Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Posting from New Orleans (No. 3) -- Forging Successful Non-Profit Partnerships Following Crisis and Disaster: O.C. Haley Boulevard's Story

This blog post follows-up a pair of August 5th and August 12th New Orleans posts.  Although I’m home in Atlanta getting ready to begin the new school year, I’m continuing an observance of Katrina’s 9th anniversary by ‘walking’ O.C. Haley Boulevard and looking at one of the city’s emerging post-storm neighborhood revitalization stories. 

At the outset of this post, it is important to note that there are many more neighborhood stories that deserved to be told, ranging from stretches of St. Claude, Carrollton, and Claiborne Avenues to Freret and lower Magazine Streets.  There are also many neighborhood corridors still struggling to come back all over the city, but particularly neighborhoods lying generally east and a little north of the French Quarter, including the vast area of New Orleans East as well as the Upper Ninth Ward and the Lower Ninth Ward. 

As the son of an architect, I’m always ready to begin discussion of any neighborhood transformation by flashing slides of the ‘bricks and mortar’ improvements.  Those are also the improvements that we as lawyers are most directly involved in supporting: the land acquisitions, the tax credit financings, the bridge loans, the condo documents, the parking easements.  But to get any neighborhood to the point where it can provide the social and economic buttressing to support significant private market transactions, there’s often a foundation of community activism and advocacy.  O.C. Haley Boulevard is no exception.   

Very rarely is any one individual or organization the sole ‘mover’ behind a neighborhood’s re-emergence.  Long before the levees and flood walls breached, non-profit, business owner, and neighborhood advocacy groups were working to lay the groundwork for O.C. Haley Boulevard’s resurgence.  Carol Bebelle, co-founder of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, moved the Center onto the Boulevard in 1998 in order to sustain and nurture  the stories and traditions of New Orleans’ African American community.  The Cultural Arts Center’s historic building, an adaptive use of a former department store, became a foothold for the Boulevard’s resurgence, supporting non-profit office space, exhibit and meeting space, and 29 apartments.

About the same time, O.C. Haley Boulevard Merchants and Business Association gathered local businesses to spearhead creation of a strategic plan for the Boulevard’s revitalization. 

A couple of years later, in 2000, Café Reconcile opened across the street as an adaptive use of another large historic commercial building, housing a full-service restaurant dedicated to providing culinary training and life skills development to young men and women from the surrounding neighborhoods. 

Along the way, the Boulevard attracted key regional community development partners, and led them to call the Boulevard ‘home.’  These partners included Hope Federal Credit Union (http://www.hopecu.org/) and Good Work Network (http://www.goodworknetwork.org/), both of which concentrate their resources on serving low and moderate income families and developing opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses. 

In short, the Boulevard’s momentum had already been triggered when Katrina’s storm surge filled-up 80 percent of city, leaving the Boulevard and only a handful of other major corridors navigable by car as opposed to boat.  (A relatively current map of the businesses that have grown-up on the Boulevard in the last fifteen years is found on the Merchants and Business Association’s website, http://ochaleyblvd.org/?page_id=5).

Lawyers – often community development lawyers – figure critically in these first stages of a neighborhood’s redevelopment, well before building projects begin ‘going vertical.’  Lawyers are counseling neighborhood groups and businesses on drafting their articles of incorporation and their bylaws or preparing their Form 1029 to seek IRS 501(c)(3) status.  They are helping review applications seeking funding from foundations for planning and predevelopment award monies.  They may be advising their clients to seek funds for a market study to help give current and future businesses a sense of where and how they might invest their capital and other resources.  Or, they may be advocating at city hall for stricter enforcement of health and safety code violations affecting vacant or abandoned properties.  Law students interested in pursuing urban and community development work should gain an appreciation in law school of these critical supporting and counseling roles that lawyers play for community groups.

Earlier this month, I visited with Kathy Laborde, President and CEO of the non-profit Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (GCHP).  Laborde, who has worked on the Boulevard for almost two decades, described the factors that convinced her and the neighborhood’s stakeholders that they could turn around the Boulevard’s fortunes.  GCHP has been a main driver of redevelopment on and around the corridor since Katrina.  In sharing her thoughts and recollections concerning the Boulevard’s rebirth, Laborde described not only the last nine years’ key redevelopment projects, but at the same time she highlighted additional pieces of the urban redevelopment ‘puzzle’ that successful urban and community development lawyers need to appreciate to serve their clients well.

IMG_0817

(Photo:  Gulf Coast Housing Partnership offices (gray building) at 1610 O.C. Haley Blvd.)

Location is an essential consideration for any urban redevelopment project.  Against the essential backdrop of an engaged group of neighborhood stakeholders, Laborde outlined the following factors as critical:

  1. The O.C. Haley corridor’s historic status as the one of the chief commercial centers for the city’s African American community;
  2. The corridor’s proximity to New Orleans’ Central Business District (separated only by the elevated U.S. 90, The Pontchartrain Expressway);
  3. The corridor’s proximity to St. Charles Avenue, one of nation’s great historic streets, which runs just 3 blocks to the corridor’s southeast; and
  4. The presence of historic commercial buildings fronting O.C. Haley Boulevard and stakeholders’ initial investment in rehabilitation of those structures.

These four areas of strength formed a sort of superstructure for the corridor’s redevelopment; however, by themselves, these four factors were not sufficient to draw significant investment to the corridor.  The challenge for GCHP and the corridor’s stakeholders was how to connect O.C. Haley’s assets to the city’s surrounding areas of strength and investment while maintaining the corridor’s character.  It was at this juncture, nine years ago, Hurricane Katrina unleashed its destructive forces.

Katrina fundamentally altered the way those inside and outside New Orleans viewed the city.  To those living in New Orleans, the telltale watermark stains left by the epic flooding clearly distinguished O.C. Haley Boulevard as ‘high ground’ that did not flood.  To those outside New Orleans, particularly local and national foundations and philanthropies, O.C. Haley Boulevard bordered one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods with one of its deepest pockets of poverty.  Outsiders also appreciated that the Boulevard was surrounded by areas of significant strength, including the city’s wealthier Uptown neighborhoods, the Central Business District, St. Charles Avenue, and the former C.J. Peete (Magnolia) development which was a 1930s-era public housing development then-slated to receive millions of dollars in HUD funds for complete redevelopment into the new mixed-income Harmony Oaks community. 

Outside funders immediately saw the Boulevard in a new way.  It stood out not only as a neighborhood where the private foundations and philanthropic funders saw they could achieve programmatic goals of creating more equitable, inclusive, and prosperous inner-city neighborhoods, but also these private funders were buoyed by the fact that high levels of investment were occurring all around the Boulevard.  Further, just as foundations and philanthropies were looking to leverage their investments, so too was the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), which was responsible for making decisions about deployment of a tranche of federal disaster block grant monies for commercial corridor investments.  It was a ‘no brainer’ for NORA to join the catalytic investments of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Kellogg, Rockefeller, Ford, Surdna, and the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundations.

Make no mistake – even with this level of interest, the Boulevard was hardly awash in cash.  In a post-Lehman Brothers world, banks had a low temperature for risk, and in post-Katrina New Orleans where the levee and flood control system rebuilding was not yet complete, caution was the rule for commercial lenders.  But what the philanthropic and government funding accomplished was to make the development ‘math’ work for deals dependent on tax credits and tax exempt bonds.  A non-profit developer could run a development pro forma that now yielded at least a sliver of a development fee.  The challenge for those developers and their clients was to complete successful residential and commercial development projects that would help New Orleanians and visitors alike see O.C. Haley Boulevard as a safe place to live and work.  As Laborde explains, this was the “show me stage” of the corridor’s redevelopment.  Beginning in 2007, this is exactly what the Boulevard’s stakeholders began to do.

Over the last seven years, GCHP and the Boulevard’s other stakeholders have completed a steady stream of housing, restaurant, office and retail projects.  The first pivotal project was GCHP’s completion of The Muses, a 263-unit mixed-income apartment community, which opened in 2009.  This project brought hundreds of new residents to the Boulevard and helped bridge the three-block real estate market 'canyon' between St. Charles Avenue and the Boulevard.

Blog -- O.C. Haley & GCHP -- The Muses
(The Muses is located a block off of O.C. Haley at 1720 Baronne Street).

The tipping point project may have been GCHP’s redevelopment of almost an entire city block between Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard, Thalia Street, O.C. Haley, and Rampart Street.   GCHP convinced the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to move its 45 employees from its downtown rented office space to become the anchor tenant of an office building with ground floor commercial space.  This office and retail building were funded with New Markets Tax Credits, NORA’s investment of $2 Million in disaster Community Development Block Grant (dCDBG) funds, and private financing.  The office building, in turn, helped secure financing for an adjacent 75-unit affordable senior housing development. 

 

IMG_0847
(Photo: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority office building, 1409 O.C. Haley Blvd.; 75-unit senior housing development can be seen to the right and to the rear of NORA's building.)

Another important project was Café Reconcile’s expansion and rehabilitation of its existing restaurant and training space.

IMG_0815
(Photo:  Café Reconcile restaurant and training facility at 1631 O.C. Haley Blvd.; the recently completed expansion occupies the two-story light tan brick building.)

Café Reconcile’s $6.5 Million expansion was funded by private donations, NORA dCDBG funds, and state and federal tax credits.

“Success in community development,” Laborde stresses, “is about getting people to follow.”  And they are doing so on the Boulevard.  More projects are just weeks and months from completion, including the adaptive use of an historic school as a grocery store and offices, the renovation of two large retail buildings into the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB), including The Museum of the American Cocktail, as well as the first home of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO), including its 360-seat performance venue.  The projects soon coming on-line include:

 

IMG_0845
(Photo: the former Myrtle Banks School at 1307 O.C. Haley Blvd., which is being redeveloped by Jonathan Leit of Alembic Community Development.)

The school’s $17 million renovation is financed by New Markets Tax Credits, historic tax credits, $1 Million from the City’s dCDBG-funded Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, $900k from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, and $300k from the Foundation for Louisiana.

IMG_0818
(Photo:  Currently under construction are (left) New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) Market at 1436 O.C. Haley Blvd. and (right) the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) at 1504 O.C. Haley Blvd.)

The NOJO Market and SoFAB redevelopment projects critically anchor two separate O.C. Haley Boulevard blocks where the Boulevard meets Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard.  NOJO’s development is financed by State of Louisiana historic tax credits, State of Louisiana theater, musical, and theatrical production tax credits, $10 Million from Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Fund, an $800k loan from NORA’s commercial revitalization gap loan fund, and a bridge loan from Prudential Insurance Company.  NOJO will open in the spring of 2015.  A ribbon cutting for the SoFAB redevelopment is set for September 29, 2014.

Next week we will wrap-up our discussion of O.C. Haley and Katrina’s 9th anniversary with a discussion of what urban redevelopment professionals are looking for in the attorneys they hire.   

John Travis Marshall, Georgia State University College of Law

August 20, 2014 in Affordable Housing, Architecture, Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Federal Government, Financial Crisis, Historic Preservation, Housing, HUD, Redevelopment, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fair Shake Environmental Law Services Resident Job Posting

I am now serving on the board of a new law firm incubator. We are recruiting residents and senior attorneys.  The resident job posting is below.  (If you, or someone you know, is interested in the senior attorney position you may message me on Facebook or LinkedIn for more information.)

Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services is designed to incubate legal services start-ups in the area of environmental law for underserved, modest means clients. The purposes of the organization include the education of attorneys in serving modest means clients, increasing equal access to justice, and community empowerment for the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Fair Shake advances local, community decisionmaking about community health, environmental protection and cleanup, and development by providing access to justice for individuals and groups that are currently underserved.

In our start-up phase, Fair Shake will have offices in Pittsburgh, PA and Kent, OH. We anticipate opportunities for geographic expansion. Fair Shake staff will include the following positions: an Executive Director and 2 Senior Attorneys (1 heading each office), 4 Resident Attorneys (2 per office) in 2-year contract positions, and a single Administrator position to serve both offices.

Residents, selected by a rigorous application process that includes the provision of draft business plans, will be trained to start-up their own firms upon departure from Fair Shake ELS. The incubator is designed to put residents in the context of the practice that they will run themselves, including practical skills growth in client development, identifying potential business investors, billing and pricing, law office management, and budgeting. During the time that residents practice environmental law in the incubator, they will also refine their business plan and secure investors under the guidance of senior-level staff at the incubator. Due to the constant production of resident attorneys from the incubator who will start up environmental practices for underserved clients, the incubator will catalyze businesses that will fill the gap in environmental legal services in the region over time.

Resident Attorney Job Description

Fair Shake ELS is looking for bright, motivated attorneys who want to build small or solo environmental law practices for modest means clients in the Appalachian Basin region. We are hiring attorneys interested in increasing access to justice in environmental matters and public participation in environmental decision-making. Our Resident Attorneys enjoy collaborative case development, but also can work independently.

Resident Attorneys will be part of a legal team in either Pennsylvania or Ohio dedicated to providing environmental legal services to modest means clients. Residents will build a client base geared toward their own environmental practice goals while training in the business of a law practice serving modest means clients. Resident Attorneys will spend time every week on both case development and business planning. Resident Attorneys are expected to work to start-up their own environmental practices within the tri-state region of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia after spending 2 years at Fair Shake ELS. Options will exist for continued support from the Fair Shake staff after the 2-year residency period.

Resident Attorneys will work on a diverse scope of environmental matters, but may focus in areas of desired practice development. Anticipated case matters include permit appeals, civil litigation, citizen suits, permit and rule comments, administrative petitions, land use hearings, gas lease reviews and negotiations, compliance counseling, community educational presentations, and opinion letter development. Residents will fully engage in all aspects of case development.

Resident Attorneys will report directly to the Senior Attorney heading their office.

Desired skills and qualities:• Training and experience in the full spectrum of environmental and administrative legal issues;• Training in client interviewing and counseling, administrative procedure, and trial advocacy;• Experience and training in legal drafting, research, and effective communication;• A strong interest in starting a small environmental legal practice in the tri-stateregion;• Demonstrated effectiveness in both collaboratively- and independently produced work product and performances;• A commitment to: promoting fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people,regardless of race, color, national origin, or income in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies; providing legal representation to allow equal access to the environmental decision-making process and to foster equal protection under the law for the health, preservation and restoration of natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment; educating young attorneys in legal services entrepreneurship and incubating start-up legal services organizations to serve the environmental legal needs of underserved low- and middle-income clients; and empowering communities and stimulating economies in the Appalachian Basin region by providing environmental legal services and counseling to allow the underserved to make decisions about practical and innovative solutions to complex environmental challenges across the region.

Minimum Qualifications

Candidates should possess:• A minimum of 1-3 years of legal practice experience (experience in a clinical program during law school may count as 1 year of experience in legal practice);• Current Ohio or Pennsylvania Bar membership or willingness to become licensed in those states within 6 months from the date of hire. Resident Attorneys must be willing to travel across the State or Commonwealth and to other Fair Shake offices as needed.

Compensation & Benefits

Fair Shake offers a competitive non-profit salary commensurate with skills and experience as well as a comprehensive benefits package that includes 15 days paid vacation, medical, dental, life insurance, disability, and a retirement savings plan.

To Apply

E-mail a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, transcript, and a writing sample to Emily Collins, Executive Director, at ecollins@fairshake-els.org by March 31, 2014. The letter of interest should include the outline of a proposed business plan to serve modest means clients to meet their environmental legal services needs. Please include the proposed geographic scope of your practice, the particular areas of environmental law in which you would like to focus, a basic operational budget, and your practice goals. Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We are committed to diversity in our workforce.

January 29, 2014 in Environmental Law, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ALPS registration Friday March 1!

[Registration here].  Many of you know that the annual meeting of the Association for Law, Property, and Society (ALPS) has quickly become THE place to be for academic discussions in property, land use, real estate, IP, and local government and environmental law--in short, everything that is considered to be in the universe of "property" is more than welcome at ALPS.  It's been a really interesting, rewarding, and collegial conference in its first few years, and again, it's almost immediately become the central annual confab for property and land use profs.  To wit:

We welcome papers on any subject related to property law and from a diversity of viewpoints. Property related topics areas can include but are not limited to:

Civil Rights & Inequality (including Race, Gender, Religion, Income, Disability, etc)/Critical Legal Studies
Economics and Property Law
Energy/Environment/Climate Change
History of Property
Housing/Urban Development/Mortgages and Foreclosure
Indian Law/Indigenous Rights Law
Intellectual Property • International Property Law/Human Rights and Property/Cultural Property
Land Use Planning/Real Estate/Entrepreneurship
Property Theory • Property and Personhood/Concept of Home
Takings and Eminent Domain • Teaching Property 

The deadline for paper proposals is this Friday, March 1.  This year there is also the option to register to attend without a proposal, which makes participation even more accesible to everyone in the field.  

The link to register and for more information about the conference is here.  

I have to clear a couple of calendar items myself too, but I really hope to see all of you In Minneapolis on April 26-27 for ALPS.  And on behalf of the ALPS Membership & Outreach Committee, feel free to contact me with any questions.  

Matt Festa

February 27, 2013 in Conferences, Property, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nolon et al., Towards Engaged Scholarship

John Nolon has posted Towards Engaged Scholarship, an article that is the result of last year's symposium by the same name that he hosted at Pace, which was a follow-up to 2011's highly successful Practically Grounded conference.  The meeting was really productive, and even though most of us were discussing engaged scholarship in land use and environmental law, the article has insights about the relationship between research, teaching, and practice that could be valuable to anyone in the field or law teaching generally.

The article is forthcomingHere are the contributors: John R. Nolon (Pace); land use guest-blogger Michelle Bryan Mudd (Montana); Michael Burger (Roger Williams); Kim Diana Connolly (SUNY Buffalo); Nestor M. Davidson (Fordham); Matthew Festa (South Texas); Jill Gross (Pace); Lisa Heinzerling (Georgetown); Keith H. Hirokawa (Albany); Tim Iglesias (San Fransisco); Patrick C. McGinley (West Virginia); Sean Nolon (Vermont); Uma Outka (Kansas); co-blogger Jessica Owley (SUNY Buffalo); Kalyani Robbins (Akron); guest-blogger Jonathan D. Rosenbloom (Drake); and Christopher Serkin (Brooklyn).  Here is the abstract:

The practice-oriented influences of the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers and the report of the Clinical Legal Education Association, Best Practices for Legal Education, have been working on the academy for only five years; law teachers are just now learning how they can better prepare their students to practice law “effectively and responsibly in the contexts they are likely to encounter as new lawyers.” These reports have stimulated a vast literature on how law professors can improve their teaching methods, how law schools can alter their curricula, and how the legal academy as a whole can prioritize skills education.

Much less attention has been paid to the connection between legal scholarship and the practice of law. For many law professors, there is an intuitive link between their teaching and scholarship. Does that link apply to teaching law students to be more practice-oriented, and what precisely does that mean? Should our scholarship examine more regularly the problems that practitioners confront and the contexts in which they arise? This article addresses these pressing questions in the context of legal scholarship as a context and opportunity.

This article presents the reflections of sixteen law professors on linkages between scholarship and the legal profession. From these reflections, several themes are identified that lead to new perspective on legal scholarship in a time of dynamic change in the law school education. This article begins a dialogue on engaged scholarship and concludes with the some proposed directions for critical reflection on the roles of law professors as academics and as molders of the careers of their students.

The conference was great, both for the ideas that were shared and for the chance to discuss them with a group of both senior and junior scholars in our fields.  I think the article will advance the discussion of how to make scholarship both theoretical but also practically useful. 

Matt Festa

 

February 26, 2013 in Conferences, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Zasloff: Has New Urbanism Killed Land Use Law?

Jonathan Zasloff (UCLA) has a piece on Legal Planet: The Environmental Law and Policy Blog (Berkeley/UCLA) called Has New Urbanism Killed Land Use Law?  

My Land Use casebook, like most of them, mentions New Urbanist zoning and planning techniques, but does not dwell on them. In order to teach New Urbanist concepts such as Form-Based Codes, SmartCode, and the Transect, I had to develop my own materials, as well as shamelessly stealing a couple of Powerpoint presentations from a friend who works at Smart Growth America.

What’s the cause of this gap? Is it because land use professors have a thing about Euclidean zoning?

I doubt it. A quick check in the Westlaw “ALLCASES” database yields only one result for the phrase “Form-Based Code” and none of the results for “transect” has anything to do with the New Urbanist land use concept. That means that it is very difficult actually to find cases that reflect aspects of New Urbanism.

One can understand that in several ways, I suppose. You could infer that New Urbanism just leaves less room for legal disputes than traditional Euclidean zoning. For example, there is no need to worry about non-conforming uses, use variances, or conditional use permits with Form-Based Codes because those codes do not regulate uses to begin with. . . .

Now let me quibble with this a little bit: in Houston--the Unzoned City--we supposedly don't regulate uses either.  But it seems we do nothing here but apply for, and fight over, variances, nonconforming uses, and special exceptions, for everything from lot sizes and setbacks to sign code and HP rules.  It seems to me that people are going to want incremental exceptions for building form or site requirements at least as commonly, if not more so, than for use designations.

But overall it's a good point.  Zasloff concludes that even if we do move to form based codes, we'll still probably need to keep a little zoning around:

[W]hile New Urbanism coding can serve as a replacement for a lot of Euclideanism, it cannot eliminate it entirely — not because we are addicted to Euclidean forms, and not because we are dumb, but because lots of the world is uncertain, and cities will have to grapple with that.

I also find that New Urbanism is hard to teach in a doctrinal land use law class.  Zasloff concludes: 

If this is right, then land use casebooks will still emphasize Euclidean zoning, because that’s where the disputes are and necessarily will be.

A problem set with form-based codes would be nice, though. Just sayin’.

I know some recent land use casebooks have moved to a problem-based approach, and some of our colleagues have created their own materials for teaching New Urbanism.  Students find this stuff interesting, so we should all work towards developing these resources for teaching.

Matt Festa

February 8, 2013 in Books, Form-Based Codes, Historic Preservation, Houston, New Urbanism, Teaching, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day and Land Use: The Future of Houston Transit

Vote no metroIt's Election Day, and we all know what's the most important thing on the ballot: local land use issues.  Through the initiative and referendum process, as well as in races for local government office, land use ballot issues often have an importance to our communities far beyond the relative amount of publicity they receive . . . especially in a presidential election year. 

IMG_2802In Houston, voters are going to the polls today to answer a number of local government ballot questions, including amendments to the City Charter, a number of bond issues for parks and schools, and perhaps most importantly, a referendum that is colloquially referred to as "METRO."

In the late 1970s, Houston joined about 15 other local government bodies (including the County, the school district, and a number of smaller suburban municipalities) to create the METRO transit authority.  METRO was responsible for regional buses and transit, and in the early 2000s it built the first Houston light rail line.  METRO has ambitious plans to expand the light rail into a regional transit system, but it has always been controversial.  METRO is supposed to be funded by a sales tax, but since its inception, the City has always diverted one-quarter of those revenues toward road improvements.  So the ballot question is whether we should *continue* diverting that portion of the transit tax for another decade.

We discussed it in land use class yesterday.  Here are some competing op-eds: METRO Board member Dwight Jefferson says that "Yes" on the METRO referendum will expand bus system, continue road building and reduce debt.  In opposition, Houston Tomorrow president David Crossley says More light rail for Houston? If you’re pro-transit, vote "No" on METRO ballot issue.  Mayor Annise Parker (D) and most politicians are in favor of the measure.  As you can see in Crossley's op-ed and at the opposition website http://supporthoustontransit.org/2012/, the smart growth/pro-transit crowd is passionately opposed.

So--depending on who you ask--the future of transit in the nation's fourth-largest city is on the line; or, its capability to deal with critical mobility issues. 

The unfortunate thing is that very few people even understand the ballot language, let alone the stakes.  Here is the language of the ballot question that is referred to as the "METRO ballot" issue:

THE CONTINUED DEDICATION OF UP TO 25% OF METRO'S SALES AND USE TAX REVENUES FOR STREET IMPROVEMENTS AND RELATED PROJECTS FOR THE PERIOD OCTOBER 1, 2014 THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2025 AS AUTHORIZED BY LAW AND WITH NO INCREASE IN THE CURRENT RATE OF METRO'S SALES AND USE TAX.
□ FOR
□ AGAINST

Last year I wrote a screed complaining about ballot language for state constitutional referenda.  Ken Stahl penned a typically thoughtful response with a partial defense of the initiative process for land use issues (and of course he has the leading recent scholarly piece on Ballot Box Zoning).  But this METRO referendum language seems to me to be a perfect example of how screwy the process is.  Basically, if you are in favor of more transit generally and light rail expansion in particular, you are supposed to vote "NO" on the ballot referendum that everyone is referring to as "METRO."  If you want that tax revenue to contiue to be diverted away from transit and toward roads, then you are supposed to vote "Yes on METRO."

We discussed this in Land Use class yesterday and it confirmed to me how confusing this is.  My students are way above the average voter in land-use sophistication, but they still had a hard time figuring this out.  I suspect that most voters, motivated into the booth primarily by their choice for the presidential election, will only have the vaguest idea that if you are pro-transit you are supposed to vote "no" on "METRO."  That's counterintuitive, and I'm afraid that whatever the result is, it won't be a very good democratic indicator.  And that's just for the people who vote on it; the proposal is one of the last items on the ginormous sample ballot that I photographed above.  Many people will vote "straight party ticket" (that's an option in Texas) and walk out of the booth, without even seeing the referendum questions.

So we'll have to see how this land use question is resolved by the people, and, after that, what actually happens to the transit system and whether the political predicitons on either side come to fruition.  In the meantime, remember that while the national horse race gets all the attention, there are critically important land use issues being decided in communities across America tonight. 

Matt Festa

UPDATE: "METRO" passed by a large margin: 79-21.  The presidential vote in Houston was a statistical tie.  All of the other ballot referenda (mostly to approve debt for capital projects) passed as well.  I honestly have no idea whether the METRO vote represents anything at all with respect to public opinion on the future of transit.

November 6, 2012 in Houston, Local Government, Politics, State Government, Teaching, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Land Use Pedagogy in “Real Time”

Land use professors have aptly observed that the subject of land use lends itself well to the integration of theory and practice.  (See, for example, past Land Use Prof postings on Nolon & Salkin’s scholarship  and conference work dedicated to this topic).  Each city offers up a wealth of land use proposals that can be observed through public hearings and brought into the classroom in various ways, including papers and simulations.  Some professors have even used their land use courses as a practicum in which students draft land use legislation or policy-related documents.

In this posting, I propose a slight twist on the theory and practice concept; one that actively involves students in an ongoing land use matter but also provides “real time” benefits to the community by fostering education and dialogue before a land use decision is made.  My proposal is to integrate student writing requirements with real time blogging about community land use proposals.

As one recent example, a student of mine named Ada Montague wanted to fulfill her advanced writing requirement through a traditional student paper.  She proposed writing on the issue of private investment companies acquiring municipal water supplies.  Her topic was inspired by a real life example--the pending purchase of the City of Missoula’s water supply by The Carlyle Group, a multinational private equity investment firm.  After putting our heads together and meeting with a colleague in the School of Journalism, we decided to transform the writing proposal into a blog format where the student would write a series of informational pieces on the purchase and cover in "real time" the proceedings of the Montana Public Service Commission as it reviewed the proposed sale.  The journalism professor would train the student in the basics of journalistic blogging and help with the technical aspects of uploading content.  (Thank you, Prof. Nadia White).  I, in turn, would review the postings for their legal content in much the same way as I would review a traditional AWR.  The stories would be housed on the School of Journalism’s Et Al. Blog, which is a site dedicated to environmental legal news.  Here is the link with the end result: http://etalnews.org/missoulawater/.


The blog’s impact exceeded our expectations.  The community began using the site as the go-to source for information on the sale, and the quality of the public discourse shifted from fear-based to fact-based.  The key players in the proceeding read the blog for analysis and shared items for posting.  When the student gave a final presentation of her work (a requirement for our AWR), the large audience included a member of the Public Service Commission, who was there to glean insights on the issues.  And the site’s content remains in place for use by other communities that may face a similar type of private equity purchase.

Needless to say, it was a powerful teaching experience to supervise this project in collaboration with my journalism colleague.  Most importantly, I realized that there is no need to relegate our students' work to the standard law paper that never sees the light of day, or that reaches completion well after a land use issue has resolved itself.  Both our students and our community can benefit from embedding these capstone writing experiences within the living discourse of the community.  My concluding questions are:  Have others tried such “real time” experiences, and what potential do you see to collaborate regionally and nationally to expand upon this local idea?

Michelle Bryan Mudd

September 29, 2012 in Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Property Jokes

OK, I'll go ahead and post this . . . I wasn't sure if it was "blogworthy," but Steve Clowney seemed to think so (or else he was really desperate for content when he saw this yesterday on my facebook page). To prove that even the musty old historically contingent property forms can have some modern relevance, I showed the class the ironic nostalgia of this hipster, courtesy of former student Uri Heller:

Hipster feoffement

And the crazy thing is that it got a half-decent laugh.  Data point #2 in why I am worried about this Section of students is that yesterday--it being Sept. 19, of course-- I wished them a happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  (Pirates are certainly interested in acquiring your property through subsequent possession.)  Then--and this is what has me really worried--they actually laughed again when I mentioned that I was unable to take my 12-year-old daughter to the pirate movie . . . why? 

. . . Because, of course, it was rated Arrrrrrrrrrrr.

I would have thought these students would have had a little better taste in humor.  But at least they are so highly motivated for law school and property class that they are willing to find (or pretend to find) humor in some of the more obscure aspects of Property I. 

Matt Festa

PS  If, like some of us, you are in Milwaukee today, you might realize that you can be a pirate every day, at least at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

IMG_2623

September 20, 2012 in Humorous, Property Theory, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 14, 2012

New RLUIPA Website by Merriam and Seeman

From Dwight Merriam comes news of what looks like a really interesting new website and blog on Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) litgation:

Dwight Merriam and Evan Seeman of Robinson & Cole LLP (Dwight teaches at Vermont Law School
and UConn Law School) on August 29, 2012 launched a new land use and zoning law website, RLUIPA-Defense (http://www.rluipa-defense.com) –  a resource for anyone wanting to prevent RLUIPA claims or defend against them.  RLUIPA-Defense track news and provides a database of RLUIPA federal and state court decisions, trial materials (oppositions to motions for preliminary injunction, motions for summary judgment, motions to dismiss, jury instructions), and appellate materials (circuit court briefs and petitions for writs of certiorari).  It also includes scholarly articles and legislative history concerning RLUIPA.  Visitors can register to receive e-mail about news and updates.

Prof. Merriam is one of the leading thinkers and writers bridging the land use, planning, and practitioner communities.  Check out the resource at www.rulipa-defense.com

Matt Festa

September 14, 2012 in RLUIPA, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hail and Farewell: Welcome Michelle Bryan Mudd

First,let's all thank John Infranca for some outstanding guest blogging in July and August.  He's doing great work at the Furman Center, and is welcome back here anytime!

Bryan mudd2Now we have the continued good fortune to welcome another terrific guest blogger: Michelle Bryan Mudd, from the University of Montana School of Law.  Here is her web bio:

Professor Michelle Bryan Mudd teaches in the law school’s environmental program, including the Land Use Planning and Water Law courses. She is also Director of the Land Use Clinic, which works on behalf of Montana local governments and is among only a few such clinics nationwide.

Professor Bryan Mudd was drawn to the fields of land use and water law because of her background growing up in ranching and farming communities in the West. Before joining the law school faculty, she was in private practice specializing in land use and water law in both the transactional and litigation contexts. She worked with a variety of clients including local governments, private landowners, non-profits, developers, and affected neighbors and community groups. She brings this diversity of perspective to her work with students and government clients.

Her current research interests include the relationship between land and water use, the balancing of environmental and land use rights, the role of public trust in water rights, and the evolution of eminent domain law.

We're very excited to have her with us for the next few weeks!

Matt Festa

September 9, 2012 in Environmental Law, Scholarship, Teaching, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iglesias on Reunifying Property in the Classroom: Starting with the Questions

Tim Iglesias (San Fransisco) has posted Reunifying Property in the Classroom: Starting with the Questions, not the Answers.  The abstract:

This essay argues that the myriad property doctrines and rules are answers to several consistent legal questions, and that these questions provide a useful framework for teaching Property law. The problem with Property Law courses is that we cover a slew of topics in which we load students up with a wide variety of (often conflicting) answers to these questions without ever revealing that all of the doctrines and rules are responses to the same set of questions.

The proposed framework offers the questions as reference points for navigating the sea of common law Property doctrines and rules. A student still must deal with the treacherous straits of the Rule Against Perpetuities and similar difficulties. However, using the framework of questions she can always look up to see key questions and thereby orient and guide herself to an answer (or set of possible answers).

This is simply a must-read for anyone teaching property and land use.  Prof. Iglesias provides a great overview of some of the contested questions in teaching property, and suggests that regardless of the particulars of theory and doctrine that we choose to teach, we can all profit from thinking hard about the common questions that property issues present.  The essay might be helpful for property students as well.

Matt Festa

September 9, 2012 in Property, Property Theory, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Man Fights to Keep Wife's Remains Buried in Front Yard

If you've been reading the work of some of our colleagues at Property Prof like Tanya Marsh and Al Brophy, you know that cemeteries, memorials, and burial rules can be important issues in law and historical memory.  Here's a more quotidian case in point, from the Huffington Post: James Davis, Alabama Man, Fights To Keep Remains Of Wife Buried In Front Yard.  From the article:

Davis said he was only abiding by Patsy Ruth Davis' wishes when he buried her outside their log home in 2009, yet the city sued to move the body elsewhere. A county judge ordered Davis to disinter his wife, but the ruling is on hold as the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals considers his challenge.

While state health officials say family burial plots aren't uncommon in Alabama, city officials worry about the precedent set by allowing a grave on a residential lot on one of the main streets through town. They say state law gives the city some control over where people bury their loved ones and have cited concerns about long-term care, appearance, property values and the complaints of some neighbors.

But even some of the objecting neighbors are still concerned with the individual property-rights aspect of this situation:

A strong libertarian streak runs through northeast Alabama, which has relatively few zoning laws to govern what people do with their property. Even a neighbor who got into a fight with Davis over the gravesite – Davis said he punched the man – isn't comfortable with limiting what a homeowner can do with his property.

"I don't think it's right, but it's not my place to tell him he can't do it," said George W. Westmoreland, 79, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam. "I laid my life on the line so he would have the right to do this. This is what freedom is about."

The article profits from the analysis of Samford law prof Joseph Snoe (invoking Mahon (which I just taught) and other important precedents):

A law professor who is familiar with the case said it's squarely at the intersection of personal rights and government's power to regulate private property. While disputes over graves in peoples' yards might be rare, lawsuits over the use of eminent domain actions and zoning restrictions are becoming more common as the U.S. population grows, said Joseph Snoe, who teaches property law at Samford University in suburban Birmingham.

While it's a quirky fact pattern, this sort of case is intensely personal, and goes to show the broad range of issues that can end up in disputes over land use law.  Thanks to Troy Covington for the pointer.

Matt Festa

August 24, 2012 in Caselaw, History, Humorous, Property Rights, State Government, Sun Belt, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bronin & Byrne Casebook on Historic Preservation Law

Bronin byrne HPSara C. Bronin (Connecticut) and J. Peter Byrne (Georgetown) recently published a new casebook called Historic Preservation Law, Foundation Press 2012.  HP is quickly becoming a central part of land use planning, as the authors make clear in this excerpt from the Preface:

This book was written for anyone interested in the increasingly important area of historic preservation law.  With this book, we hope to advance and encourage the teaching of preservation law, shape the way the field is conceived, and create a practical resource that will be consulted by attorneys and other preservation professionals. 

Our approach to the subject is reasonably straightforward.  We present the most significant legal issues in preservation and place them in a contemporary context, identifying contested questions and areas of reform.  The format of the book is traditional: edited leading cases with notes that provide explanation, extension, and issues for discussion.  Given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, we belive that the legal issues can only be understood in light of historical, aesthetic, political, and administrative issues that make up the larger realm of preservation.  Accordingly, we provide secondary materials, both legal and non-legal.

Because we focus on preservation of buildings and sites, we present preservation as part of land use or urban development law.  Thus, we provide extensive treatment of local preservation law, which regulates private property, as well as relevant issues in real estate finance and project development.  We also provide comprehensive treatment of federal law, including the National Historical Preservation Act and related statutes.  In addition, we explore federal laws that address preservation vis-a-vis cultural property issues, particularly regarding Native American and archaelogical sites.  Preservation has also generated important and interesting constitutional questions related to takings, religious freedoms, and free speech rights, which we address.

This is the first, or at least the most recent, major casebook on the law of historic preservation that I know of.  Professors Bronin and Byrne, who are also accomplished scholars in the land use field generally, have provided us a major contribution with this book, which looks to be *the* significant text in HP law.  Land use scholars and professionals should definitely have this one on their shelves.

Matt Festa

August 9, 2012 in Constitutional Law, Development, Federal Government, Historic Preservation, History, Local Government, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Salkin on Zoning Ordinance Variances

Patricia Salkin (Albany) has posted Zoning Ordinance Variances, published in the American Planning Association's PAS Quicknotes, no. 38 (2012).  The abstract:

This short piece designed for planners describes the purpose of variances, both use and area variances, conditions on variances and alternatives to variances.

It is an excellent short introduction to the legal concept of variances.  There is a lot of confusion out there on the differences between variances, special exceptions, nonconforming uses, and zoning amendments as methods for altering the rules.  In addition to planners, I think it would also be a great piece to share with clients, community members, . . . and land use law students.

Matt Festa

July 24, 2012 in Planning, Property, Scholarship, Teaching, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Study Space Event in Istanbul on Disaster Preparedness (via Georgia State)

Prof. Julian Juergensmeyer (Georgia State) writes to inform us about what looks like a truly fascinating opportunity:

The Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth is pleased to announce a Study Space Program in Istanbul, Turkey March 31- April 6, 2013.

A Study Space is a week-long intensive workshop, in which academic scholars and professionals come together to study and develop solutions to the challenges being faced by cities throughout the world. This program will focus on disaster preparedness from an interdisciplinary perspective of land use policies, building restrictions, and the handling of environmental refugees. It will be a collaboration with the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University's Law School in New Orleans and the law school at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Turkey.

The workshop will use the issue of earthquakes in Turkey as a focused topic and also as a springboard toward a larger discussion of disaster preparedness and urban land use in the modern world.  Contact Prof. Juergensmeyer for any questions.  With its interdisciplinary and transnational basis, this is surely going to be a really rewarding event. 

Matt Festa

June 15, 2012 in Comparative Land Use, Conferences, Environmental Law, Planning, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Urban Land Use/Environmental Position at Georgia State

News from Prof. Julian Juergensmeyer on a very exciting opportunity:

Urban Land Use and Environmental Law Position at Georgia State University’s College of Law

Georgia State University College of Law is searching for a tenure-track Assistant/Associate Professor specializing in urban environmental and land use law.

This position is part of a university-wide interdisciplinary hiring initiative of four faculty members—one at the GSU College of Law, and one each at the GSU Departments of Economics, Public Management and Policy, and Sociology—who will collaborate in research and teaching relating to shaping the future of cities. These GSU faculties share a common strength in urban policy, featuring internationally recognized experts in the areas of urban economics, social networks, urban planning, environmental law, and land use law.

This tenure-track position will be associated with the College of Law’s Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth, whose mission is to advance interdisciplinary dialogue, academic exchange and research related to the challenges of cities. The Center’s current programs include: an interdisciplinary policy and research program (Urban Fellows Program); a certificate program in Environmental and Land Use Law; a dual degree program with Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning; a comparative urban policy course taught by foreign scholars; a summer legal study program in Brazil; and international and domestic conferences and symposia on environmental and land use law.

If you are interested in this position or have recommendations for candidates, please contact Julian Juergensmeyer at jjuergensmeyer@gsu.edu or Karen Johnston at kjohnston3@gsu.edu.

It looks like a fantastic land use/interdisciplinary opportunity.

Matt Festa

June 8, 2012 in Environmental Law, Georgia, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Survey for Environmental/Land Use Profs

I am excited for the upcoming AALS midyear workshop on Torts, Environment and Disaster.In particular, we will have a session addressing head on the opportunities and needs for mentoring and making connections across and within communities of scholars. In preparation for a session on 'Generations of Environmental Law' at the upcoming AALS midyear meeting, my fellow panelists and I have created a survey for environmental law professors. With this survey, we hope to get a sense of the types of mentoring available to environmental law faculty as well as get some suggestions for improvement. If you consider yourself a land use or environmental law professor, please add your voice. The survey is only 9 questions and should take 5-10 minutes. We will share the results at the conference and with the environmental law community via listserv and blogs. We appreciate your participation and our community’s efforts to improve connections among colleagues.

Begin Survey

Thanks for your participation,

Jessie Owley

(co panelists = Daniel A. Farber, Bruce R. Huber, John Copeland Nagle, Hari Osofsky, Melissa Powers, and Kalyani Robbins).

May 22, 2012 in Conferences, Environmental Law, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Welcome Stephen R. Miller!

Stephen-Miller-196x209.ashxWe are excited to announce that Stephen R. Miller (Idaho--Boise) has agreed to join the Land Use Prof Blog on a permanent basis.  He did a great job guest-blogging earlier this year, and he'll be a terrific addition to the team.  His faculty bio:

Stephen R. Miller joined the faculty of the University of Idaho College of Law in 2011. Miller received his undergraduate degree from Brown University, and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2006, he graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, where he was senior articles editor of the Constitutional Law Quarterly, and was a research assistant to Professor Joel Paul. Miller also worked for a land use and environmental law firm in San Francisco, California prior to joining the faculty. His research interests include economic development, sustainable development, land use, environmental law, and local government law.

His most recent article is a really terrific piece called Building Legal Neighborhoods, forthcoming in the Harvard Environmental Law Review.  Here is his SSRN page.

Coming on the heels of the Owley Land Use Coup, this is an exciting time for us at the Blog.  We will get Jessie's and Stephen's contact info up on the masthead soon, but in the meantime if you google him, note that he is Stephen *R* Miller-- just so you don't mistake him for a picker, a grinner, a lover, or a sinner, or any other sort of Miller.  He is Stephen Miller the land use prof!  And we're very glad to have him on board.

Matt Festa

May 21, 2012 in Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jessica Owley is a Land Use Prof (welcome!)

Owley_jessicaWe are absolutely thrilled to welcome Professor Jessica Owley to the Land Use Prof Blog.  She's a law professor at the State University of New York's law school at Buffalo, and with her Ph.D. in environmental science and policy, she is involved in lots of interdisciplinary programs and activities.  Many of you already know her for her cutting-edge scholarship on conservation easements and other topics, or for her helpful involvement in various professional service activities.  She did some outstanding guest-blogging for us last year, but for those of you who may not be familiar with her blogging or her copius scholarship, here's her faculty bio:

Jessica Owley is an Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo Law School where she teaches environmental law, property, and land conservation. She joined the UB Law faculty after serving as assistant professor at Pace Law School from August 2009 to July 2010. She received her PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California-Berkeley in 2005, shortly after completing her JD at Berkeley Law in 2004.

Before entering academia, Owley practiced in the Land Use and Environment Law group at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. Prior to private practice, Owley clerked for the Honorable Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Honorable Dean D. Pregerson of the Central District of California. Owley is a member of the California bar and admitted to practice in the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Districts of California and the Ninth Circuit.

Professor Owley's teaching interests are in the areas of property, environmental law, administrative law, and Indian law. While her general research is on land conservation and property rights, her current scholarship focuses on using property tools for conservation in the context of climate change.

The reference in the title is to Jessie's important guest post last year acknowledging that she really is a land use prof.  That epiphany speaks to a larger truth about our field, which is that property, land use, environmental law, and local government law are all part of the same web of related issues for legal analysis, study, and policy conversations.  We're delighted to welcome Prof. Owley on board, and we're looking forward to providing you with an even better forum to keep you interested in the broad array of important issues that constitutes land use.

Matt Festa

May 18, 2012 in Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Property, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Patricia Salkin to be new Dean at Touro

Breaking news: one of the leaders of our field, Prof. Patricia E. Salkin, has just been named the new Dean of Touro Law Center!  From the press release:

Touro College & University System President and CEO, Dr. Alan Kadish, is pleased to announce that Patricia E. Salkin has been appointed the new dean of the Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. Salkin is a nationally known scholar and expert in land use planning and government ethics. She is currently the Associate Dean and Director of the Government Law Center of Albany Law School where she is also the Raymond & Ella Smith Distinguished Professor of Law.

. . . .

Patricia E. Salkin is the author of numerous casebooks, treatises, books and more than 100 articles, columns, studies and reports on topics including municipal law, sustainable development law, climate change, affordable housing, and aging law. Dean Salkin is an accomplished administrator, scholar and teacher who also holds many leadership appointments in the profession, including within the American Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association where she serves in the House of Delegates and has led sections, committees and task forces. She also served as chair of the State and Local Government Law Section for the American Association of Law Schools. An elected member of the American Law Institute, Salkin currently serves as an Advisor for the drafting of the Principles on the Law of Government Ethics. Salkin is the long-time chair of the amicus curiae committee for the American Planning Association, and she serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Urban Lawyer.

And let's not leave out the Law of the Land Blog!  Dean Salkin's record of teaching, scholarship, and service to the profession and the community speaks for itself.  The only thing I can add is that in addition to all of these commitments, Patty has been a terrific mentor to teachers and scholars in land use, government law, and sustainability, especially for reaching out to those of us in the junior ranks.  This is great news both for Touro and for all of us in the land use field.

Matt Festa

May 10, 2012 in Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)