Monday, March 10, 2014
There has long been debate fluttering around about whether conservation easements are charitable trusts. A recent opinion from Wyoming has me thinking about charitable trusts and conservation easements from a different viewpoint.
In Davis Foundation v. Colorado State University Research Foundation, the Supreme Court of Wyoming examined a transfer of property from the Davis Foundation and family jointly to CSU and University of Wyoming. The working ranchland was donated to the school as a way to provide a living laboratory for students to learn ranching and to provide revenue for the programs (through ranching revenues). In the process of conveying the land, the Davis Foundation also conveyed a conservation easement over the property to The Nature Conservancy. The conservation easement purports to protect the scenic and historical resources of the property and restricts possible property uses to ranching, farming, and education.
Putting aside whether the conservation easement itself was a charitable trust (and without information about whether it was sold or donated to TNC I am not gonna make a call on that one), the court found the existence of the conservation easement integral in its analysis of whether the Davis Foundation created a trust when donating the property to the educational institutions. Basically, the schools now want to sell the land (subject to the conservation easement). If the donation was a gift to the schools, they have the ability to do with the land as they see fit (within their limits as state organizations or non-profits) BUT if it is a charitable trust, the schools actions with respect to the land are more limited. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that no trust was created. It reached that conclusion in part because of the existence of the conservation easements. The court explained that the conservation easement limited what the land would be used for, not the gift to the schools. Structures of donations like this are not unusual. We see examples in many states of landowners donating fee to one entity and a conservation easement to another. This may be particularly common where the fee is donated to a government entity. This case indicates that the presence of the conservation easement may serve as evidence that the donation did not create a trust. Of course, there are no blanket rules here and one would have to look at each conveyance to determine whether a trust was intended. I find this fascinating. If you donate parkland to a city but also put a conservation easement on the land because you don't totally trust the city, you may have made the donation look more like a gift than a trust (which may not have been your intention!).
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Turning old railroad lines into parks and bike paths seems like a great idea. When it results in things like NYC's Highline Park who can complain, but not everyone is happy about these rail to trail projects. In fact, it is the subject of a case currently pending before the Supreme Court. (This is not a case under the Rails-to-Trails Act but implicated perhaps thousands of miles of trails that came from rails).
Marvin Brandt is upset about the bike trail built by the Forest Service on an abandoned railway through his land. Brandt argues that the when the railroad abandoned the government-issued right-of-way, the feds did not have the right to create a new right-of-way in the form of the trail.
The tricky issue here is determining what exactly a railroad right-of-way is. When I hear the term ROW, I envision an easement. But as we all know there are some things out there that sound like easements but aren’t actually easements. The government argues here that these railroad ROWs were not easements in the traditional sense. However, nor were they fee simple strips of land given to the railroad. Instead they are some third category of property law that no one can quite figure out how to define. A surface defeasible fee subject to a reverter perhaps? Let’s break it down.
If it’s an easement: The federal government gives the railroad an easement through public land. The common law rules of easements apply. This means that when the railroad abandons the track in the 1980s (or whenever it was), the easement is extinguished and full unencumbered fee simple title goes back to the underlying landowner. This particular parcel is no longer federal land because the Forest Service swapped it with the Brandt family. Traditional run of the mill easement law tells us that the Brandt family (owner of the servient estate) should have this land with no dominant easement holder left around to bug them (or ride bikes through their property). This is what Brandt’s attorney argues. Not argued, but hinted at by Justice Sotomayor is that the easement holder was really the US and it temporarily transferred its easement rights to the railroad. Now that the railroad is done, it can keep using the easement for similar (transportation) uses through the Forest Service bike trail.
If it was a patent (i.e., fee simple absolute): The federal government gave the railroad a strip of land and the railroad owned that strip (or spaghetti noodle as the court seemed to like envisioning it). This would mean that the railroad owns the land for any purpose and once it stops using the railroad tracks for trains, it could use them for something else or it could sell them to the underlying landowner (or lose ownership via adverse possession if it stands by and does nothing while the forest service or underlying landowner makes use of the land). No one actually argues that the railroad had an unrestricted fee simple though. Instead, it might be that they had a type of defeasible fee (starting to give you flashbacks of your 1L property class yet?). That’s right, the railroad had a fee interest subject to the possibility of reverter. That is, the federal government had a reversionary interest and would get the land back if the railroad stopped using it for railroad purposes.
Now of course, it is not as simple as just reading over the grant to the railroad and figuring out what it said. Instead, we have several wrinkles. For example, there is an 1922 Act (postdating the grant to the railroad) explaining that when the railroad stops using the land for railroad purposes and it reverts to the feds, the feds should first use the land for roads and streets, then consider giving to municipalities, and if that doesn’t pan out give the land to neighboring landowners. There is a more recent statute adjusting that order of priority, but these statutes sure make it sound like the US had a reversionary interest. Of course, Justice Scalia pointed out that he doesn’t care very much about how a subsequent Congress interpreted the railroad’s property right. He is only interest in looking at the 1875 Act enabling grants of ROWs the railroad to try and figure out the property right.
There are some cases muddying the water including a 1942 case interpreting the 1875 Act, concluding that the railroad in question there had not gotten subsurface rights and instead had gotten something akin to an easement.
There is also the tricky part of the land conveyance to the Brandts. The Forest Service swapped some land with Brandt’s father back in 1976. While the land conveyance noted the railroad’s ROW, it did not mention any reversionary interest. Leading the Brandts (quite reasonably) to believe that the ROW was just a standard run of the mill easement. Can an underlying federal law be in trouble where the forest service neglected to mention it in a land conveyance? Perhaps Brandt’s property lawyer should have researched more and tried to determine what was really going on…
The oral argument in this case is fun for land geeks, especially those of us who teach or study property and/or federal lands. The Court seemed particularly interested in figuring out how much lands the feds own and how much has been converted to other uses -- and what the implications of allowing such reversions would be. Several justices pushed the parties to try and explain how many acres or how many landowners were at stake. No one dared to put forth an estimate. I actually laughed out loud when the justices were shocked that the federal government didn’t keep good track of its land holdings and dispersals. They are so cute sometimes.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Hanoch Dagan (Tel Aviv) has posted his anthology entry entitled Expropriatory Compensation, Distributive Justice and the Rule of Law in Rethinking Public Interest in Expropriation Law (Mostert & Verstaapen eds., forthcoming 2014). Here's the abstract:
This Essay examines the possible justification for providing less than full (fair market value) compensation for expropriation. One obvious justification applies in cases of public measures, where the burden is deliberately distributed progressively, namely, where redistribution is the desired goal of the public action or, at least, one of its primary objectives. Beside this relatively uncontroversial category, two other explanations are often raised: that partial compensation is justified by reference to the significance of the public interest, even if it is not redistributive, and that it can serve as a means for adjusting the amount of the compensation to the specific circumstances of the case. This Essay criticizes both justifications, arguing that the former is normatively impoverished while the latter affronts the rule of law. The notion of partial and differential compensation, however, can serve as a powerful tool for developing a nuanced expropriation doctrine that serves important property values, and also targets the potentially regressive effects of a uniform rule of full market value. The proposed doctrine draws careful, rule-based distinctions between types of injured property (fungible vs. constitutive) and types of benefited groups (local communities vs. the broader society).
One of the wonderful benefits of participating in the annual gatherings of the Association of Law, Property and Society is the opportunity to emgage with scholars from other countries. A 2011 panel focusing on his book Property: Values and Institutions (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), which Dean Dagan participated in personally, was one of the best discussions of property theory that I've ever had the chance to hear.
Monday, November 11, 2013
How can the Constitution protect landowners from government exploitation without disabling the machinery that protects landowners from each other? The Supreme Court left this central question unanswered — and indeed unasked — in Koontz v St. Johns River Water Management District. The Court’s exactions jurisprudence, set forth in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, Dolan v. City of Tigard, and now Koontz, requires the government to satisfy demanding criteria for certain bargains — or proposed bargains — implicating the use of land. Yet because virtually every restriction, fee, or tax associated with the ownership or use of land can be cast as a bargain, the Court must find some way to hive off the domain of exactions from garden variety land use regulations. This it refused to do in Koontz, opting instead to reject boundary principles that it found normatively unstable. By beating back one form of exactions creep — the possibility that local governments will circumvent a too-narrowly drawn circle of heightened scrutiny — the Court left land use regulation vulnerable to the creeping expansion of heightened scrutiny under the auspices of its exactions jurisprudence. In this paper, we lay out this dilemma and suggest that it should lead the Court to rethink its exactions jurisprudence, and especially its grounding in the Takings Clause, rather than the Due Process Clause. The sort of skepticism about bargaining reflected in the Court’s exactions cases, we suggest, finds its most plausible roots in rule-of-law concerns implicated by land use dealmaking. With those concerns in mind, we consider alternatives that would attempt to reconcile the Court’s twin interests in reining in governmental power over property owners and in keeping the gears of ordinary land use regulation running in ways that protect the property interests of those owners.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Lee Fennell (Chicago) critiques and enhances Brian Lee's Columbia Law review article entitled Just Undercompensation: The Idiosyncratic Premium in Eminent Domain, blogged about here earlier this summer. In her concise on-line response, Just Enough, 133 Colum. L. Rev. Sidebar 109 (2013) (pdf here), Fennell moves through the positive and normative aspects of the tripartite analysis of how Fair Market Value (FMV) purportedly fails to fully compensate property owners whose interests are liquidated through eminent domain proceedings. As she lays it out in her intro:
Like other scholars, I have previously observed that the FMV measure of compensation leaves an increment of value uncompensated:
The uncompensated increment is made up of three distinct components: (1) the increment by which the property owner’s subjective value exceeds fair market value; (2) the chance of reaping a surplus from trade (that is, of obtaining an amount larger than one’s own true subjective valuation); and (3) the autonomy of choosing for oneself when to sell.
Lee argues that appropriate amounts of both subjective value and the chance of gains from trade are included in FMV, leaving only interference with autonomy categorically uncompensated in a manner that would implicate fairness concerns. This Part focuses only on the positive question of what does and does not get included in FMV, leaving the normative questions to the next Part. Part I.A considers subjective value and Part I.B turns to the last two components of the “uncompensated increment.”
Even after demonstrating, contra Lee, that existing owners' subjective attachments are not necessarily baked in to market valuations, she helps out by showing that a prevalence of rooted homeowners together with zoning-induced supply contraints might support the kind of extended sellers' market that diminishes the difference between market prices and the reservation prices of most homeowners.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
I hope many of you attended the AALS Workshop on Property, Poverty and Immigration this past summer in San Diego. For those of us who couldn't (or did, but just weren't taking copious notes), the keynote speaker, Joseph William Singer (Harvard), has posted his talk entitled Titles of Nobility: Property, Poverty, and Immigration in a Free and Democratic Society. Here's the abstract:
Both property and immigration are premised on exclusion yet both human rights and democratic norms require us to treat every human being with equal concern and respect. While neither sovereigns nor owners can have completely open borders, they have obligations to respect the human dignity of "the stranger." Biblical sources link the stranger with the poor and develop a version of the Golden Rule that requires both to be accorded "love." The related secular principle of equal concern and respect means that poverty is, in principle, incompatible with the norms of a free and democratic society. That principle is embodied in the constitutional prohibition on titles of nobility which mandates treating every human being as of equal value and importance. While the nobility clauses do not mandate particular policies, they do outlaw treatment that places some as occupying a lower status than others.This has consequences for both immigration and property law, as well as laws and policies designed to alleviate and prevent poverty.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
John Echeverria (Vermont) has just this week posted Koontz: The Very Worst Takings Decision Ever?. In it, he takes on both of the U.S. Supreme Court's holdings in its most recent land use decision and spells out how they will inhibit development planning discussions at the local level. Here's the abstract:
This article argues that Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, the most widely discussed of the Supreme Court’s takings trilogy in the 2012-13 term, represents a major, unprincipled break from prior law and casts an unfortunate pall of confusion and uncertainty over takings doctrine, partly reversing the Court’s recent, successful effort to make takings doctrine more coherent and predictable. The Court ruled that the relatively heightened standard of judicial review established by the Supreme Court for so-called “development exactions” in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Dolan v. City of Tigard applies both (1) when the government denies a development permit after the developer rejects a government demand for an exaction as a condition of project approval, and (2) when a permit condition requires a developer to pay or expend money to mitigate project impacts. In so ruling, the Court rejected the position that claims challenging such government orders should be evaluated under either the Court’s relatively forgiving regulatory takings analysis or deferential due process analysis. Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent for herself and three other justices, arguing that the case did not involve an actual demand triggering Nollan and Dolan and that the standards established by those cases do not apply to permit conditions requiring the expenditure of money. This article contends that the Koontz decision is one of the worst decisions, if the not the worst decision, in the pantheon of Supreme Court takings cases. In doctrinal terms, the majority opinion flagrantly contradicts or ignores established precedent, fails to acknowledge its departure from prior law, and does not attempt to offer any new, coherent justifications for its novel holdings. As a practical matter, the decision creates a perverse, wasteful incentive for local officials to decline to work cooperatively with developers in designing projects that make business sense and protect the interests of the community. Finally, the decision injects new uncertainty into takings law, setting the stage for future debates over the legitimacy and appropriate scope of intrusive judicial review of local land use decision-making, including whether local governments retain the authority to reject development proposals based on unacceptable project impacts without triggering stringent judicial review.
August 31, 2013 in Community Economic Development, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Impact Fees, Planning, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, Takings, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
This summer, many of us conservation easement research types received emails from the Law Commission for England and Wales. The Law Commission is similar to the Uniform Law Commission here in the US in mission (researches potential legal reform and presents suggested statutory texts), but the British version is a body established by Parliament and the US version is a non-profit organization.
When considering changes to the law, the COmmission staff assemble consultation papers. The papers present research on the legal topic at issue, suggest statutory parameters and language, and solicit comments from "consultees." Anyone who visits the website and submits the form can comment, but the Commission also contacts specific people and organizations to solicit their views. There is even a form with specific questions on the issue to complete. I thought this was a very informative and interesting approach.
As you should have already gleaned from the title of this approach, the Law Commission is examining the case for introducing "conservation covenants" into the law of England and Wales. Now, while I read the consultation paper carefully and made lots of notes (several exclamation marks in the margins of this one), I just couldn't get my act together to submit comments by the June 21st deadline. While this is just a proposal and not yet even a proposed bill, there are lots of interesting things going on in this british version of conservation easements. I thought I would highlight a few of them for you here:
(1) Specific choice not to use the word easement.
(2) No tax breaks associated with donating conservation covenants.
(3) All transactions must be voluntary, so presumably that means no exactions or eminent domain-like creations. However, the Commission contemplates widespread use for offsetting schemes.
(4) Conservation covenants are much easier to terminate or modify. With holders having power to unilaterally discharge obligations. Also suggests a judicial proceeding with specific factors that the tribunal should consider in modifying or terminating the covenants
(5) leaseholders with long leases can enter into conservation covenants for the term of their lease
Plus oh so much more.The differences between the proposed law and the US laws is significant.
I'd be really interested to hear both what consultees said in response to this paper and what you would change here in the US if we were to rewrite our conservation easement laws. (I have my own little wishlist of course).
- Jessica Owley
Friday, July 19, 2013
Well looks like we are about half-way through the summer (depending on the schools schedules in your family). Instead of embarking on a new project this summer, I have committed myself to finish up several projects that have been lingering. One project that is oh so close to completion is a book chapter I wrote for a Cambridge University Press book that Keith Hirokawa is editing.The book is entitled Environmental Law and Contrasting Ideas of Nature: A Constructivist Approach and I think should hit bookshelves before the end of the year. Keith asked me to tackle the subject of nature versus perpetuity, with a particular emphasis on property law. I easily agreed because the topic seemed a natural one for me, but then I had trouble with it. My thesis was: perpetual static property rules make little sense in a changing world. Perfect! The problem was that Keith wanted something longer than a sentence.
As I delved deeper into these issues (and I would be hard pressed to label my approach "constructivist"), I became intrigued with thinking about why we have perpetual static tools. Now, I don't mean how they have evolved. I have written mind-numbingly boring fascinating articles about that in the past. Instead, I was intrigued with what it is about us as individuals that crafts our approach to land conservation the way that we do. In this research, I became intrigued by a few different pschological concepts. In very simple terms, we are not good at thinking about the future. First, when problems and issues are too big, our brains simplify them to make them digestible (or sometimes we just ignore them). Second, when making projections about future conditions, we tend to be overly optimistic. Layer these traits onto a policy for long-term land conservation in an era of increasing landscape changes and you start to see why we have problems. Although the chapter considers other subjects (including how current property laws fail to mesh with lessons from conservation biology), the brief psychology discussion was the most fun for me. Makes me pretty durn thankful that I work at an interdisciplinary school like Buffalo where I could just knock on the door of the psychologist (Chuck Ewing) whose office is next door to mine.
Interested in checking out the book chapter? You can find it here and the formal abstract is below. Interested in seeing what else appears in this book? A few other chapters have been popping up on SSRN as well including ones by Mike Burger, Jonathan Rosenbloom, Robin Kundis Craig, Tony Arnold, and Irus Braverman.
Property Constructs and Nature's Challenge to Perpetuity
Conservation biology and ecology (as well as our eyes and ears) tell us that nature is in a constant state of flux. Yet, models of land conservation focus on preserving the present state of land in perpetuity. Legal concepts that center on the status quo turn a blind eye to the fact that nature is ever-changing. This conflict is illustrated by examining both traditional property servitudes and conservation easements. These restrictions on private land often explicitly state that they are preserving today’s landscape in perpetuity. This chapter explores the inherent conflict between the changing natural world and rigid legal structures, detailing the struggles of applying principles like resiliency thinking and adaptive management to property tools for conservation. It also explores why this disconnect occurs including some discussion of environmental psychology
- Jessie Owley
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Brian Lee (Brooklyn) has posted Just Undercompensation: The Idiosyncratic Premium in Eminent Domain, 113 Colum. L. Rev. 593 (2013). Lee presents an interesting challenge to recent scholarship recognizing "confiscation of the uncompensated increment" to use Lee Fennell's terminology. The article does not reject above-market compensation altogether but instead criticizes premium approaches for redistributing wealth to the already well-off. Here's the abstract:
When the government exercises its power of eminent domain to take private property, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that the property's owners receive "just compensation," which the Supreme Court has defined as equal to the property’s fair market value. Today, a well-established consensus exists on three basic propositions about this fair market value standard. First, the standard systematically undercompensates owners of taken property, because market prices do not reflect owners' personal valuations of particular pieces of property. Second, this undercompensation is unfair to those owners. And third, an appropriate way to rectify this problem is to add fixed-percentage bonuses to the amount of compensation paid. Several states have recently enacted laws requiring such bonuses, and prominent academics have endorsed their adoption. This Article, however, argues that all three of these widely accepted propositions are false. First, examining the economics of market-price formation reveals that fair market value includes compensation for more subjective value than previously recognized. Second, much of what market value leaves uncompensated should not, in fairness, receive compensation. Third, although justice may require paying compensation above fair market value in certain situations, this Article argues that the solution favored by academics and recent state legislation is itself unjust, undermining the civic and moral equality of rich and poor property owners by relatively overcompensating the rich while undercompensating the poor for losses which have equal value to rich and poor alike. The Article concludes by showing how an alternative approach can avoid these fairness problems.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
It's time once again for the "Professors' Corner" teleconference sponsored by the ABA's Real Property, Trusts, & Estates section. This month's call features different recent cases to be discussed by John Orth (North Carolina), Tanya Marsh (Wake Forest), and yours truly (South Texas). See the writeup below for details on the call-in and the cases. Also, if you're a property or land use prof who might be interested in participating in future calls (I recommend it), get in touch with Tanya.
Professors’ Corner: Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Professors’ Corner is a monthly free teleconference sponsored by the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section's Legal Education and Uniform Laws Group. Each month’s call features a panel of law professors who discuss recent cases or issues of interest to real estate practitioners and scholars. Members of the AALS Property Section are invited to participate in the call (as well as to join and become involved in the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section).
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
12:30 p.m. Eastern time (11:30 a.m. Central, 9:30 a.m. Pacific). Call is ONE HOUR in length.
Call-in number: 866-646-6488
This month’s program involves some recent case developments on issues of interest to both Real Property and Trust and Estate practitioners. Our featured speakers will be Professors John Orth, Tanya Marsh, and Matt Festa.
John Orth is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill, NC, where he has taught since 1978. He teaches Property, Advanced Property, Trusts and Estates, and Legal History. He has published extensively on the subjects of property, legal history, and state constitutional law. Prof. Orth is a contributing author to the treatise Thompson on Real Property for the subject of concurrent estates, and has served as an Associate Editor and a contributor to the American National Biography series. Prof. Orth will be discussing Reicherter v. McCauley, a Kansas appellate decision addressing whether one joint tenant can effect a “secret severance” of a joint tenancy via a quitclaim deed to himself via a deed executed in anticipation of death. Time permitting, he will also discussBridgeview Bank Group v. Callaghan, a recent Florida appellate decision addressing whether a creditor may introduce evidence to rebut the presumption that a deed to a married couple was intended to create a tenancy by the entirety. Here’s a link to Reicherter: http://www.kscourts.org/cases-and-opinions/Opinions/CtApp/2012/20120713/106622.pdf
And to Callaghan: http://www.flprobatelitigation.com/uploads/file/4D11-631_op.pdf
Tanya Marsh is an Associate Professor of Law at the Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, NC, where she began teaching in 2010, following ten years practicing real estate and corporate law in Indianapolis, Indiana. She teaches Property and Real Estate Transactions, and is a contributing editor to the Property Prof Blog. Prof. Marsh is the incoming Chair of the Real Property Division Legal Education Committee for the ABA Real Property, Trust & Estate Law Section. She will be discussing In re Estate of Whalen, a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision addressing whether Iowa’s Final Disposition Act allows a surviving spouse to disregard the deceased spouse’s written burial instructions. Here’s a link to the Whalen decision: http://www.iowacourts.gov/Supreme_Court/Recent_Opinions/20130222/12-1927.pdf
Matt Festa is a Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, TX, where he has taught since 2007. He teaches and researches in the areas of property law and land use, state & local government, energy & environmental law, trusts & estates, legal history, and national security law. He is the editor of the Land Use Prof blog. Matt will be discussing a Texas Supreme Court decision, Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline — Texas, LLC, in which the Court addressed whether a “common carrier” pipeline company with statutory authority to exercise eminent domain may do so for the construction of a private pipeline. Here’s a link to the decision: http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2012/mar/090901rh.pdf
Monday, June 10, 2013
Margaret F. Brinig (Notre Dame) and Nicole Stelle Garnett (Notre Dame) have posted A Room of One's Own? Accessory Dwelling Unit Reforms and Local Parochialism, forthcoming in The Urban Lawyer (2013). The abstract:
Over the past decade, a number of state and local governments have amended land use regulations to permit the accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) on single-family lots. Measured by raw numbers of reforms, the campaign to secure legal reforms permitting ADUs appears to be a tremendous success. The question remains, however, whether these reforms overcome the well-documented land-use parochialism that has, for decades, represented a primary obstacle to increasing the supply of affordable housing. In order to understand more about their actual effects, this Article examines ADU reforms in a context which ought to predict a minimal level of local parochialism. In 2002, California enacted state-wide legislation mandating that local governments either amend their zoning laws to permit ADUs in single-family zones or accept the imposition of a state-dictated regulatory regime. We carefully examined the zoning law of all California cities with populations over 50,000 people (150 total cities) to determine how local governments actually implemented ADU reforms “on the ground” after the state legislation was enacted. Our analysis suggests that the seeming success story masks hidden local regulatory barriers. Local governments have responded to local political pressures by delaying the enactment of ADU legislation (and, in a few cases, simply refusing to do so despite the state mandate), imposing burdensome procedural requirements that are contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the state-law requirement that ADUs be permitted “as of right,” requiring multiple off-street parking spaces, and imposing substantive and procedural design requirements. Taken together, these details likely dramatically suppress the value of ADUs as a means of increasing affordable housing.
This looks really interesting. Here in Houston we have a significant number of ADUs--so-called "granny flats" because--stop me if you've heard this before--Houston has no zoning to make it illegal, as this article shows it has been in single-family residentail neighborhoods around the country. These ADUs provide an important supply of affordable "inside-the-Loop" (i.e. central city area) housing.
June 10, 2013 in Affordable Housing, California, History, Housing, Houston, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Subdivision Regulations, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, May 27, 2013
The U.S. tradition of Memorial Day has a long and complex relationship with land, history, and memory. This post has some thoughts on the subject from last year.
Today was Memorial Day in the US. There are lots of land use issues that we can associate with Memorial Day, which, stripped to its essence, is designed as a day to remember the military members who died in service to the nation. There is the obvious land use issue of cemeteries, and the related legal and cultural norms governing how we memorialize the dead (check out any of the interesting blogposts or scholarship by Al Brophy and Tanya Marsh on cemeteries). It gets even more relevant when we start talking about government-owned national or veterans' cemeteries, and the attendant controversies about First Amendment and other issues. [The photo is from last year's Memorial Day ceremony at Houston National Cemetery, which my daughter attended to honor fallen Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Sauer Medlicott.] Of course, there are always land use and local government issues involved with things like parades and public ceremonies, and in many communities there are specific rules that govern the "summer season" informally commenced on Memorial Day weekend.
Check out the whole post for some info about a couple of little-known and interesting events from the early history of Memorial Day and land use, including what may be the first Memorial Day celebration, by African-Americans in Charleston on the former planters' racecourse, and a U.S. Supreme Court case about eminent domain for historic preservation on Gettysburg National Battlefied.
We hope you had a safe and happy Memorial Day.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Mark Edwards (William Mitchell) has posted The Paradoxes of Restitution, forthcoming in the West Virginia Law Review. The abstract:
Restitution following mass dispossession is often considered both ideal and impossible. Why? This article identifies two previously unnamed paradoxes that undermine the possibility of restitution.
First, both dispossession and restitution depend on the social construction of rights-worthiness. Over time, people once considered unworthy of property rights ‘become’ worthy of them. However, time also corrodes the practicality and moral weight of restitution claims. By the time the dispossessed ‘become’ worthy of property rights, restitution claims are no longer practically or morally viable. This is the time-unworthiness paradox.
Second, restitution claims are undermined by the concept of collective responsibility. People are sometimes dispossessed because collective responsibility is unjustly imposed on them for wrongs committed by a few members of a group. But restitution may require the dispossession of innocent current occupiers of land – thus imposing a type of collective responsibility on them. Therefore, restitution can be seen as committing the very wrong it purports to right. This is the collective responsibility paradox.
Both paradoxes can be overcome, but only if we recognize the rights-worthiness of others before time fatally corrodes the viability of restitution. We must also draw a careful distinction between the imposition of collective rights-unworthiness, which results in the mass dispossession of others, and the voluntary acceptance of collective responsibility, which results in the restitution of others.
After developing these ideas, the article examines them in the context of a particularly difficult and intractable case of dispossession and restitution. It draws upon interviews with restitution claimants whose stories reveal the paradoxes of restitution.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Stephanie Stern (Chicago-Kent) has posted The Dark Side of Town: The Social Capital Revolution in Residential Property. Here's the abstract:
Social capital has pervaded property law, with scholars and policymakers advocating laws and property arrangements to promote social capital and relying on social capital to devolve property governance from legal institutions to resident groups. This Article challenges the prevailing view of social capital’s salutary effects with a more skeptical account that examines the dark side of residential social capital — its capacity to effectuate local factions and promote restraints and inegalitarianism that close off property. I introduce a set of claims about social capital’s dark side in residential property and explore these points through the examples of local racial purging, land cartels, and residential self-governance. First, contrary to the assumption of a social capital deficit, residential racial segregation and land cartelization, perhaps the deepest imprints on the American property landscape today, suggest an abundance of local social capital and possible unintended consequences of interventions to build social capital. Second, “governing by social capital,” or relying on social capital for property self-governance, may empower factions, breed conflict, and increase the demand for residential homogeneity as a proxy for cooperation. In light of the mixed evidence for social capital’s benefits and its sizable dark side, the more pressing and productive role for property law is not to promote social capital, but to address its negative spillovers and illiberal effects.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Carol Rose (Yale & Arizona) has posted Property Law and the Rise, Life, and Demise of Racially Restrictive Covenants, which is available in the 2013 edition of Powell on Real Property. Here's the abstract:
This article was given as the 6th Annual Wolf Family Lecture on the American Law of Real Property, University of Florida Levin College of Law (2013). It draws on property law discussions in Richard R.W. Brooks and Carol M. Rose, Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms (Harvard Univ. Press 2013). The article outlines the ways in which constitutional law and property law engaged in a dialog about white-only racial covenants from their early twentieth-century origins to the middle of the twentieth century and beyond. After a shaky beginning, both constitutional law and property law became relatively permissive about racial covenants by the 1920s. But proponents of racial covenants had to work around property law doctrines — including seemingly arcane doctrines like the Rule Against Perpetuities, disfavor to restraints on alienation, "horizontal privity," and "touch and concern." Moreover, property law weaknesses gave leverage to civil rights opponents of covenants, long before Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), the major constitutional case that made these covenants unenforceable in courts. Even after Shelley's constitutional decision, property law continued to be a contested area for racial covenants, with echoes even today.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Lee Fennell (Chicago) has posted Crowdsourcing Land Use, 78 Brook. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2013). In it she looks ahead to the possibilities for emerging information technology to provide platforms for sharing data about land use impacts and preferences as well as landowner intentions. The last of these involves a proposal for the creation of publicly facilitated options markets in land use rights, an idea she previously outlined in her 2011 piece Property and Precaution (Journal of Tort Law, 2011). Here's the abstract for the Crowdsourcing article:
Land use conflicts arise from information shortfalls, and avoiding them requires obtaining and using information. Yet traditional forms of land use control operate in relative ignorance about landowner intentions, about preferences for patterns of land use that do not presently exist, and, more fundamentally, about land use impacts as they are experienced on the ground. Because information is expensive to gather and use, this ignorance may be rational. New technological and theoretical advances, however, offer powerful ways to harness and deploy information that lies dispersed in the hands of the public. In this symposium essay, I assess the prospects for an increased role for crowdsourcing in managing land use, as well as the limits on this approach. Governments must do more than elicit, aggregate, coordinate, and channel the preferences, intentions, and experiences of current and potential land users; they must also set normative side constraints, manage agendas, and construct appropriately scaled platforms for compiling and using information.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Nestor Davidson (Fordham) has posted New Formalism in the Aftermath of the Housing Crisis, Boston University Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 389, 2013. The abstract:
The housing crisis has left in its wake an ongoing legal crisis. After housing markets began to collapse across the country in 2007, foreclosures and housing-related bankruptcies surged significantly and have barely begun to abate more than six years later. As the legal system has confronted this aftermath, courts have increasingly accepted claims by borrowers that lenders and other entities involved in securitizing mortgages failed to follow requirements related to perfecting and transferring their security interests. These cases – which focus variously on issues such as standing, real party in interest, chains of assignment, the negotiability of mortgage notes, and the like – signal renewed formality in nearly every aspect of the resolution of mortgage distress. This new formalism in the aftermath of the housing crisis represents something of an ironic turn in the jurisprudence. From the earliest history of the mortgage, lenders have had a tendency to invoke the clear, sharp edges of law, while borrowers in distress have often resorted to equity for forbearance. The post-crisis caselaw thus upends the historical valence of lender-side formalism and borrower-side flexibility.
Building on this insight, this Article makes a normative and a theoretical claim. Normatively, while scholars have largely embraced the new formalism for the accountability it augurs, this consensus ignores the trend’s potential negative consequences. Lenders have greater resources than consumers to manage the technical aspects of mortgage distress litigation over the long run, and focusing on formal requirements may distract from responding to deeper substantive and structural questions that still remain largely unaddressed more than a half decade into the crisis. Equally telling, from a theoretical perspective, the new formalism sheds light on the perennial tension between law’s supposed certainty and equity’s flexibility. The emerging jurisprudence underscores the contingency of property and thus reinforces – again, ironically – pluralist conceptions of property even in the crucible of hard-edged formalism.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Lee Anne Fennell (Chicago) has posted Property in Housing, 12 Academia Sinica Law Journal 31 (2013). The abstract:
The question of how to structure and package the residential experience is a deeply interesting and difficult one. How physically large or small should residential holdings be? How densely should they be clustered? Should spaces for working, recreating, cooking, and bathing be contained within the private residential unit, shared with other households, or procured a la carte? How permanent should the connection be between a household and a living space? How much control should households have over the environment surrounding the dwelling unit? Answers to these and many other queries differ both within and between societies. This keynote address, delivered at Academia Sinica’s Fourth Conference on Law and Economic Analysis in June 2012, shows how a law and economics perspective that emphasizes problems of scale can illuminate the task of configuring residential property optimally.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Marc Poirier (Seton Hall) has posted Brazilian Regularization of Title in Light of Moradia, Compared to the United States’ Understandings of Homeownership and Homelessness, __ U. Miami Inter-Am. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming). Here's the abstract:
This Essay considers the cultural resonances of regularization of title (regularização) for homeownership in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It compares those resonances to the cultural meaning of homeownership in the United States. Brazil’s approach is informed by an understanding of moradia, a right to dwell someplace, that is a far cry from its typical English translation as a right to housing. Brazil also draws on constitutional provisions and a long Latin American tradition concerning the social function of property, as well as a general theoretical understanding of the right to the city and of cidadania, a certain kind of citizenship. All of these frames construct homeownership as a gateway to interconnection and full participation in the life of the city. This is distinctly different from the individualistic cast of the prevailing understanding of homeownership in the United States, as personal success and the achievement of wealth, status, and a private castle.
The Essay also considers the standard United States construction of homelessness, which again tends to frame the issue in terms of individual responsibility or blame or of the role of institutional structures as they affect individuals, and typically fails to recognize the effect of having no property on relationships and interconnectedness and ultimately citizenship. The Essay advances five reason for the differences between Brazilian and United States understandings of homeownership. These include very different histories concerning the distribution of public lands; the absence in United States property jurisprudence of anything like the notion of a social function of property; the physical invisibility of informal communities in the United States; United States jurisprudence’s rejection of vague, aspirational human rights claims as law; and an insistence in United States jurisprudence on legal monism and an abstract, universalizing account of property ownership that valorizes one-size-fits-all law rather than case-by-case accounts of how land and dwellings are managed by various local communities.
Finally, the Essay observes a recent groundswell of United States scholarship that debunks “A own Blackacre” as an adequate account of the ownership of land and homes, insisting on a more race- and class-informed account as to both the history of homeownership and possible solutions for providing secure dwelling for the poor. The Essay recommends a convergence of studies of informal communities worldwide with a more nuanced, race- and class-informed understanding of homeownership.