Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday's Architecture Moment

The American Planning Association's top ten public spaces of the year.

Steve Clowney

October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Greatest Property Crime of All Time?


Thieves outside of Pittsburgh just stole a bridge.  Really:

Police said a bridge worth about $100,000 was stolen in North Beaver Township, Lawrence County. Investigators said someone stole a 50 by 20 foot steel trestle bridge from a rural area. Police said the bridge was taken sometime within the past 10 days. Police said because the bridge was taken from a wooded and rural area, they don't expect there to be any witnesses. But because the bridge is so large, investigators are asking anyone with information to call police.

At this point, it's probably worth linking to this article about the 7 largest things ever stolen (warning: some salty language).

Steve Clowney

October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Steve Jobs: Land Use Advocate

The Atlantic reminds us that Steve Jobs' last public appearance came in front of the Cupertino City Council as an advocate for his company's new headquarters:

I'm suspending judgment on the building for now, to focus on style and Jobs' relentless pursuit of dreams. Last June 7, the way he presented and argued, with retiring charm, lit up the room.

Three years of law school does not teach that kind of persuasion. Such artful persistence was Jobs' magical power, a quality which we should always remember.

Steve Clowney

October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Land Boom in Iowa

NPR investigates a surge in land prices in the breadbasket: Corn

The price of farmland in Iowa has doubled in the past few years. People rush to outbid each other at real-estate auctions, and land owners become millionaires in a matter of minutes.

We visit an auction, look at the broader economic picture, and ask an unavoidable question: Is it a bubble?

Steve Clowney

October 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

America's Most Dangerous Cities

From Forbes: Danger

To compile our list of America’s most dangerous cities, we used the FBI’s uniform crime report for 2010, which tallies crime data for each of the country’s metropolitan statistical areas, regions that usually consist of a large city and its suburbs or clusters of closely linked smaller cities, and metropolitan divisions, which are core areas within some of the larger MSAs. Because small fluctuations in crime numbers can produce outsize jumps in rates in smaller metropolitan areas, we looked at MSAs with a population of 200,000 or more. We used the FBI’s numbers for four categories of violent crimes: murder and non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; and aggravated assault.

And, yes, there is a slideshow.

Steve Clowney

October 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Schorr on the Relationship Between State and Private Property in the Management of Forests

Schorr David Schorr (Tel Aviv) has posted Forest Law in the Palestine Mandate: Colonial Conservation in a Unique Context (book chapter) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Historians such as Richard Grove and Gregory Barton have emphasized the central place of “empire forestry” in the emergent environmentalism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Two themes in their work are engaged in this book chapter: One, the role of forestry in the imperial environmental mind in combating climate change; the other, the relationship between state and private property in the legal management of forests. The history of Palestine forest law may lead to modification of the conventional wisdom on these issues, demonstrating how scientific and legal unknowns may channel forest policy in undesirable directions.

Steve Clowney

October 6, 2011 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Siri: The Future is Now

Siri may pretend that it is just a humble personal assistant, but we've all seen 2001 and Terminator.  Humanity is doomed.  Nevertheless, as an early adopter, I will be placing my pre-order for the iPhone 4S on Friday morning.

Tanya Marsh

October 5, 2011 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Case of the Week

Shashoua v. Zien (Massachusetts Land Court)

Download Case Here

Background:  Parties are next door neighboors and were "best of friends."  Shashoua, however, brings suit claiming adverse possession over a slice of Zien's backyard.  The case does a very nice job laying out the requirements for adverse possession and demonstrates how a trial judge teases out whether one party's use of property is "adverse" or "continuous."

Holding:  The Judge found that Shashoua's use (cutting grass, planting flowers, children playing, walking dogs, setting up a tent for a bar mitzvah party) failed to meet the continuos and adverse prongs of the test for adverse possession.  The judge also ordered Shashoua to remove improvements she had installed that encroached on Zien's land.

Steve Clowney

October 5, 2011 in Recent Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Salkin and Ko on Health Impact Assessments

Patricia Salkin (Albany) and Pamela Ko have posted The Effective Use of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in Land-Use Decision Making (Zoning Practice) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Health impact assessments (HIAs) outside of the United States have long been used to hone in on the public health impacts of certain government decision making. While health impacts have been considered to a lesser degree through environmental impact review (EIR) in the United States, recent findings suggest that HIAs can be very helpful in analyzing proposed development and redevelopment projects. This article briefly reviews the history of the HIA movement, examines the differences between HIA and EIR, and provides those involved with the land use planning and regulation examples of how to best integrate HIAs into the land use decision making process.

Steve Clowney

October 5, 2011 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Recent SSRN Downloads

Ssrn In honor of the beginning of the month, here are the most downloaded property articles over the last 60 days:


1.  [222 downloads] Regional Foodsheds: Are Our Local Zoning and Land Use Regulations Healthy? 
     Patricia Salkin (Albany) & Amy Lavine (Albany)

2.  [215 downloads] Excluding Expert Valuation Testimony
     Wendy C. Gerzog (Baltimore)

3.  [194 downloads] Subprime: Why a Free and Democratic Society Needs Law
     Joseph William Singer (Harvard)

4.  [190 downloads] Reconstituting Land Use Federalism to Address Transitory and Perpetual Disasters: The Bimodal Federalism Framework
     Blake Hudson (Stetson)

5.  [171 downloads] Honey, It's all the Buzz: Regulating Neighborhood Bee Hives
     Patricia Salkin (Albany)

6.  [138 downloads] Why Aboriginal Title is a Fee Simple Absolute
     Michael C. Blumm (Lewis & Clark)

7.  [123 downloads] Conservation Easements and the Doctrine of Merger
     Nancy A. McLaughlin (Utah)

8.  [118 downloads] Federalism and Property Rights
     Ilya Somin (George Mason)

9.  [94 downloads] The Society of Property
     Avihay Dorfman

10. [79 downloads] Let There Be Blight: Blight Condemnations in New York after Goldstein and Kaur
     Ilya Somin (George Mason)

Steve Clowney

October 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Groupon for the Housing Market

The L.A. Times profiles and a variety of other housing related websites that have recently popped up across the Internet.

Steve Clowney

October 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Doviak and MacDonald on Who Enters the Foreclosure Process

Eric Doviak (CUNY - Econ) and Sean MacDonald (CUNY - Technology) have posted Who Enters the Foreclosure Process? on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

Since February 2010, detailed information on every home mortgage default and foreclosure in New York State must be filed with the New York State Banking Department (NYSBD). The data enables us to identify the financial characteristics that make a defaulted borrower more (or less) likely to enter the foreclosure process.

Our analysis of the NYSBD data suggests that borrowers in default who took larger loans are more likely to progress to foreclosure. It also suggests that reducing principal balances may reduce the foreclosure rate, but might have an adverse effect on the mortgage industry.

Given the frequent criticism of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), it is no surprise that defaulted borrowers whose mortgages were modified via HAMP progress to a lis pendens filing a higher rate than defaulted borrowers without a modification or with a non-HAMP modification. After controlling for delinquency length (and other factors) however, we find that the HAMP program may have been effective in helping defaulted borrowers avoid foreclosure.

Steve Clowney

October 4, 2011 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cattle Ranchers, Environmentalists, and the Keystone XL Pipeline

20111001_USM927 There is an interesting article in The Economist regarding the proposal to bring the Keystone XL oil pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to Texas.  The new pipeline will cross Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma on its way to Port Arthur, but apparently it is the Cornhuskers who are raising the biggest stink.  The main reason is concern about potential contamination of the Ogallala aquifer:

"Many Nebraskans are worried that a leak from the pipeline might pollute the Ogallala aquifer, a vast underground reservoir that stretches from South Dakota to Texas and provides Nebraska with almost all its tap water and irrigation. The aquifer rises especially close to the surface in the Sand Hills region in the north of the state, near Mrs Luebbe’s ranch. The water table is so high, explains one of her neighbours, that if you drive a piece of piping three or four feet into the ground, water clean enough to drink will start gushing out."

The article doesn't explain how TransCanada will acquire the rights to bring the pipeline through the United States, but I presume that eminent domain will be involved.  That's interesting, since apparently the pipeline so unpopular in Nebraska that even the state's Republican governor has written to Hillary Clinton, asking her to refuse the required permits unless TransCanada modifies the pipeline's route.

Tanya Marsh

October 3, 2011 in Land Use, Natural Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Causes of the Financial Crisis

I'm teaching a course on the Financial Crisis this semester.  We have been examining various explanations of the "cause" of the Financial Crisis.  Freakonomics has a great piece by James Altucher that sums up much of our discussion.

Tanya Marsh

October 3, 2011 in Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Property Profs & Mentoring

Don't Sell This Home. Ever.


Here's a property story from my local paper.  Heiress Emma Watts grew up in creepy-looking mansion in Richmond, Kentucky.  During her life, the local university (Eastern Kentucky U.), repeatedly attempted to purchase the property from her.  The relationship between Emma and EKU deteriorated, and she refused to sell.

Here's the propety angle: When Watts died in 1970, her will specified that the mansion could never be sold. She left a trust fund to pay for basic upkeep and, for four decades, no one has touched the building or its furnishings. The will reads:

(The trustee) shall have no power or authority to sell or in any manner hypothecate any of my real estate located in Madison County, Kentucky, or any of the furniture, furnishings, linens, china, silver, glassware, books, ornaments or other tangible personal property located in Elmwood at the time of my death. . . .   It is my primary testamentary intention to preserve my residence, “Elmwood,” and to maintain it in its present condition, in so far as is possible, for the benefit of my cousins, Margaret Kilgore Cope, Millard Lewis Cope, Jr., and Margaret Parhan Cope.

Yet, the estate's trustee and Watts' remaining cousins recently deduced that while Elmwood could not legally be sold to the university, they could donate it.  In return for the gift, EKU plans give the estate $400,000 to cover the cost of recent improvements.
This seems problematic on many levels. Most obviously, given the context, the "donation" seems to violate the testator's intent. Also, If the cousins were so eager to monetize the property, I'm surprised they didn't make a restraint on alienation argument or push to diversity the trust holdings under duty of care. 
Steve Clowney  

October 3, 2011 in Estates In Land, Future Interests and the RAP, Home and Housing, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rethinking Kelo

In case you missed it last week, Jeff Bendict, author of a book about the Kelo case and the failure of New London's development project, has reported that one of the four Connecticut Supreme Court justices who voted against Susette Kelo recently said, "Had I known all of what you [Benedict] just told us, I would have voted differently." 

In the comments on the blog, Tim Iglesias makes a nice point:

As anyone who works with real estate development knows, litigation can kill projects. It's hard to sort out how much the litigation that Ms. Kelo brought and pursued all the way to the USSC contributed to the failure of the proposed redevelopment project. I don't see how anyone could confidently state that the project would have failed if the lawsuit had not been brought.

Steve Clowney

October 3, 2011 in Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ostrow on Land Law Federalism

Ashiraostrow Ashira Ostrow (Hofstra) has posted Land Law Federalism (Emory Law Journal) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

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

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

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

Steve Clowney

October 3, 2011 in Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The PropertyProf Mentoring Program

The most valuable professional advice that I ever received (as a practicing lawyer or as a professor) was to develop a strong network of peers and mentors.  In the law school setting, it is important to have mentors within your own institution, but often those senior colleagues do not share your research interests or even teaching subjects.  Instead, junior profs are helped enormously if we can cultivate relationships with more experienced teachers and scholars in our subject area at other institutions.  Those external relationships can also lead to varied other opportunities down the road.

Ben Barros gave me the opportunity to begin blogging at PropertyProf Blog when I was on the academic market, which was generous and helpful.  I'm only in my second year of full-time teaching, but blogging here has allowed me to meet property scholars at institutions across the country.  The downside of using blogging to develop one's network is that it is terribly one-sided and passive.  You, dear reader, have learned much about me, Steve, Mark, and Ben, but we know little about you.  And, perhaps more importantly from a systemic standpoint, you haven't interacted much with each other.

So (without consulting my PropertyProf colleagues) I propose that we begin an informal PropertyProf Mentoring Program.  This program would have two main goals:

1.    To stimulate the creation of mentoring relationships between junior and senior property profs at different institutions; and

2.    To create groups of property profs willing to read and comment upon each others' scholarship.

If you are interested in (1) being mentored; (2) being a mentor; or (3) reading another property prof's scholarship in exchange for their promise to read yours, please either indicate your interest in the comments, or send me an e-mail at marshtd at  I will do my best to match people with common interests, so please indicate your main scholarly interests and the courses you teach in the e-mail or comment.

Tanya Marsh

October 2, 2011 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)