Monday, November 13, 2006
What types of private land uses should government subsidize? Last week, I suggested that sports stadiums, the most famous type of subsidy, don’t make sense for affluent cities with a diversified economy. A quintessential example is found in Seattle, where the voters last week rejected a proposal that would have, in effect, provided a land use subsidy for the SuperSonics pro basketball team. (As a result, the team may move to Oklahoma City.) At about the same time, the city approved a complex land use plan for a new 1-million-square-feet headquarters for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- the organization that might do more good for the world than any other, over the next couple of decades. According to the Post-Intelligencer, the city is arranging for the relocation of a recreation park on the land; the foundation will pay for transportation improvements (including support of carpooling and public transit) to help assuage traffic congestion. The only significant city payout would be for a parking garage that the city will eventually gain the title to. One city seems to have its priorities and its negotiating acumen working well.