Thursday, February 17, 2011

Planning the World's Newest Nation

Urban Planning is up and running in South Sudan.


Matt Yglesias isn't impressed:

I don’t think you necessarily want too much “planning” of a growing city at all. I’d like to see land used roughly as densely as market conditions warrant. But laying out street grids and such is necessary, and the goal should be to create a large number of relatively small streets—short blocks are good for walking, bicycling, etc. That kind of thing is especially important in poor countries; urban design that privileges the car is very bad for people who can’t afford one.

Steve Clowney

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February 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Spite Cross?

Giantcross Carl Behr, a landowner in suburban Pittsburgh, has refused to remove a 24-foot illuminated cross from his property, despite warnings from government officials that the structure violates a number of local ordinances.  Behr claims the cross is "about the Lord" and that those who want it removed stand against God.  Behr's neighbors aren't' so sure.  As Fox News reports, "Lisa Fera, who lives across the street from Behr, has said the cross shines directly into her home and was built after she complained about Behr parking vehicles from his construction business  in front of her residence."  Fera says, "I feel that this is a direct intimidation of me, that each time you call the police or do something, a cross goes up." Someone may want to tell Behr that Jesus said he was the light and the way, not that you need to light up the way...

Steve Clowney

(image used under Creative Commons license)


February 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Skyscrapers Can Save the City

Ed Glaeser, one of the nation's preeminent urban economists, has a new piece in The Atlantic on the importance of encouraging tall buildings:

Besides making cities more affordable and architecturally interesting, tall buildings are greener than sprawl, and they foster social capital and creativity. Yet some urban planners and preservationists seem to have a misplaced fear of heights that yields damaging restrictions on how tall a building can be. From New York to Paris to Mumbai, there’s a powerful case for building up, not out.

Property Profs, especially those with a land use focus, might find Glaeser's acadmic work of interest.

Steve Clowney

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February 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Foreclosure Crisis Update

The number of foreclosures in Minnesota quintupled between 2005 and 2008, according to this report  released by  And the trend is continuing upwards on an annual basis (although foreclosures dropped in the 4th quarter of 2010).

Foreclosures cause foreclosures, because each foreclosure drives down surrounding property values, pushing more borrowers underwater, and making it more difficult for them to re-finance as adjustable rates adjust and balloon payments become due.  Barring a moratorium, the crisis is unlikely to stop until either (1) some extrinsic factor causes economic growth or (2) homeowners who in the past five years secured short term adjustable rate or balloon payment loans with mortgages are mostly shaken out of the market through foreclosure. 

Assuming, of course -- and it's not a safe assumption by any means -- that lenders, if challenged, can produce the note and establish the right to foreclose.

Mark A. Edwards

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February 15, 2011 in Home and Housing, Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Property, Student Notes, and Elite Law Schools

EllicksonAndrew Yaphe (Stanford Law School) has posted Taking Note of Notes: Student Legal Scholarship in Theory and Practice.  At its core, the piece provides "an empirical analysis of recent student notes, enabling the reader to get an overview of the forms that student scholarship has actually taken over the past few years."  The whole thing is worth reading, but there are some bits of information that will be of special interest to Property Profs. 

Yaphe found that at "non-elite" schools, property was the fourth most popular subject for student notes, accounting for 7% of the total. In contrast, the sample of student notes from elite institutions (three years worth of pieces from Yale, Virginia, Stanford, Northwestern, Michigan and Columbia), contained only 4 articles (2%) about property issues.  Yaphe goes on:

This disparity becomes more significant when one examines the elite notes on property law more closely.  Three of those elite notes were empirical analyses of aspects of property law in local communities; these notes, in their methodological approach and conceptual stance, were all strongly influences by the work of Robert Ellickson.  In other words: If it weren't for property law notes written under the aegis of Ellickson, there would hardly be any elite property law notes at all. (emphasis added)

That's a stunning finding.  Yaphe hypothesizes that the "disparity of notes on property law may reflect the status of the course in American law schools.  The course tends to be underempahsized at elite law schools . . . while getting more attention at non-elite law schools . . . ."  There's probably something to that explanation, but I'm not sure it fully explains the difference.  My bet is that the local nature of property law (and family law - another subject ignored by elite schools) doesn't lend itself to the kind of sweeping national-level reforms that folks at elite law schools tend to make.  I also wonder if the number of "not-property" people teaching property courses leads to a lack of property mentors.  

Steve Clowney

Hat tip to Joseph Blocher for passing this article along.

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February 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teaching Zoning Soon?

You could construct a whole course out of this map, published by the Minneapolis Council of Social Agencies in 1937 and more recently re-appearing in this book.  Hat tip to Professor Diane Dube of the Mitchell Community Development Clinic for pointing it out to me.  I could stare at it, slack-jawed, for hours. 

Some interesting things to consider:

  • The map appears to recognize that both "Negroes" and "Foreign Born" might live in either "Slums" and or in neighborhoods of "Working-Men's Homes."  That suggests to me that the presence of African-Americans and immigrants, alone, was not enough to cause a neighborhood to be labeled a slum -- which, while not exactly a ringing endorsement of pluralism, was still probably slightly more enlightened than some places in 1937. 
  • There is an area cleverly called "Hobohemia" which I guarantee you was the most interesting part of the city.  I wonder if it existed only during the Depression, or if it was a sort of longstanding eccentric neighborhood.
  • There is a section oddly called "Business Automobiles." 

I am fairly certain the map was intended to be merely descriptive, not prescriptive.  Nonetheless, it's fascinating.

Mark A. Edwards

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 Minneapolis zoning, 1935 

 UPDATE:  Here is the 'Chicago School' map referenced by Kenneth Stahl in his comment in the comments section below.  Please read his comment for lots of great information about these maps, and about an interesting article he is working on:


February 13, 2011 in Land Use | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)