Saturday, July 21, 2012

Public art fees and small public spaces

I recently wrote a brief article on the evolution of public art fees called Percent-For-Art Programs at Public Art's Frontier, which is available here.  The abstract:

The federal government, many state governments, and an estimated 350 local governments have implemented percent-for-art fee programs that require a percentage of a project's construction cost to go towards public art. Historically, this resulted in a permanent, on-site art installation. An increasing number of cities, however, are experimenting with percent-for-art fees that fund off-site or temporary public art installations and performances that reflect changes in public art itself. This Article explores the legal implications of, and provides models for, implementing this new type of percent-for-art fee.

A lot of the article focuses on how public art is changing to assist in activating public space and law's role in assisting those changes.  For those interested in this subject, be sure to check out Minneapolis-based Forecast, which publishes the Public Art Review.  I also strongly recommend the books Public Art:  Theory, Practice, and Populism by Cheryl Krause Knight and Public Art by the Book by Barbara Goldstein.

And for those interested in the broader subject of public spaces, one could do worse than taking an hour to watch William H Whyte's classic The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, which is now available for free online.

Stephen R. Miller

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

Breyer, Chang, and Parandvash on Determinants of Water Use Patterns

In a study of two U.S. cities, researchers found that land use was a strong determinant of water use patterns.

Land-use, temperature, and single-family residential water use patterns in Portland, Oregon and Phoenix, Arizona by Betsy Breyer, Heejun Chang, G. Hossein Parandvash

 Applied Geography, Volume 35, Issues 1–2 (2012) ($

Adaptation to climate change requires urban water providers to develop a complex understanding of how temperature affects water use patterns. We used a geographic information system and statistical analysis to compare the spatial relationships among single-family residential water use patterns, land use characteristics, and temperature in Portland, Oregon and Phoenix, Arizona. We developed mean water use patterns at the census block group level using data from 2002 to 2009 in Portland and from 2000 to 2008 in Phoenix. These mean values were used to estimate the localized temperature sensitivity of water use in each census block group through an ordinary least squares regression with summer average air temperature. Taking the slopes of regression estimates as our dependent variable, we examined spatial relationships among temperature-sensitive water use patterns, housing density, impervious surfaces, low vegetation, and tree canopy extent. Temperature sensitive water use was found to be positively correlated with low vegetation and negatively correlated with impervious surfaces in both cities. Tree canopy coverage tends to increase with sensitivity in Portland, while the reverse relationship is found for Phoenix. Regression analysis indicates that building density explained the most variation in the dependent variable in Portland whereas, in Phoenix, the strongest correlations related to vegetation patterns. A comparative approach highlights the complex, localized correlations that exist among local climate regimes, urban landscapes, and water use patterns. Census block group-level water use analyses equips water providers with detailed information on the sensitivity of local water use to temperature variation, which could prove valuable to developing a viable municipal climate change adaptation strategy.

 Jessie Owley

July 21, 2012 in Density, Development, Downtown, Scholarship, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 20, 2012

San Diego Climate & Energy Law Symposium

Lesley McAllister recently announced a symposium on Climate and Energy Law that might be of interest to our readers. Land use is so closley entwined with energy sprawl, electricity distribution, and facility siting, I am sure it will be discussed extensively in San Diego in November.

USD Climate & Energy Law Symposium, SAVE THE DATE - Nov. 9, 2012

The University of San Diego School of Law will host its Fourth Annual Climate & Energy Law Symposium on Friday, November 9. The 2012 symposium will bring together leading academics and practitioners to explore the theme of Law in a Distributed Energy Future with questions such as:

  • How should the rules that govern the electricity grid change to incorporate distributed generation?
  • What possibilities exist for generating energy at the neighborhood and community levels?
  • What legal and policy innovations at the federal, state and local levels are most needed to usher in a distributed energy future?

Confirmed speakers include: Carla Peterman, Commissioner, California Energy Commission (Keynote) Scott J. Anders, Director, Energy Policy Initiatives Center, University of San Diego School of Law Sara C. Bronin, Associate Professor of Law & Program Director, Center for Energy & Environmental Law, University of Connecticut School of Law Timothy Duane, Associate Professor of Law, Vermont Law School Joel B. Eisen, Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law Michael B. Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia Law School Lesley K. McAllister, Stanley Legro Professor in Environmental Law, University of San Diego School of Law J.B. Ruhl, Matthews & Hawkins Professor of Property, Vanderbilt Law School Katherine Trisolini, Associate Professor of Law, Loyola Law School Hannah Wiseman, Assistant Professor, Florida State University College of Law

 

Jessie Owley

July 20, 2012 in California, Clean Energy, Climate, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New York City's Proposed East Midtown Rezoning and the Use of TDRs

I am very excited for the opportunity to blog on the Land Use Prof Blog over the next month.  Thanks to Matt Festa and the other editors for inviting me to do so.  As Matt mentioned in his introduction, I am a Research Fellow at NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.  For those not  familiar with the Center, we are a joint endeavor of NYU's law and public policy school and we conduct interdisciplinary legal and empirical research on land use, affordable housing, housing finance, neighborhood change, and a host of other urban issues.  Although we particularly focus on issues in New York City, we are increasingly pursuing projects in other cities and working on national affordable housing and urban policy issues.

My plan during the next month is to talk about a few interesting projects I am pursuing with the Furman Center, a few of my personal research projects, and of course to write about new land use issues. 

For this first post, I thought I would discuss one of the big land use issues on our radar here in New York, Mayor Bloomberg's recent proposal to rezone a significant part of East Midtown Manhattan, in the area around Grand Central Terminal.  Over the past decade the Bloomberg administration has dramatically altered New York City's zoning through over 100 rezonings affecting approximately one-quarter of the city's landThis new proposal, which includes changes in the rules governing the use of the air rights/transferable development rights over Grand Central (the rights at issue in Penn Central, only a fraction of which have been sold) raises a number of interesting issues and questions.

The proposed rezoning (see the Department of City Planning study presentation) covers 78 blocks and seeks to encourage the development of more modern and taller office buildings in an area where the average office building is currently over 70 years old.  The proposal would allow new buildings substantially taller than what currently exists in the area and potentially as large as the Empire State Building.  These new buildings, which would only be allowed on sites that cover a block's full frontage on one of the area's avenues, would provide larger floor plates, fewer internal supports, and other amenities the City feels are needed for the area to stay competitive with business districts in "global competitor cities."

What is particularly interesting is that -- rather than simply upzone the area to allow these larger buildings -- developers would be able to obtain greater densities (through a higher maximum floor-area-ratio) as-of-right (meaning no required city planning approval process) only by either purchasing transferable development rights (TDRs) from nearby landmarks (the major seller being Grand Central, which has nearly two million square feet available) or by obtaining a bonus in exchange for a contribution to a City fund dedicated to area improvements.  Beyond these as-of-right FAR increases, even taller buildings (close in size to the Empire State Building) could be constructed, but would be subject to a Special Permit process, which would include a design review and would require certain public improvements to be provided. 

The proposal raises a host of issues.  If additional density is desirable in the area, why not simply rezone, rather than require the purchase of TDRs on the private market or contributions to a City fund? Is the City simply selling an upzoning or demanding an exaction from developers?  And of course, for area residents and workers and potential developers other concerns exist:  what effect would these new buildings have on the nearby subway, which already operates above capacity, and how much will it cost to buy these additional square feet of permitted development?

The proposal is also interesting because it represents the latest example of the City's creative use of transferable development rights, a tool that in New York has historically operated in a manner akin to density zoning or, in the case of landmarks, as a means of mitigating the effects of development restrictions.  These new programs in New York use TDRs instead as a means of furthering traditional and quite specific planning and land use goals in a manner more akin to how TDRs have been used in suburban and rural areas nationwide.  The City's proposal builds upon the use of TDRs in the rezoning of West Chelsea, site of the elevated High Line Park, and at Hudson Yards, an area west of Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan.  Both these districts involve the innovative use of TDRs to serve a variety of planning, preservation, and development goals.  Vicki Been and I will be exploring these themes further in a forthcoming article. 

At the Furman Center, we are also nearing completion of the first comprehensive database of TDR transactions in New York City.  We have recorded data on over 400 of these transactions between 2003 and 2011 and have begun reviewing the data to learn more about the market for TDRs in New York and how developers use them in place or in addition to other tools for increasing the size of a project.  I plan to say more about this data, our plans for it, and its relevance for thinking about TDRs in other cities in a future post.

 John Infranca

 

July 19, 2012 in Development, New York, Planning, Transferable Development Rights, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Power on Stop the Beach: Property Rights, the 'Gang of Four' & the Fifth Vote

Garrett Power (Maryland) has posted Property Rights, the 'Gang of Four' & the Fifth Vote: Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection (U.S. Supreme Court 2010), 25 Widener Law Journal (2012).  The abstract:

In 2010 The U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection (SBR v. Fla. EPA). Justice Antonin Scalia announced the judgment of the Court. All Justices agreed that Florida had not violated the Takings Clause of the Federal Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. But then in a plurality opinion Justice Scalia joined by the Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito proposed profound changes in the law of “regulatory takings.” As the spokesman for the Court’s property rights absolutists Scalia advanced two novel legal propositions. First he argued that federal courts had the power to collaterally attack and reverse state court decisions which evaded the requirements of the Taking Clause with pretextual background principles of the State's law of property. Second he opined that each of the “essential sticks in the bundle of rights that are commonly characterized as property” was a separate distinct property right, and that any deprivation of an “established property right” was a compensable Taking under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. If the “Gang of Four” can find a fifth vote, the law of regulatory takings will be radically revised.

Matt Festa

July 18, 2012 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Property Rights, Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Murfreesboro Mosque Supporters Obtain US District Ct. TRO

It's been exactly a year since we last blogged about the siting of the mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn.  Last month, opponents of the mosque convinced a county judge to enjoin its construction by alleging that they were not given adequate notice of the zoning proceedings.  Today, US District Court Todd Campbell granted the proponents an injunction based on RLUIPA to allow construction to proceed.  The members of the local Muslim community were represented by the The Becket Fund for Religious LibertyHere's a copy of the TRO.

Jim K.

 

July 18, 2012 in Constitutional Law, First Amendment, NIMBY, RLUIPA, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Welcome John Infranca

Infranca (2)Speaking of the NYU Furman Center, we're delighted to present John Infranca (Fellow, Furman Center) as our newest guest blogger.  Here's his Furman Center bio:

John Infranca is a Legal Research Fellow at the Furman Center. Prior to joining the Center, he served as a law clerk to Judge Julio Fuentes, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Judge Berle Schiller, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  John received a J.D., Order of the Coif, from New York University School of Law, where he was an editor of the New York University Law Review, a Lederman Fellow in Law and Economics, and a fellow in the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program.  He also earned a B.A and an M.T.S. degree (in moral theology) from the University of Notre Dame.  After college and during graduate school, John worked with a number of homeless services organizations, as a case manager for refugees, and as the director of a service learning program in Mexico.  He has authored law review articles on the Earned Income Tax Credit and the informal economy, on protecting social security benefits from bank freezes and garnishments, and on institutional free exercise and religious land uses.  At the Furman Center, John’s research focuses on land use regulation, affordable housing and urban policy.  His recent projects have included providing technical assistance to the court-appointed monitor overseeing a fair housing settlement, analyzing the impact of the market downturn on multi-family rental housing, and legal and empirical studies of development rights transfers, rezonings, and residential landlord characteristics and behaviors. 

John already has some great writing out there, and I've seen him at ALPS; we're thrilled to have this rising star join us at the Land Use Prof Blog for the next month. 

Matt Festa

July 17, 2012 in Affordable Housing, New York, Property, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Furman Center's 1Q New York City Housing Update

The latest report from the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy:

We are pleased to share with you our latest New York City Quarterly Housing Update (Q1 2012). We find that home sales volume rose in the first quarter of 2012, with the number of transactions citywide up almost five percent. Housing prices throughout the city are up 3.5 percent compared to the same quarter last year. In the Bronx, however, prices fell more than nine percent between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012--the largest single-quarter decline in the borough since 2002.   

 

The report also finds that the number of foreclosure notices issued in Q1 2012 has fallen citywide since its peak in the third quarter of 2009. However, foreclosure notices in Queens and Staten Island increased by more than 20 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. You can read the full report here, or the press release here.

 

The Furman Center's Quarterly Housing Update is unique among New York City housing reports because it incorporates sales data, residential development indicators, and foreclosures. It also presents a repeat sales index for each borough to capture price appreciation while controlling for housing quality. The publication is available on a quarterly basis at:

 http://furmancenter.org/research/publications/c/quarterly-housing-reports/ 

 

Valuable data and analysis, as always.

Matt Festa

July 17, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Housing, New York, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Clowney on Landscape Fairness and Discrimination in the Built Environment

Stephen Clowney (Kentucky), our colleague over at Property Prof, has posted his latest piece, called Landscape Fairness: Removing Discrimination from the Built Environment, forthcoming in the Utah Law Review (2012).  It looks very interesting.  The abstract:

At its core, this Article argues that the everyday landscape is one of the most overlooked instruments of modern race-making. Drawing on evidence from geography and sociology, the paper begins by demonstrating that the built environment inscribes selective and misleading versions of the past in solid, material forms. These narratives — told through street renamings, parks, monuments, and buildings — ultimately marginalize African-American communities and transmit ideas about racial power across generations.

After demonstrating that the landscape remains the agar upon which racial hierarchies replicate themselves, the Article then pivots and examines current efforts to rid the built environment of discriminatory spaces. I put forth that contemporary attacks on the landscape are doomed to fail. The approaches suggested by academics in law and geography either turn a blind eye to the political economy of local decision-making or fail to consider entrenched legal precedent.

The final section of the manuscript lays out a policy proposal that could spark a new focus on issues of “landscape fairness.” I argue in favor of a set of basic procedural requirements that would force jurisdictions to reconsider the discriminatory places within their borders. Procedural mandates would force government to internalize values it might otherwise ignore, allow citizen-critics to challenge dominant historical narratives, and push communities to view the past (and future) in much more diverse terms.

This article touches on one of the most important but least discussed aspects of land use and the community landscape, and it builds on some of Steve's earlier work.  Check it out.

Matt Festa

July 17, 2012 in Community Design, History, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Race, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ninth Circuit holds Washington's energy efficiency regs not preempted by EPCA

Those interested in green building issues will want to check out a June 25, 2012, Ninth Circuit decision, Building Industry Association of Washington v. Washington State Building Code Council, Case No. 11-35207.  In a case of first impression at the appellate level, the court held that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 ("EPCA"), 42 U.S.C. § 6295, et seq., did not preempt the State of Washington's 2009 law requiring that new building construction meet heightened energy conservation goals. 

The case is of particular import because Washington's program utilized a credit-based program, like many other green building codes, that did not dictate particular products but added or subtracted credits on the basis of options chosen by builders with the goal of reducing new construction energy use by 15% based on a 2006 baseline. 

Also of interest, the case distinguished itself from a previous district court decision that held the City of Albuquerque's green building standards were preempted by EPCA.  See Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute v. City of Albuquerque, 2008 WL 5586316 (D. N.M. 2008).  Unlike in the Albuquerque case, Washington offered methods of compliance that did not require purchase of more energy-efficient appliances.  That made all the difference to the court, which held that Washington's law "does not create any penalty or legal compulsion to use higher efficiency products." 

This promises to be an important precedent for those considering the structure of credit-based energy efficiency regimes.

Stephen R. Miller 

July 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lewyn on Sprawl in Canada and the United States

Michael Lewyn (Touro) has taken his analysis of sprawl north of the border in Sprawl in Canada and the United States, 44 Urban Lawyer 85 (2012).  The abstract:

The purpose of this article is to show that, in Canada as in the United States, government regulation promotes sprawl through anti-density zoning, minimum parking requirements, and overly wide streets. However, Canadian cities are less "sprawling" than American cities- perhaps because at least some of these regulations are less onerous than in the United States.

It's an interesting article that makes an original point.  We tend to assume that places like Canada must be more regulated than the US, but it isn't necessarily true when it comes to land use.  Lewyn suggests a potential link to comparative levels of sprawl. 

Matt Festa

July 16, 2012 in Comparative Land Use, Density, Parking, Planning, Scholarship, Sprawl, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Notes from a Connecticut Carouser – More on The Environmental Law Collaborative

I wanted to add a few notes to follow up on Jessica Owley’s post about The Environmental Law Collaborative (ELC) meeting in Connecticut last week.  I was lucky to be chosen as one of the participants for this initial meeting of the group and its exploration of issues around sustainability and climate change.  I want to offer my sincere thanks to Jessica Owley, Keith Hirokawa, Mike Berger, and Elizabeth Burleson for not only organizing a great three days, but bringing to fruition what I believe is a new way for scholars to meet and discuss ideas.  I would agree with Jessie that this event was among the best I’ve attended in my (very young) academic career.  In reflecting on the weekend, I had several thoughts on how the structure of the event affected my conception of academic engagement:

--The small group size and informal nature of the group provided an opportunity for more discourse that is typical in formal panel presentations.  Judging from the success of the event, it seems to me law schools should encourage and fund more of these smaller, informal get-togethers.

--There was a nice mix of junior and senior scholars, and that really did add to the pleasure of the event.

--Keeping a small group seems important to the dialog.  Of course, the question then becomes how to include more people in such events.  I wonder if there would be a way to “package” the experience, like TED has done with its lecture series, and make it easier for more people to participate in multiple, simultaneous small fora, but all under the rubric of one large topic.  For instance, what if there were multiple groups around the country simultaneously engaged in essentially the same thing we were doing in the woods of Connecticut?  That is an ambitious project, but could be a way to foster both intimate conversation and create a larger dialog.

I seem to recall agreeing to help plan the next meeting of the ELC, which will likely be a couple years down the road.  I can only hope to build on what Jessie, Keith, Mike and Elizabeth started this summer, which will be a hard act to follow.

Stephen R. Miller

July 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

CUNY’s CUER

There is a lot of exciting stuff going on at CUNY these days. Not only have they got themselves a shiny new campus in Long Island City, the just inaugurated their new Center for Urban and Environmental Reform (CUER –pronounced “cure”). Headed up by Rebecca Bratspies, this new center is one of the few places engaging specifically with urban environmental issues. Such an endeavor necessarily involves land use issues. I was lucky enough to be invited to CUER’s inaugural scholar workshop. Titled a “Scholar’s Workshop on Regulating the Urban Environment,” the event brought together scholars from multiple disciplines as well as activists and policy makers. It was an interesting format for an event and I enjoyed hearing from architects, historians, geographers and others. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of interesting events and endeavors from this new center. I know I will be keeping my eye on it.

Jessie Owley

July 14, 2012 in Community Economic Development, Density, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, Green Building, Historic Preservation, Housing, Local Government, New Urbanism, New York, Planning, Sustainability, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Carousing in Connecticut: The Environmental Law Collaborative

I am just returning to Buffalo after three days at a retreat center in Connecticut for the first gathering of the Environmental Law Collaborative.

Besides my participation in this blog of course, helping to found the ELC (with Mike Burger, Betsey Burleson, and Keith Hirokawa) has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my young academic career. The ELC seeks to foster progress toward an adaptive, conscious, and equitable governance of actions that impact local and global ecologies by engaging the contemporary discourse. The goal of the ELC is to facilitate dialog among thought leaders on sustainable policy priorities, practical implementation strategies, assessment mechanisms, and cooperative analysis of science, economics, and ethics (which is frankly a fancy way of saying we’re going to get together to talk about cool and exciting stuff). We’re also attempting to create a venue for collaborative research and analysis.

With a plan for 10-15 of us to meet every other year to discuss different themes (and perhaps to periodically revisit earlier ones), this year we tried to tackle the daunting topic of re-conceptualizing sustainability in the age of climate change. As climate change continues to dominate dialogues in many fields of research including land use, sustainability is at a critical moment that challenges its conceptual coherence. Sustainability has never been free from disputes over its meaning and has long struggled with the difficulties of simultaneously implementing the “triple-bottom line” components of environmental, economic, and social well-being. Climate change, however, suggests that the context for sustainable decision-making is shifting.

Over three days, 13 of us (yes it is a lucky number) gathered at a retreat center in Chester, CT where we grappled with these issues while sitting outside under a sprawling maple tree and listening to traffic driving by frogs croaking in the pond behind us. Importantly, there was also swimming, hiking, and yarn shopping. We did not figure out the magical way to solve our climate problems or make the world more sustainable but the conversations really pushed the thinking of many of us and we’re planning to figure out a good way to share our thoughts with others. I have a sneaking suspicion that land use issues will crop up in any writing that comes out of this group.

Jessica Owley

July 13, 2012 in Climate, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Korngold on Governmental Conservation Easements

Gerald Korngold has posted a new article on SSRN. Governmental Conservation Easements: A Means to Advance Efficiency, Freedom from Coercion, Flexibility, and Democracy. It already looks to be an important piece for conservation easement junkies like me. Korngold explores conservation easements held by government entities. Depending on the jurisdiction, (1) government entities, (2) land trusts, and (3) tribes can hold conservation easements. I agree with Korngold that the character of the agreements and the concerns surrounding them vary by holder. Most writing on conservation easement has focused on holder (2) – and largely considering donated conservation easements. I have been working this summer on a project examining holder (3) and this article examining holder (1) provides lots of food for thought in framing that work and in considering where and when conservation easements are a good idea. Korngold’s abstract is below:

Over the past twenty-five years, courts and commentators have recognized and upheld conservation easements as an important vehicle to preserve natural and ecologically sensitive land, focusing primarily on easements held by nonprofit organizations (NPOs). During the same period, courts and commentators have supported property rights of owners against governmental land use regulation. This paper maintains that these two independent developments militate for the increased use of consensual conservation easements by governmental entities to achieve public land preservation goals. Governmental conservation easements can realize the benefits of efficiency, consent and free choice, and conservation, while avoiding the coercion implicit in public land use regulation. Moreover, governmental conservation easements have advantages over private easements in some situations: governmental easements may be more easily modified or even terminated to address future changes in conservation values and community needs; as with public land use regulation, governmental easements must be transparent and are subject to democratic, participatory processes that NPOs do not have to follow; and properly functioning governmental ownership may be best able to discern and represent the public interest when making acquisition, modification, and termination decisions about conservation easements. I suggest that both NPO-held conservation easement activities and legitimate public land use regulation are valuable and should continue, but argue that increased use of governmental conservation easements can bring significant benefits as well.

Jessie Owley

July 13, 2012 in Conservation Easements, Scholarship, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Letters from the field: Buying a share of utopia in Copenhagen

I’ve just returned from several weeks of travel, and thought I’d post on several items I saw along the way.  The first of these was a utopian community in Copenhagen, Denmark, called Christiana.  Christiana is on an island, Christianhavn, adjacent to the central city of Copenhagen that had been used for military purposes for centuries.  When the Danish military closed a base on the island in the Sixties, some freedom-loving hippies and other radicals set up shop  by squatting on the land, declared their independence from the Danish state (adverse possession is for sissies, apparently), refused to pay taxes, and otherwise have engaged in community- and ganja-based decision-making ever since.  About 1,000 residents now call Christiana home.

There are several aspects of Christiana that I think land use folks will find interesting.  First, after four decades of tolerating open rebellion in its midsts, the Danish government finally decided that it needed to do something about Christiana.  You might be anticipating a “throw the bums out” approach; but remember, this is Denmark, not Rudy Giuliani’s New York City.  Instead of mounting riot troops at Christiana’s borders, the Danish government sent in their lawyers with an ultimatum:  Christiana’s residents could stay, but they would have to buy the land from the Danish government.  But the Danish government did not demand the market price for the property; instead, they offered the property to Christiana’s residents for a song.  In a sense, all the Danish government is seeking to do is to legitimate the ownership of the land; in other words, if Christian’s residents “own” the land, there is some acknowledgment of the government’s control and sovereignty over that land.  But, of course, the Christiana residents disdain this idea of ownership even though they need to raise capital to purchase the land.  

The result has been one of the most peculiar of solutions:  a stock offering of nominal ownership that investors can purchase. 

As the New York Times described it:

[Christiana's residents] decided to start selling shares in Christiania. Pieces of paper, hand-printed on site, the shares can be had for amounts from $3.50 to $1,750. Shareholders are entitled to a symbolic sense of ownership in Christiania and the promise of an invitation to a planned annual shareholder party. “Christiania belongs to everyone,” Mr. Manghezi said. “We’re trying to put ownership in an abstract form.”

Since the shares were first offered in the fall, about $1.25 million worth have been sold in Denmark and abroad. The money raised will go toward the purchase of the land from the government.

I found this struggle over the idea of ownership to be fascinating.  After all, the amount the Danish government is seeking from Christiana is far below the market price of the land in the now trendy area of Christianhavn.  However, what the government is doing is forcing the utopian community out of its stance of declaring “independence” from the Danish state, while Christiana’s residents attempt to use arcane legal structures to avoid sullying their hands with the prospect of “ownership.”  Am I the only one who thinks of Johnson v. M'Intosh on these facts?

The second interesting issue in Christiana was a poster located on the community’s main meeting Christiana Common Lawroom, which establishes the community’s “common law.”  A picture is to the right.  Now, at first blush, this will not look much like common law, but rather a visual statutory scheme, or maybe even something like the Ten Commandments if written for a biker gang.  But it was the kind of rules that interested me:  they speak, I think, to the kinds of problems that must have evolved in Christiana over time:  hard drugs, biker’s colors, firearms, and so on.  Each of these rules, you can imagine, resulted from a particular incident, and so a “common law” evolved in this place where all decisions are made collectively.  Such a common law speaks to the potentially rough nature of standing as a state independent from the protection of the sovereign.  It made me think of the devolution of all of the United States’ utopian communities, from New Harmony on down.  Is such a slide into anarchy, or the fight against anarchy, inevitable in such utopian movements?  I don’t know, but Christiana remains, and it seems to continue to thrive despite its troubles.  It eeks out a living on the sale of rasta trinkets and “green light district” paraphernalia.  And even in this space where there is supposedly no sovereign, there is still some law, borne of hard experience, common to all.  Its future, cast somewhere between lawfully-abiding property owner and anti-property ownership crusaders, between freedom and the "common law's" protections, will be interesting to watch in the coming decades.

Stephen R. Miller

July 12, 2012 in Aesthetic Regulation, Architecture, Community Economic Development, Comparative Land Use, Constitutional Law, Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Globalism, Planning, Property, Property Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Thermodynamics of Urban Development

The Economist recently published a little piece on the persistent patterns spatial analysts continue to find in the development of urban centers.  Some of them, such as the application of Zipf's Law to the relative sizes of the most populous cities, might seem familiar.  Others, regarding frequency of social contacts within cities and regions, might connect you to research worth bringing into the classroom.

Jim K.

July 11, 2012 in Density, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Land Use Travels: Kyrgyzstan

Greetings from the Kyrgyz Republic, also known as Kyrgyzstan! 800px-Flag_of_Kyrgyzstan.svg

Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian republic halfway around the globe.  It's a fascinating place, and my third trip here in the past 12 months.  I'm not here doing land use; actually I'm on a federal government mission relating to international law.  But you know me: I'm always on the lookout for interesting land use issues.  So I'm planning to keep my eyes open and hopefully share some thoughts and observations about land use in Kyrgyzstan.  I'll start today with an intro to the country and some preliminary thoughts.

Kg_large_locatorKyrgyzstan is a small Central Asian republic tucked in between China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan (map thanks to Nations Online Project).  It has a long history at the crossroads of empire.  From its position on the ancient Silk Road to the 19th Century "Great Game" to the Soviet Union to today, this little-known country has long had a strategic importance globally.

Kyrgyzstan has been independent since the USSR dissolved in 1991.  It has a population of about 5.5 million.  The majority is ethnic Kyrgyz, with a substantial Uzbek minority, as well as Russian and other groups.  The population is majority Muslim but the government is secular.  It has a capital city, Bishkek--where I've spent most of my time here--and a few other smaller cities, notably Osh in the southern region.  Its geography is 90% mountainous, located in the Tien Shan Mountains and the Fergana Valley.  This makes it a stunningly beautiful place, but it is poor in natural resources and its economy relies heavily on the agricultural areas.  It is a poor country but has maintained a relatively democratic society, at least compared to other countries in the region; however it has had two revolutions and ethnic riots in the past several years.  For more information on Kyrgyzstan see the State Department's Background Notes and the CIA World Factbook.  

There are many potential land use issues in Kyrgyzstan.  It has a long geostrategic history based on its location, terrain, and people.  It has a capital city that was completely planned and built from scratch by the Soviets.  It has a post-Soviet economy that is reflected in the maintenance of the city.  It has some serious local governance issues.  There is an urban-rural divide that impacts national politics.  And there are of course land issues of environment, natural resources, and climate. 

If you aren't familiar with this part of the world, the name may sound like a fictional place, but Kyrgyzstan is quite real and very interesting.  If I have more land-use related observations from Bishkek, I'll try to share them here.  In the meantime, Саламатсызбы!

Matt Festa

July 11, 2012 in Comparative Land Use, History, Planning, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scottish "Frankenstein" Mummies and Land Rights

I probably should save this one for Halloween, but there's breaking news out of Scotland, where archaeologists have discovered a pair of 3,000-year-old mummified bodies . . . but it appears that there are more than two persons involved.  From Yahoo News, 3,000-year-old ‘Frankenstein’ mummies discovered in Scotland:

Researchers say that a pair of 3,000-year-old mummified corpses that were recently discovered in Scotland are actually composed of body parts originating from six different people. . . .

National Geographic reports that isotopic dating and DNA experiments revealed the unusual pairing of body parts. The tests also revealed that the body parts were assembled and buried together more than 600 years after death, meaning that the assemblage was almost certainly deliberate.

Why would they spend centuries assembling these composite cadavers?  It's not clear, but one of the researchers has a theory in land use law:

Meanwhile, fellow researcher and University of Sheffield professor Mike Parker Pearson tells LiveScience the parts could have been more specifically put together to show the connected lineage between families other time.

"Rights to land would have depended on ancestral claims, so perhaps having the ancestors around 'in the flesh' was their prehistoric equivalent of a legal document," Parker Pearson said.

"Merging different body parts of ancestors into a single person could represent the merging of different families and their lines of descent," Parker Pearson said. "Perhaps this was a prelude to building the row of houses in which numerous different families are likely to have lived."

A little morbid, a little amusing, and also a reminder that issues of land ownership aren't just historical, they might be prehistorical as well. Thanks to William Bozeman for the pointer.

Matt Festa

July 11, 2012 in Comparative Land Use, History, Humorous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

CFP: Food Law at Maine

News of a great Colloquium being planned for next year at the University of Maine School of Law, via Sarah Schindler:

The Maine Law Review invites you to participate in its 2013 Food Law Colloquium. The Colloquium presents an opportunity for discussion and debate about the legal architecture of food systems in Maine, the United States, and beyond. To complement the Colloquium, the spring volume of the Review will be devoted to high-quality legal scholarship focusing on a wide range of food law topics.

The Maine Law Review seeks submissions of papers for oral presentation at the Colloquium and for publication in its Spring 2013 volume. We invite contributions in the form of articles or essays addressing any aspect of food law. Topics may include, but are not limited to: local food ordinances and states’ rights movements; the effects of the 2012 Farm Bill on small-scale agriculture; food safety and security; judicial responses to competing interests of seed patent owners and farmers; the challenges of securing financing for farmland conservation; administrative hurdles confronting the seafood industry; cooperatives and securities law; comparative analyses of food law frameworks; and emerging issues in food law. Although traditional, full-length papers are welcome, we principally seek shorter essays (roughly 8,000 to 15,000 words, including references) that will stimulate lively discussion at the Colloquium.

Draft abstracts and queries may be addressed to Aga Pinette, Editor-in-Chief, at mainelawrevieweditor@gmail.com, no later than September 30, 2012. Please accompany submissions with a curriculum vitae, and indicate your willingness and availability to travel to Portland, Maine, to participate in the Colloquium in February or March 2013.

Matt Festa

July 10, 2012 in Agriculture, Conferences, Food, Local Government, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)