Saturday, January 22, 2011

Six Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy

Don Fullerton (Illinois-Finance) has posted Six Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

While prior literature has identified various effects of environmental policy, this note uses the example of a proposed carbon permit system to illustrate and discuss six different types of distributional effects: (1) higher prices of carbon-intensive products, (2) changes in relative returns to factors like labor, capital, and resources, (3) allocation of scarcity rents from a restricted number of permits, (4) distribution of the benefits from improvements in environmental quality, (5) temporary effects during the transition, and (6) capitalization of all those effects into prices of land, corporate stock, or house values. The note also discusses whether all six effects could be regressive, that is, whether carbon policy could place disproportionate burden on the poor.

Jim K.

January 22, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Architecture, Clean Energy, Climate, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Green Building, Housing, Oil & Gas, Sustainability, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hutton on Better and More Uniform Building Codes

Thomas G. Hutton (judicial clerk) has posted Toward Better and More Uniform Building Efficiency Codes, Virginia Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1 (2010).  The abstract: 

This article will considers the ways federal legislation can approach building efficiency codes for maximum impact. If Congress is seduced by the cost-effectiveness of improved building efficiency codes, it may seek ways to circumvent the slow and sometimes troubled state code adoption process. I am interested in exploring the ways it could do just that. I will first argue that improving building efficiency is an attractive tool for reaching national energy efficiency and carbon emissions goals, and second, consider how our federalist structure of government can accommodate federal involvement in the business of building efficiency regulation. I will then consider four potential federal policy routes to improving building efficiency nationwide.

Matt Festa

January 13, 2011 in Environmentalism, Federal Government, Green Building, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rosenbloom on Incentivizing Sustainable Businesses

Jonathan D. Rosenbloom (Drake) has posted Government Entrepreneurs: Incentivizing Sustainable Businesses as Part of Local Economic Development Strategies In Greening Local Government, published in GREENING LOCAL GOVERNMENT, Patty Salkin and Keith Hirokawa, eds., 2011.  The abstract:

This chapter (which will be included in the forthcoming Greening Local Government book edited by Patty Salkin and Keith Hirokawa) considers economic development strategies that capitalize on an emerging socially responsible and environmentally friendly economy.

Local economic development strategies used to attract private sector investment have remained almost the same for the past forty years. The private sector itself, however, is changing. There is a small, but rapidly growing, segment that has re-conceptualized the purpose of a for-profit business. An emerging portion of the private sector generates profit, value and marketability in fostering sustainable business strategies, focusing equally on economic profitability, environmental friendliness and socially responsibility.

In light of this evolution in the private sector, should local governments redesign economic development strategies to leverage the growth in sustainable businesses? The chapter concludes with steps local governments may take to directly incentivize sustainable businesses by increasing the sustainability of the incentives themselves, including a performance-based economic development strategy; and to indirectly encourage the development of sustainable businesses by helping to facilitate a market for their products.

This chapter does not present sustainable economic development strategies as a single option or as a blanket panacea. Rather, by implementing economic development strategies to accommodate and promote sustainable businesses, local governments enhance their sustainability and diversify their tax base. A welcoming business framework is crucial in driving interest and investments in sustainability to the mutual benefit of local governments and the private sector. As local governments look to support sustainable businesses, they will have a positive impact on communities, economic development and the environment in a sustainable and lasting manner.

Matt Festa

January 9, 2011 in Books, Climate, Economic Development, Environmentalism, Green Building, Local Government, Property, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Arcosanti - City on a Hill

We went to Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona, Arizona over the holiday.  It was beautiful. On the drive back to Phoenix, I insisted (over my wife's rolling eyes) that we visit Arcosanti. An experimental town founded in 1970, Arcosanti aspires to fuse architecture with ecology.


The town seeks to provide social interaction and accessibility of urban living with ecological goals ranging from spare resource use to environmental integratoin.  The project-town rests on 25 acres of a 4,060 acre land preserve. Although originally envisioned for 5,000 people, Arcosanti's actual population varies between 50 and 100 people. The master plan envisions a massive complex, called Arcosanti 5000, that would dwarf the current buildings.

Despite Arcosanti's meager population, the underlying land use philosophy - arcology - is intriguing. Although certainly not new, "archology" is Paolo Soleri's concept of cities which compact human necessities in marked contrast to urban sprawl with its inherently wasteful consumption of land, energy and time. Instead of isolating people from each other and the community, the "complexification and miniaturization" of the city encourages and relies on community.

According to promomtional materials,

  • an archology would need about two percent as much land as a typical city of similar population 
  • Archology eliminates the automobile from within the city 
  • The multi-use nature of archology design would put living, working and public spaces within easy reach of each other, and
  • walking would be the main transportation within the city
  • "Arcosanti is probably the most important experiment undertaken in our lifetime"

Our visit to the town was uninspiring.  It did not meet the rhetoric above.  The bronze and ceramic wind bells Soleri sells were nice, but the edifices themselves were ill kept and uninspiring. We did not get a tour of the entire town, so perhaps judment should be reserved. 

Still, why only 50 residents (mostly students /educators) in a "city" that envisioned 5,000 way back in 1970?  Why does Soleri himself live in Scottsdale, Arizona (a sprawling well-to-do suburb)?  To me it tracks what James McWilliams calls "a problem endemic to modern environmentalism."  I agree with McWilliams's suggestion that "concerned consumers are flush with noble intentions, but too often these intentions succumb to external realities."

McKay Cunningham

December 1, 2010 in Architecture, Community Design, Environmental Law, Green Building, New Urbanism, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Southeast Smart Growth Network Video Conference

I just received this announcement from Katie Sheehan at UGA's River Basin Center:

The Southeast Smart Growth Network invites you to join us for our first regional video
conference showcasing key smart growth initiatives in the Southeast. The hour and a half program
will be presented from four interactive sites linked by the University of Georgia. You may also view the presentation from your computer.

Overcoming Obstacles to Smart Growth – A Case Study of the Town
of Davidson, NC (2004 EPA Award for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth
Achievement) - Town of Davidson Planning Manager, Lauren Blackburn,
and Commissioner Marguerite Williams will explain the main tenets of the
Davidson Planning Ordinance, initial community reactions to draft policy,
and the tools used to build support for change.

Going Green in Georgia – David Freedman, Principal at Freedman
Engineering Group and former Director of Engineering and Construction
for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, will discuss strategies
for a successful green building program and cost neutral approaches to
constructing green buildings.

HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities -
Anne Keller, Senior Sustainability Advisor, Environmental Protection
Agency Region 4, will discuss the new partnership and provide an
overview of the communities in the Southeast receiving grants. Amy
Brooks, Transportation Planner, Knoxville Regional Transportation
Planning Organization, will briefly discuss their initiative to develop a
Regional Plan for Sustainable Development.

Southeast Smart Growth Network – Christine Olsenius, Executive
Director of the Southeast Watershed Forum, will introduce a new project to
analyze green building programs in 5 Southeastern states.

DECEMBER 13th 2010, 2-3:30pm EST video conference.
Watch online: Email to
receive the conference url and link-up instructions.

You can also watch from four locations;

Athens, Georgia - Center for Teaching and Learning, North Instructional Plaza,, park at the Tate Student Center, 705 S. Lumpkin Street

Atlanta, Georgia - Georgia Department of Community Affairs, 60 Executive Park South NE,, sign in at the security desk in the lobby

Charlotte, North Carolina - University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Room 126 Fretwell Building – #45 on campus map, park on parking deck,

Knoxville, Tennessee - University of Tennessee, Room 156 Plant Biotechnology Building on the Agriculture Campus,

Looks like it will be very interesting - unfortunately I've got a conflict, but I imagine it will be posted on a website for later viewing.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 22, 2010 in Community Design, Conferences, Development, Georgia, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Smart Growth, Urbanism, Water | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Salkin on Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Land Use for Local Governments

Patricia Salkin (Albany) has posted Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Land Use for Local GovernmentsNew York Zoning Law and Practice Report, Vol. 11, No. 2, September/October 2010.  The abstract:

Over the last two years a number of state level initiatives in New York have been announced and enacted to address sustainable development and climate change. For example, Governor Paterson issued a series of executive orders: requiring a new State Energy Plan (which was adopted in December 2008); setting a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050 and calling for the creation of a climate action plan (the draft plan is scheduled for release for public comment in November 2010; and creating an interagency committee on sustainability and green procurement. In addition, he signed into law a number of new programs including: the Green Residential Building Grant Program, the Green Jobs – Green New York Program, the Municipal Sustainable Energy Loan Act, and improvements to net metering. While these and other State-level programs are vital to achieving emissions reductions goals and promoting sustainable communities, New York’s cities, towns, and villages have also been at work trying to develop and implement strategies to curb emissions. Municipalities are choosing to adopt clear statements and action items in their comprehensive land use plans, and they are creating climate change or sustainability task forces and developing strategies. Local governments are also enacting regulations to promote green building and alternative energy development. This article introduces the ways in which local governments have taken the lead in mitigating and preparing for climate change, focusing on the manner in which local governments have incorporated climate change concerns into the local land development regime.

Matt Festa

October 19, 2010 in Clean Energy, Climate, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Green Building, Local Government, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Burger on Local Initiatives, Preemption, and the Market Participant Exception

Michael Burger (Roger Williams) has posted It's Not Easy Being Green: Local Initiatives, Preemption Problems, and the Market Participant Exception, published in the University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 835, 2010.  The abstract:

This Article considers whether the market participant exception should be interpreted to exempt local climate change and sustainability initiatives from the "ceilings" imposed by existing environmental laws and pending federal climate change legislation. In the decades-long absence of federal action on climate change, local governments -- along with the states -- positioned themselves at the forefront of climate change and sustainability planning. In fact, state and local actions account for most of the nation's greenhouse gas reduction efforts to date. Yet, front-running localities are being limited by a preemption doctrine that fails to account for both the motives behind their initiatives and the actual effect they have on federal schemes. Indeed, while environmental law has long sought a balance between federalization and devolution of regulatory authority, current preemption doctrine, as applied to federal "ceilings," almost exclusively favors federalization values. The market participant exception offers a means to correct this imbalance. This Article begins by providing a detailed discussion of the evolution of the market participant exception in the dormant Commerce Clause and preemption contexts and unpacking the rationales behind federal "floors" and "ceilings." It then analyzes the collapsing roles of governments and corporations as regulators and market actors, and recasts the work of local governments undertaking climate change initiatives as a "race to the top" of the market for "green" places to live, work, and invest. The Article then articulates a revised test for the market participant exception and illustrates through several case studies how the test can successfully empower local autonomy and enable local innovation without sacrificing the benefits of federal law.

Looks like an interesting article, and I can say with some confidence that it's the best land use article I've seen to riff off of a Kermit the Frog single (although now that I think about it, I'm surprised that more authors haven't noted the Muppet-like travails of Being Green).

Matt Festa

September 10, 2010 in Climate, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Green Building, Local Government, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Salkin on Cooperative Federalism and Climate Change

Patricia Salkin (Albany) has posted Cooperative Federalism and Climate Change: New Meaning to 'Think Globally--Act Locally,' Environmental Law Reporter, Vol. 40, 2010.  The abstract:

This Article briefly discusses examples of the limited involvement and recognition states have carved out for local governments in state-level climate action plans. The main focus of the Article follows with an examination of the high level of largely uncoordinated activity taking place at the local government level, including innovative strategies worthy of replication throughout the country. The Article concludes with recommendations for cooperative approaches to be introduced at the federal and state levels to harness the power and opportunities of acting locally to address significant global challenges.

Matt Festa

June 25, 2010 in Climate, Environmentalism, Globalism, Green Building, Local Government, Scholarship, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Schindler on LEED and Municipal Adoption of Private Green Building Standards

Sarah Schindler (Maine) has posted Following Industry's LEED: Municipal Adoption of Private Green Building StandardsFlorida Law Review, Vol. 62, pp. 285-350, April 2010.  The abstract:

Local governments are beginning to require new, privately constructed and funded buildings to be “green” buildings. Instead of creating their own, locally-derived definitions of green buildings, many municipalities are adopting an existing private standard created by members of the building industry: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This Article explains and assesses the privately promulgated LEED standards. It argues that the translation of LEED standards, which were intended to be voluntary, into law raises several theoretical and practical problems. Specifically, private green building ordinances that rely on LEED do not ensure a reduction in the negative local environmental impacts of buildings, nor do they provide any assurance that those standards were created through a legitimate process. The Article concludes by offering an alternative approach, suggesting that municipalities should instead enact green building ordinances that have been promulgated by public governmental bodies, rather than private, industry-based organizations, and done so locally, taking into account specific local building-related and environmental concerns.

Matt Festa

April 19, 2010 in Development, Environmentalism, Green Building, Local Government, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Salkin on Renewable Energy and Land Use Regulation

Patricia Salkin (Albany) has posted a two-part piece on SSRN: Renewable Energy and Land Use RegulationALI-ABA Business Law Course Materials Journal, p. 47, February 2010.  Here is the link to Part 1 and its abstract:

Part I of a two-part set of materials on renewable energy and land use regulation, this piece focuses on local climate change action plans (highlighting Denver, Los Angeles, Montgomery County, Cleveland and Santa Fe), discusses lcoal governments and LEED, Energy Star issues including preemption, and the incorporation of green development concepts into local comprehensive land use plans and local zoning and land use regulations.

Part 2 and abstract:

This article is Part 2 of a set of materials on renewable energy and land use. The article focuses on state and local government approaches to the siting of wind projects including a discussion of host community agreements. Examples of local ordinances are provided as well as a summary of recent relevant caselaw.

Very relevant and timely.

Matt Festa

April 13, 2010 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, Green Building, Local Government, Oil & Gas, Property, Scholarship, State Government, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 9, 2010

More on Modular - Yoga Style!

This month's issue of Yoga Journal magazine has a short article a new eco-friendly modular home in Breckenridge, Colorado.  We've blogged modular homes before.

Unfortunately YJ doesn't allow access to the current issue on-line.  Fortunately the manufacturer of this particular type of home has a website profiling this particular house.  It includes a 300 square foot yoga and meditation loft, and according to YJ it's "minimalist, energy efficient, and light on the landscape."

But does it improve your karma?

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 9, 2010 in Architecture, Environmentalism, Green Building, Housing, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Glick, Rose, & Huertas on the Greening of Community Economic Development In NYC

Brian Glick (Fordham Law), Jessica Rose (Community & Economic Development, Brooklyn Legal Svcs.), & Carmen Huertas (CUNY Law) have posted The Greening of Community Economic Development: Dispatches from New York City, Western New England Law Review, Vol. 31, No. 645 (2009).  The abstract: 

Community development corporations and other community-based organizations have recently begun to make major efforts to incorporate environmental elements into their projects. This article examines this healthy trend, and lawyers’ contributions to it, through the work of three groups in three diverse communities of color in New York City. It is based on the authors’ experience providing or directing transactional legal assistance to those groups as directors of law school community economic development clinics (Huertas-Noble at CUNY, Glick at Fordham) or of legal services community development units (Rose at Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A).

Our clients are merging activism for economic development and environmental justice to create green-collar jobs for local residents, build affordable housing that is environmentally friendly, and use local land for sustainable projects that serve and improve the community. In the Cypress Hills section of East New York in Brooklyn, an established community development corporation works creatively to amass the financing required to make its buildings increasingly green. In West Harlem, a prominent environmental justice organization fights for community - serving sustainable land use and for programs to prepare people of color to get their fair share of jobs and contracts in the emerging green economy. In the South Bronx, a new organization forms worker-owned enterprises that train and employ local residents, protect the environment, and offer the potential for residents to accumulate a modicum of local wealth. Other articles in this symposium report a similar convergence of CED and environmental justice efforts in other parts of the country.

This is a promising trend. It offers real possibilities for low-income people of color to live healthier, safer, better lives. It moves forward their efforts to gain greater control over local land and resources. It supports their struggle to survive the deepening economic crisis and offers them the potential to influence and benefit from a more supportive new administration in Washington.

Our snapshots show lawyers, law students and law faculty, making small but important contributions. They help to design, maintain, and adapt legal entities and governance strictures, negotiate contracts and leases, navigate regulatory and subsidy systems, and advise and assist in project development, coordination, and financing. We are committed to doing more of this work and learning how to do it better. We hope you will join us.

Matt Festa

March 9, 2010 in Community Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Green Building, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baby, It's Cold in Here

From one of my favorite periodicals, The New York Times, an article on people who like it cold in their houses. How cold?  30 to 40 degrees, for some.  They do it out of financial necessity or aesthetic predisposition, or because it's better for the environment.

Many belong to that hardy genus Artista domestica, a group unusually skilled at foraging in urban frontiers, and long-known for sacrificing “normal” creature comforts in favor of other boons like low overhead and capacious, atmospheric habitats. Why they stick it out, and how they cope, are object lessons in creative adaptation fueled by thrift, environmentalism and a commitment to unique real estate. (Denial and long underwear help, too.)

Given that some experts estimate that the built environment contributes about 48% of greenhouse gases, maybe these folks aren't so crazy.  Who needs LEED certification if you can just turn down the thermostat?  Way down.

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 10, 2010 in Climate, Green Building, New York | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nolon on The Land Use Stabilization Wedge Strategy

John R. Nolon (Pace) has posted The Land Use Stabilization Wedge Strategy: Shifting Ground to Mitigate Climate Change, forthcoming in William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, Vol. 34, p. 1, 2009.  The abstract:

This article describes how local governments, through the clever application of existing land use techniques, can mitigate climate change. This strategic path follows one developed by Princeton professor Robert Socolow, who identified and described fifteen categories for organizing society’s climate change mitigation efforts. Five of Socolow’s strategic categories fall within the reach of local land use authority: reduced use of vehicles, energy efficient buildings, vegetative carbon sequestration, wind power, and solar power. Through the aggregation of these local land use techniques, significant energy savings and carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction can be achieved. After making some background points, this article describes how local governments are attacking the root causes of climate change and how state and federal policies can embrace local power, energy, and people to launch a coordinated attack on perhaps the greatest challenge our nation faces.

Matt Festa

January 20, 2010 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, Green Building, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eichholtz, Kok, & Quigley on Green Office Buildings

Piet M.A. Eichholtz (Maastricht--Economics), Nils Kok (Maastricht--Economics), and John M. Quigley (Berkeley--Economics) have posted Doing Well by Doing Good? Green Office Buildings, forthcoming in the American Economic Review.  The abstract:

This paper provides the first credible evidence on the economic value of the certification of “green buildings” - derived from impersonal market transactions rather than engineering estimates. Our analysis of clusters of certified green buildings and nearby comparables establishes that buildings with “green ratings” command substantially higher rents and selling prices than otherwise identical buildings.

Moreover, variations in the premium for green office buildings are systematically related to their energy-saving characteristics. An increase in the energy efficiency of a green building is associated with a substantial increase in selling price - over and above the premium for a labeled building. Further evidence suggests that the intangible effects of the label itself may also play a role in determining the values of green buildings in the marketplace.

Matt Festa

January 18, 2010 in Environmental Law, Green Building, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Universal Design

Welcome back to a new semester!  I'm battling a head cold and finishing up an office move, but it's time to get back in the saddle.  Fortunately I've saved up a few interesting topics over the break.  I happened upon the Virginia Real Estate, Land Use and Construction Law blog during the holiday. They recently had an interesting guest post on Universal Design.  For those of us unfamiliar with UD (which is related to the aging-in-place model of home construction and service provision) the bloggers provide this handy definition:

Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. (Ron Mace)

The guest blogger, who is an architect, discusses how UD is and should be related to green design and sustainability.  They even have a fun triangular graphic that shows how social, economic and environmental goals relate.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 6, 2010 in Architecture, Green Building, Planning | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Burj Dubai: The Superscraper

There is a new World's Tallest Building: Burj Dubai.

The £1 billion Burj Dubai is at least 2,683ft from its base to the tip of its spire — that’s more than half a mile, the equivalent of three-and-a-half Canary Wharf towers or two Empire State buildings stacked up. Its final height is being kept secret until tomorrow, but architects who have worked on the building have hinted it could break the 2,700ft mark.

The scale of this thing just blows my mind.  Two Empire State Buildings?

We have written about Dubai here on the blog.  The bursting of the bubble might impact the superscraper's occupancy rates and its ultimate profitability, but simply as a building achievement it seems noteworthy. 

However full the building turns out to be, it is an undoubted engineering triumph. Summer temperatures of up to 50C, desert dust storms and the tower’s extreme height forced builders to go to extraordinary lengths to complete the job. Surveyors had to take their measurements just before dawn when the building was “at rest” — not expanding in the heat of day or contracting in the cool hours of night.

Yes, but is it green?  Opinions differ. 

Environmentalists have criticised the building’s power consumption.

But . . . .

The Chicago-based architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, deny the claim. “Tall buildings are inherently energy- efficient because they are high-density,” said Bill Baker, chief structural engineer. He described the Burj as an affirmation of the power and importance of tall buildings following the 9/11 attacks that brought down the World Trade Center in New York. “It’s a symbol of optimism. It says, ‘We believe in the future’.”

At any rate, the world has a new Tallest Building this New Year.

Matt Festa

January 5, 2010 in Architecture, Density, Development, Green Building | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Salkin on NY Local Governments and Climate Change & Energy Efficiency

Patricia Salkin (Albany) has posted New York Local Governments Respond to Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.  The abstract:

While climate change is not exclusively a land use issue, some of the most effective strategies to slow climate change can be accomplished through modifications to building codes, zoning ordinances and other land use regulations. However, to be truly effective and to attain quantifiable results, local governments must implement a variety of tools and techniques and send a consistent message to residents. This paper collects and explores various approaches recently adopted by local governments throughout the State of New York, allowing municipal attorneys and policymakers to consider options for adoption of locally based initiatives designed to reduce our carbon footprint.

Matt Festa

December 14, 2009 in Environmental Law, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Energy Inspections in Austin?

A proposal to require energy inspection for all new housing starts will be sent to the city council in Texas's weird state captial.  The Austin Business Journal headlines it as Proposal ruffles builders:

A new ordinance requiring new housing starts to undergo energy inspections cleared its last hurdle Nov. 17 and will be sent to the City Council amid ardent opposition from the local home builders association.

The proposed law, which adopts the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, will supplant an old rule that only required a sampling of similar new housing by the same builder to be tested. The new rule will instead mandate testing for every single- or two-family unit by outside contractors.

Not everyone is happy:

At the Nov. 17 hearing, Home Builders Association of Greater Austin Executive Vice President Harry Savio said the new codes will add 88 cents per square foot to the cost of new houses in Austin and further slow sluggish permitting offices that are understaffed.

The inspections would be for heating, ventilation, and cooling of all new residential units.  Austin has contemplated a policy goal to have all new homes be zero-energy by 2015.  Whether adding new requirements during a recession is a wise move remains to be seen.

Matt Festa

November 24, 2009 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, Green Building, Housing, Local Government, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sports stadiums: if you build it, will they come?

For you football fans out there, here is a Sunday post about the recurring issue in many cities about building a new sports stadium, either for the local team or to attract a new team to town.  There are a lot of land use issues bound up in these controversies.  Cities like to have sports teams, not just for the city's sports fans, but also very much for the broader but nebulous civic sense that the city is a "major-league" town or that it has "arrived."  Claims are made about the economic development that must surely result from the construction of fancy new digs for the team.  Transit and traffic issues are involved.  Location: should the stadium be in the suburbs, or downtown?  What will be the impact on neighborhoods?  On property values and taxes?  On the environment?  Of course, the gorilla in the room is the question of who pays--the team or the taxpayer?  People don't want to lose their team, but neither do they want to be held "hostage" by the wealthy owners' demands.  Then there is the problem of land assembly.  How much eminent domain will be needed?

My sense is that over the last few years the public has become much less receptive to the notion of public financing for sports stadium (stadia?).  Yet the issue comes back repeatedly when a team makes noises about "needing" an upgraded venue. 

The nation's second-largest city (and media market) remains without a professional football franchise, but that isn't stopping Los Angeles from trying to lure one back.  From a recent article about LA's latest new-stadium proposal:

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 15 years after the Los Angeles area’s two professional football teams left for other cities, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill to clear the way for a new stadium seen as pivotal to drawing a team to the region. . . .

But the latest effort, to build a 75,000-seat, $800 million “green” stadium in City of Industry, a warehouse and shopping district 15 miles east of downtown, is considered one of the more viable to come along in a long time.

No taxpayer money would be used to finance it, a condition that has helped squelch other plans; the developer, the Majestic Realty Company, said it would seek private investors.

Here is a website about the proposal:  Lots of design info and pictures.  I think it's particularly interesting in that I don't recall any previous proposals for a "green" stadium.  It's good that the proposal purports to eschew direct public financing; the state is mired in fiscal crisis, and LA is still paying for Jacko's memorial at the Staples Center.  But what will the indirect public costs be?  Will they be outweighed by the always-promised economic development?

Relatedly, in the other kind of football, soccer ("metric football"?), Houston wants to build a soccer-specific stadium for the Major League Soccer franchise Houston Dynamo.  The stadium is proposed for an area on the edge of downtown and on a proposed light rail line.  There was a little bit of debate over the proposed use of tax increment financing for certain aspects of the project.  [We call Houston the Unzoned City but there are some significant uses of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones or "TIRZ"].  As far as the public "sales pitch" for the soccer stadium, Houston already has the team, but it would like to play host to potential U.S. World Cup games, thereby proving that the city has "arrived." 

There are also the peripheral legal issues around stadiums, such as regulating the "pedicabs" that operate to bring people to and from the game from distant parking.  (Here's what they look like.)  UPDATE: here's a USA Today article on the growing use of and legal issues about pedicabs. 

And of course, don't forget the simmering controversy over the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project, which combines a Kelo-style master redevelopment plan (and heartburn over eminent domain) with all of these issues about public involvement with bringing a new sports team (the NBA Nets franchise) to town, and the litigation in Goldstein v. New York State Urban Redevelopment Corporation

Brian Yates has an article on the subject called "Whether Building a New Sports Arena will Revitalize Downtown and Make the Team a Winner," Vol. 17 U. Miami Business Law Review p. 269 (2009).  So if you're headed out to the stadium today, enjoy the game, and think about all of the land use issues involved!  Thanks to Ryan Palmquist, Paul Farnum, Alan Saweris, and William Powell for links.

Matt Festa

November 15, 2009 in Architecture, Development, Downtown, Eminent Domain, Environmental Law, Green Building, Houston, Local Government, Real Estate Transactions, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)