Friday, August 16, 2013

The End of Grassy Lawns?

The New York Times notes that cities in the southwest are using a bundle of carrots and sticks to get homeowners to give up their grassy lawns in favor of more drought-resistant landscapes:

In hopes of enticing, or forcing, residents to abandon the scent of freshly cut grass, cities in this parched region have offered homeowners ever-increasing amounts to replace their lawns with drought-resistant plants; those who keep their grass face tough watering restrictions and fines for leaky sprinklers.These efforts are drastically reshaping the landscape, with cactuses and succulents taking over where green grass once reigned.

“The era of the lawn in the West is over,” said Paul Robbins, the director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin. “The water limits are insurmountable, unless the Scotts Company develops a genetically modified grass that requires almost no water. And I’m sure it’s keeping them up at night.”

This piece by Sarah Schindler that we highlighted a few weeks goes much deeper on the same subject.

Steve Clowney

August 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Alterman on Land Use Regulations and Property Values

AltermanRachelle Alterman (Israel Institute of Technology) has posted Land Use Regulations and Property Values: The 'Windfalls Capture' Idea Revisited (Book Chapter) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The idea of reaping the 'windfalls' in land values due to planning decisions is by no means new. The underlying rationale is that much of the value of real property is created not by the landowner’s work, but by government policies that grant development rights or by broad economic and social trends. Governments need the funds collected for financing public services of various kinds.

This paper opens with the conceptual debate about value capture and its rationale, presenting the positions of proponents as well as critics. Drawing on the author’s comparative research on the laws and practices in 13 advanced-economy countries around the world, the paper then addresses the degree to which recapture of the “unearned increment” from planning decisions is indeed a viable approach. Should policymakers adopt it for financing or incentivizing the delivery of public services and affordable housing?

Only three countries among the 13 have adopted laws and policies about value capture at some point in their history. What lessons may be learned from their experiences? The findings show that the idea of value capture in its pure form has failed to catch on widely among advanced economies, with only a few exceptions. However, the basic idea of the “unearned increment” as a financial source for public services has not died away. In recent decades, several “mutations" of this idea have been gaining popularity in many countries, but in widely different forms and degrees. I call these "indirect modes" of value capture. These are much more complex and less “elegant” than the direct value-capture notion, and present legal and public-policy challenges. Yet in some contexts, these modes are more realistic instruments for funding public services.

The paper concludes with a set of assumptions (for further research) about the legal-administrative conditions for the successful application of the indirect modes of value capture. These are still lacking even in some advanced-economy countries.

Steve Clowney

August 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Property, Community, and Pubs

Property and beer don't come together nearly enough.  Recognizing that pubs often serve as the social centers of smaller communities, England has granted 100 localities the power to (temporarily) block the transfer of bars that are put up for sale: 

A hundred pubs in England have been given special protected status to stop them being closed down and sold off for redevelopment. [...]

The 100 pubs have been given Assets of Community Value (ACV) status with their local councils, which means the pub can't be sold on without the local community being told. It grants councils greater powers to refuse planning applications from developers and gives the community up to six months to put in a bid to buy the pub should it be put up for sale.

Steve Clowney

(HT: Friend of the blog, and all-world legal geographer, Nick Blomley)

August 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Blumm & Paulsen on The Public Trust in Wildlife

Michael Blumm (Lewis & Clark) & Aurora Paulsen (Lewis & Clark) have posted The Public Trust in Wildlife (Utah Law Review) on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The public trust doctrine, derived from ancient property principles, is thought to mostly apply to navigable waters and related land resources. The doctrine supplies a mediating force to claims of both private ownership and unfettered government discretion over these resources, vesting the state with trust responsibility to ensure that the use of these resources promotes long-term sustainability. A related doctrine — sovereign ownership of wildlife — is also an ancient public property doctrine inherited from England. State ownership of wildlife has long defeated private ownership claims and enabled states to enact and implement wildlife conservation regulations. This paper claims that these two doctrines should be merged, and that state sovereign ownership of wildlife means that wildlife — like navigable waters — is held in trust for the public and must be managed for long-term sustainable use by future generations. Merging the doctrines would mean that state ownership would not only give states with the authority to manage their wildlife populations but also the duty to do so and would equip members of the public with standing to enforce the states’ trust duties in court. This paper shows that the public trust in wildlife has already been employed in California and in several other states, and suggests that it deserves more widespread judicial recognition, particularly — as we demonstrate — in view of the fact that no fewer than forty-seven states use trust or trust-like language in describing state authority to manage wildlife. We include an appendix citing the sources of the wildlife trust in all forty-seven states for reference.

Steve Clowney

August 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Map of the Day: The Most Common Surnames in Europe


Steve Clowney

August 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Investors Sue Over Use of Eminent Domain for Mortgage Seizure Plan

Southern's Chris Odinet passes along this news:

A group of plaintiffs representing some of the nation's largest bond investors (including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) have filed a lawsuit against the City of Richmond, CA and the investment firm Mortgage Resolution Partners (MRP), seeking to block the City’s proposal to seize mortgages using eminent domain. The complaint argues that the use of eminent domain being proposed by the City and MRP is unconstitutional because it benefits a small group of Richmond citizens at the expense of out-of-state investors, effectively violating the interstate commerce clause.

In conjunction, the Federal Housing Finance Agency also released a memo stating its view that the use of eminent domain in this capacity “presents a clear threat to the safe and sound operations of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks."  These statements suggest that there may be some very real consequences for future access to consumer credit if the eminent domain plan is carried out.  HUD has yet to weigh in on whether it will insure the loans that will refinance the seized mortgages.

The complaint is here.

The FHFA's general counsel memo is here.

Steve Clowney

August 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Designing for North Korea


Olga Wong asks who designs all the mega-projects in North Korea.  The answers she finds involve shadowy middlemen, private jets, Kim Jong-um, and an architecture firm from Hong Kong.

Steve Clowney

(Pic: Design for the Kumgang Tourism airport in North Korea)

August 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Property & Speech, Ctd.

The New York Times reports on a veterans group that attempted to fly the Gadsden Flag (recently assosicated with the Tea Party movement) on city property of New Rochelle, NY.  The city ordered the flag removed:

City officials, who have been barraged by angry e-mails from conservatives nationally, say residents are welcome to put up banners or signs representing their opinions, but not on city-owned property.

“Although it’s certainly true that the Gadsden flag has a historic meaning, it’s also true that in the modern day, it is often associated with the Tea Party movement,” said Mayor Noam Bramson, who is also the Democratic candidate for Westchester County executive. “If you Google ‘Tea Party flag,’ this is the one that comes up. Of course, it’s fine for individuals to express their views on their own property or persons, but I think on public property, the standard has to be different.”

In a lawsuit filed on July 26 in federal court in White Plains, the United Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Association of New Rochelle and its president, Peter Parente, sued the city, Mr. Bramson, the city manager and four City Council members, saying that the city had acted in an “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable manner” and violated the group’s First Amendment rights.

Steve Clowney

August 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)