Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Does the best planning happen in a recession?

I have thoroughly enjoyed guest-blogging on Land Use Prof Blog this past month.  As my final post in this stint, I thought I’d throw out a “truism” an august member of the California land use community once told me, which was that “the best planning happens in recessions.”  This attorney’s argument was that, given the cyclical nature of the real estate market, when things are going hot and heavy, there is no time for local governments to think—they are simply trying to keep up with the permits that are coming across their desks.  It is also hard for local governments to change course in peak of a market because so many private-side decisions have been made based upon existing policies, and so it become politically difficult in a lot of jurisdictions to make changes that would jeopardize those large projects.

The recessionary part of the cycle, on the other hand, gives a chance for local governments to think about big ideas, and try to find ways to make their long-term goals emerge once the market returns.  This also makes sense for the private sector, because once the market heats up, they know the rules created in the recessionary phase, have stability in the growth phase, and that certainly helps in conversations with lenders.

My question to the group is:  is this “truism” true?  Does the best planning happen in a recession?  And if so, is the community where you live doing the most right now to make sure that, when the market returns, the growth that happens will fulfill the community’s vision and also be predictable for developers and investors?  My sense is that most communities in this recession are still looking backwards, trying to clean up the foreclosure mess and trying to solve the jobs issue.  I’d like to encourage each of us to think about how we can get communities looking forward on land use issues and planning for the future, even when there is so much to clean up from the Great Recession.  My gut instinct is that the best planning does happen in recessions, and communities that look forward now will be those prospering most in the decades ahead.

Stephen Miller

January 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Walter Russell Mead on the Crisis of the American Dream

Walter Russell Mead (Bard College) has posted a fascinating essay at The American Interest called Beyond Blue Part One: The Crisis of the American Dream.  An excerpt:

I’ve written in earlier posts about the shift from the first American Dream to the second: from the family farm to the suburban “homestead.” It was a profound change in American life and culture that has not yet been fully explored.  The family farm integrated production and consumption, work and leisure, family and business.  The family wasn’t just a union of sentiment: it was an element of production.  Mom and Dad worked as a team to feed, house and clothe the family, and as the kids grew up they took on greater and greater responsibilities in the common effort.  Their lives at home prepared them for the new lives they would lead on their own: the kids would grow up, marry, and start farms.

The 20th century suburban homestead was a very different place. 

This is almost exactly the theme of an article I am writing, so naturally I find it interesting!  Mead's essay ranges well beyond land use, but his grounding of the "American Dream" in patterns of living and social organization speaks to how incredibly relevant land use models are to the compelling issues facing American society in the 21st Century.

Matt Festa

January 30, 2012 in Agriculture, History, Mortgage Crisis, Scholarship, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A “lost generation” of land use lawyers?

We all know it is a tough time for young lawyers out there, but I wonder if it may be even harder for those interested in land use law.  I was lucky enough to land an associate position doing land use and environmental law straight out of law school.  I don’t know if I would have the same fate in today’s market:  as we all know, the construction industry remains in a deep slump in all but a few markets, and only a few major public works projects still have the green light.  Only a few hot markets are keeping “dirt” lawyers busy on the developer side, and with many local governments pinching pennies on the regulatory side, it seems to me now is a particularly difficult time to try to enter into the land use law field. 

That leaves me wondering what this group of professors can do beyond students’ law school graduation to foster the next generation of land use practitioners, which I believe is part of our mission.  Personally, I have contemplated creating a “fellows” program associated with my economic development clinic that would permit those interested in land use and related fields to retain a foothold in the field and exhibit their continued interest to employers down the road.  Whatever approach taken, I think it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure there is not a “lost generation” of land use lawyers out there, and that the practitioner field remains vital and gets growth opportunities in their early, formative years of practice. 

What other ideas could we pursue?  Perhaps this is a subject for a panel at an upcoming conference?

Stephen Miller

January 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Land use at the “Oscars”

The Oscars nominations for Best Picture came out this week, and it’s time to determine which of them has the best chances of winning . . . presuming, as we are to do, that land use will be the primary concern in the judges’ minds. 

Some urbanists may argue that Hugo will win for its transit-oriented development themes associated with a young boy living in a train station.  Others may argue that Midnight In Paris will win for its historic preservation-inspired romp through Twenties’ Parisian streets.  But I think the hands down land use Oscars favorite has to be The Descendants, in which George Clooney plays a lawyer who, along with a large divided family, must decide whether to sell a large plot of Hawaiian lands to a developer or preserve them in an undeveloped state. 

Other than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, when was the last time a land use issue played such a pivotal role in an Oscar-nominated film?  I can’t recall of one. 

And perhaps of greater issue:  could The Descendants be nominated for the Oscar if the family had decided to sell the land?  I think not.  Part of the redemptive nature of the story is not choosing greed over family, a storyline that would get too muddy if Clooney’s character started negotiating deal points in the wake of his wife's death, no matter what the economic or environmental result was.  Has an Oscar ever gone to a film where the protagonist was a developer, for that matter?  Or a land use professor? 

Something to think about when the stars start walking down the red carpet in a couple weeks.

Stephen Miller

January 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Owley on Exacted Conservation Easements and Enforcement Concerns

Jessica Owley (Buffalo) has posted Exacted Conservation Easements: Emerging Concerns with Enforcement, Probate & Property, Vol. 26, No. 1, p. 51, 2012.  The abstract:

Enforceability of exacted conservation easements is uncertain. Legislators, activists, and academics did not contemplate the proliferation of exacted conservation easements when enacting, advocating for, and writing about state conservation easement statutes. Despite this early oversight, exaction has become one of the most common ways that conservation easements come into being. Enforceability of exacted conservation easements is a threshold question of analysis for the continued use of the tool. Assessing the validity, and thus legal enforceability, of the exacted conservation easements involves examining the state’s conservation-easement statutes and state servitude law as well as the underlying permit scheme.

This article presents a roadmap for investigating the enforceability of exacted conservation easements and makes three suggestions for improvement. First, states should address exaction in their state conservation-easement acts. Second, drafters should increase the precision and detail of the agreements, acknowledging and explaining the nature of the exaction and the underlying permitting law. Third, to clarify the elements and uses of exacted conservation easements to both agencies and citizens, government agencies that use exacted conservation easements should promulgate regulations related to their use. Such regulations should include ensuring that permit issuers retain third-party right of enforcements. This will keep the permitting agency involved even if it is not the holder of the exacted conservation easement.

Uncertainty in enforceability of exacted conservation easements calls into question their use as a method of land conservation. Furthermore, the questionable validity of exacted conservation easements indicates that the permits relying upon such exactions could be ill advised and potentially in jeopardy.


This accessible piece builds on some of the concerns outlined in her recent Vermont Law Review piece, The Enforceability of Exacted Conservation Easements.

Matt Festa

January 26, 2012 in Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Scholarship, Servitudes, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fast Food, Religion, and Land Use: The Case of Loma Linda

This recent article in the Los Angeles Times details a controversy in the town of Loma Linda, California over the city council's approval of a new McDonald's (some sort of fast-food chain).  Voters are contemplating a ballot measure to  limit the number of fast food joints and threatening retaliation against the city council come election time.  Yawn, right?  By now, we've all seen our share of local land use/fast-food dust-ups.  But check this out: Loma Linda is the heartland of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith, which preaches the value of a healthy lifestyle.  Most Adventists are vegetarians.  Importantly, every member of the city council of Loma Linda is Adventist.  So I wonder: assuming a ban on fast-food were otherwise appropriate (an open question, in my view), does it become an unconstitutional Establishment of religion if a city's motivation for enacting the ban were its religious beliefs that a vegetarian lifestyle should be encouraged?  I'm not aware of too much precedent on this issue, but one relevant case may be Kiryas Joel v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), in which the Supreme Court implied that the incorporation of a village by a religious commune because it wanted to use the zoning power in order to effectuate the religious goals of the commune (there, the traditional preference among Satmar Hasidim for high-density living accommodations) was permissible.  Hardly compelling authority, though.

My favorite part of the Loma Linda story is that apparently the town already has a Carl's Jr. and Del Taco.  McDonald's appears to have been singled out, perhaps because of its iconic stature.  I smell an equal protection issue there.  The Times reporter even interviewed a diner at Carl's Jr. who, in the midst of scarfing down some artery-clogging cuisine, declared her opposition to McDonald's because she thought people should be encouraged to eat healthier. For Loma Linda's sake, I hope she's not on the city council!

Ken Stahl

January 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

San Francisco may supplement public art fee with public arts trust fund

San Francisco has long required major development in or near its downtown Financial District to provide on-site public art.  The art fee is generally popular, though unfortunately, much of the art produced by the fee is not.  For instance, CurbedSF recently invited readers to vote for their least favorite piece of public art in the city. It's hard to choose.

Now the city is looking to restructure that public arts program in a way that would channel money into a public arts trust fund.  While the proposed changes are still being worked out by the city's Board of Supervisors, the idea makes perfect sense.  The reality is that the reason so much public art is bland is that developers are not in the business of making art, and so what they want is art that has no negative impact on the development either now or in the long-term.  The result is typically a bland mass, often with a quasi-whimsical edge. 

The public, on the other hand, should not be wedded to massive, permanent art sculptures as the only form of art they see downtown.  Rather, the public arts trust fund gives the city the chance to fund art experiences and installations that more actively engage workers, residents, and tourists.  For instance, dance companies in some cities have taken to impromptu street performances, acts that provide an invitation to engage traditional arts in unexpected ways.  A trust fund approach would allow the city to support such performances.  One could also imagine the trust fund supporting the work of other groups of artists, such as conceptual artists like Christo or even Hans Haacke, whose work may not be suitable for permanent installation in the city, but might prove powerful in a three- or four-month installation. 

Let's hope San Francisco moves forward with this public arts trust fund approach; it will be one for other cities to watch, too.

Stephen Miller



January 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CNU Booklet on Sustainable Street Network Principles

The Congress for the New Urbanism has published a booklet called Sustainable Street Network Principles.  From the press release:

The Congress for the New Urbanism has long recognized that the street network is a fundamental part of human civilization because it serves as the setting for both commerce and culture. For the first time, the CNU has compiled a set of principles and key characteristics of the sustainable street network into a document that is practical, inspirational, and beautifully illustrated.

The CNU Sustainable Street Network Principles, a product of the CNU Project for Transportation Reform, is being released to coincide with the Transportation Research Board’s annual event in Washington D.C. on January 22, 2011. The Principles have been crafted through nearly a decade of CNU member discussion, research, and involvement. The Principles are a must-have for every traffic engineer, urban designer, urban planner, and engaged urban citizen. They outline not only why sustainable street networks are essential to a vibrant and healthy society, but also what makes a street network sustainable in the first place.

The full booklet can be downloaded here.  H/t to Houston Tomorrow.

Matt Festa

January 25, 2012 in New Urbanism, Planning, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Urban Land Institute launches new ULI Greenprint Center for Building Performance

Last week the Urban Land Institute (ULI) announced that the Greenprint Foundation has become a part of ULI's larger environmental initiative.  Greenprint assembles voluntarily disclosed information from owners on the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) performance of buildings.  As I have written about previously, buildings consitute a considerable portion of worldwide GHG emissions, and reducing GHG emissions from buildings is the proverbial low-hanging fruit in global efforts to reduce such emissions. 

So-called "Class A" building owners, especially in urban markets, have been among the quickest adopters of green building.  There are at least two reasons.  First, they often are chasing a market segment for whom being "green" is part of an image for which the tenant will pay.  Second, the scale of large office and industrial buildings is such that it makes financial sense to invest in green building.  Owners of "Class B" and "Class C" buildings have not rushed to the fore because they typically are seeking value-oriented tenants, which they do not believe will pay for green improvements.

One issue with long-term green building investments for commercial spaces, then, has been how to "monetize" such improvements.  Part of the difficulty in doing so is that there has not been great comparative data on how a building should perform.  As a result, it has been difficult to bring the "greening" of a large commercial space into a transaction.  California has sought to do just this through mandatory energy disclosures.  But with no federal climate change legislation on the horizon, property owners in other states may have trouble convincing buyers to pay them for green improvements.  That is where voluntary disclosures, and programs like Greenprint, make a lot of sense to me.  With data provided by the industry voluntarily on a wide number of buildings, the industry has a better gauge for how buildings perform under given conditions, and the relative merit of green improvements can begin to be monetized as a part of market transactions, not simply just as meeting regulatory requirements.

I'm excited to see where this goes.  Here is an excerpt from the ULI press release, which can be viewed in its entirety here:

The ULI Greenprint Center will be incorporated into ULI’s broader Climate, Land Use and Energy (CLUE) initiative. The center will carry on the Greenprint Foundation’s mission, which is to lead the global real estate community in the use of greenhouse gas reduction strategies that support the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) goals for global greenhouse gas stabilization by 2030. The ULI Greenprint Center will continue to advance the Greenprint Foundation’s goal of a 50-percent reduction in building emissions by that date. Currently, the energy used in buildings represents one-third of all global energy consumption.

ULI, with nearly 30,000 members worldwide, is a 75-year-old research and education institute dedicated to leadership in the responsible use of land and building sustainable, thriving communities. The Greenprint Foundation, currently based in New York City, was founded in 2009 by longtime ULI member Ronald P. Weidner as a worldwide alliance of real estate owners, investors, financial institutions and other industry stakeholders committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the global property industry. To date, the Greenprint Foundation’s member organizations are: Aetos Capital; AvalonBay; Beacon Capital Partners; Blackstone Group; DEXUS Property Group; Douglas Emmett; Equity Office Properties; GE Capital Real Estate; GLL Real Estate Partners; Hines; Jones Lang LaSalle; LaSalle Investment Management; Paramount Group; PATRIZIA Immobilien; Prologis; Prudential Real Estate Investors; RREEF, a member of the Deutsche Bank Group; Sonae Sierra; and TIAA-CREF.

“With the support and resources of ULI, the ULI Greenprint Center will lead the global property markets in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a meaningful and measurable way. More importantly, it can help change the behavior of the population at large,” said Weidner, the founder of the Greenprint Foundation.

The flagship product of the Greenprint Foundation is its Greenprint Performance Report™, which includes the Greenprint Carbon Index™ (GCX), a tool used by Greenprint Foundation members to gauge relative progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over time. The first volume of the report, issued in 2010, contained results obtained from performance during 2009 as a baseline measurement. The second volume, issued in 2011, had results for 2010 that included 1,623 properties in the Americas, Europe and Asia, and which covered a total of 31 million square meters of commercial space. It showed a 0.6 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the previous year on the like-for-like portfolio of submitted properties.

The international scope and size of the report, including the GCX, make it one of the real estate industry’s largest, most verifiable, transparent and comprehensive energy benchmarking tools. It is unique in that it provides an open standard for measuring, benchmarking and tracking energy usage and resulting emissions on a building or portfolio basis.

Kudos and thanks to my former colleague, Jared Eigerman, who had a role in shaping Greenprint, and who tipped me off to this development.

Stephen Miller

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Farmers Take Back Land Slated For Housing

On Morning Edition today, NPR ran a story about farmers who sold land for development repurchasing it for agriculural use.  Here's the summary:

Over the past half-century more than 20 million acres of U.S. farmland were transformed into housing developments. With new home construction all but stopped, farmers in many areas are buying or leasing land once slated for development and planting crops on it.

Jim K.

January 23, 2012 in Agriculture, Conservation Easements, Density, Development, Housing, Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tekle on Lawns and Watershed Law

Asmara Tekle (Texas Southern--Thurgood Marshall) has posted Lawns and the New Watershed Law, published in Marquette Law Review, Vol. 95, p. 213, 2011.  The abstract:

American's long love affair with the evergreen, crew-cut, weed and pest free "Industrial" front lawn has resulted in untold costs on some of the nation's most cherished waterways, including Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay. While this Article examines the legal regimes, primarily public law and neighborhood or community norms, that arguably have helped to "brown" the front lawn and make it environmentally unsustainable, it also argues that law can be a force to "green" it. By virtue of its effects on the watershed and marine ecosystems, the front lawn links water and land. This Article ultimately suggests that localities consider the front lawn’s effects on marine ecosystems and water management as a starting point for crafting land use law and policy. Arguably, therefore, land use law governing the front lawn has become part of the new watershed law.

This is a very interesting paper from my fellow Houston land use prof.  I saw Asmara present this at ALPS (there's still a grace period to register, I think!) and as an invited presenter at South Texas.  Understanding the normative place of the lawn in American society is absolutely crucial when you draw the connection to the watershed health of big places like Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake; and smaller watersheds all over. Check it out.

Matt Festa

January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Land use in the urban century

2000-cincinnati-mapToday is my birthday, and it has me thinking about what rich times these are for those of us that study land use and cities.  Last year we had the announcement of the birth of the seven billionth person on the planet, and 2008 was the first time in human history that the world population was more urban than rural.   Those interested in how population growth, especially in cities, is manifesting in terms of land use patterns will enjoy checking out the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s Atlas of Urban Expansion.  The website provides an enormous range of data on the historical land use of cities, as well as vivid images of how the land areas of numerous cities around the world have changed over time.  To the right is an image from the website showing the land mass change in my hometown, Cincinnati, from 1990 to 2000.  So much can change in a decade!  Well worth a look, and may well provide grist for the article mill!

Stephen Miller

Citation as requested by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy:  Angel, S., J. Parent, D. L. Civco and A. M. Blei, 2010. Atlas of Urban Expansion, Cambridge MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, online at http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/atlas-urban-expansion/.


January 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fracking wastewater, earthquakes, and the stream of interstate commerce

Growing up in Ohio, I recall the chandelier in our dining room shaking occasionally when military planes from a nearby air base would fly too low. Now, it appears, chandeliers are shaking all over Youngstown, which has had eleven ... that’s right ... eleven earthquakes in the last year for a town that had previously recorded zero earthquakes in its history.

One of those earthquakes, on New Year’s Eve, registered 4.0. That’s big enough to do more than shake chandeliers; it’s rattling nerves. Right now, the biggest potential culprit for all the shaking going on is injection wells associated with the hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) boom that has taken the region. Last week, 500 residents attended a public meeting about the quakes, which have been centered near a well that has been used for the disposal of millions of gallons of brine and other waste liquids produced at natural-gas wells, mostly in Pennsylvania. Earlier this month Governor John Kasich ordered a moratorium on wastewater injection wells within a five-mile radius of the well that may be the culprit. 

An intriguing aspect of this story to me was that much of the wastewater injected into the Ohio well came from Pennsylvania fracking operations. A petroleum executive representing the Ohio Oil & Gas Association at last week’s public meeting stated, "There are all types of interstate commerce, that happens to be one of them.” He continued, “Pennsylvania is not Afghanistan. It's the state next to us.” 

The question of the interstate flow of fracking wastewater appears to be heating up.  A proposed bill in the New Jersey Legislature would provide that, “No wastewater resulting from hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of natural gas exploration or production in any state may be treated, discharged, disposed of, or stored” in New Jersey.  Opponents of the New Jersey bill are charging that such legislation would violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617 (1978), which held that New Jersey’s prohibition on "solid or liquid waste which originated or was collected outside the territorial limits of [New Jersey]” from being disposed of in New Jersey violated the Dormant Commerce Clause.

This seems to raise a high stakes question:  would fracking wastewater fall within the holding of City of Philadelphia?  In other words, if Youngstown decides it is tired of earthquakes, can it limit Pennsylvania fracking wastewater from being disposed of in Ohio?  It seems to me we might well find this question litigated as not just fracking, but the disposal of fracking wastewater, heats up in Ohio, New Jersey, and elsewhere.

Stephen Miller

January 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ALPS deadline!

Registration for the annual meeting of the Association for Law, Property, and Society--i.e., ALPS--ends tomorrow, Jan. 20.  So give your paper topic one last edit and then by all means submit it and register for the conference

ALPS has quickly become the very best academic conference for property, land use, and envrionmental law scholarship, and the collegiality is unmatched.  Hope to see you there.

Matt Festa

January 18, 2012 in Conferences, Property, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Urban Gardens in Cleveland

Cleveland-ohio-urban-gardens-by-cleveland-kid-4We've posted a few items about Cleveland, since it is a great city on that edge of transition; it has undertaken some ambitious programs to deal with abandoned properties as well as to promote urban green uses, as Catherine LaCroix has written about.  From inhabitat.com, here's an inspiring photo gallery: Thousands of Vacant Houses Set to Bloom into Urban Gardens in Cleveland, Ohio.

So far Cleveland has flattened 6,400 homes since 2005, and a further 20,000 are on the cards for demolition throughout the County.

Thanks to Autumn Richards for the pointer.

Matt Festa

January 18, 2012 in Agriculture, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obama to reject Keystone pipeline, Washington Post reports

The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration will announce it is rejecting the Keystone pipeline application later today.  Here is what the Post is saying:

The Obama administration will announce this afternoon it is rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate a massive oil pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border, according to sources who have been briefed on the matter.

However the administration will allow TransCanada to reapply after it develops an alternate route through the sensitive habitat of Nebraska’s Sandhills. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will make the announcement, which comes in response to a congressionally-mandated deadline of Feb. 21 for action on the proposed Keystone pipeline.

Stephen Miller

January 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ellickson on the Bundle of Sticks

Last fall we posted about the Econ Journal Watch Symposium "Property: A Bundle of Rights?," with contributions from a number of leading scholars.  Just recently, Robert Ellickson's contribution was posted on SSRN, and it's worth a highlight: Two Cheers for the Bundle-of-Sticks Metaphor, Three Cheers for Merrill and Smith, Econ Journal Watch, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 215, September 2011.  The abstract:

Viewing property rights as a “bundle of sticks” can be descriptively clarifying because the law commonly entitles an owner of a particular resource to split up entitlements in it. Nonetheless, Thomas Merrill and Henry Smith, the most prominent critics of the metaphor, assert that this conception both ignores the existence of various legal constraints on the decomposition of property rights, and also encourages lawmakers to support the excessive splintering of entitlements. These concerns are well-grounded. More controversial are Merrill and Smith’s inclinations to equate private property with property generally, to deny that human capital can be characterized as property, and to assert that affirmative duties never attach to property ownership.

All of the essays from the Bundle Symposium are very, very interesting.  We've previously mentioned the ones by Larissa Katz and Stephen Munzer.  As many of us begin the Property course this spring semester, it's incredibly helpful to read all of these fresh insights and thoughtful debates that make the classic metaphor still relevant.

Matt Festa

January 18, 2012 in Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nelson Symposium--Digging up some Dirt (Law)

Michael Allan Wolf sends along information about the 11th Robert Nelson Symposium at the University of Florida School of Law: “Digging Up Some Dirt (Law): How Recent Developments in Real Property Law Affect Landowners and Local Governments.”  From the description:

“Digging Up Some Dirt (Law): How Recent Developments in Real Property Law Affect Landowners and Local Governments” will welcome national and state experts to explore the impact on landowners and local governments of recent and proposed changes in the law of adverse possession, eminent domain, easements and mortgages.

Here is a link to the brochure.  You can register at the website.  Looks like a timely and interesting event with an excellent lineup of speakers, including Carol Brown (UNC), Ann Marie Cavazos (FAMU), Alex Johnson (UVA), Jessica Owley (Buffalo), and Professor Wolf (UF).

Matt Festa

January 18, 2012 in Conferences, Conservation Easements, Eminent Domain, Local Government, Mortgages, Scholarship, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Charles M. Haar, RIP

HaarFrom Michael Allan Wolf comes the sad news that Charles M. Haar has passed away.  Haar, the Louis D. Brandeis Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School, was one of the true giants of legal scholarship and teaching in the fields of land use and local government.  From the Harvard tribute:

Professor Emeritus Charles M. Haar ‘48, a pioneer in land-use law whose scholarship focused on laws and institutions of city planning, urban development and environmental issues, died on January 10, 2012. He was 91.

During his more than five-decade career, Haar influenced urban policy and planning throughout the country, drafted key legislation for inner city revitalization, developed influential legal theories to support equality of services for urban dwellers and access to suburbs, helped pioneer the modern environmental movement, and mentored a generation of scholars and activists.

“Charles Haar was a genuine pioneer who created new ways of making scholarship relevant to the improvement of the human condition through the improvement of the environment,” observed Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “He was a visionary leader in the field of land use law and urban planning with a focus on improving the lives of all Americans, regardless of race or economic status. His legacy includes major tenets of the modern-day environmental movement and the way we teach and study environmental law. It also includes the generations of students to whom he was a mentor and friend, and the contributions they made after learning from him. He will be deeply missed.”

Please read the whole thing for a full appreciation of Professor Haar's amazing contributions to teaching, scholarship, and service.  He served the legal profession and the nation in numerous ways, from his WWII military service, to extensive participation in professional organizations, to service to presidential administrations and legislation-drafting.  His scholarship has been incredibly influential.  I am currently in the middle of reading his 1990 book Zoning and the American Dream: Promises Still to Keep (with Jerold S. Kayden) which is just one of his many important books, casebooks, and treatises.  Testimony from his students and colleagues, such as Prof. Wolf, speaks to his deep humanity and profound influence as a teacher and mentor.

We are all in a great debt to Charles M. Haar as one of the pioneers of land use law in scholarship and practice.  Professor Haar was instrumental in creating the field that we now know as land use law.  "Land Use" has strong doctrinal and practical ties to property law, state & local government law, environmental law, and other fields; but it has only been because of the work of Professor Haar and his colleagues and students that Land Use Law has been recognized as its own separate field of study and practice in law, and as an important part of our society.  May we all be inspired to serve by the example of Charles M. Haar.

Matt Festa

January 17, 2012 in History, Planning, Politics, Property, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Olympics, Marathons, and Parades

028Last year I posted about the Houston Marathon, and my observations about how the route did a good job of taking the runners through a diverse set of neighborhoods, from older to newer, urban to suburban, residential to business.  This year I am even more impressed with another land use angle: the incredible amount of planning it must have taken to pull off the events in town this past weekend--

First, on Saturday Houston hosted the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.  The race route was designed to simulate the Marathon route planned for London, including a gratuitous hairpin turn.  Congrats to Meb and Flanagan!

On Sunday was the regular Marathon--on a different course--for the other 26,000 of us who didn't qualify for the Trials, plus over 250,000 volunteers and spectators.

And between Saturday and Monday, there were five separate Martin Luther King Day parades.

Planning for the street closures alone must have been an enormous task (check out the 11-page spreadsheet), let alone the interagency and public-private cooperation that's necessary for a weekend like this.  It requires organization, community involvement, and a great deal of technical planning expertise.  These things have huge impacts on traffic, transit, facilities, sanitation, sustainability, policing, budgets, and a great array of other local planning issues. 

024We often take having "big events" for granted in a big city, but as a former logistician I'm always impressed by all the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to pull these things off.  And as land use lawyers we should appreciate the very hard work and the professionalism that our colleagues in city planning, local government, and community organizations bring to improve civic life.

So, good job everyone, and please pass the ibuprofen.

Matt Festa 

January 17, 2012 in Downtown, Houston, Local Government, Planning, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)