June 05, 2011
Power on Wallace, McHarg and their Plans for (a) Greater Baltimore
Soon after releasing the new version of his electronic land use casebook, Garrett Power (Maryland) has posted Wallace McHarg's Plans for a Greater Baltimore. Here's the abstract:
This essay considers the growth of the partnership between David Wallace and Ian McHarg into one of the nation’s dominant urban design and environmental planning firms. It focuses on the firm’s undertaking in the Greater Baltimore region in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. With the benefit of fifty years of hindsight it looks at the successes and failures of their plans for Charles Center, the Green Spring and Worthington Valleys, and the Inner Harbor. Surprisingly, prize-winning innovations praised in one generation came to be judged as the design flaws of the next. Less surprisingly, their plans to "design with nature" sometimes were used by their clients to promote racial and economic segregation.
This last sentence refers to the use of McHarg-Wallace's plans promoting ecologically sound suburban development for exclusionary planning practices even though the original plans called for environmentally sensitive siting of dense affordable housing. Check it out.
June 5, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Design, Density, Development, Environmental Justice, Environmentalism, Planning, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 19, 2011
Ramapo Village Spent $450,000 in Losing Battle over Discriminatory Zoning
Most land use professors are familiar with the town of Ramapo, New York, whose phased-growth program was upheld as constitutional nearly 40 years ago. Among other things, the court in the famed Ramapo case found that the town’s program was “far from being exclusionary” and sought only to “provide a balanced and cohesive community.” Interestingly, certain land use controls in one Ramapo village have proven far more vulnerable to constitutional challenge for their exclusionary effects.
Recently, the Village of Airmont (which is located within Ramapo) settled a lawsuit filed under the RLUIPA and Fair Housing Act relating to the Village’s zoning prohibition on boarding schools. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office brought its claim against the Village back in 2005 after the Village denied a permit application from the Hasidic Jewish Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov to construct a religious boarding school in the community.
According to recent stories in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, the Village finally settled the lawsuit a couple of weeks ago after expending more than $450,000 in legal fees. The May 9 consent decree formalizing the settlement gives the Village until October 15, 2011, to amend its zoning code to allow construction of the religious school and to otherwise bring its code into compliance with federal laws “prohibiting discrimination and unreasonable imposition on religious freedom.”
This isn’t the first time that Airmont has effectively lost a discriminatory zoning claim. According to the New York Times, the Village previously had to amend its zoning ordinances in response to a 1991 Fair Housing Act claim contesting a zoning prohibition on the use of private homes as places of worship.
These constitutional zoning challenges in the decades following the Ramapo case offer at least some support for the theory offered by Fred Bosselman back in the 1970s (see generally 1 Fla. St. L. Rev. 234, 248-50 (1973)) that exclusionary motives were partly behind the town’s famous phased-growth scheme.
May 15, 2011
Alexander on New Regionalist Approaches to Sustainable Communities
Speaking of HUD, here's a new article from Lisa T. Alexander (Wisconsisn) called The Promise and Perils of ‘New Regionalist’ Approaches to Sustainable Communities, forthcoming in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 38 (2011). The abstract:
This Article argues that "new regionalism" is a form of "new governance." New regionalist approaches include collaborative efforts between cities and outlying suburbs to resolve metropolitan challenges such as affordable housing creation, transportation and sprawl. Such practices focus on regions as key sites for the resolution of public problems that transcend traditional local government and state boundaries. New regionalist praxis responds to local government law's failure to advance equity and sustainability throughout metropolitan regions. New regionalism promotes voluntary agreements and interlocal collaborations, rather than formal government or mandated regulation to resolve regional problems. New regionalism, then, is a form of new governance. The term new governance describes problem-solving processes that shift away from traditional government and regulation, towards voluntary, public/private collaborations including multiple stakeholders. New governance supporters assert that such approaches can enhance the participation of traditionally marginalized groups in reform and lead to more equitable outcomes. This Article examines the institutional design of the Obama Administration's Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program (the "Grant Program"), as well as its initial implementation in the Madison, Wisconsin/Dane County area, as a test of these claims. This Article identifies the Grant Program's promise and perils in advancing meaningful stakeholder participation and distributive justice. The Article concludes by making recommendations to improve the Grant Program and by outlining the implications of these observations for new regionalist and new governance practice.
May 15, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Design, HUD, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, Sprawl, State Government, Suburbs, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 12, 2011
Slate Declares the "Death of the McMansion"
Read all about it here. A quote from the article:
While the evidence is fragmentary—the current reduction in average new house sizes has more to do with the preponderance of first-time buyers than an overall shift in demand—it is clear that the long recessionary cold-shower will dampen the exuberance that characterized the boom years of 2000 to 2005. That will mean smaller houses closer together on smaller lots in inner suburbs, fewer McMansions, and fewer planned communities in the distant hinterland. An alternative scenario is that American optimism will prevail and it will be business as usual, as happened during the boom of the 1950s following the Great Depression, or during the period following the Energy Crisis of 1973, when car buyers, after a brief flirtation with Japanese compact cars, embraced minivans and SUVs. But I wouldn't count on it.
Of course, there were scooped on this story last summer by CNBC, who was scooped in turn in 2009 by a builder/blogger in Dallas. Hope springs eternal, I guess. Still, to follow an (unrelated) trend to citing Dylan, the times, they are a'changin'.
Jamie Baker Roskie
March 08, 2011
Kotkin on the Protean Future of American Cities and growth at the edge
Joel Kotkin has another "New Geographer" column at Forbes challenging some prevailing attitudes about urbanism, using some early Census data. From The Protean Future of American Cities:
The ongoing Census reveals the continuing evolution of America’s cities from small urban cores to dispersed, multi-polar regions that includes the city’s surrounding areas and suburbs. This is not exactly what most urban pundits, and journalists covering cities, would like to see, but the reality is there for anyone who reads the numbers. . . .
But the bigger story — all but ignored by the mainstream media — is the continued evolution of urban regions toward a more dispersed, multi-centered form. Brookings’ Robert Lang has gone even further, using the term “edgeless cities” to describe what he calls an increasingly “elusive metropolis” with highly dispersed employment.
Rather than a cause for alarm, this form of development simply reflects the protean vitality of American urban forms. . . .
Houston Tomorrow president David Crossley, however, sees some of the same trends from Census data on the Houston region, and (tongue-in-cheek) credits the dispersal of new population into the edges as a "Brilliant Government Success":
Houston Tomorrow’s analysis shows that public policy aimed at moving growth away from our 134 towns, cities, and villages to the unincorporated areas of the 13 counties has been breathtakingly successful. In the 2000 Census, our towns and cities had 65% of all the population. In the new numbers, that share drops to 58%. That’s because fully 71% of all the growth was in unincorporated areas.
Crossley is concerned with the sprawl and reverse-urban trends that this growth indicates. This is going to be a lively debate for the foreseeable future; as more Census data comes out we can expect to see a lot more analysis. I know Kotkin's normative claims get a lot of pushback but I don't know about his descriptive analysis--the demographic numbers certainly are compelling, as Crossley's less sangine take indicates.
March 03, 2011
Speaking of the suburbs, I just got this report from Houston Tomorrow (via Planetizen) by the Sustainable Cities Collective about what sounds like a very interesting conference on "The Sustainable Suburb: Reimagining the Inner Ring" at North Carolina State. From the article:
[T]hough they once symbolized growing American modernity in the post-war period, many suburbs now suffer from the same sort of decay that has been attacking inner cities for decades.
If there’s a lesson from this, it is that the old lines drawn between city and suburb may no longer apply so neatly.
It was appropriate, then, that North Carolina State University’s 2011 Urban Design Conference, held earlier this month, focused on the “Sustainable Suburb.” Though held in a Downtown Raleigh convention hall, the meeting was enlightening in its exploration of the ways suburbs can evolve to adapt to their new realities.
Most interesting was Ellen Dunham-Jones, whose Retrofitting Suburbia (with June Williamson) has become a frequently cited handbook for people looking for ways to reconfigure their environments for a new century. The book shows how strip shopping centers can be morphed into churches and how office parks can be densified.
Sounds fascinating; check out the conference reports as well as Dunham-Jones' Retrofitting Suburbia.
March 02, 2011
Long on Sustainability v. Sprawl in the Post-Public-Lands West
Jerry Long (Idaho) explores the causes of and reasons for a community's commitment to sustainable land-use planning in his recently posted Private Lands, Conflict, and Institutional Evolution in the Post-Public-Lands West, 28 Pace Env. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2011). Here's the abstract:
As rural communities face amenity-driven population growth and globalizing culture and economic systems, the process by which those communities imagine and implement desired futures grows increasingly complex. Globalization- and technology-facilitated and amenity-driven population growth increases the value of place-bound benefit streams – including land – promoting increased levels of physical development and a changed built environment. At the same time, globalizing culture and evolving local demographics might alter local land-use ideologies, yielding a preference for resource protection and more sustainable local land-use regimes. This article engages in a theoretical and empirical exploration that seeks to answer a single question: Why, in the face of competing land-use ideologies, might a community choose to adopt a more resource-protective, or resource-sustaining, land-use regime? Ultimately, it is only upon witnessing the actual effects of previous choices on the ground – including most significant, real harm to valued social or natural amenities – that a community is able to imagine and implement a land-use regime that can protect the amenities that community values.
March 2, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Comprehensive Plans, Conservation Easements, Density, Development, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Globalism, Land Trust, Las Vegas, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Subdivision Regulations, Suburbs, Sun Belt, Sustainability, Urbanism, Water, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 09, 2011
Super Land Use Bowl
In class, we started off the week with a quick session of Current Events in Land Use (aka, what-can't-Festa-turn-into-a-land-use-issue). The topic? Super Bowl. The students were prepared. Here's what they came up with:
The weather. Of course that was on everyone's mind last week all around the country, with blizzards in the northeast and midwest, and even a snow day in Texas. But Dallas had it particularly rough, affecting travel both to and around the DFW metroplex. When the Super Bowl is held in New Jersey in 2014, the weather may be worse, but I predict that it won't cause as many problems as it did in Dallas because it isn't (usually) rational for a city like Dallas to make the local government investments in snowplows, employees, and materials (salt) that will be on hand in NJ.
The parties. The worst weather was earlier in the week, so not that big a deal, right? I didn't realize this until the big game came to Houston in 2004, but the Super Bowl brings a full 1-2 weeks of celebrities, money, and parties--everything from huge VIP bashes to public street parties. Unlike any other sports event that I know of. And these things take lots of permits, approvals, resources, and land use coordination with local governments. I even have it on good authority from a DFW land use prof that there were private helicopter services to take people from party to party. I remember my very first assignment as an associate was to research the Houston sign code for a client who wanted to do a lot of temporary advertising during the Super Bowl festivities. Probably lots of SOB issues too.
The stadium issue. I'm sure you've all heard about controversies over sports teams' demanding new facilities, and the debate over whether the projects prove as economically beneficial as promised. The nearby baseball Ballpark at Arlington was built in the early 1990s using public funding and eminent domain (under the supervision of then-owner George W. Bush). Apparently the same tactics were used for the recently-built (just in time for the team to not play in the Super Bowl!) Cowboys Stadium. Another land use issue is the location--out in the suburbs. One student told me that team owner Jerry Jones tried to get it built close to downtown, but for issues of either land assembly or zoning and permitting (or maybe tax issues too), it couldn't get done.
I'll add one more: the team names. I take no side in the Clowney-Edwards debate at Property Prof Blog (though I did see a "Cheesheads for Obama" pin at the junior scholars conference in Albany). But I like the fact that these two team names say something about their cities' histories, and of course, land uses: Pittsburgh is obviously a steel town, and Green Bay's team is named after its meat-packing industry.
So that was in land use class. In my Property I classes, I simply noted that at the end of last week I predicted that the final score would be Packers 31, Steelers 24; and that the actual score was Packers 31, Steelers 25. So there!
January 31, 2011
Judith Wegner, Annexation, and the Boehl Lectures
Thanks, Matt, for the wonderfully kind introduction. I am excited to be guest-posting on the Land Use Prof blog. Despite the flood of emails (and steady stream of students and professors wanting an associate dean's immediate attention), I read the Land Use Prof blog every day, and find the posts both helpful and thought-provoking. It is a real honor to be a part of the great work that y'all do!
For my first post, I want to share some insights from Judith Welch Wegner's Boehl Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Policy at the University of Louisville this past Thursday, January 27, and to highlight the value of a land-use lecture series generally. Professor Wegner is well known in legal education for her past roles as a 10-year Dean at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, President of AALS, member of the Order of the Coif Executive Committee, and Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In the land use field, she is known as the Burton Craige Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and for her especially influential article "Moving Toward the Bargaining Table: Contract Zoning, Development Agreements, and the Theoretical Foundations of Government Land Use Deals," 65 N.C. L. Rev. 957 (1987). I predict that she will play a major role in reviving interest in annexation as a land use legal and planning issue.
Judith gave her Boehl Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Policy on "Annexation, Urban Boundaries, and Land Use Dilemmas: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future." Her basic concern is that annexation is often disconnected from land-use planning, which results in problems of sprawl, uncoordinated growth, inadequate infrastructure, and fiscal stress. Drawing on census data and examples from North Carolina's famous "annexation wars," Judith pointed out that there are no quick-fixes, no one-size-fits-all model solutions (a point that I particularly like and have addressed most recently in "Fourth-Generation Environmental Law: Integrationist and Multimodal"). Local culture matters. Some of the worst conflicts do not arise from expanding large cities but from small municipalities in rural or at least non-urban areas, making it difficutl to get a handle on what exactly "smart growth" might mean in these low-density communities. Water and wastewater dynamics play significant roles, as do municipalities' desires to improve their fiscal health by increasing their property-tax base through annexations. When municipal annexation is difficult, though, alternatives to annexation take its place, including the proliferation of special districts, the rise of county authority over land use, and the dominance of gated communities. All in all, according to Judith, annexation conflicts demonstrate why local governance structure is a "wicked problem" but one that is critically important to land use practices and sustainable development. I am looking forward to the publications that will result from her research. Annexation issues have received too little attention in the land use legal literature.
But her lecture implicitly makes another point -- the value of a land-use lecture series. More on that tomorrow . . . . [OK, maybe not as tantalizing as who shot J.R., but hopefully something of a hook to bring you back.] Again, thanks for letting me come aboard!
January 31, 2011 in Agriculture, Common Interest Communities, Comprehensive Plans, Density, Development, Exurbs, Lectures, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Smart Growth, Sprawl, State Government, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
January 26, 2011
Panel on "Premature Subdivisions" for New Partners Conference
Call them the new ghost towns - "premature" subdivisions that have been laid out in anticipation of a continuing housing boom and unfettered growth at the periphery. In many areas there is a large surplus of already platted lots, improperly located to foster smart growth. Teton County, Idaho has granted development entitlements in the rural countryside sufficient to quadruple their population. Most of these lots have non-existent or poor services.
Even in areas that expect large increases in population, these premature subdivisions are in the wrong location to foster smart growth patterns. In Arizona's Sun Corridor, approximately one million undeveloped lots, many not even platted yet, have been entitled and would lead to further sprawl.
The current economic downturn provides an opportunity to address past impacts, better anticipate and prepare for future growth and improve property values, says senior fellow Armando Carbonell, who will be moderating a panel, Reshaping Development Patterns, at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Charlotte Feb. 3.
Carbonell sees an opportunity to redesign communities to transfer development pressure from previously approved development areas to foster more sustainable development. For example, in the suburbs of the Northeast, there are projects that remake the suburban highway, turning "edge city" districts into compact mixed-use centers, and using green infrastructure strategies for shaping new communities at the metropolitan fringe."There's a sponge-like capacity to accommodate population growth without any further peripheral development," says Carbonell.
The panelists exploring these issues will be Arthur "Chris" Nelson, Metropolitan Research Center, University of Utah, on demographic and population trends; Jim Holway, head of Western Land and Communities, the Lincoln Institute-Sonoran Institute joint venture; and Thomas Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
New Partners for Smart Growth this year marks its 10th anniversary as a collaboration of the Loal Government Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Premature subdivisions" aren't just a western or northeastern problem - we've seen a fair number of them here in Georgia as well. If any of our readers attend this session, or any other session at the New Partners conference, please send us a report!
Jamie Baker Roskie
January 10, 2011
Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy has recently released Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion and Land Value Recapture, edited by Nico Calavita (Planning-San Diego State) and Alan Mallach (Brookings). After 60 pages on the U.S., the book devotes a chapter each to Canada, England, Ireland, France, Spain and Italy. The penultimate chapter looks at inclusionary practices in a variety of other countries including India, Israel, Colombia and South Africa.
James J. Kelly, Jr.
Visiting Prof. of Law, W&L
December 14, 2010
WSJ says More Office Jobs going from Suburbs to Downtowns
For decades the trend in most American cities has been one of jobs moving from downtowns to the suburbs. A recent Wall Street Journal piece suggests that this trend may be shifting: Downtowns Get a Fresh Lease: Suburbs Lose Office Workers to Business Districts, Reversing a Post-War Trend. From the article by Anton Troianovski:
As the market for office space shows signs of recovery, the suburbs are getting left behind.
For decades, the suburbs benefited from companies seeking lower rent, less crime and a shorter commute for many workers. But now, office buildings in many city downtowns have stopped losing tenants or are filling up again even as the office space in the surrounding suburbs continues to empty, a challenge to the post-war trend in the American workplace and a sign of the economic recovery's uneven geography. . . .
Statistics show that suburban office markets were hit harder by the recession than their downtown counterparts and are recovering more slowly. The national office vacancy rate in downtowns was 14.9% at the end of the third quarter, the same level as in early 2005—while the suburban vacancy rate hit 19%, 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2005, according to data firm Reis Inc.
In the first three quarters of this year, businesses in the suburbs vacated a net 16 million square feet of occupied office space—nearly 280 football fields—while downtowns have stabilized, losing just 119,000 square feet.
You might argue that simply losing fewer square feet than the suburbs (where the harder-hit industries such as mortgage lending and home building tend to be located) doesn't necessarily presage the long-awaited Return to Downtown. But real estate guru and urbanism advocate Christopher Leinberger detects something bigger going on:
[S]ome scholars, urban advocates, and developers believe a secular shift is under way in the American workplace.
"Young people don't want to be out on the fringe...and as people are beginning to figure that out, it's beginning to get factored into office relocations," said Christopher Leinberger, a real-estate developer and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. "It's a major structural trend that we in real estate are going to have to adjust to."
The WSJ article has lots of links to photos, data, and interactive maps. Thanks to Houston Tomorrow for the pointer.
December 01, 2010
Arcosanti - City on a Hill
We went to Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona, Arizona over the holiday. It was beautiful. On the drive back to Phoenix, I insisted (over my wife's rolling eyes) that we visit Arcosanti. An experimental town founded in 1970, Arcosanti aspires to fuse architecture with ecology.
The town seeks to provide social interaction and accessibility of urban living with ecological goals ranging from spare resource use to environmental integratoin. The project-town rests on 25 acres of a 4,060 acre land preserve. Although originally envisioned for 5,000 people, Arcosanti's actual population varies between 50 and 100 people. The master plan envisions a massive complex, called Arcosanti 5000, that would dwarf the current buildings.
Despite Arcosanti's meager population, the underlying land use philosophy - arcology - is intriguing. Although certainly not new, "archology" is Paolo Soleri's concept of cities which compact human necessities in marked contrast to urban sprawl with its inherently wasteful consumption of land, energy and time. Instead of isolating people from each other and the community, the "complexification and miniaturization" of the city encourages and relies on community.
According to promomtional materials,
- an archology would need about two percent as much land as a typical city of similar population
- Archology eliminates the automobile from within the city
- The multi-use nature of archology design would put living, working and public spaces within easy reach of each other, and
- walking would be the main transportation within the city
- "Arcosanti is probably the most important experiment undertaken in our lifetime"
Our visit to the town was uninspiring. It did not meet the rhetoric above. The bronze and ceramic wind bells Soleri sells were nice, but the edifices themselves were ill kept and uninspiring. We did not get a tour of the entire town, so perhaps judment should be reserved.
Still, why only 50 residents (mostly students /educators) in a "city" that envisioned 5,000 way back in 1970? Why does Soleri himself live in Scottsdale, Arizona (a sprawling well-to-do suburb)? To me it tracks what James McWilliams calls "a problem endemic to modern environmentalism." I agree with McWilliams's suggestion that "concerned consumers are flush with noble intentions, but too often these intentions succumb to external realities."
November 11, 2010
You might be surprised at how much land use and veterans' issues have been intertwined over the course of American history. From land grants and westward expansion, to the expansion of education, to the postwar expansion of suburbia, many federal, state, and local policies have tied land use and development to an appropriate public concern for veterans; the results have been mixed. I wrote a post on these issues last year; you can read it here.
This year, we have at least one new land use/veterans issue to add: the U.S. Supreme Court decided Salazar v. Buono, which dealt with a land swap by Congress to protect a monument to servicemembers killed in World War I, placed on public land by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, that was in the shape of a cross. Read our post here, and SCOTUSblog's resource page, and check out Christoper Lund's Northwestern Colloquy article on the case.
A happy Veterans Day to all, with gratitude to those who have served in harm's way.
November 08, 2010
Adverse Possession and the Foreclosure Crisis?
This New York Times article, At Legal Fringe, Empty Houses go to the Needy, tells the story of a guy in Florida who seems to be attempting to use adverse possession to take abandoned homes and then lease them for low rent to needy families.
NORTH LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Save Florida Homes Inc. and its owner, Mark Guerette, have found foreclosed homes for several needy families here in Broward County, and his tenants could not be more pleased. Fabian Ferguson, his wife and two children now live a two-bedroom home they have transformed from damaged and abandoned to full and cozy.
There is just one problem: Mr. Guerette is not the owner. Yet.
In a sign of the odd ingenuity that has grown from the real estate collapse, he is banking on an 1869 Florida statute that says the bundle of properties he has seized will be his if the owners do not claim them within seven years.
A version of the same law was used in the 1850s to claim possession of runaway slaves, though Mr. Guerette, 47, a clean-cut mortgage broker, sees his efforts as heroic. “There are all these properties out there that could be used for good,” he said.
Apparently most of the homes are in foreclosure. Guerette has taken possession, made some improvements, and is paying the property taxes. The tenants and the neighbors--at least the ones quoted in the article, who understandably prefer occupied to abandoned houses next door--think he is doing a great thing. The State of Florida disagrees. He is being prosecuted for fraud.
Is this an innovative response to the foreclosure crisis, or is it a scam? No one likes adverse possession in theory when they first hear about it. Students always ask, like Jennifer Aniston in Office Space, "so how is that not stealing?" But of course the justification for AP--we prefer that abandoned land go to someone who will put it to its highest and best use--seems to have some application here. On the other hand, this certainly isn't a "good faith" trespass under a belief in legitimate title. The article quotes Florida law prof Michael Allan Wolf, who expresses concern that using adverse possession this way can lead to a serious disruption in chains of title and with the foreclosure process. And it's not hard to see how this kind of activity could lead to widespread confusion and potential fraud.
If this idea takes it a little too far, then what can we do about the parallel problems of massive foreclosures, abandoned buildings, and the lack of affordable housing? Thanks to Scott Rempell for the pointer.
November 8, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Financial Crisis, Housing, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages, Property, Property Theory, Real Estate Transactions, Suburbs, Sun Belt | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
October 05, 2010
Lefcoe on the Uses and Abuses of Tax Increment Financing
George Lefcoe (Southern California) has posted Competing for the Next Hundred Million Americans: The Uses and Abuses of Tax Increment Financing. The abstract:
We're working on TIFs right now in my state & local government class. Students find these animals to be challenging and interesting, because they are very powerful drivers of land use yet fairly obscure to the general public. This article helps explain TIFs and put them in the context of land use debates over density, development, and urbanism.
October 5, 2010 in Community Design, Density, Development, Environmentalism, Finance, Local Government, New Urbanism, Pedestrian, Planning, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Suburbs, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 30, 2010
Lucy's UVa Report on a Different Path to a Housing Rebound
The press release webpage includes a short, informative YouTube interview with Prof. Lucy. There is also a link to the report and to his supporting data tables. He concludes that the future of the housing market is in recognizing the demand for housing options based on location and demographics.
September 28, 2010
Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s
The National Building Museum has announced a new exhibition: Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s, from Oct. 2 (Saturday!) thru July 10, 2011. It sounds absolutely fascinating:
These world's fairs had a profound influence on American culture and ideals for land use. I've blogged about the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition before and its impact on the origins of land use planning. This group from the 1930s also had a profound impact on Americans' notions of modernism, suburbia, and even on the inspiration for Disney World (hey Chad!). Can't wait to see this next time I'm in DC. If you're going to ALPS in March, the National Building Museum is only a couple of blocks away from Georgetown Law, so definitely plan to check it out!
Between 1933 and 1940 tens of millions of Americans visited world's fairs in cities across the nation.Designing Tomorrow will explore the modernist spectacles of architecture and design they witnessed -- visions of a brighter future during the worst economic crisis the United States had known. The fairs popularized modern design for the American public and promoted the idea of science and consumerism as salvation from the Great Depression. . . .
A first-of-its-kind exhibition, Designing Tomorrow will feature nearly 200 never-before-assembled artifacts including building models, architectural remnants, drawings, paintings, prints, furniture, an original RCA TRK-12 television, Elektro the Moto-Man robot, and period film footage. The artifacts are drawn from the featured expositions: Chicago, IL—A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933–34); San Diego, CA—California Pacific International Exposition (1935-36); Dallas, TX—Texas Centennial Exposition (1936); Cleveland, OH—Great Lakes Exposition (1936-37); San Francisco, CA—Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-40); and New York, NY—New York World's Fair (1939-40).
September 25, 2010
Kotkin: Why Housing Will Come Back
On his New Geography blog for Forbes, Joel Kotkin has an essay on why he thinks there will be a resurgence in the housing market starting later this decade: Why Housing Will Come Back. He begins with a historical observation:
Few icons of the American way of life have suffered more in recent years than homeownership. Since the bursting of the housing bubble, there has been a steady drumbeat from the factories of futurist punditry that the notion of owning a home will, and, more importantly, should become out of reach for most Americans.
Before jumping on this bandwagon, perhaps we would do well to understand the role that homeownership and the diffusion of property plays in a democracy. From Madison and Jefferson through Lincoln’s Homestead Act, the most enduring and radical notion of American political economy has been the diffusion of property.
Kotkin then notes that in recent years, and especially in light of the mortgage crisis, the single-family homeownership ideal has been criticized from both the right (government overpromotion) and the left (sprawl, new urbanism, environmentalism). His response:
Yet for all the problems facing the housing market, homeownership–not exclusively single-family houses–is not likely to fade dramatically for the foreseeable future. The most compelling reason has to do with continued public preference for single-family homes, suburbs and the notion of owning a “piece” of the American dream. This is why that four out of every five homes built in America over the past few decades, notes urban historian Witold Rybczynski, have less to do with government policy than “with buyers’ preferences, that is, What People Want.
Kotkin goes on to explain several reasons why he believes housing will come back, after adjusting to the market correction imposed by the economic recession. Why I find most interesting is that his prediction is based less on economics or law than on demographics:
As boomers age, the two big groups that will drive housing will be the young Millenial generation born after 1983 as well as immigrants and their offspring. Sixty million strong, the millenials are just now entering their late 20s. They are just beginning to start hunting for houses and places to establish roots. Generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, describe millenials in their surveys as family-oriented young people who value homeownership even more than their boomer parents. They also are somewhat more likely to choose suburbia as their “ideal place to live” than the previous generation.
These tendencies are even more marked among immigrants and their children. Already a majority of immigrants live in suburbia, up from 40% in the 1970s. They are attracted in many cases by both jobs and the opportunity to buy a single-family home. For an immigrant from Mumbai, Hong Kong or Mexico City, the “American dream” is rarely living in high density surrounded by concret
An interesting take. For more writings on urban theory from the center-right perspective (e.g., Why we Have to Learn to Love the Subdivision--Again) see Kotkin's New Geography website.
September 25, 2010 in Density, Development, Environmentalism, Housing, Mortgage Crisis, New Urbanism, Planning, Real Estate Transactions, Sprawl, Suburbs, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 02, 2010
Gotta Get Back in Time
Last weekend we saw a TV rerun of the 1985 classic Back to the Future. I was reminded of something that didn't occur to me until many years after I saw it for the first time, which is that it is, subtly, an excellent land use movie. Christopher Leinberger observed this in the opening pages of his terrific book The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream. From the intro:
When I teach a graduate real estate seminar, the first homework I give to the students is watching the 1985 movie Back to the Future. The film reflects most of the fundamental changes in how America has been built over the last sixty years.
Specifically, in 1985 suburban "Hill Valley," the old downtown is dead. The public square is deserted at all hours except for the homeless; once-thriving establishments have been replaced by adult businesses; and the clock hasn't been fixed in thirty years. The new (1980s) mall at the outskirts of town now has all the action, accessible only by car (including time-machine car, or terrorist van!).
When Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly goes "back in time" to 1955 HIll Valley, he finds a vibrant downtown, where everyone walks around for work and shopping, teens go to the malt shop and the movie theater, and small businesses abound. Sacred, safe, and busy, perhaps? Back to Leinberger:
The two Hill Valleys show the only two viable divergent options we have in how to build our metropolitan built environment--which consists of the houses, roads, water and sewer lines, police and fire stations, office buildings, shops, factories, parks, and everything else that makes up where most Americans live, work, and play.
Leinberger goes on to label the 1955 version as "walkable urbanism," and proceeds from there. The Option of Urbanism has been one of the most insightful books I've read recently, and of course if you're looking for a Labor Day Weekend movie that deals with land use, you'll find Back to the Future worth a fresh look.
Now, this kind of goes downhill at the end of the movie when, in the sequel set-up, Doc goes thirty years forward and then returns in a flying car fueled by household garbage. So we can expect that in 2015?
With that, is it possible that those of us who are interested in new urbanism can now be more sympathetic with George McFly's botched pickup line: "you . . . are my . . . density!"