September 14, 2012
When Apartments Become Art
The N.Y. Times tries to explain the surge in prices for the most luxurious apartments the nation's biggest cities:
If it’s $100 million, is it art? [...] Sales at such stratospheric levels in Manhattan, as well as records in certain neighborhoods in Miami, Los Angeles and a few other pockets isolated from the nationwide collapse in real estate prices, have left real estate professionals struggling to explain the surge. Art may be the answer. “Art is what people are willing to pay for, and an apartment like this is like a piece of art,” [said] the Long Island real estate developer Steven Klar [...]
“At some point, it falls apart,” he said. Art and real estate “are very different. The assets are different, the liquidity is different. Still, as the art market has become increasingly global, people are looking at art as an asset because the values have increased so much. People have always considered their home as an asset. If they see it’s worth $50 million, they’re even more likely to consider it an asset. So you can see the markets converging.”
Been & Infranca on Transferable Development Rights
Vicki Been (NYU) and John Infranca (Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy) have posted Transferable Development Rights Programs as 'Post' Zoning (Brooklyn Law Review) on SSRN:
This Essay, written for the David G. Trager Public Policy Symposium at Brooklyn Law School, examines the changing role of transferable development rights (TDRs) in New York City. TDR programs allow property owners to sell unused development capacity at their property and transfer it to another site, where it is typically used to increase the permitted size of a development. New York City’s original TDR programs served two central purposes. First, in the form of Zoning Lot Mergers, they operated as a form of density zoning, allowing property owners to shift development capacity within a defined area. Second, they served to offset the burdens imposed by restrictions on development, particularly landmark preservation regulations. In recent years, TDRs have been used in increasingly sophisticated ways. In reviewing these newer TDR programs, we identify three common attributes: an increased focus on directing the location and density at sites that receive development rights; the use of TDRs as an integral component of more comprehensive rezoning initiatives; and the creation of regulatory incentives that strengthen the market for TDRs. We conclude that TDRs in New York can no longer be understood just as a creative mechanism to soften the effect of rigid zoning restrictions, but should be recognized as well as a tool land use decision makers can use in place of, or in tandem with, upzonings, bonuses, and other devices for increasing density.
September 13, 2012
Are Land Use Battles Bankrupting Cities?
The L.A. Times details how land use disputes have left some cities on shaky financial ground:
[H]efty legal costs from land battles are a widespread problem in cities across California. Peacocks, radio antennas, strip clubs and landslides have all sparked high-profile cases, as well as the more common suits — such as the one in Mammoth Lakes — by developers who were denied approval for a project or neighbors and environmentalists trying to stall big-box stores or large residential projects on sensitive land.
These cases often drag on for years, sometimes consuming millions of dollars in legal bills even before the issues are resolved. A Times review found that in several Los Angeles County cities, land-use litigation amounted to the lion's share of their legal bills.
Brinig on Grandparents and Accessory Dwelling Units
Margaret Brinig (Notre Dame) has posted Grandparents and Accessory Dwelling Units: Preserving Intimacy and Independence on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
around the United States (and, to varying degrees, in Canada, Britain,
and Australia), today confront a problem that people did not envision
twenty or even ten years ago, when municipalities heavily favored
single-family residences, and were permitted to exclude other forms
under what is known as Euclidean zoning. Currently, the issue of whether
to allow owners in single family-zoned neighborhoods to build living
spaces that might house elderly relatives or their caregivers is being
hotly contested in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and made recent
news in Ft. Worth, Texas, and Arlington, Virginia. Legislative
responses have varied from wholesale acceptance, including subsidies,
loans, and waiving of permit fees; to outright prohibition.
While other ongoing work asks the question of why the issue has become contested, why we see the wide variety of responses (even in a single state), and what interest groups are behind proponents and opponents, this paper considers the family connection with alternative dwelling units (ADUs). Does living near to but not with their children solve a particular problem for many elderly citizens, or does living in this form of housing reduce their well-being? Even assuming grandparents are better off, what about their children and grandchildren?
September 12, 2012
Now is the winter of our discontent/made glorious summer by this sun of YorkThis news story has captured my interest for three reasons. First, it involves human remains (they're everywhere!). Second, it involves a key player in the War of the Roses. Third, it involves one of Shakespeare's most well-known historical characters.
English archaelogists are reporting that there is "strong evidence" that the remains of Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485), the last member of the Plantagenet dynasty to rule England, have been found under a parking lot in London. Richard is best known, perhaps inaccurately, for causing the deaths of his young nephews, the so-called "Princes in the Tower." Made Lord Protector of England in 1483 following the death of his older brother King Edward IV, Richard took charge of the 12 year old Edward and 10 year old Richard, who both outranked him in the line of succession. But the marriage of Edward IV and the boys' mother, Elizabeth Woodville, was declared invalid after the boys disappeared in Richard's care, and the next day, Richard III was crowned. Unpopular and perceived as weak, Richard faced strong opposition from other nobles and died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, when Henry Tudor's armies were triumphant. Richard's death marked the last time a King of England was killed in battle and launched the still-fascinating Tudor dynasty.
Coolest thing about the video below -- there appear to be knights guarding the remains. Real knights!
The World's Most Valuable Coin
The 1933 Double Eagle, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, is the most valuable coin in the world. One recently sold at auction for $7.59 million. The coins are sought after for their beauty and because they are so incredibly rare.
Why are the coins so rare? It seems that most were intentionally destroyed by the U.S. government. As part of the plan to remove the U.S. from the gold standard, The Gold Reserve Act of 1934 outlawed the private possesssion of gold. The 1933 gold Double Eagles, which had been struck but not released to the public, were subsequently melted down and turned into gold bars.
Unbeknownst to officials at the Mint, however, a handful of the coins were stolen and ended up in the hands of Israel Switt, a Philadelphia jeweler.
Ten of these coins surfaced in 2010, in a safety deposit box owned by Switt's family. Discovering the stash, the government seized the bullion without compensating the family.
The Family sued. In 2011, a jury decided that the coins belonged to the government. Last week, Judge Legrome Davis of the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, affirmed that decision on appeal, saying "the coins in question were not lawfully removed from the United States Mint."
The family's attorney recently told ABCNews.com, "This is a case that raises many novel legal questions, including the limits on the government's power to confiscate property. The . . . family will be filing an appeal and looks forward to addressing these important issues before the 3rd Circuit."
James Krier Receives Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize
The good folks at William & Mary have announced that James Krier (Michigan) will receive the Brigham-Kanner Prize at the annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference at William and Mary on October 10 and 11. In addition to co-authoring the nation's leading property casebook, Professor Krier has done pioneering work on the evolution of property rights, takings, and environmental law. The august list of speakers at the conference can be found here
Adler on Wetlands and Property Rights
Jonathan Adler (Case Western) has posted Wetlands, Property Rights, and the Due Process Deficit in Environmental Law (Cato Supreme Court Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
In Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency a unanimous Supreme Court held that private landowners could seek judicial review of an Administrative Compliance Order issued by the Environmental Protection Agency alleging that their land contained wetlands subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. The Court’s decision rested on statutory grounds, but the same result may have been dictated by principles of due process. Under the CWA, federal regulators have asserted authority over waters and dry lands alike and sought to expand federal jurisdiction well beyond constitutional limits. Under existing regulations, landowners have little notice or certainty as to whose lands are covered, under what authority, or with what effect. As a consequence, federal wetlands regulations, as currently practiced, violates important due process principles.
September 11, 2012
September Professor's Corner Call
Professors’ Corner is a monthly free teleconference sponsored by the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section's Legal Education and Uniform Laws Group. Each month’s call features a panel of three law professors who discuss property cases of interest to practitioners and scholars. This month's call will be on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time (11:30 a.m. Central, 9:30 a.m. Pacific).
Call-in number: 866-646-6488
September 2012’s program is titled "Astrue v Capato: Its Implicatons for Estate Planners." The panel will address Astrue v. Capato, the recent Supreme Court decision addressing the rights of posthumously conceived children to receive Social Security benefits. Panelists will include Professor Kristine Knaplund (Pepperdine University School of Law), Professor Sheldon Kurtz (University of Iowa School of Law), and Carole Bass (SNR Denton, New York).
This is a fascinating case and a great panel -- please join us!
When the Water Runs Out
Foreign Policy takes a look at the situation in Yemen, where technological changes, outdated government regulations, and a lack of clear property rights have contributed to a rapid depletion of the country's water resources:
In a 2010 report commissioned by the Yemeni government, analysts at U.S. consultancy McKinsey forecast that if water use in the Sanaa basin was not controlled, the area could completely run out of water by about 2020. [...]
"The main reason is the uncontrolled use of technology, drilling wells, installing water pumps and not having any control over the quantity being pumped out," he explains. "Yemeni farmers are, by their culture, rain fed farmers . . . . The new technology made people think there was a sea under the ground. Pump as much as you can and there will be no limit to the water." The situation is exacerbated by a lack of regulation and huge government fuel subsidies, which make producing water using pumps relatively cheap, Schoenewald says. If the subsidies weren't in place, people would not be able to turn as much of a profit from irrigating crops, which accounts for 90 percent of all water use in Yemen.
Blomley on Land Surveying's Role in the Making of Property
Nick Blomley (Simon Fraser - Canada) has posted Disentangling Property, Making Space (Book Chapter) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
from performativity theory in order to understand the process of
surveying and its implication in the remaking of property and space in
early modern England, drawing in particular on John Norden’s ‘The
Surveyor’s Dialogue’ (1607, 1610, 1618). Early modern surveying, I
argue, sought to perform property through a series of enrolments and
alliances, hooking up “professionals”, paper, theodolites, Euclid, the
eye, and so on. But such enrolments, entailing both objects and humans,
are not a given, but were bedevilled by the social politics of
professionalism, the slippages of the human/machine composite, and the
multiplicity of discourses around land.
Crucially, the attempt is to re-perform property through a disentangling, a severing of property from local obligations and association and the attempted installation of a model of property as interchangeable, mobile and abstract. Most immediately, property is re-imagined as a geometric, calculable space. To say that this distorts the realities of property, or to characterize this as an “abstraction” is to misconceive the survey: it participates in a reformatting of property (and, in so doing, helps constitute the very divide between “representation” and “reality” that makes such critiques possible). The success with which this performance of property occurs can be assessed less by the verity of its representations than by the degree to which it is able to constitute a terrain within which its representations are truthful. But such a terrain is not a given, but has to be actively made.
September 10, 2012
When Property Gets Too Real
A Louisville man who recently was told his driveway violated city zoning codes shot and killed a neighbor and critically injured another at a homeowners association meeting inside a church, police said Friday.
What specifically sparked the shooting wasn't clear, but police say they are investigating whether Hindi, a doctor who was educated in Jordan, had a dispute with neighbors in the homeowners association. After neighbors complained, city officials this year deemed that a driveway and fence on Hindi's property violated zoning codes, according to a city document.
No City for Old Men
The Economist looks into the mystery of Glasgow, Scotland:
Glasgow, for all its charms, is sick—and not metaphorically. Glaswegians die younger than other Britons and nobody knows why. Even in wealthy neighbourhoods mortality rates are 15% higher than in similar districts of other big cities. [...]
At first this seemed to be explained by poverty: poorer people are less healthy and Glasgow has lots of them. But about ten years ago studies began to show that the city was still dying younger than it should have done. Adjusting for age, poverty and gender, Glasgow has more than twice as many deaths from drink and drugs as Liverpool and Manchester.
Iglesias on Teaching Property
Tim Iglesias (San Francisco) has posted Reunifying Property in the Classroom: Starting with the Questions, Not the Answers on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
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).