Monday, June 27, 2011

Europe: Annoying Drivers on Purpose

I haven't been able to blog as much as usual lately, and one of the reasons is that we just moved.  It was a local move, but I'm sure you all know what a hassle moving is.  But today, the move actually helped my blogging.  It seems that the previous tenant failed to cancel his multiple newspaper subscriptions.  I rarely read news on dead tree anymore, so I might not otherwise have seen this morning's front page New York Times Story by Elisabeth Rosenthal called: Across Europe, Irking Drivers is Urban Policy.

ZURICH — While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Some cities have closed entire streets; some introduced stiff fees for driving into the city; many have reduced on-street parking drastically; bike lanes have replaced car lanes without offset for traffic; others have purposely added red lights to mess with drivers; Zurich's tram operators seem to have the ability to change the lights to their favor as they approach.  (I'm trying to imagine how much a magic traffic-light-changing remote control clicker would fetch on e-bay.)

According to the story, and probably not inconsistent with what some of you may have observed, many of these European cities have dramatically improved in walkability, transit options, and quality of public space.  How much the policies are related causally to the result isn't clear, but we can assume they've had an impact.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of all this.  I'm a strong proponent of improving urban life by incentivizing higher density, mixed-use development and increasing pedestrian-oriented neighborhood viability and transit-oriented development.  Love it.  Still, I am hesitant to pursue these goals through policies that actually make things worse for some people on purpose.  What do these policies do to affordable housing?  How about people from lower socioeconomic strata that need to make their living from driving goods and services around the city?  How do public shared bikes help women who don't cycle (and families with kids)?  By all means, make mass transit better, faster, more economical.  But purposely creating red-light patterns just to deliberately piss people off just concerns me a bit.  It also would seem to thwart a number of smart-growth-friendly options that nonetheless rely on roads, such as bus rapid transit.

Admittedly I'm looking at this from the urban planning side more than the environmental side, but it seems the environmental benefits of these policies will be much more difficult to observe than the effect on quality of life; it's easy to see the quality of life in the very nice and improved transit-accessible mixed-use public spaces, but these types of policies would seem to generate a lot of external costs--on purpose.  Maybe that's a tradeoff people are willing to make.  But to acheive the same progressive land use goals, I still have a preference for a positive approach (e.g., incentivizing (or even just allowing) smart growth and new urbanism) rather than purposely making some aspects of urban life worse by degrading capabilites to make some people's lives "miserable." 

Matt Festa

June 27, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Comparative Land Use, Density, Downtown, Environmentalism, New Urbanism, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning, Politics, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Giant Kenyan Superhighway

My husband grew up in East Africa and follows the regional news fairly closely.  A couple of days ago he sent me a link to this NPR story about a gigantic superhighway being built in Kenya, 16 lanes wide in some places, that engineers hope will alleviate Nairobi's epic traffic problems.  Apparently, some folks still haven't gotten the decades-old news that  you can't build your way out of traffic congestion...

Jamie Baker Roskie

June 24, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, Globalism, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Comparative Law Conference on Sustainability June 11th in Montréal

Weekend in Montréal anyone? The McGill Faculty of Law and Vermont Law School present a joint cross-border conference on Sustainability: Achieving Environmental Sustainability in the Face of Climate Change. 

Kat Garvey

For the full agenda...

Continue reading

June 2, 2011 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Comparative Land Use, Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Prairie Chickens: Another Challenge for Wind Energy Development

The Kansas Department of Wildlife is asking a wind energy developer to spend an extra $567 million to route its project’s power lines away from “lesser prairie chicken” mating areas.     

According to a Kansas City Star article published yesterday, the Department’s revised power transmission route would spare about 140 of the 20,000 to 40,000 lesser prairie chickens estimated to live in Kansas.  Based on those figures, the developer is being asked to spend about $4 million per prairie chicken saved.  An ordinary Kansas hunter can purchase a license to kill up to 40 of the birds for less than $21.   

Usually, conflicts between bird conservationists and wind energy developers center around the risk that birds or bats will suffer fatal collisions with turbines and towers.  Developers now tend to install wind turbines outside of migratory bird paths to help limit bird fatalities on wind farms. 

In contrast, wind turbines and transmission systems threaten prairie chickens by inhibiting the birds’ breeding activities.  A Bloomberg article from 2009 states that the species’ mating rituals involve an “elaborate dance” and suggests that “the chickens have learned to avoid such mating displays around structures like wind turbines or utility poles where predators may perch.” 

Based on the available information, revising the transmission route to steer clear of the chickens’ breeding grounds seemingly isn’t cost-justified in this case.  It will be interesting to see whether the Kansas Corporation Commission, which is deciding this dispute, reaches the same conclusion.

Troy Rule

May 16, 2011 in Clean Energy, Comparative Land Use, Development, Sprawl, Sustainability, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Zoning for Solar Energy on Federal Lands

A recent proposal from two federal agencies recommends using zoning to encourage and coordinate utility-scale solar energy development on public lands.

Last December, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released their Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which summarizes a two-year study of the potential environmental impacts of industrial-scale solar energy development on BLM land in six western states.  Based on the study, the DOE and BLM want to designate 24 specific areas covering more than 1,000 square miles of land in those states as Solar Energy Zones—areas where the BLM would prioritize its solar energy siting activities. 

The PEIS is intriguing from an academic perspective in that it evidences the DOE’s and BLM’s deliberate effort to direct solar energy development only to those specific geographic areas that can accommodate the development for the lowest environmental cost.  As Professor Sara Bronin recently emphasized in her article, Curbing Energy Sprawl with Microgrids, siting renewable energy projects in remote areas often requires expansive transmission infrastructure and other improvements that can intrude upon habitats and pristine wilderness.  For those reasons, some conservation and wildlife protection groups have expressed dissatisfaction over the new PEIS and continue to oppose solar energy projects on federal lands (for example, Colorado-based Solar Done Right released a report last month sharply criticizing the document).  On the other hand, the PEIS does attempt to address environmental concerns and should facilitate more cost-justified solar energy development on BLM property.  And markets seem poised to move more of these projects forward:  Google recently announced its commitment to invest $168 million in Brightsource’s Ivanpah Solar Project on BLM land in California’s Mojave Desert.

Troy Rule

May 9, 2011 in Clean Energy, Comparative Land Use, Development, Environmental Law, Planning, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blumm & Guthrie on Internationalizing the Public Trust Doctrine

Michael C. Blumm (Lewis & Clark) and R.D. Guthrie (Lewis & Clark) have posted Internationalizing the Public Trust Doctrine: Natural Law and Constitutional and Statutory Approaches to Fulifilling the Saxion Vision, forthcoming in University of California Davis Law Review, Vol. 44, (2012).  The abstract:

The public trust doctrine, an ancient doctrine emanating from Roman law and inherited from England by the American states, has been extended in recent years beyond its traditional role in protecting public uses of navigable waters to include new resources like groundwater and for new purposes like preserving ecological function. But those state-law developments, coming slowly and haphazardly, have failed to fulfill the vision that Professor Joseph Sax sketched in his landmark article of forty years ago. However, in the last two decades, several countries in South Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere have discovered that the public trust doctrine is fundamental to their jurisprudence, due to natural law or to constitutional or statutory interpretation. In these dozen countries, the doctrine is likely to supply environmental protection for all natural resources, not just public access to navigable waters. This international public trust case law also incorporates principles of precaution, sustainable development, and intergenerational equity; accords plaintiffs liberalized public standing; and reflects a judicial willingness to oversee complex remedies. These developments make the non-U.S. public trust case law a much better reflection than U.S. case law of Professor Sax’s vision of the doctrine.

A timely article considering the recent upsurge in caselaw and commentary on the public trust doctrine.

Matt Festa

April 23, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Comparative Land Use, Environmentalism, History, Property, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hudson on Federal Constitutions, Global Governance, and Climate Change

Blake Hudson (Stetson) has posted Federal Constitutions and Global Governance: The Case of Climate Change, forthcoming in the Indiana Law Journal, Vol 87 (2012).  The abstract:

Federal systems of government present more difficulties for international treaty formation than perhaps any other form of governance. Federal constitutions that grant subnational governments exclusive regulatory authority over certain subject matters constrain national governments during international negotiations - a national government that cannot constitutionally bind subnational governments to an international agreement cannot freely arrange its international obligations. At the same time, federal nations that grant subnational governments exclusive control over certain subject matters are seeking to maximize the benefits of decentralization in those regulatory areas. The difficulty lies in striking a balance between global governance and constitutional decentralization in federal systems. For example, recent scholarship demonstrates that U.S. federalism may jeopardize international negotiations seeking to utilize global forest management to combat climate change, since subnational forest management is a constitutional regulatory responsibility reserved for state governments. This article expands that scholarship by undertaking a comparative constitutional analysis of five other federal systems - Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, and Russia. These nations, along with the U.S., are crucial to climate negotiations since they account for 54 percent of the world’s total forest cover. This article reviews the constitutional allocation of forest regulatory authority between national and subnational governments in these nations to better understand potential complications that federal systems present for global climate governance aimed at forests. The article concludes that federal systems that maintain three key elements within their constitutional structure are most capable of agreeing to an international climate agreement that includes forests, successfully implementing that treaty on domestic scales, and doing so in a way that maintains the recognized benefits of decentralized forest management at the local level - 1. national constitutional primacy over forest management, 2. national sharing of constitutional forest management authority, and 3. adequate forest policy institutional enforcement capacity. The article also establishes the foundation for further research assessing how the constitutional structures of federal systems lacking key elements may be adjusted to achieve more effective climate and forest governance.

Prof. Hudson is also part of the group--with Lincoln Davies (Utah), Brigham Daniels (BYU), Lesley McAllister (San Diego), and our guest Hannah Wiseman (Tulsa)--who very recently relaunched the Environmental Law Prof Blog on our Law Professor Blogs Network.  Welcome and congrats to them, and check out Prof. Hudson's paper. 

Matt Festa

April 11, 2011 in Climate, Comparative Land Use, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Globalism, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bright on Occupation Rents and TLATA

Susan Bright (Oxford) has posted Occupation Rents and TLATA: From Property to Welfare?, Conveyancer, Vol. 73, No. 378, 2011.  The abstract:

This article considers what changes have been made in relation to occupation rents following the enactment of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TLATA).

The article analyzes an important UK land law with broader implications.  More from the intro:

The two particular questions focussed on are "liability", that is, the circumstances in which a co-owner can be required to pay an occupation rent (or "compensation" as it is called under TLATA) to a non-occupying co-owner, and "quantum", that is how the amount of this rent should be assessed. The issues commonly arise in the residential context, when a property initially bought as a shared home is occupied by only one of the co-owners following relationship breakdown, but can equally occur in a commercial context, for example, as part of the dissolution of a business partnership run from co-owned premises.

Matt Festa

March 17, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2011

[This is a reprise of last year's St. Pat's post, plus a picture from 2011--MJF]

Now it's time to try and make a land use-related post about St. Patrick's Day.  First of all, the legend of St. Patrick has it that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.  If that isn't an awesome land use regulatory feat, then nothing is!     

St. Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and the Church played a major part in land control over the centuries.  Later on in Irish history, the Catholic-Protestant struggle had a great deal to do with English land ownership and the relationship of the Irish people to the land.  Even until recent years, the symbol of St. Patrick has been part of the controversy over the IRA and Northern Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day has spread throughout the Irish diaspora worldwide.  In the U.S., St. Patrick's Day has, of course, served as a semi-official Irish-American holiday.  Irish immigrants moved throughout the country, but are particularly known for rising to political power in the cities.  Anti-Irish/Catholic prejudice loomed over the Gilded Age ("no Irish need apply") and the Progressive Era (multifamily housing (the "pig in the parlor") associated with immigrants).  Irish Catholic churches played a major role in urban affairs and continue to have a presence in First Amendment and RLUIPA issues.  After attaining some political power in urban political systems such as Tammany Hall, Irish-Americans have played a central role in city governance for over a century.  My undergrad alma mater, Notre Dame, served as a source of pride for Irish-Americans for its competitiveness in that land-use struggle known as football, and later in academics.  When John F. Kennedy was elected President, it seemed to many Americans of Irish extraction that they had finally become accepted into the American Dream. Img_0390

In the last few decades, St. Patrick's Day has continued to influence American land use issues.  Major celebrations take place in many U.S. cities, and places like Chicago, most famously, and Savannah dye their rivers green for the occasion.  [ancillary question: is being "green" a good thing, in this sense?]  In some American cities the St. Patrick's Day parade has become one of the most important political events of the year, which has led in turn to protracted litigation over the question of who gets to decide who marches in privately-organized yet publicly-sanctioned St. Patrick's Day parades.  The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the matter in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, 515 U.S. 557 (1995).  Justice Souter's opinion for a unanimous Court upheld the First Amendment associational rights of the parade organizers to exclude an Irish-American GLBT group (would the case come out the same way today?). 

St. Patrick's Day has a lot of cultural significance and a little bit of land-use significance too.  So hoist a green beer and celebrate.  [And in 2011, Jim and I are hoping that the luck of the Irish works all the way to Houston for the Final Four!]

Matt O'Festa

March 17, 2011 in Chicago, Comparative Land Use, Constitutional Law, Downtown, First Amendment, History, Houston, Humorous, Local Government, New York, Politics, Supreme Court, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, 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.

Matt Festa

March 14, 2011 in Architecture, California, Coastal Regulation, Comparative Land Use, Development, Landlord-Tenant, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Heights for ALPS!

Saturday was the second and final day of the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Law, Property and Society at Georgetown.  Last year's inaugural offered such terrific exchanges as to fully justify Matt's enthusiastic posts leading into this year's reprise.  Comprising more than 120 participating presenters, the two dozen panels featured scholars engaged in projects in real property, land use, environmental law, property theory and intellectual property among others.  Many past and present bloggers from Land Use Prof and Property Prof were in attendance. Robin Paul Malloy (Syracuse) and Michael Diamond (Georgetown) deserve our thanks for not only putting together another great event but also fostering the critical mass of leadership ALPS will need to continue to offer inclusive gatherings that promote the very best in engaged property thought.

This year, the work offered by scholars from non-U.S. institutions really made the conference for me.  Even with the wide-ranging participation from domestic law schools, 20% of this year's presenters came from, among other countries, the U.K, Canada and Israel.  I got a chance to hear great talks by Lorna Fox-O'Mahony (Durham) and recent Land Use Prof guest blogger Antonia Layard (Cardiff).  I also was able to re-connect with Susan Bright (Oxford) and Nick Hopkins (Southampton), who have been writing about the same kind of perpetually affordable homeownership models that I have focused on in my own scholarship. 

The highlight of the weekend for me was the amazing discussion of property theory as examined in Property: Values and Institutions, a brand new Oxford U. Press book by Hanoch Dagan (Tel Aviv). The panel featured terrific dialogue between the author and commentators Larissa Katz (Queens), Eduardo Peñalver (Cornell), Eric Claeys (George Mason) and Jed Purdy (Duke).

Next year at Georgetown again for ALPS 3.0.  Keep checking our blog for updates on registration.

Jim K.

March 6, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Comparative Land Use, Conferences, Property, Property Theory, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Land Use & a Mosque in London

For those interested in zoning and religious buildings, the current enforcement proceedings aiming to close down the Tablighi Jamaat mosque in London make interesting reading. While local planners are resisting the application to maintain the mosque because of traffic levels, land contamination and visual impact, the enforcement hearing has been well informed about Tablighi Jamaat's apprent religious and political views, as well as attitudes to women. The dispute takes place in the context of the Tablighi Jamaat's aim to build a much larger, 'mega-mosque' on the site, a move which is opposed by many within the Muslim community.

Inevitably this planning dispute is taking place in the context of much larger debates about multiculturalism, identity and human rights. This comes to no suprise to land use lawyers of course ... land use issues are, whether acknowledged or not, inevitably much broader than the immediate impacts of the site.

Antonia Layard

March 2, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, RLUIPA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Three Dimensional Master Plan?

Helsinki Underground 
Hello all and thanks for the welcome, Matt.

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).

Jon Rosenbloom

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 (0)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Struggle for Land--conference on early modern legal history

Speaking of interdisciplinarity, I received from H-Net this announcement of what looks like a fascinating conference about land use and legal history: The Struggle for Land: Property, Territory, and Jurisdiction in Early Modern Europe and the Americas, to be held at the Newberry Library in Chicago on April 8, 2011.  From the announcement:

The struggle to possess and control land, both as property and as jurisdictional territory, was central to the formation of early modern European societies as well as their colonial domains. This conference will look at how Europeans and indigenous peoples defined the right to land. We will examine how so-called European expansion influenced the conceptualization of property and territorial jurisdiction and the relationship between them. Conference participants may explore how notions of property and territoriality changed over time; and how colonial needs and the encounter with new cultures reshaped these notions. In what ways did “international competition” and the emergence of an “international law” (to use an anachronism) modify property and jurisdiction? How did economic, social, and political developments influence new ideas and experiences regarding the land? In what ways did these ideas and experiences shape practical strategies for claiming land and asserting rights to govern it and profit from it? We are particularly eager to know whether these encounters encouraged, consciously or not, borrowing between different European legal systems as well as between settlers and indigenous peoples. How was the movement and refashioning of legal knowledge bound up with the movement of peoples and refashioning of modes of control over land? We would like to encourage an interdisciplinary conversation among lawyers, historians, sociologists, geographers, and literary scholars.

Participating in the symposium will be a number of really promient historians, plus several law profs including Richard Ross (who appears to be the organizer, along with Tamar Herzog), Claire Priest, R.H. Helmholz, Stuart Banner, Christopher Tomlins, Daniel Hamilton, and Allison LaCroix.  More info, including the schedule, after the jump.

Matt Festa

Continue reading

February 22, 2011 in Chicago, Comparative Land Use, Conferences, History, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cities as portfolios

I have been very pleasantly distracted from posting this week as Robin Malloy has been visiting in Cardiff. On the way to sample the delights of Cardiff's pubs and restaurants Robin has had to listen to my rant nuanced discussion of city centre retail developments. Knowing how to get a reaction he tells me that Americans would love these commoditised downtowns and asked for a link to illustrate how to develop them.

So, Robin, here is a link to Land Securities 'retail portfolio' list including both the city centre of Bristol, where I live, and Cardiff, where I work. Especially after a few drinks the city centres are so extraordinarily similar in terms of street architecture, design and content that I have to remind myself to get the train home.

Maybe Americans really would love this. Certainly the city centres' value remains significant, currently the 19.4 million square feet of retail accommodation owned by one developer, Land Securities, is valued at £4.7 billion (over $7 billion). Maybe I just need a few extra drinks in those formulaic bars.

Antonia Layard

February 18, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, Development, Economic Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lincoln Institute Report on Explosive Growth of Developing World's Largest Cities

The Lincoln Institute for Land Policy has made available its report, Making Room for a Planet of Cities.  The report predicts a rapid increase in the population of the developing world's largest cities in combination with a concurrent decrease in urban density.  As a result, "[t]he world’s urban population is expected to double in 43 years, while urban land cover will double in only 19 years. The urban population in developing countries is expected to double between 2000 and 2030 while the built-up area of their cities is expected to triple [during that same period]."  The Lincoln site also offers a companion Atlas of Urban Expansion.

Jim K.

February 16, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, Density, Development, Environmentalism, Sprawl, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Protest and Public Space

Listening to events unforld in Tahrir Square reminds me once again the topography of protest. Land use lawyers are only to aware how spatial the right to free speech is in practice, location is so often central to the message.

It makes me sigh inwardly to think again of the imminent eviction of Brian Haw from Parliament Square in London, who has been protesting there and survived various legal battles since 2001.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/50/Camp_Brian_and_his_argument.jpg/256px-Camp_Brian_and_his_argument.jpg

The Prime Minister David Cameron is apparently insistent that he will have to be moved by April after a decade of protest. Why? For the Royal Wedding, obviously. He mustn't spoil Kate and Will's big day. Sigh. 

Antonia Layard

February 13, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

'A classic example of state-sponsored, de-greening gentrification'

This is the characterisation of a development project in central London, near the Elephant & Castle, where social housing is being demolished in the name of regeneration, to be replaced by privately owned accomodation with 25% protected as 'affordable'. The project was initiated by the Liberal Democrat majority on Southwark Council and is now being implemented by the currently Labour controlled council. (Both are parties that have conventionally been understood as being on the left of British politics).

These projects are public-private collaborations, at their simplest, the public authority applies for the permissions (particularly for compulsory purchase of the existing properties) while the developer (here (essentially) the Australian-based Lend Lease) provides the cash. There are clear analogies with the approach upheld in Kelo (although here there is no outrage on legal grounds) and there is little doubt that this development will be built. The 'decanting' of existing socially housed residents is already underway, either by buying them out or by re-housing council tenants 'nearby'.

One reason given for the regeneration is aesthetic, with proponents arguing that brutalist architecture brutalises people. There is certainly wide agreement that Heygate is not an objectively attractive development. Yet residents emphasise the extent of community spirit on the estate.

A further justification for redevelopment has been that this prime piece of real estate provided relatively spacious accommodation with significant green space, which should be developed more intensively with the majority available for private ownership. Indeed, the specification for the re-build is such that the project was selected as one of Bill Clinton's 17 'climate positive' neighbourhood developments.

So it will be a 'climate positive' example of 'state-sponsored, de-greening gentrification'.

Antonia Layard

February 9, 2011 in Community Economic Development, Comparative Land Use, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Introducing Crime Maps

In the UK this week crime maps have been launched on a police website that crashed repeatedly over the first 48 hours as a result of the numbers of hits. The innovation was broadly welcomed in the press despite concerns about privacy and accuracy.

For social science scholars there seems to be a great opportunity to see whether Tiebout's thesis is applicable here, whether residents with the resources to do so will 'vote with their feet' moving away from high crime areas to lower ones. There may even be a reduced incentive in some areas to report crime (particularly for owner occupiers) if this will affect their property prices. It remains to be seen whether residents will use this information to 'hold local police officers to account' thereby reducing crime, which is the Government's prime justification for spending approximately £300,000 on developing the maps. The question remains whether these maps will address the causes of crime or whether crime rates will remain broadly similar but the maps will lead instead to the re-distribution of fearful residents into 'safer' areas (as Tiebout would suggest).

One other aspect that has intrigued me is that any local resident can identify where crime is most likely at the micro-level. Here wealthier locations with more expensive, detached hosues are not necessarily safer than cheaper roads within the same area. Arterial routes, alleyways and the location of late night drinking establishments will all affect where crime occurs. This reflects, as critical geographers have put it, a 'body ballet', since the way in which we use space arises through practice and use not simply the physical construction of a place. Crime maps illuminate this quite strikingly.

Antonia Layard

February 5, 2011 in Comparative Land Use, Crime | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zoning Out Young Students

Antonia Layard recently posted about new planning restrictions in the UK limiting the number of unrelated people occupying a house.  These restrictions are not uncommon in the US, particularly in college towns.  For example, Northwestern University students are in an uproar because the town of Evanston has decided to start enforcing an old ordinance, quaintly called the "brothel rule,"  forbidding more than three unrelated people living together.

Athens has an even stricter requirement that no more than two unrelated people can live together.  However, in my experience this rule is rarely enforced.  I have no issue with most of the student households in our neighborhood, but occasionally we get a group of three (usually very young) folks living in the house next door and engaging in loud partying and/or having incessantly barking dogs.  I've had much more luck working directly with the tenants and the landlord, though, than I have getting Code Enforcement to come out and investigate.

Another current area of conflict in Athens is the placement of a fraternity in a historic neighborhood of Athens that is already home to several fraternities and sororities, but also to many families and working adults.  This is one of the many, tricky balancing questions in land use law.  How do we accomodate young folks who are still forming as individuals and learning what it means to be part of a community, without burdening the neighbors who need their beauty sleep and grow tired of noise and garbage?

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 27, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Comparative Land Use, Georgia, Local Government, NIMBY, Property Rights, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)