cities recovered from major tornado damage in years past.  According to the article, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has already appointed a 50-person task force to generate a recovery plan following that city’s April 27 tornado.  Land use planning should play an important role as both Tuscaloosa and Joplin rebuild in the years ahead.

Troy Rule

May 31, 2011 in Community Design, Comprehensive Plans, Development, Economic Development, Local Government, Planning, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Alexander on New Regionalist Approaches to Sustainable Communities

Speaking of HUD, here's a new article from Lisa T. Alexander (Wisconsisn) called The Promise and Perils of ‘New Regionalist’ Approaches to Sustainable Communities, forthcoming in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 38 (2011).  The abstract:

This Article argues that "new regionalism" is a form of "new governance." New regionalist approaches include collaborative efforts between cities and outlying suburbs to resolve metropolitan challenges such as affordable housing creation, transportation and sprawl. Such practices focus on regions as key sites for the resolution of public problems that transcend traditional local government and state boundaries. New regionalist praxis responds to local government law's failure to advance equity and sustainability throughout metropolitan regions. New regionalism promotes voluntary agreements and interlocal collaborations, rather than formal government or mandated regulation to resolve regional problems. New regionalism, then, is a form of new governance. The term new governance describes problem-solving processes that shift away from traditional government and regulation, towards voluntary, public/private collaborations including multiple stakeholders. New governance supporters assert that such approaches can enhance the participation of traditionally marginalized groups in reform and lead to more equitable outcomes. This Article examines the institutional design of the Obama Administration's Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program (the "Grant Program"), as well as its initial implementation in the Madison, Wisconsin/Dane County area, as a test of these claims. This Article identifies the Grant Program's promise and perils in advancing meaningful stakeholder participation and distributive justice. The Article concludes by making recommendations to improve the Grant Program and by outlining the implications of these observations for new regionalist and new governance practice.

Matt Festa

May 15, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Design, HUD, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, Sprawl, State Government, Suburbs, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hirokawa on Sustaining Ecosystem Services Through Local Environmental Law

Keith H. Hirokawa (Albany) has posted another piece: Sustaining Ecosystem Services Through Local Environmental Law, forthcoming in the Pace Environmental Law Review, Vol. 28, No. 3 (2011).  The abstract:

In the early decades of modern environmental law, local governments retained their prerogative over community design and other essentially local matters, but were largely excluded from the debate on national environmental policy. More recently, environmental lawyers have reignited the question of how and where the local government regulation of land use impacts intersects with environmental quality. It is interesting to note that as the national dialogue has turned to the important role of local governments in achieving our environmental quality goals, there has been a corresponding emergence of an "ecosystem services" approach to understanding nature. It is more interesting to note how many of the stories of ecosystem services – successes, explanations, and illustrations – take place in local governments and in community decision making. Perhaps by coincidence, but likely due to design, local environmental law and ecosystem services have evolved in a complementary manner.

This article looks at the recent trends in recognizing and regulating ecosystem services at the local level. Local governments are adopting regulations aimed at capturing the benefits of functioning ecosystems by transcending aesthetic values of local nature and focusing on ecological processes and the services they provide. Section II introduces the topic by arguing that because of the manner in which local governments regulate environmental impacts, the value embedded in ecosystem services is commensurable with local regulation. Section III illustrates the relationship between local governance and ecosystem services, as well as the opportunities presented by this relationship, by examining some of the ways that local environmental law has embraced the advantages of an ecosystem services perspective. This article concludes that local governments are leaders in the implementation of ecosystems services-based regulation, that communities are the direct beneficiaries of such action, and that this is exactly as it should be.

Matt Festa

May 10, 2011 in Community Design, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Local Government, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 18, 2011

High Oil Prices and Land Use

In the April 18 edition of The New Yorker James Surowiecki has a piece about the economic - and psychological - impact of the recent rise in gas prices.

High oil prices are generally bad for the U.S.—oil spending goes largely to foreign producers, leaving less money for American goods and services—but if you look just at the dollars involved the terror they inspire is somewhat mysterious. Gas is a relatively small percentage of most household budgets, and prices are now about eighty-five cents a gallon higher than they were twelve months ago, which translates into a few hundred dollars more a year. That’s not trivial, particularly for lower-income Americans, but it’s not devastating. In fact, it’s less than the increase in income that most Americans will get this year as a result of the new payroll-tax cut...

And Carol Graham and Soumya Chattopadhyay, of the Brookings Institution, have shown that rising gas prices can have a significant impact on Americans’ level of happiness. In part, this is because most people, at least in the short run, have no choice but to fill their tanks. Gas prices are also literally the most visible prices we have; you can’t take a drive without seeing huge signs reminding you how much gas costs. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke, has even argued that the way we buy gasoline—standing at the pump and watching the dollars pile up—is inherently disheartening.

What Surowiecki doesn't mention, suprisingly, is why people feel they have little choice but to fill their tanks.  You can all say it together with me, "It's because of sprawl!"  Autocentric land use patterns are hard on the pocket-book and the psyche.  I improved my personal happiness by riding my bike to work today.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 18, 2011 in Community Design, Development, Sprawl | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hybrid Communities with Public-Private Rules

This weekend at the American Planning Association's National Planning Conference I suggested in my presentation during the "Land, Covenants, and Law" panel (organized and led by Professor David L. Callies) that municipalities increasingly apply a combination of private covenants and zoning to form unique communities, which I call "hybrid communities."  Hybrid communities typically arise when a municipal development authority decides to redevelop an area--often a brownfield or a blighted section of a city--into a mixed-use residential/commercial neighborhood.  To form this hybrid community, the municipality initiates a lengthy and open public process to create a master plan, which the municipality's city council or similar legislative body eventually approves or rejects .  If the council approves the plan, the developer of the community forms a private homeowners' association and records a set of covenants, conditions, and restrictions that also govern the community. 

Most traditional "private" common interest communities (those with homeowners' associations and recorded covenants, conditions, and restrictions) operate under both zoning codes and servitudes, but there is not usually an explicit interaction between the public zoning rules and the private servitudes.  Rather, those in the private community know (hopefully) that they must follow the zoning rules and also the servitudes, which are typically more detailed and restrictive than the zoning rules.  The zoning rules typically require minimum setbacks and provide basic use restrictions, while the servitudes and associated design guidelines and rules add more use restrictions and include detailed aesthetic and design restrictions. 

In a hybrid community, unlike a traditional private community, there is often more of an explicit relationship between the public zoning and the private servitudes, and the zoning itself often contains detailed design requirements.  In the Lowry Redevelopment in Denver, for example, the redevelopment authority has aimed to create a green community through its public zoning work, and the private Lowry Community Master Association Rules and Regulations similarly reflect these "green" goals.  They provide, for example, that "rocks used in landscaping should be material native to Colorado" and that "planting concepts, plant varieties, and irrigation techniques which minimize water consumption (xeriscape) are encouraged," referring residents to Denver Water Department publications for more information. 

Other hybrid communities use a similar mix of private servitudes and detailed public zoning to create green, mixed-use living spaces, and these provide interesting case studies in what I argue is a relatively new public-private land use model.  For examples beyond Lowry, see Playa Vista in Los Angeles, Symphony Park in Las Vegas, and the Mueller redevelopment in Austin, among others.  It appears that all of these communities operate under both a public master plan and private servitudes.  In some cases, the municipality might even serve as the "backstop" enforcement authority when a homeowners' association in the redevelopment fails to enforce one of the private rules; according to one conversation at the National Planning Conference this weekend, Missouri City, Texas follows this type of enforcement scheme in its Planned Development Districts.  Professor Marc B. Mihaly describes these types of public-private developments--and the process of forming them--in his excellent article Living in the Past:  The Kelo Court and Public-Private Economic Redevelopment

Will public zoning and private land use controls eventually merge?  Likely not.  As attorney Jo Anne Stubblefield points out, cities have been slow to develop "traditional neighborhood design" districts that allow for mixed-use communities.  But the growth of hybrid communities suggests that new, creative relationships between the public and private land use realms will continue to expand. These communities are not perfect, of course; they may displace low-income populations despite typically requiring a certain percentage of new affordable housing.  And all communities with detailed design and aesthetic restrictions, whether public or private or hybrid, must ensure that those moving in are notified of the restrictions prior to purchase.  These communities do, however, provide interesting food for thought--and possibly good case studies for the classroom, too.  

Hannah Wiseman

April 11, 2011 in Aesthetic Regulation, Common Interest Communities, Community Design, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NYT Dialogue on Shrinking Cities

The latest census figures from Detroit (Chad's hometown blogged about here and here) have inspired the New York Times to solicit opinions from several urban planning experts about the way forward for post-industrial cities confronted with large-scale property abandonment.  Jennifer Bradley (Brookings-MPP) and Terry Schwarz (Kent State's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative) each offer shrinking city visions that challenge the idea that all planning must be for demographic expansion and economic growth.  Their greening strategies, including attention to urban agriculture and ecosystems, contemplate a 'new normal' for cities that may, in some ways, be better than historical peak periods.

Richard Florida (Toronto-Business) and Sam Staley urge beleaguered areas to pursue a focused (and apparently unsubsidized) effort to retain and attract residents in a mobile society.  Still others, such as Toni Griffin (Harvard-Planning), see Detroit and similar cities as merely the most egregiously wounded casualties of unsustainable sprawl-promoting policies that must be changed throughout the U.S.  These brief articles and even the comment board are all worth checking out. (Hat Tip to Nicole Garnett (Notre Dame) and her student, Sean Ashburn)

I would also encourage those interested in working with the land use challenges faced by undercrowded, post-industrial cities to check out The Center for Community Progress (f/k/a National Vacant Properties Campaign).  Over the years, I have had the chance to participate in conferences and technical assistance efforts that have brought urban development practitioners together with experts such as Jennifer Bradley, Terry Schwarz, Kermit Lind (Cleveland State), Joe Schilling (Va. Tech-Metropolitan Inst.)  and CCP's co-founder, Frank Alexander (Emory).

Jim K.

March 30, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Comprehensive Plans, Crime, Density, Detroit, Development, Economic Development, Planning, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Foster on Collective Action and the Urban Commons

Sheila Foster (Fordham) has just posted Collective Action and the Urban Commons, 87 Notre Dame L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2011), another interesting and important article on community control of land resources in the urban context. Here's the abstract:

Urban residents share access to a number of local resources in which they have a common stake. These resources range from local streets and parks to public spaces to a variety of shared neighborhood amenities. Collectively shared urban resources suffer from the same rivalry and free-riding problems that Garrett Hardin described in his Tragedy of the Commons tale. Scholars have not yet worked up a theory about how this tragedy unfolds in the urban context, particularly in light of existing government regulation and control of common urban resources. This Article argues that the tragedy of the urban commons unfolds during periods of “regulatory slippage” - when the level of local government oversight and management of the resource significantly declines, leaving the resource vulnerable to expanded access by competing users and uses. Overuse or unrestrained competition in the use of these resources can quickly lead to congestion, rivalry and resource degradation. Tales abound in cities across the country of streets, parks, and vacant land that were once thriving urban spaces but have become overrun, dirty, prone to criminal activity, and virtually abandoned by most users.

Proposed solutions to the rivalry, congestion and degradation that afflict common urban resources typically track the traditional public-private dichotomy of governance approaches. These solutions propose either a more assertive central government role or privatization of the resource. Neither of these proposed solutions has taken root, I argue, because of the potential costs that each carry - costs to the local government during times of fiscal strain, costs to communities where the majority of residents are non-property owners, and costs to internal community governance. What has taken root, however, are various forms of cooperative management regimes by groups of users. Despite the robust literature on self-organized management of natural resources, scholars have largely ignored collective action in the urban context. In fact, many urban scholars have assumed that collective action is unlikely in urban communities where social disorder exists.

This Article highlights the ways in which common urban resources are being managed by groups of users in the absence of government coercion or management and without transferring ownership into private hands. This collective action occurs in the shadow of continued state and local government ownership and oversight of the resources. Formally, although the state continues to hold the regulatory reigns, in practice we see the public role shifting away from a centralized governmental role to what I call an “enabling” one in which state and local government provides incentives and lend support to private actors who are able to overcome free-riding and coordination problems to manage collective resources. This Article develops this enabling role, marks its contours and limits, and raises three normative concerns that have gone unattended by policymakers.

Jim K.

March 23, 2011 in Agriculture, Community Design, Community Economic Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Food, Land Trust, Local Government, Property, Property Theory, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How do you feel about the federal government controlling housing?

On Friday, the federal government assumed control over the Philadelphia Housing Authority.  For months, The Inquirer in Philadelphia had been reporting about corruption and mismanagement in the Housing Authority's finances, including "$38.3 million in legal expenditures since 2007."  "That tab included conflict-laden payment to the law firm of [the son of former Mayor Street, who also just resigned as chair of the Housing Authority]."  In addition, it included $11.7 million to Ballard Spahr, where former Gov. Ed Rendell is a partner now (and was prior to being governor). As a point of comparison, the Housing Authority paid $10.3 million (16,700 units of housing and 14,800 vouchers) in legal fees in 2010, while New York City's housing authority paid $8.6 million (180,000 units of housing and 99,000 vouchers).  The Philadelphia's Housing Authority's executive director was fired in September (for, among other things, settling sexual harassment complaints against him for $648,000) and the board resigned last week.

This all led me back to an article I wrote 5 years ago critical of public authorities, focusing primarily on the lack of relationship between public funds and the democratic process.  At the time, public authorities issued more debt per year than all the cities and states combined (i.e. borrow) and they held more debt than all the cities and states combined (i.e. borrowed).  Many states had the majority of their debt held by public authorities.  New York, for example, had about 90% of its debt held by public authorities.  I then discussed how typical elections for mayor, governor, representatives, and councilmembers have little impact on the decisionmakers at public authorities (see, e.g., Gov. Mitt Romney's desperate attempts to remove the head of the Mass Turnpike Authority).  This lack of oversight and accountability, I argued, allows for mismanagement, corruption, and graft. 

With so many of public authorities existing (more than all cities combined) and performing significant land use functions including, housing, transportation, economic development, water, sewer . . . etc, I wonder how, if at all, infusing more democracy into the control of these functions would impact land use today.  Would placing these functions under a city or state allow for more integration of land use issues?  Would it allow cities to be more flexibility in spending on land use issues (see, e.g., Philadelphia's unsuccessful attempt to gain access to Philadelphia Parking Authority's funds, generated from land in Philadelphia)?  How would it impact the democratic process?  I'm not sure where these functions should reside, but with each new revelation of public authority corruption, I question whether we have the most efficient system.

Jon Rosenbloom

March 8, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Housing, HUD, Local Government, Planning, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Long on Sustainability v. Sprawl in the Post-Public-Lands West

Jerry Long (Idaho) explores the causes of and reasons for a community's commitment to sustainable land-use planning in his recently posted Private Lands, Conflict, and Institutional Evolution in the Post-Public-Lands West, 28 Pace Env. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2011).  Here's the abstract:

As rural communities face amenity-driven population growth and globalizing culture and economic systems, the process by which those communities imagine and implement desired futures grows increasingly complex. Globalization- and technology-facilitated and amenity-driven population growth increases the value of place-bound benefit streams – including land – promoting increased levels of physical development and a changed built environment. At the same time, globalizing culture and evolving local demographics might alter local land-use ideologies, yielding a preference for resource protection and more sustainable local land-use regimes. This article engages in a theoretical and empirical exploration that seeks to answer a single question: Why, in the face of competing land-use ideologies, might a community choose to adopt a more resource-protective, or resource-sustaining, land-use regime? Ultimately, it is only upon witnessing the actual effects of previous choices on the ground – including most significant, real harm to valued social or natural amenities – that a community is able to imagine and implement a land-use regime that can protect the amenities that community values.

Jim K.

March 2, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Comprehensive Plans, Conservation Easements, Density, Development, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Globalism, Land Trust, Las Vegas, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Subdivision Regulations, Suburbs, Sun Belt, Sustainability, Urbanism, Water, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)