Tuesday, June 30, 2015
While everyone was rightly focused on the flurry of historic decisions at the end of the Supreme Court term (including the raisins takings case, my personal favorite) the court also granted cert in an interesting sign regulation case that, until now, was not on my radar. Robert Thomas, head of the eminent domain committee of the ABA's State & Local Government Law Section, posted an interesting summary of the case on his blog:
Central Radio placed a banner on the side of its building protesting government’s attempt to take the building by eminent domain. The City of Norfolk quickly cited Central Radio for violating the City’s sign code, despite not having enforced the code against any other political sign in at least a quarter-century. Although the sign code prohibited Central Radio’s protest banner, it exempts various other categories of signs from regulation. For example, Central Radio’s banner would have been allowed if, rather than protesting city policy, it depicted the city crest or flag.
The day after this Court heard argument in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, No. 13-502, the Fourth Circuit, over a dissent from Judge Gregory, upheld Norfolk’s sign code. Following the approach adopted by the Ninth Circuit in Reed, the Fourth Circuit found the challenged provisions content-neutral. Applying intermediate scrutiny to the sign code, it held that Norfolk was justified in restricting Central Radio’s banner because some passersby had honked, waved, or shouted in support of it.
The questions presented are:
1. Does Norfolk’s mere assertion of a content-neutral justification or lack of discriminatory motive render its facially content-based sign code content neutral and justify the code’s differential treatment of Central Radio’s protest banner?
2. Can government restrict a protest sign on private property simply because some passersby honk, wave, or yell in support of its message?
Given the court's general hostility to sign regulation (see, e.g. Reed v. Gilbert as discussed above and covered in this WaPo story) is the outcome in this forthcoming case a forgone conclusion?
Jamie Baker Roskie
Friday, August 24, 2012
Daniel R. Mandelker (Washington University) has published a new book on the important topic of sign regulation under the First Amendment: Free Speech Law for On Premise Signs (2012). Professor Mandelker's short summary:
The handbook explains the free speech law that determines how sign ordinances for on premise signs should be drafted. It first discusses the general free speech principles that apply, and next the free speech law that applies to different types of signs and the regulations that apply to these signs, such as height and setback requirements and design review.
Free Speech Law for On Premise Signs is available for free download at the United States Sign Council website, and also at Professor Mandelker's excellent website Land Use Law (the website--a companion to the Mandelker et al. Casebook, has a great collection of statutes, cases, scholarship, photos, and other resources for land use students and practitioners).
One of my most interesting teaching experiences was having a nontraditional student who was semi-retired from the billboard business; his experiences of the interaction between free speech law and sign regulation were what inspired him to go to law school. Free Speech Law for On Premise Signs, which explains these sophisticated legal concepts in a readable and practical way, will be very valuable to any planner, policymaker, or lawyer whose work brings them into this area.
Monday, April 4, 2011
As many of you might be aware, the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four has been this weekend in Houston, where I live and teach. As I write this, the championship game is set to tip off in about an hour in Reliant Stadium, about a mile from my home. So of course you must be thinking "how is Festa going to turn this into a land use issue?"
Already done, with my students' help. On the first day of the semester, to make the point that land use issues intersect with almost everything that goes on in our communities, I put up the home page of the Houston Chronicle and challenged them to explain the land use issues in a given story. The lead story was something about the then-upcoming Final Four. So here's some of what we came up with on the fly:
Land assembly--where did they get the land to build the stadium and the parking? It's next to the old Astrodome (you can see a corner of it in the picture), so I don't believe eminent domain was needed this time around, but you know that's always a big issue with new sports stadiums.
Use--the Reliant/Astrodome complex was just used up until about two weeks ago for one of the nation's largest Livestock Show & Rodeo events with accompanying carnival. It's impressive that they could retrofit for the Final Four so quickly.
Transportation--can people get there? Do the roads need to be widened, etc.? If so, who pays, and are there legal changes needed? Houston has a seven-year old light rail that goes from downtown through the Texas Medical Center to the stadium, and it's been quite busy the past weekend. Also, there've been lots of limos, helicopters, and blimps around town the last few days--where do they go?
Local government--the stadium is goverened not by the City of Houston, but by an independent quasi-public County Sports Authority. Plus the transportation is governed by a separate Metro agency. However a lot of coordination is necessary for big events like the Final Four.
Facilities--lots of people coming in from all over the country; where do they stay, etc. For example, I took a ULI-sponsored construction site tour about a year ago of the just-opened Embassy Suites downtown. The city's goal was to get a hotel opened in time for the Final Four, so there was a fairly complicated tax incentive scheme put in place that involved changing the law to provide an occupancy-tax break for new hotels sited in a particular space (and they say we don't have zoning based on use). The incentivized siting was between the light rail and the new Discovery Green park--where a lot of free concerts have been given as part of the festivities--and the downtown convention center, where the "Bracketown" official hoopla program was held. All of this is just a few blocks from where I teach at South Texas College of Law. Discovery Green is itself also a recently-built and critically acclaimed new urban park and public space. Finally, all of the planning and coordination that involves a city's hosting a big event requires lots of logistics, regulatory changes, and many many permit approvals, for things ranging from temporary buildings to new signs.
So my students and I think there are a lot of land use issues involved with having the Final Four in town, and it goes to show that even in the Unzoned City, there are many ways that land use gets regulated and controlled. It's been fun having all the activity in town, and . . . Go Butler!
UPDATE: It wasn't to be for the underdogs, so congrats to Connecticut. The photo above was taken by Natalie Festa at almost the exact time that the national championship game tipped off. "The Road Ends . . ." = land use metaphor? Tuesday is the women's championship--don't tell my fellow Texans that I'll be pulling for Notre Dame vs. A&M.
April 4, 2011 in Development, Downtown, First Amendment, Green Building, History, Houston, Humorous, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, Signs, Sun Belt, Teaching, Texas, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, January 29, 2011
U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis issued his decision yesterday in O'Brien v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. Finding it contrary to the First Amendment, the court invalidated a 2009 Baltimore City ordinance that required any organization advertising pregnancy-related services to disclose through signage lack of counseling or referrals for abortions or birth control. The Archdiocese of Baltimore brought the suit on behalf of its pregnancy counseling centers operating in Baltimore. According to today's article in the Baltimore Sun, City Solicitor George Nilson will advise Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, lead sponsor of the bill while she was on the City Council, to appeal.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Timothy Zick (William & Mary) has posted "Summum," the Vocality of Public Places, and the Public Forum, forthcoming in Brigham Young University Law Review, 2011. The abstract:
This contribution to a symposium on the emerging complexities of government speech focuses on Pleasant Grove City v. Summum. Summum is a remarkable decision in several respects. It represents many firsts in terms of the Supreme Court's public speech jurisprudence: First to hold that the public forum doctrine is out of place in a public park (a traditional public forum); first to treat a public park as a channel of governmental speech; and first to expressly engage the communicative aspects (the vocality) of public place. Because the Court dispatched the public forum doctrine so quickly, one might think the decision has nothing much to say about the concept or status of the public forum. To the contrary, this piece contends that a close reading of Summum shows that the decision’s analysis and rationale may have a substantial effect on private speech rights in public places. The government speaker is not like any other speaker in a park or other public place. Its voice is louder, and its right to remain is stronger, than that of any private speaker. Most importantly, of course, government speakers have the power to exclude other voices. This piece argues that the Court’s conception of public places as channels of governmental speech, its heavy reliance on the analogy of private property ownership, and its suggestion that public places such as parks themselves convey governmental identity claims threaten to undermine fundamental tenets of the public forum concept and to limit private speech in public places.
November 18, 2010 in Aesthetic Regulation, Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Federal Government, First Amendment, Judicial Review, Local Government, Property Rights, Scholarship, Signs, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)