Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Congress of New Urbanism (courtesy of Yelp!)

Last week, Buffalo hosted the 22nd Congress for New Urbanism. With a constrained conference budget, I was planning on just scoping out the (numerous) public events. Then conference funding came through from a surprising source. I actually won free conference registration via Yelp! (yes it pays to  be elite). I am not sure what it says about academia when we have to look to social media to help with our research funding but I was happy to get in the door!

CNU 22 was a mixture of the inspirational and the mundane. It was amazing to see people from all over the country (and particularly so many from Buffalo) coming together to think about how to improve your communities. I bathed in the local pride (feeling the Buffalove as we say around here) and heard inspiring tales about efforts in Toronto, Minneapolis, DC, and Milwaukee. But nothing was actually radical. In some ways this is an encouraging story. It no longer seems crazy to argue that suburban sprawl is destroying community. I really didn't need convincing that we should have more walkable or bikable cities. There seems to be general agreement on what elements make for a thriving urban environment and largely agreement from the attendees on how to get there (community involvement, form based codes, economic development). Thus, while I enjoyed myself and met some fascinating folks I left the conference with an empty notebook. Maybe I just attended the wrong sessions, but I wonder what types of legal changes we might need, what type of property tools we can use, and of course who is gonna fund it all. Any suggestions?

June 11, 2014 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Conferences, Downtown, Economic Development, Form-Based Codes, New Urbanism, Pedestrian, Planning, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Cul-de-Sacs are Bad for You

Nowadays I usually get inspired to post on this blog by things that appear in my Facebook feed. Due to my long association with UGA Law many of my friends are in Georgia, and Georgia-related news gets lots of play.   Recently a few land use savvy friends have posted this article from Slate, "Why Cul-de-Sacs Are Bad for Your Health." 

My first thought - "Isn't this something the New Urbanists have been telling us for, oh, 20 years or so?" Andres Duany has certainly been on the topic for a long time - his book Suburban Nation came out in 2001.

But, this article supports the truth many of us have known for awhile - that living in the suburbs and commuting by car has a negative impact on one's health.  This is being confirmed by a recent study at Georgia Tech.  The article makes for interesting reading, regardless of where you live.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 11, 2013 in Development, DPZ, Exurbs, Georgia, Housing, New Urbanism, Pedestrian, Smart Growth, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Iglesias on the Legality of Local Inclusionary Zoning Ordinances

Tim Iglesias (USF) has recently published Framing Inclusionary Zoning: Exploring the Legality of Local Inclusionary Zoning and its Potential to Meet Affordable Housing Needs, 36 No. 4 Zoning and Planning Law Report 1 (2013).  The Report is a West publication, so even if you cannot find the piece on SSRN or bepress, it is available here at Westlaw (login required). Apart from clicking on the link, you can copy the citation above into the Find By Citation box on the Westlaw sidebar.

Tim's briefly examines how opponents and supporters have attempted to frame various kinds of inclusionary zoning ordinances as land use regulation, exactions, rent control or something distinct from all three.  His review of leading cases on the validity of local inclusionary zoning measures looks at each of the three frames in turn, with the latter two involving state preemption as well as constitutional issues. 

I don't plan on returning to the Land Use Planning course for a few semesters, but I recommend this piece as supplemental reading for students trying to get their heads around the legal vulnerability of inclusionary zoning ordinances, particularly in the wake of Koontz.

Jim K.

August 23, 2013 in Affordable Housing, Constitutional Law, Inclusionary Zoning, Local Government, Scholarship, Smart Growth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to Manage Smart Decline: Should We Demolish Vacant Buildings?

 

I stumbled across a recent artcle in Applied Geography that I think may be of interest to our readers. I got even more excited when I realized the piece was from colleagues in SUNY Buffalo's Geography Department. Amy Frazier, Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, and Jason Knight examine the effect of demolition on land-use patterns and changes in human-environment interactions.

While many cities are worried about smart growth and we land use profs spend a lot of time thinking about it, shrinking cities like Buffalo face another challenge: smart decline. The authors (and others) have convinced me that maintaining pro-growth policies in a shrinking city is ill-advised. Instead of thinking we're going to suddenly grow Buffalo, let's think about how we can grow smaller gracefully. Smart decline policies include things like land banks, urban farming, and green infrastructures.

Frazier et al. look at the smart decline policy of demolition. Earlier studies (as well as conventional wisdom) suggest that vacant buildings attract criminal activities (the broken window effect). This study examined a five-year demolition program in Buffalo to assess whether demolitions of vacant buildings actually lead to reduced crime. Their results are fascinating and like all of the best projects point out areas where more research is needed. The big take aways seem to be that there may be some local reductions in crime, but that likely means that the criminal activity is pushed elsewhere. This can have unanticipated impacts on surrounding areas, transportation needs, housing values etc. Such policies need to examine the way that demolitions will shift land uses and impact human-environment interactions. To do so in a successful way will necessarily include regional approaches.

Amy E. Frazier, Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, & Jason Knight, The Spatio-temporal Impacts of Demolition Land Use Policy and Crime in a Shrinking City 41 Applied Geography 55 (2013)

ABSTRACT: Land use change, in the form of urbanization, is one of the most significant forms of global change, and most cities are experiencing a rapid increase in population and infrastructure growth. However, a subset of cities is experiencing a decline in population, which often manifests in the abandonment of residential structures. These vacant and abandoned structures pose a land use challenge to urban planners, and a key question has been how to manage these properties. Often times land use management of these structures takes the form of demolition, but the elimination of infrastructures and can have unknown and sometimes unintended effects on the human-environment interactions in urban areas. This paper examines the association between demolitions and crime, a human-environment interaction that is fostered by vacant and abandoned properties, through a comparative statistical analysis. A cluster analysis is performed to identify high and low hot spots of demolition and crime activity, specifically assault, drug arrests, and prostitution, over a 5-year period. Results show that there is an association between the area targeted for significant demolition activity and the migration of spatial patterns of certain crimes. The direction of crime movement toward the edges of the city limits and in the direction of the first ring suburbs highlights the importance of regional planning when implementing land use policies for smart decline in shrinking cities.

Jessie Owley

May 1, 2013 in Community Design, Crime, Density, Downtown, Environmental Justice, Housing, Local Government, New Urbanism, Planning, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 30, 2012

California flirts with new environmental review exemptions for infill projects

Anyone who has practiced or studied land use law in a state with a strong environmental review process knows how that environmental review process often comes to override the land use permitting process.  In particular, urban projects have often suffered from an environmental review process that works better for reviewing greenfield projects, and also from more litigious groups of neighbors that use environmental review procedures either to oppose the project, or seek "mitigations" that benefit neighboring property owners.  On the other hand, efforts to ease the environmental review burdens on infill projects often run into a roadblock of environmental groups that believe exemptions for infill projects will likely only lead to more exemptions and a gutting of the entire law itself (the "slippery slope" argument). 

This fight has been ongoing in California, and other states, for decades.  Several infill exemption provisions from the state's California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA", pronounced "SEE-kwa") look good on paper, but are essentially unworkable if there are litigious parties involved.  Such unworkable exemptions are in the state's landmark SB375 legislation that seeks to link land use and transportation:  the list of requirements for applicability of the exemption apply to, well, about absolutely nowhere.  Another unworkable exemption is CEQA Guidlines section 15332, which is seldom used where litigation is possible.

With the passage of SB 226 in 2011, however, the state is once again taking a hard look at exemptions for urban infill projects.  Under a mandate of SB 226, the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, now headed by Ken Alex, a well-respected former senior assistant attorney general who ran the California Attorney General's environmental division, has drafted a proposed new CEQA Guideline for urban infill exemptions that was released on June 25, 2012 after epic public commenting.  The proposed CEQA Guideline is now going through formal rulemaking processes at the state's Natural Resources Agency. A cheat sheet on the new proposed infill exemption is available here.  If you want to keep up-to-date on the California infill exemption hearings, you can do so by adding your name at this link.

California's purpose for pursuing the infill exemption is now structured in terms of the climate change debate, but decades ago, the need for such legislation was structured in terms of "sprawl" or "smart growth."  We all know that it is harder to build in urban areas than in greenfields, and there needs to be a way to level that playing field and encourage urban infill.  Following this latest effort in California will be a chance to watch this debate unfold once more, and now in the framework of the climate change debate.

Stephen R. Miller

July 30, 2012 in California, Development, Downtown, Environmental Law, Smart Growth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Strong Towns

Today I was listening to a podcast from the Congress for the New Urbanism's annual meeting last week (more on CNU 20 to come . . . ), and I heard a talk by Charles L. Marohn, Jr., the Executive Director of a nonprofit called Strong Towns.  The organization is dedicated to improving community life at the town and neighborhood level.  Here's a link to its ten Placemaking Principles for Strong Towns.

What looks like the best feature is the excellent Strong Towns Blog, which posts in-depth original analyses three times per week.  Recent posts are on topics such as "The Micro City Beautiful"; Low-Impact Development (LID) vs. New Urbanism; and weekly news digests of interesting land use and planning stories.  Check it out.

Matt Festa

May 22, 2012 in Development, Local Government, New Urbanism, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 18, 2012

New Green Zoning Provisions in NYC

The Big Apple is now greener than ever.  On April 30, the New York City Council adopted some significant changes to its zoning code designed to promote distributed renewable energy and green building practices.  These Green Zone Amendments will make it  easier for New Yorkers to gain city approvals for small wind turbines, green rooftops, solar energy installations, skylights, and similar sustainable land uses on their properties.  The NYC Department of City Planning has posted some short descriptions of the amendments on its website.

Among these new amendments are provisions that encourage rooftop wind turbines on tall buildings and that relax height and other restrictions for solar panels.  It will be interesting to see whether the amendments are able to spur a major increase in small-scale wind and solar energy development in New York City in the coming years. 

To read a New York Times interview of an NYC city planning official and real estate developer on the potential impact of these new amendments, click here.

Troy Rule

May 18, 2012 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, Green Building, New York, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Wind Energy, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sun on Smart Growth in Dumb Places

Lisa Grow Sun posted this paper last year.  It should be of great interest to land users: Smart Growth in Dumb Places: Sustainability, Disaster, and the Future of the American City.  The abstract:

One of the many lessons of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan is that we cannot mitigate disaster risk through building codes and other structural solutions alone. Location is key to a community’s natural hazard vulnerability. Consequently, the most far-reaching and important question for disaster mitigation today is where we will channel the growth that will be needed to accommodate our expanding population. Yet, both environmental scholars and policymakers are promoting sustainability initiatives that will channel our country’s future growth into existing urban areas that are already extremely vulnerable to disaster. Indeed, many of these policies - and the legal tools used to implement them - are channeling growth, not only into particularly vulnerable cities, but into the riskiest areas of those cities. This Article is the first to identify and explore this critical tension between disaster mitigation and current sustainability policies.

The impact of current and future disasters on land use is a very important policy issue.  Sun offers a different take on the conventional wisdom--which I have indulged in too--that more urbanism is always better.  Sun suggests that we should be more discerning with our prescriptions.

Matt Festa

May 18, 2012 in Environmental Law, History, Planning, Politics, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Smartcode, Sustainability, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 7, 2012

New Article on Green CC&Rs

Robert J. Aalberts and Darren A. Prum have posted an interesting new article on the use of CC&Rs to promote sustainable development.  Their article, Our Own Private Sustainable Community, features case studies of specific communities in Oregon and Maine that have written aggressive green building and other sustainability-focused provisions into their CC&Rs.  The last major section of the article describes some of the benefits and potential challenges of such an approach.  Here's the abstract:

Residential and commercial property owners have sought for centuries to develop and enrich their physical environment through private land use planning. In more recent decades, residential owners residing in community interest communities (CICs) have been particularly active in crafting an evolving array of deed restrictions contained in Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). CC&Rs, which are generally created by the CIC developer, are mutually binding and enforceable against all those who live or conduct business in self-selected residential subdivisions or commercial developments. Importantly, CC&Rs are monitored sometimes quite forcefully, under the watchful eye of an empowered planned development association.

Although the typical post World War II CC&Rs were often mundane, governing setbacks, parking and vehicular restrictions, architectural requirements, non-household animals, sight and smell nuisances, trash containment and landscaping and plants, more recent CC&Rs are venturing into new and generally uncharted waters by promoting environmental sustainability. More specifically, a growing number of CICs are establishing green building goals, such as those certified by the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) which maintains its now familiar Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED rating system. Initial attempts at promoting environmental sustainability ratings, even while opposed by some, have placed an emphasis on improved water usage and environmentally compatible landscaping, but are now expanding in ever greater directions, including architectural design requirements. This article evaluates some of the potential problems green developments likely will face in this emerging approach to private regulation through an extensive discussion of our two case studies.

The use of CC&Rs as a tool for promoting sustainable development is likely to continue to evolve in the coming years, so this article makes for a timely and thought-provoking read.

Troy Rule

May 7, 2012 in Common Interest Communities, Environmentalism, Green Building, Servitudes, Smart Growth, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Things are (Literally) Looking Up

Many thanks to Matt for inviting me back as a guest blogger!   If nothing else, a bit of blogging will provide me a productive distraction this month from grading spring semester exams.   Matt and the entire team of editors continue to do an outstanding job with the blog, and it’s absolutely one of my favorite morning reads.

I’ll use my first post to respond to Matt’s half-joking question:  why should a land use prof spend time thinking about the space above land?   After all, airspace rights receive scant attention in most land use casebooks.  Discussions of airspace rights might seem better suited for a course on aviation law.  Land use profs should stay down in the dirt, right?       

Not necessarily. Over the past few years, I've managed to convince myself that some of the most perplexing and unsettled land use conflicts of the day involve the oft-forgotten space just above the surface of land.  

For me, it all began while I was still practicing at a large law firm in Seattle.  Our wind energy developer client approached us with a puzzling question:  can a landowner be liable for stealing a neighbor’s wind?   The client and a competing developer had leased adjacent parcels for wind farms.  Our client wanted to install a wind turbine immediately upwind of one of the competitor’s turbine sites that was situated just on the other side of their common property boundary line.  If both turbines were installed, the turbulent “wake” from the upwind turbine would render the downwind turbine largely ineffective.  Only one of these two prime turbine sites could be profitably developed.  Under the law, who should prevail in this dispute over wind – the upwind party or the downwind party

While I was wrestling with that question, I stumbled upon the topic of solar access--a similar sort of airspace use conflict that involves solar energy devices instead of wind turbines.  Should landowners be liable when trees or buildings on their parcels shade a neighbor’s solar panels?  Laws Wyoming and New Mexico effectively give solar energy users strong legal protections against shading—“solar rights”—drawing analogies to water law’s prior appropriation doctrine.  But these analogies to water law are misguided, ignoring neighbors’ longstanding rights in the airspace above their land.  Better governance rules are needed for these conflicts that are capable of balancing policymakers’ general interest in promoting solar energy with the existing airspace rights of neighbors.

These wind and solar energy disputes over airspace are just two examples of how airspace is playing an increasingly crucial role in the sustainability movement.  Vertical construction and infill development that occupy additional airspace continue to be significant strategies for curbing suburban sprawl, and city-based tree planting programs are occupying more urban airspace as well.   At the same time, planners and sustainability advocates are pushing other strategies that require that more airspace be kept open.  For example, city-sponsored urban gardens need significant amounts of un-shaded sunlight to thrive, and even LEED certification standards award points for natural lighting designs that often rely on skylights, windows, and minimal shade.  When combined with the solar and wind energy uses of airspace mentioned above, these developments are collectively generating an unprecedented level of competition for scarce airspace.      

In summary, I think that airspace is very much a topic worth covering in a land use course.  There is reason to believe that the challenge of crafting policies that can fairly and efficiently govern airspace conflicts is only beginning and will continue to vex policymakers and legal scholars well into the future.

Troy Rule

May 2, 2012 in Clean Energy, Density, Development, Green Building, Planning, Property Rights, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Walmart in Athens: Now in Salon Magazine

The possibility of Walmart coming to Athens, GA has now made the mainstream (albiet on-line) media with this story in Salon:

The Athens, Ga., soul-food joint Weaver D’s has barely changed in the 20 years since its slogan, “Automatic for the People,” supplied the name of a groundbreaking R.E.M. album.

You could say the same about Athens itself. After businesses fled in the ’80s, downtown Athens rebounded as an alt-rock mecca that spawned the soundtrack of Generation X. R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic and thousands of other musicians and artists helped create what is, in many ways, today a dream city: a mixed-use, walkable urban core filled with small businesses, plenty of green space — and a music scene that rivals that of cities 10 times its size.

Cue “The End of the World as We Know It.” A multi-building mall-like shopping complex, likely to include the dreaded Walmart, has set its sights on downtown Athens. Renderings by the Atlanta-based developer Selig Enterprises show a bricked concourse surrounded by large-scale retail, including a 94,000-square-foot superstore, topped with apartments. It also includes three restaurants — two of which are over 10,000 square feet — and 1,150 parking spaces. This is new for downtown Athens, which unlike most college towns, has largely kept chains away.

“There’s an Athens style,” says Willow Meyer, a 37-year-old lawyer who moved here with her husband [UGA law prof Tim Meyer] two years ago, “and if you just import this kind of ‘Anywhere, USA’ development, the city loses something.”

Another group in metro Atlanta is also fighting a Walmart, proposed by the same company behind the Athens development.

My previous posts on this issue can be found here, here and here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 27, 2012 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, Georgia, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is Tea Sustainable?

There is a growing trend of Tea Party activism against the idea of sustainable energy. Whilst many claim to support environmental protection, Tea Partiers object to what they see as attempts by foreign international bodies, coordinating with local environmental groups and the government, to restrict private property rights. Concerned Tea party members often refer to the UN’s “Agenda 21” and what they see as its attempts to subordinate the rights of man to the needs of the environment. 

 Agenda 21 is comprehensive plan of action that calls for the integration of developmental and environmental concerns to fulfil basic needs and improve living standards for all. It has been adopted but never ratified in the United States. The Tea Party appears to be very concerned with Section I chapter 7 which refers to sustainable human settlements.  The stated goals are promoting housing for all and promoting sustainable construction, amongst other things. Even without considering the fact that “promoting” is a somewhat passive word that certainly does not evoke the idea that there will be “enforcement” of these objectives, the provision seems harmless.

  Yet the agitated tea party members object to the plan whose method of implementation includes broad concepts such as, education on patterns of consumption that do not completely deplete natural resources, one member sees the plan as “caging the humans whilst the animals run free.” Some tea party members see the non-binding UN resolution as merely a hoax to redistribute wealth. Others have gone so far as to liken the mandate of Agenda 21 to communism. Claiming it will result in government rationing of food and water a concept that they believe is at its core, Un-American.

Proponents of the movement use striking images of crowded houses and maps of the United States with nary a trace of the human population to demonstrate what they believe is the end goal of Agenda 21. Opponents to sustainable development claim, without evidence, that the program is already being implemented in states like New Jersey as part of a broader conspiracy theory, despite the fact that the sustainability in New Jersey does not indicate any ties to international or federal efforts to attain sustainability.

In New Jersey, Tea Partiers oppose the State’s proposed Strategic Plan and efforts by an organization called Sustainable New Jersey which offers municipalities monetary grants conditioned on certain actions, ranging from innocuous energy audits and waste reductions to contested sustainable community planning, collaborative land preservation programs, and carbon reduction targets. The Tea Party finds fault with Sustainable New Jersey’s mission to embrace social justice and fairness.  Among their chief complaints is a recommended ordinance reducing lot size and placing homes closer together.  Criticism varies from the “mild” allegation that such programs transfer America’s wealth to developing countries to more extreme charges that the government is clearing the way for insider businesses to exploit the land’s natural resources. The program is entirely voluntary and the New Jersey State government and Wal-Mart are its two largest benefactors. 

 Perhaps the concerns of the Tea Party would be more convincing were they grounded in pertinent law. If even some states choose to conform to international environmental standards the United States is, after all, based on a federal system that allows this. Even a cursory glance anywhere indicates that Agenda 21, which as an example demands huge new sources of material wealth to developing countries, has had little if any impact in the United States and the concept of sustainable development appears much less sinister than its opponents, who believe it is a cover up, would have you believe. In this world, a world of limited resources, it is probably a good idea for us all to be more considerate of our consumption patterns both in terms of resources and space as opposed to clinging to the idea that the world is trying to dupe us into giving up our land. 

Susan Kraham



 

February 15, 2012 in Comprehensive Plans, Planning, Politics, Property Rights, Smart Growth, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Land Use Planning in a Recession - Newton County, Georgia

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

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

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

 

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Opposition Heats Up or Wal-Mart in Athens Part III

Late last year I posted twice (here and here) about a proposal to put a mixed-use development, anchored by a 100K square foot Wal-Mart, into downtown Athens.  Today things heated up in a very Athens way, with Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers unveiling a protest song and a group called "Protect Downtown Athens" launching an incredibly thorough website analyzing many aspects of the development.  This group is supported by members and management of R.E.M., and other local movers and shakers. Release of the song has already increased coverage of this issue in the national blogosphere and MSM.  This just keeps getting more interesting!

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 1, 2012 in Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, Georgia, Local Government, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

ULI Report on What's Next in Urban Land Use

As we head into the New Year, The Urban Land Institute has also been looking ahead at the future of land use.  ULI recently issued its report What's Next? Real Estate in the New Economy.  From the press release:

A new economy is unfolding over the course of this decade, driven by an extraordinary convergence of demographic, financial, technological and environmental trends. Taken together, these trends will dramatically change urban planning, design and development through 2020, according to a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy outlines how every aspect of living, working and connecting will change in major ways, driven in large part by the values, preferences and work ethic of Generation Y, the largest generation in American history. . . .

Among the report’s findings:

  • Technology will reshape work places. Office tenants will decrease space per employee, and new office environments will need to promote interaction and dialogue. Offices will be transforming into meeting places more than work places, with an emphasis on conference rooms, break areas and open configurations. Developers will craft attractive environments to attract young, talented workers.
  • Major companies will value space that enables innovation. They will continue to pay more for space in a global gateway served by a major international airport, or in 24-hour urban centers. Hard-to-reach suburban work places will be less in demand.
  • The influx of Generation Y, now in their teens through early thirties, will change housing demand. They are comfortable with smaller homes and will happily trade living space for an easier commute and better lifestyle. They will drive up the number of single households and prompt a surge in demand for rentals, causing rents to escalate.
  • For most people, finances will still be constrained, leading to more shared housing and multi-generational households. Immigration will support that trend, as many immigrants come from places where it is common for extended families to share housing. This may be the one group that continues to drive demand for large, suburban homes.
  • The senior population will grow fastest, but financial constraints could limit demand for adult housing developments. Many will age in place or move in with relatives to conserve money. Developers may want to recast retirement communities into amenity-laden “age friendly” residences. Homes near hospitals and medical offices will be popular, especially if integrated into mixed-use neighborhoods with shops, restaurants and services.
  • Energy and infrastructure take on greater importance. Businesses cannot afford to have their network connections down, and more will consider self-generated power or onsite generator capacity. Developers, owners and investors are realizing that the slightly higher costs of energy- and water-saving technologies can pay for themselves quickly, creating more marketable and valuable assets. Ignoring sustainability issues speeds property obsolescence.

You can download the full report here

Matt Festa

December 31, 2011 in Architecture, Clean Energy, Density, Development, Downtown, Environmentalism, Finance, Green Building, Housing, Planning, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Suburbs, Sustainability, Transportation, Urbanism, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

John Norquist hearts (good) congestion

John Norquist, CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, has a thoughtful essay on the always-excellent Cities blog from The Atlantic called The Case for Congestion:

Yogi Berra once said, "nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded."

It’s certainly true that people complain about congestion. Yet it’s just as true that popular destinations tend to be crowded. Fifth Avenue in New York, Market Street in San Francisco, Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills are all congested, but people keep coming back to shop or hang out. 

Congestion, in the urban context, is often a symptom of success.

If people enjoy crowded places, it seems a bit strange that federal and state governments continue to wage a war against traffic congestion. Despite many hundreds of billions dollars spent increasing road capacity, they've not yet won; thank God. . . .

After all, congestion is a bit like cholesterol - if you don’t have any, you die. And like cholesterol, there’s a good kind and a bad kind. Congestion measurements should be divided between through-traffic and traffic that includes local origins or destinations, the latter being the "good kind." Travelers who bring commerce to a city add more value than someone just driving through, and any thorough assessment of congestion needs to be balanced with other factors such as retail sales, real estate value and pedestrian volume.

This is an important point, that not all "congestion" is the same.  And even with "bad" congestion, adding road capacity doesn't always help.

Matt Festa

December 15, 2011 in Density, Downtown, New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Leinberger on the Death of the Fringe Suburb

Christopher Leinberger (Brookings/Michigan), author of The Option of Urbanism and many other great pieces, has written The Death of the Fringe Suburb in the New York Times.  The bad news:

DRIVE through any number of outer-ring suburbs in America, and you’ll see boarded-up and vacant strip malls, surrounded by vast seas of empty parking spaces. These forlorn monuments to the real estate crash are not going to come back to life, even when the economy recovers. And that’s because the demand for the housing that once supported commercial activity in many exurbs isn’t coming back, either.

The better news:

Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.

The shift is durable and lasting because of a major demographic event: the convergence of the two largest generations in American history, the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the millennials (born between 1979 and 1996), which today represent half of the total population.

Many boomers are now empty nesters and approaching retirement. Generally this means that they will downsize their housing in the near future. Boomers want to live in a walkable urban downtown, a suburban town center or a small town, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.

The millennials are just now beginning to emerge from the nest — at least those who can afford to live on their own. This coming-of-age cohort also favors urban downtowns and suburban town centers — for lifestyle reasons and the convenience of not having to own cars.

Interesting times.

Matt Festa

November 28, 2011 in Architecture, Density, Downtown, Housing, New Urbanism, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Suburbs, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ostrow on Land Law Federalism

Ashira Ostrow (Hofstra) has posted Land Law Federalism, 61 Emory L.J. ___ (forthcoming 2012). A must-read, this foundational work explores the theoretical framework for appropriate federal intervention in the state/local-dominated area of land use regulation. Here's the abstract:

In modern society, capital, information and resources pass seamlessly across increasingly porous jurisdictional boundaries; land does not. Perhaps because of its immobility, the dominant descriptive and normative account of land use law is premised upon local control. Yet, land exhibits a unique duality. Each parcel is at once absolutely fixed in location but inextricably linked to a complex array of interconnected systems, natural and man-made. Ecosystems spanning vast geographic areas sustain human life; interstate highways, railways and airports physically connect remote areas; networks of buildings, homes, offices and factories, create communities and provide the physical context in which most human interaction takes place.

Given the traditional commitment to localism, scholars and policymakers often reflexively dismiss the potential for an increased federal role in land use law. Yet, modern land use law already involves a significant federal dimension resulting, in part, from the enactment of federal statutes that have varying degrees of preemptive effect on local authority. Moreover, this Article maintains that federal intervention in land use law is warranted where the cumulative impact of local land use decisions interferes with national regulatory objectives (such as developing nationwide energy or telecommunications infrastructure).

Finally, this Article advances an interjurisdictional framework for federal land law that harnesses (a) the capacity of the federal government, with its distance from local politics and economic pressures, to coordinate land use on a national scale and (b) the capacity of local officials, who have detailed knowledge of the land and are politically accountable to the local community, to implement land use policies.

Jim K.

 

October 11, 2011 in Climate, Development, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Globalism, Green Building, Inclusionary Zoning, Local Government, NIMBY, Planning, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Subdivision Regulations, Sustainability, Transportation, Wetlands, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why planning is overrated

It is conventional wisdom in some circles that “comprehensive planning” and sprawl are polar opposites- that planning is the enemy of sprawl.

But in fact, a comprehensive plan is almost as likely as a zoning code to be pro-sprawl. Many of the land use policies that make suburbs automobile-dependent: wide roads, long blocks, low density, single-use zoning, etc. can just as easily be found in a comprehensive plan.

For example, Alpharetta, Georgia is an outer suburb of Atlanta. Its plan’s future land use map , like the city's zoning code, lists a variety of single use zones. Most of these zones are quite low in density; the highest density, for apartments, is only 10 units per acre, barely enough to support minimal bus service. At these densities, not too many people live within walking distance of public transit, so there is not enough demand to support buses running more often than every half an hour or so, let alone rail service.

The plan also provides for numerous zones that are clearly incapable of supporting public transit, such as a “residential estate” area of 3-acre lots and a “very low density” area of half-acre lots. The plan provides that only 4% of the city’s land is to be used for apartments, as opposed to 54% for low-density residential.

Moreover, the land use map reveals that what passes for compact development in Alpharetta is not intermingled with the city’s offices; instead, high-density residential is a buffer zone between the city’s large stock of offices (near the Georgia 400 highway) and the city’s even larger stock of single-family homes. As a result, most of Alpharetta’s renters will not be able to walk to work even if they work in Alpharetta.

The transportation elements of suburban land use plans may also support car-oriented sprawl. For example, Jacksonville, Fla.'s comprehensive plan calls for 150-foot rights of way on major streets, thus effectively mandating streets with eight or ten lanes. Such streets are a bit too wide for most sane pedestrians.

In sum, comprehensive plans will typically reincorporate the status quo. So if a municipality's zoning code favors sprawling, low-density development, so will the comprehensive plan.

P.S. A more comprehensive discussion of these plans and their deficiencies is in a more extensive blog post at www.planetizen.com.

Michael Lewyn

September 15, 2011 in Comprehensive Plans, Local Government, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SGA on Hazard Mitigation Post Irene

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

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

Read the rest of the article here.

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