Thursday, March 10, 2011
As someone who lives just a couple hours from Atlanta and frequently visits the city, I pay close attention to many of its signature projects, including Atlantic Station.
Recently, the massive former brownfield site was sold and the new owners are looking to give the fascinating project a more local feel:
AIG Global Real Estate Investment Corp., which backed Jacoby Development’s creation, hit hard times in the financial crises and had to sell its holdings in the project. CB Richard Ellis late last year bought AIG’s interests — the retail portion, an office tower and the remaining vacant land — for about $173 million, according to DataBank Atlanta, as well as the two distressed apartment buildings.
As the fixer, Toro has arrived at a crucial time. The retail portion of the project opened to much hoopla in 2005, but only had a couple of years of economic fair weather before the recession set in.
Toro plans to fine-tune the tenants by adding locally owned shops and restaurants, as well as fix major issues faced by residents and workers. With CBRE involved, Toro says he can spend the millions of dollars it could take to reinvent Atlantic Station.
Read the entire article, here.
This trend is likely to continue as high gas prices and the inability to sell houses (and thus relocate jobs) "re-localizes" our cities even more.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
It was great to have the chance at ALPS to get a preview of a work-in-progress by Ezra Rosser (American). In his talk, "The Limits of (Progressive) Property," Ezra articulated the reasons for his pessimism about property law as a vehicle for progressive social change, responding to the views expressed by several leading neo-Aristotelian property scholars in a 2009 special issue of the Cornell Law Review. I am looking forward to seeing Ezra's work in print.
Recently Ezra has posted his forthcoming article, Offsetting and the Consumption of Social Responsibility, 89 Wash. L. Rev. ___ (2011). Here's the abstract:
This Article examines the relationship between individual consumption and consumption-based harms by focusing on the rise in consumption offsetting. Carbon offsets are but the leading edge of a rise in consumer options for offsetting externalities associated with consumption. Moving from examples of quasi offsetting to environmental offsetting and the possibility of poverty offset institutions, I argue that offsetting provides a valuable mechanism for individuals to correct for the harms associated with consumption. This article makes two major contributions to how we understand the relationship between consumption and social responsibility. First, it identifies an emerging offsetting phenomenon in seemingly discrete market practices and gives suggestions for improving upon them. Second, it suggests that by taking seriously both consumption and externalities, progress can be made on everything from the environment to global poverty. Offsetting, while not getting at all moral or societal obligations, does root such obligations in the shared activity, and perhaps belief, of Americans: consumption.
March 9, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Green Building, Property, Property Theory, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Mashpee Commons near Cape Cod represents one of the great sprawl retrofit efforts where a dying strip mall was transformed into a lively main street setting.
Granted, not all is perfect and it did require amazing feats of regulatory flexibility but, now, 25 years later, Mashpee should be celebrated for giving a glimpse into how an outdated retail model can be reconfigured into a place of vitality:
This year marks 25 years since Douglas Storrs and partner Arnold "Buff" Chace first began developing Mashpee Commons. Though the project may be best known for its shopping, the goal was never just to create a successful commercial real estate enterprise; it was to build a neighborhood.
"That's the environment people want to shop in, work in, live in," Storrs said. "This is a very different thing to do."
And today, a quarter-century after the first permits were issued, the developers, town leaders and many members of the community believe the project has succeeded.
Read the entire story, here.
From Teresa Clemmer at Vermont Law's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic:
The ENRLC is very pleased to announce that it has prevailed on summary judgment in the Vermont Environmental Court after three years of litigation concerning groundwater contamination at the Omya mineral processing facility in Florence, Vermont. For years, Omya has dumped its waste into unlined pits, which has caused the groundwater under its facility to become contaminated with arsenic and aminoethyl ethanolamine (AEEA). Our clients, the Residents Concerned about Omya (RCO), have been advocating for the protection of this groundwater at this site for over seven years.
On Monday, Judge Wright of the Environmental Court ruled in RCO's favor and determined that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) must conduct a public trust analysis when issuing a waste disposal certification for activities that may impact groundwater. This ruling is the first interpretation of Vermont's 2008 law designating groundwater of the State as a public trust resource. Accordingly, the ENRLC has played an important part in establishing a groundbreaking precedent that will help protect the groundwater resources of the State for future generations of Vermonters. Omya's final certification has been vacated, and the final certification has been remanded to ANR to perform this analysis. We anticipate that Omya will appeal the decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, and the ENRLC will continue to represent RCO in those proceedings.
The ENRLC would like to congratulate attorneys Sheryl Dickey, David Mears, Patrick Parenteau, Ben Rajotte, and twenty-one student clinicians whose hard work has made this important victory possible.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Following that long drawn-out blog I just posted, I thought I would post a short, sweet story about an old SRO law in NYC that allows people to request a lease from the landlord. Once the lease is requested, the individual can become a "permanent tenant," even if they have only been there one night. According to the story, "the very act of requesting a lease gives you statutory tenancy." Wow!
The story tracks a woman who requested a lease and now lives as a "permanent, rent-stabilized resident, paying $398 a month for a room in a classic pre-war building in one of Manhattan's priciest neighborhoods" (Upper West Side).
Thanks to Drake University Law School student Eric Manning for pointing this out.
On Friday, the federal government assumed control over the Philadelphia Housing Authority. For months, The Inquirer in Philadelphia had been reporting about corruption and mismanagement in the Housing Authority's finances, including "$38.3 million in legal expenditures since 2007." "That tab included conflict-laden payment to the law firm of [the son of former Mayor Street, who also just resigned as chair of the Housing Authority]." In addition, it included $11.7 million to Ballard Spahr, where former Gov. Ed Rendell is a partner now (and was prior to being governor). As a point of comparison, the Housing Authority paid $10.3 million (16,700 units of housing and 14,800 vouchers) in legal fees in 2010, while New York City's housing authority paid $8.6 million (180,000 units of housing and 99,000 vouchers). The Philadelphia's Housing Authority's executive director was fired in September (for, among other things, settling sexual harassment complaints against him for $648,000) and the board resigned last week.
This all led me back to an article I wrote 5 years ago critical of public authorities, focusing primarily on the lack of relationship between public funds and the democratic process. At the time, public authorities issued more debt per year than all the cities and states combined (i.e. borrow) and they held more debt than all the cities and states combined (i.e. borrowed). Many states had the majority of their debt held by public authorities. New York, for example, had about 90% of its debt held by public authorities. I then discussed how typical elections for mayor, governor, representatives, and councilmembers have little impact on the decisionmakers at public authorities (see, e.g., Gov. Mitt Romney's desperate attempts to remove the head of the Mass Turnpike Authority). This lack of oversight and accountability, I argued, allows for mismanagement, corruption, and graft.
With so many of public authorities existing (more than all cities combined) and performing significant land use functions including, housing, transportation, economic development, water, sewer . . . etc, I wonder how, if at all, infusing more democracy into the control of these functions would impact land use today. Would placing these functions under a city or state allow for more integration of land use issues? Would it allow cities to be more flexibility in spending on land use issues (see, e.g., Philadelphia's unsuccessful attempt to gain access to Philadelphia Parking Authority's funds, generated from land in Philadelphia)? How would it impact the democratic process? I'm not sure where these functions should reside, but with each new revelation of public authority corruption, I question whether we have the most efficient system.
March 8, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Housing, HUD, Local Government, Planning, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Joel Kotkin has another "New Geographer" column at Forbes challenging some prevailing attitudes about urbanism, using some early Census data. From The Protean Future of American Cities:
The ongoing Census reveals the continuing evolution of America’s cities from small urban cores to dispersed, multi-polar regions that includes the city’s surrounding areas and suburbs. This is not exactly what most urban pundits, and journalists covering cities, would like to see, but the reality is there for anyone who reads the numbers. . . .
But the bigger story — all but ignored by the mainstream media — is the continued evolution of urban regions toward a more dispersed, multi-centered form. Brookings’ Robert Lang has gone even further, using the term “edgeless cities” to describe what he calls an increasingly “elusive metropolis” with highly dispersed employment.
Rather than a cause for alarm, this form of development simply reflects the protean vitality of American urban forms. . . .
Houston Tomorrow president David Crossley, however, sees some of the same trends from Census data on the Houston region, and (tongue-in-cheek) credits the dispersal of new population into the edges as a "Brilliant Government Success":
Houston Tomorrow’s analysis shows that public policy aimed at moving growth away from our 134 towns, cities, and villages to the unincorporated areas of the 13 counties has been breathtakingly successful. In the 2000 Census, our towns and cities had 65% of all the population. In the new numbers, that share drops to 58%. That’s because fully 71% of all the growth was in unincorporated areas.
Crossley is concerned with the sprawl and reverse-urban trends that this growth indicates. This is going to be a lively debate for the foreseeable future; as more Census data comes out we can expect to see a lot more analysis. I know Kotkin's normative claims get a lot of pushback but I don't know about his descriptive analysis--the demographic numbers certainly are compelling, as Crossley's less sangine take indicates.
Monday, March 7, 2011
I've already blogged about the ALPS conference in general, but I want to make sure that all of the land use-related papers from Day 2 get mentioned here, because if you are interested, you should keep your eyes out for the publications.
Jeffrey Jones: Four Property Wrongs of Self-Storage Law
Bela August Walker: Zoning In: State Power & the Siting of Drug Rehabilitation Clinics
Asmara Tekle: Greening the Lawn in Law: Lawns and Waterways. I was glad to hear this paper not only as a fellow Houstonian, but also because during the Q&A we were treated to the most eloquent description of what I am hereby officially calling the "Clowney Theory of the Gendered American Lawn." This is a family-friendly blog, so you'll have to ask Steve for the precise articulation.
Antonia Layard: Public/private use of Property
Tanya Marsh: Regulating God's Acre: Custom, Commerce, and Choice in the American Cemetery
Nick Hopkins & Susan Bright: Evaluating Legal Models of Affordable Home Ownership in England
Magdalena Habdas: Who needs a park or a city square? The notion of public real estate as a res publicae
Troy Rule: Renewable Energy and the Neighbors
Ngai Pindell: Climate Change and Affordable Housing
Will Cook: Smart Growth and the Preservation of Historic Resources
It was great to see everyone there, and we especially wish safe travels to those who came to AALS from abroad.
As I mentioned and as Jim also noted, the ALPS conference was great; my objective here is to list some of the afternoon first-day panels that blog readers might be interested in thinking about and watching for the articles. So here goes:
Jessica Owley: Enforceability of Exacted Conservation Easements
Sarah Schindler: Abandoned Big Box Stores: Legal Solutions to the Legacies of Poor Planning Decisions
Marc Roark: Property at Law's End: How Instincts Towards Private Property Transcend Towards Non-Entitlements--Memory and Identity
Jim Kelly: Diversity in Land Trust Governance Structure: Comedy of the Anticommons?
Kenneth Stahl: Ambiguities of Neighborhood Empowerment
ALPS Day One ended with a terrific plenary session on the new book Integrating Spaces: Property, Law, & Race, with authors Al Brophy, Kali Murray, and Bernadette Atuahene and Kenneth Mack.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Saturday was the second and final day of the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Law, Property and Society at Georgetown. Last year's inaugural offered such terrific exchanges as to fully justify Matt's enthusiastic posts leading into this year's reprise. Comprising more than 120 participating presenters, the two dozen panels featured scholars engaged in projects in real property, land use, environmental law, property theory and intellectual property among others. Many past and present bloggers from Land Use Prof and Property Prof were in attendance. Robin Paul Malloy (Syracuse) and Michael Diamond (Georgetown) deserve our thanks for not only putting together another great event but also fostering the critical mass of leadership ALPS will need to continue to offer inclusive gatherings that promote the very best in engaged property thought.
This year, the work offered by scholars from non-U.S. institutions really made the conference for me. Even with the wide-ranging participation from domestic law schools, 20% of this year's presenters came from, among other countries, the U.K, Canada and Israel. I got a chance to hear great talks by Lorna Fox-O'Mahony (Durham) and recent Land Use Prof guest blogger Antonia Layard (Cardiff). I also was able to re-connect with Susan Bright (Oxford) and Nick Hopkins (Southampton), who have been writing about the same kind of perpetually affordable homeownership models that I have focused on in my own scholarship.
The highlight of the weekend for me was the amazing discussion of property theory as examined in Property: Values and Institutions, a brand new Oxford U. Press book by Hanoch Dagan (Tel Aviv). The panel featured terrific dialogue between the author and commentators Larissa Katz (Queens), Eduardo Peñalver (Cornell), Eric Claeys (George Mason) and Jed Purdy (Duke).
Next year at Georgetown again for ALPS 3.0. Keep checking our blog for updates on registration.
The idea that a mortgaged house represents the pinnacle of the American dream is flawed on many levels. Not the least of which is that there is a certain economic reality which requires real equity in order to justify making an efficient loan.
Unfortunately, that reality was increasingly ignored as both the federal government and the private market pressed through loans for individuals who simply did not possess the income to likely repay them.
Now that we've become Foreclosure Nation, the idea of a return to more renting is coming back.
This WaPo article discusses why this could be a very efficient trend:
Rising market demand for rental housing is already a fact, the result of economic recession, rising unemployment, flat or falling home prices and more-conservative loan practices. For a growing portion of the American population, the probable reality is that conventional home ownership will be economically unfeasible and, with gradual or no appreciation in home value, relatively unprofitable. Increasing numbers of American households will rent.
But will this be detrimental to American society and culture, perhaps signaling the end of the American dream of home ownership?
Tomorrow's reality will not be a nightmare. Rather, it will be the manifestation of a common-sense, rational concept disregarded during the housing bubble years: Homes should be bought and owned only by people who can sustainably afford to pay the full gamut of home ownership expenses, including mortgage principal and interest, taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance and repairs. For others, renting will be the economically prudent and necessary choice. Yet it can be a desirable choice.
Well, it was a great weekend at the Association for Law, Property, & Society. Thanks so much to Robin Paul Malloy, the other organizers, and Syracuse and Georgetown for sponsoring the event. ALPS has very quickly become *the* place to meet other scholars in property law, and to share ideas about research. I hope that my fellow bloggers will share their thoughts from the conference. In the meantime, I'm going to simply report the land use papers that were presented, and if you find any of them interesting, keep an eye out for them on SSRN and/or the publications. So here are a few of the great presentations from the first day at ALPS. I certainly do not mean to leave out any of the other excellent papers at ALPS, but these are some of the ones I saw and/or heard about.
Shelley Saxer: Banishment of Sex Offenders: Protectionism and the Dormant Commerce Clause
Hari Osofsky: Multidimensional Governance and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Ashira Ostrow: Land Law Federalism: The Evolving Relationship between Federal Law and Local Land
Susan Bright: Leases: Hurdles and Tools for "Greening" Commercial Property
Adam MacLeod: Resurrecting the Bogeyman: Mosques, Mega-Churches, and the Substantial Burden Test
Joshua Fershee: Short-Sited: The Failure of Recent Federal Siting Laws in the Energy Industry
Sara Bronin: The Promise & Perils of Renewable Energy on Tribal Lands
Lynda Oswald: Defining the Boundaries of Judicial Deference in Eminent Domain Cases
Jeff Stake: Dimensions of Just Compensation
Timothy Mulvaney: Time and Exactions
Laura Hatcher: The Trouble with Takings: Competing Time Horizons, Institutions, and Property Disputes
Lorna Fox O'Mahony: Housing Equity and Older Owners: Between Risk and Regulation
Saturday, March 5, 2011
NPR this evening featured a story about a dispute in West Virginia over the preservation of Blair Mountain, site of a 1921 miner uprising that claimed the lives of 100 men. Massey Energy, owner of the mine in which 29 workers died nearby last April, is one of two companies that owns land adjacent to the site. After being placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Blair Mountain's protection was removed by state officials thereby eliminating a barrier to the leveling of the site through mountain top removal of the coal within.
March 5, 2011 in Clean Energy, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Historic Preservation, History, Industrial Regulation, Oil & Gas, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, March 4, 2011
When I first moved to Des Moines, I was pleased to read about a new and progressive Smart Growth law passed by the legislature (begins at Section 17 in the link). The law provided for a host of Smart Growth related requirements, including charging a new Smart Planning Task Force with the responsibility of "recommending policies and strategies for creating a stronger planning culture in Iowa [and] producing more resilient and sustainable communities." The Task Force's final report was issued in November 2010. The final report, among other things, included a provision requiring local governments to submit Smart Growth regional plans to a regional and then state body for approval.
Shortly after the elections, Iowa's Smart Growth law was on the chopping block in HF 45, which passed the House. An amendment to remove the amendment did not pass the House. Fortunately, yesterday, the Speaker and President (of the Senate) signed HF 45 without the repeal language in it and sent it to the Governor.
I'm not suggesting that Smart Growth is a magic pill, but the considerations that are required for Smart Growth plans under the Task Force's report include important government functions such as, collaboration, transparency, renewable energy, occupational and housing diversity, natural resource protection, sustainable design, and transportation diversity.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
If you like webtools that shed light on different land use issues and trends, then the Atlas of Urban Expansion looks to be a good one:
The Atlas of Urban Expansion provides the geographic and quantitative dimensions of urban expansion and its key attributes in cities the world over. The data and images are available for free downloading, for scholars, public officials, planners, those engaged in international development, and concerned citizens. The global empirical evidence presented here is critical for an intelligent discussion of plans and policies to manage urban expansion everywhere.
Check it out at the Lincoln Institute's website.
Speaking of the suburbs, I just got this report from Houston Tomorrow (via Planetizen) by the Sustainable Cities Collective about what sounds like a very interesting conference on "The Sustainable Suburb: Reimagining the Inner Ring" at North Carolina State. From the article:
[T]hough they once symbolized growing American modernity in the post-war period, many suburbs now suffer from the same sort of decay that has been attacking inner cities for decades.
If there’s a lesson from this, it is that the old lines drawn between city and suburb may no longer apply so neatly.
It was appropriate, then, that North Carolina State University’s 2011 Urban Design Conference, held earlier this month, focused on the “Sustainable Suburb.” Though held in a Downtown Raleigh convention hall, the meeting was enlightening in its exploration of the ways suburbs can evolve to adapt to their new realities.
Most interesting was Ellen Dunham-Jones, whose Retrofitting Suburbia (with June Williamson) has become a frequently cited handbook for people looking for ways to reconfigure their environments for a new century. The book shows how strip shopping centers can be morphed into churches and how office parks can be densified.
Sounds fascinating; check out the conference reports as well as Dunham-Jones' Retrofitting Suburbia.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
This recent Washington Post column makes the argument that the Great American Suburb is really misunderstood (or at least mis-defined):
But today, the suburbs aren't what they used to be. Since more than 50 percent of Americans live in them, suburbs have become more like cities, while cities have become more like suburbs, complete with gated communities and big-box stores. For better or worse, the suburbs reflect America, so let's dispense with a few misunderstandings about where most of us call home.
Myth #3 is an especially accurate one:
3. Suburbs are a product of the free market.
Suburbs are a big government handout if there ever was one. Taxpayers are on the hook for the new roads, water and sewer lines, schools, parks, and police and fire services that make it possible for "self-made" suburbanites to live on the outskirts of town.
And building suburbs is expensive. A 2008 study by Arthur C. Nelson, a professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah, estimated that it costs as much as $13,426 per resident when a new suburban development is built. In sprawl-plagued Atlanta, property tax rates rose 22 percent from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s as suburban development boomed. But during that same period in Portland, Ore., where the state protected rural land from suburban encroachment with restrictive zoning laws in 1973, property taxes dropped 29 percent.
Suburbia's municipal fragmentation also makes government inefficient. New Jersey is rife with corruption in part because of the expense and complexity of maintaining 566 separate municipalities, each with its own city government, school districts and police force. If Gov. Chris Christie wants to cut government waste, he should lean on adjacent municipalities with duplicative services to merge.
A couple of us have mentioned with eager anticipation the ALPS (Association for Law, Property, & Society) conference coming up this weekend. In only its second year, ALPS has quickly become the conference for property scholars; as I told my students today, all of the cool property profs will be there (they thought the phrase "cool property profs" was an oxymoron, but I insist that it's actually a redundancy). The final program is posted here.
Chad suggested that we try to get together with anyone who's available on Friday or Saturday night. Sounds great to me, so if you are interested, feel free to email one of us or just link up at the conference.
Another thing that I've mentioned is how much I am looking forward to the chance to visit the National Building Museum, and their current featured exhibition Designing Tomorrow: America's Worlds Fairs of the 1930s. Anyone who studies land use knows how much of an impact that Worlds Fairs have had on Americans' ideas about city planning, architecture, technology, and the shape of our communities. The National Building Museum is only a few blocks' walk from the Georgetown University Law Center, where the ALPS conference is being held. So I'm trying to find a good time to sneak over there (which is difficult, because there are so many great panels to attend!). If you are interested in checking it out, let me know.
I leave Thursday morning so . . . see you at ALPS!
Those of you teaching or interested in design guidelines may wish to check out New York City's new "Active Design Guidelines." New York City has produced a wonderful 144-page document that "focus[es] on designers' role in tackling one of the most urgent health crises of our day: obesity and related diseases including diabetes." How does it do this, by focusing on "opportunities to increase daily physical activity, including . . . providing inviting streetscapes for pedestrians and bicyclists."
Complete with historical and medical facts, as well as old photos, the Guidelines detail four primary areas and make recommendations in those areas (Environmental Design & Health; Urban Design; Building Design; and Synergies with Sustainable & Universal Design). Encouragingly, the Guidelines were a joint venture among the Departments of City Planning, Design & Construction, Transportation, and Health & Mental Hygiene.