Monday, December 6, 2010

Woman Claims Ownership of the Sun

Well it's not exactly "land" use, since the Sun is a ball of fiery gas, but it is a key player in the status of the Earth's land and ecology, and the issue involves property rights, so check out this story: Spanish Woman Claims Ownership of the Sun:

MADRID (AFP) – After billions of years the Sun finally has an owner -- a woman from Spain's soggy region of Galicia said Friday she had registered the star at a local notary public as being her property.

Angeles Duran, 49, told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September after reading about an American man who had registered himself as the owner of the moon and most planets in our Solar System.

There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added.

"There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law. I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first."

Apparently she plans to start charging a fee (a special assessment?) to all users of the Sun.  So prepare to either stay indoors forever (and ditch your solar panels) or pay up.  When I get the information about where to send your checks, I'll pass it on.  Thanks to Lyle Higginson for the pointer.

Matt Festa

December 6, 2010 in Clean Energy, Comparative Land Use, Environmentalism, Humorous, Property Rights, Sun Belt | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Obama Replaces High-Speed Rail with High-Speed Bus Plan

You may have heard that the Obama administration's plans for high-speed rail projects have met with some challenges, most prominently from the incoming Republlican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio.  Now comes this breaking news report from The Onion: Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan with High-Speed Bus Plan.  Go ahead and check out the video at the link, it's worth it!

Joking, aside, though, there is a serious argument out there that upgraded and expanded intra-city, commuter, and longer range bus routes might be superior in many ways to HSR.  Here is a thoughtful analysis with links from Tory Gattis, particularly to Robert Poole's Surface Transportation Newsletter for the Reason Foundation. 

Matt Festa

December 3, 2010 in Federal Government, Humorous, Politics, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kids' Playscape Replicates Planning Problems

From the Conservative Blogger, a post (with accompanying photo) about how the children's play area at the Salt Lake City airport inadvertently (or cleverly) replicates the typical planning dilemas of a small town.  My favorites:

Underutilized Downtown: Even without those dirty deeds by developers to bring a Walmart to town, the downtown is suffering from a lack of businesses and street life. The town’s goal to bring artists and boutique shops was never realized due to personality conflicts between the local planning board and the chamber of commerce...

City Park: The park is unfortunately located on an environmentally-degraded site on the edge of town, the result of a manufacturing plant that skipped town 20 years ago and left the town without a major employer or a business generator for the freight railroad.

Surface Parking Lot: The downtown merchants complained of a parking problem downtown after years of being in a state of denial over their employees occupying parking spaces on Main Street, prohibiting shoppers from accessing their stores. The town spent millions to acquire land on the edge of downtown to build a non-descript parking facility that is rarely used except by vagrants wishing to make drug deals.

For those of you who travel to or live in the mountain west, next time you fly through Salt Lake check out this "emerging planning conundrum" near the E Gates.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 18, 2010 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Humorous, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Atlantic Yards: The Musical ("It's Not")

From The New York Times:

An alternative theater company has created a work based on the controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

“So there’s ULURP,” begins the second song in a new musical about Brooklyn. “ULURP is the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure/Which required community involvement and public review/Of all kinds of New York City land-use projects.”

If this seems like something you might read in the notes of a community board meeting, that’s because it is. The song goes on to define the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York State Urban Development Corporation (E.S.D.C. and U.D.C., for musicality) and describe how they function together. “And that’s how eminent domain works!” it concludes. Jaunty, no?

As far as I know, this is the first attempt to set a land use code to music, but I'd love to hear if anyone knows of another example!

For Steve Cosson, a founder of the inquisitive musical theater troupe the Civilians, dramatizing this wonky subject led to a fertile multiyear examination of politics, race, democracy, money and community, centered on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Titled “In the Footprint,” the show mines the New Yorkiest of obsessions — real estate — to present a layered portrait of a city and a neighborhood changing, sometimes under duress. “Atlantic Yards: The Musical!” it’s not.

The songs in “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards” (the creators call them blogosongs) serve not as emotional showstoppers but as commentary and explanation — the Greek chorus of the digital age. The show, which begins previews at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on Friday, and opens on Nov. 22, is based on interviews with business owners, neighbors, politicians, bloggers and activists touched by Atlantic Yards, the developer Bruce Ratner’s divisive project to reconfigure 22 acres of urban landscape in Brooklyn, displacing scores of residents and small businesses in the process.

There are so few examples of artistic effort based on land use law.  If you're in New York during the run, take it in and send us a review!

Jamie Baker Roskie


November 11, 2010 in Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Humorous, New York, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Race, Redevelopment, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween: Top 10 Haunted Homes in U.S.

From the Zillow Blog comes this entry: Top 10 Haunted Homes in U.S.  Here's the list:

1. Winchester House, San Jose CA

2. Lizzie Borden House (you know, the girl with the axe who gave her parents 40/41 whacks), Fall River MA.

3. LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans LA

4. The White House, Washington DC

5. Franklin Castle, Cleveland OH

6. Sprague Mansion, Cranston RI

7. Chambers Mansion, San Fransisco CA

8. Mytrles Plantation, St. Francisville LA

9. Stranahan House, Ft. Lauderdale FL

10. Whaley House, San Diego CA

Go and read the blog post for the interesting stories behind each haunted house.  The post explains why it left the Amityville Horror house off the list, but that's not my beef, of course: where is the house from Stambovsky v. Ackley?  That's the property law casebook staple, where after a real estate transaction, the buyer learned that the house was reputedly possessed by a poltergeist.  The NY Appellate Division (1991) held that for purposes of rescinding the contract, the house was haunted as a matter of law.  And it's beyond dispute that Property casebooks have terrified generations of law students!

Happy Halloween everyone, and watch out for the Dead Hand.  

Matt Festa 

October 31, 2010 in California, Caselaw, Housing, Humorous, New York, Real Estate Transactions, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 22, 2010

"So You Want to Go to Law School"

WARNING: This post is blatantly non-land use related.

This morning in class my students mentioned this YouTube video.  Using a animated film-making software called "Xtra Normal" (Slogan - "if you can type, you can make a movie).  "So You Want to Go to Law School" is a funny, very jaded conversation between a wanna-be law student and a cynical, exhausted corporate lawyer. Sample dialogue:

WBLS: "I love your Blackberry."

CECL: "I do not like my Blackberry. I want to torture it until it begs me to kill it."

Kudos to blogger dwkazzie for this hilarious film.  Now I just need to help my students avoid slipping into a depression after watching it...

Jamie Baker Roskie



October 22, 2010 in Humorous | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vegas, Sodom, Gomorrah, and other bogeymen

I have been put in the unenviable position of defending Las Vegas against the claim that it is a racy, uncultured, highly sexualized theme park.

I can't.

But I can say that having lived in Las Vegas for 11+ years, I have not had 1/20 of the bawdy experiences that journalist J.R. Moehringer had in his relatively short stay here.  I don't know who this Caligula neighbor is, but in my experience the omniscient and omnipresent homeowners association would have put a quick stop to his noisy escapades.  And none of the friends who have visited me here have been treated to backyard parties stocked with statuesque women named Dallas and Paris.  I am a boring host in a boring suburb.

The article reminded me of two things about Vegas that I think about almost weekly.  First, what possessed people to stop here in the first place?  I know that the easy answer is water.  Believe it or not, Las Vegas was once a relatively lush oasis amidst the otherwise stark Mojave desert.  But it is hard to conjure up that image when it is 115 degrees outside and you are surrounded by brown dust and rocks.  Of course, if you find yourself in these stark surroundings, you have undertaken a deliberate hike into the desert or taken a serious wrong turn, because most of Vegas is now an irrigated, landscaped, palm tree-lined park.

Second, one of the most charming features of Vegas (to me) is that it allows everyday people to experience the bacchanalia that is normally reserved for the rich or beautiful (or both) in other cities.  For one weekend, everyone is invited to Caligula's backyard to see how the other half lives.  Everyone is invited to strike it rich at craps or blackjack, surrounded by free drinks and beautiful people.  It's America's egalitarian, libertarian wonderland.

But I wouldn't know much about bacchanalia and blackjack.  Most weekends you'll find me on the couch, in the suburbs, watching football and reading email. 

Ngai Pindell, UNLV

October 13, 2010 in Humorous, Las Vegas | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is Vegas a Sodom and Gomorrah Theme Park?

Contiuning in our Las Vegas theme, I ran across an article in the October issue of Smithsonian magazine by someone who dislikes Vegas even more than I.  Journalist J.R. Moehringer lived in Vegas while collaborating on a book with Andre Aggasi, and he has this to say about America's playground:

Vegas isn’t a real city. It’s a Sodom and Gomorrah theme park surrounded by hideous exurban sprawl and wasteland so barren it makes the moon look like an English rose garden.


No matter what you read about Vegas, no matter where you read it, this assertion invariably pops up, as sure as a face card in the hole when the dealer’s showing an ace. Vegas is unlike any other American city, and yet Vegas is America? Paradoxical, yes, but true. And it’s never been more true than during these past few years. Vegas typified the American boom—best suite at the Palms: $40,000 a night—and Vegas now epitomizes the bust. If the boom was largely caused by the housing bubble, Vegas was bubble-icious. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the Vegas area leads the United States in foreclosures—five times the national rate—and ranks among the worst cities for unemployment. More than 14 percent of Las Vegans are without work, compared with the national rate of 9.5 percent.


I’ll miss the whole seamy, seedy, icky, apocalyptic tawdriness of it all. While I was busy hating Vegas, and hiding from Vegas, a funny thing happened. I grew to love Vegas. If you tell stories for a living or collect them for fun, you can’t help but feel a certain thrill at being in a place where the supply of stories—uniquely American stories—is endless.

That doesn’t mean I’m staying. Vegas is like the old definition of writing: though I don’t enjoy writing, I love having written. Though I didn’t enjoy Vegas, I love having lived there.

Read the whole article here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 12, 2010 in Development, Exurbs, Humorous, Las Vegas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Newly Minted Lawyer Fights Controversial Infill in the Hamptons

From The New York Times, an interesting article about a woman who went to law school as a retirement activity, and is now fighting teardowns and McMansions in her modest subdivision in the Hamptons:

Ms. Konrad has achieved a level of unpleasant notoriety for her relentless and unapologetic campaign against a sacred cow in these parts: luxury real estate.

She has been called irritating, meddlesome, even crazy. To Ms. Konrad, though, the McMansions built by Wall Street’s titans are destroying life as she has known it for the half-century she has been coming here.

She is perfectly at ease in her role as the village nag.

“I seem like a very good target, a little old lady in white tennis sneakers, but they’re making a very grim mistake if that’s who they think I am,” Ms. Konrad, who is 81, said on a recent afternoon, savoring an ice cream cone and wearing a miniskirt over a brown bathing suit. “I’m contentious. I’m obstinate. I’m not going to give this up.”

Wagging her sharp tongue and applying the law degree she earned just five years ago, Ms. Konrad has accused village officials, builders and home buyers of corruption, profiteering and bad taste in court papers and in letters to The Southampton Press. (A sample of her acerbic style: She has described some homes here as “multimillion-dollar penis extensions” that will make a buyer feel as if “he has never left northern New Jersey.”)

Recently Chad Emerson blogged about the dangers of planning new development in areas where there are lots of lawyers.  Now the neighbors are making themselves lawyers!  Things get weirder and weirder...

Jamie Baker Roskie

July 9, 2010 in Development, Humorous, Local Government, New York, Politics, Redevelopment, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Johnson on Le Corbusier and Law School Architecture

Eric Johnson has a post at Prawfsblawg called Le Corbusier and Certain Pro Se Litigants, with some thoughts on Le Corbusier's architecture including a nice (and grim!) photo of a Le Corbusier apartment complex in France.  Johnson ultimately jumps off to the question of which law schools have the best architecture, but first he has some interesting thoughts on Le Corbusier:

Recently, I've been taking a peek at the writings of Le Corbusier. He's one of history's most celebrated architects, and he has had a profound influence on the modern cityscape. He has designed buildings such as the Saddam Hussein Gymnasium in Iraq. These are buildings that don't exactly exude warmth. Basically, Le Corbusier is the creative genius behind the concrete box.

What's that? You're not a fan? Well, you should know that Le Corbusier provided lengthy philosophical justification for his concrete-box style of building. Here is how he begins his argument in the book Toward a New Architecture:

The Engineer's Aesthetic, and Architecture, are two things that march together and follow one from the other: the one being now at its full height, the other in an unhappy state of retrogression. The Engineer, inspired by the law of Economy and governed by mathematical calculation, puts us in accord with universal law. He achieves harmony. The Architect, by his arrangement of forms, realizes an order which is a pure creation of his spirit ... he determines the various movements of our heart and our understanding; it is then that we experience the sense of beauty. . . .

I'd quote more, but you've got a flavor for it: It sounds like a brief from one of those pro se litigants who is suing the president. If you've clerked, you definitely know what I'm talking about. In a word: CRAZY.

. . . .

Governments, universities (law school's included), and public housing authorities in the United States got hit especially hard by the brutalist architecture hysteria in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. People think lawyers are clever persuaders. But what about architects? How did they persuade people to actually erect such monstrosities? Gerry Spence, eat your heart out.

Le Corbusier as crazy pro se litigant . . . who actually won many of his cases!  Hilarious.  Read the whole post

Matt Festa

June 29, 2010 in Architecture, Density, Humorous, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chimpanzee Gangs Kill for Land

Now here at the Land Use Prof Blog, we have assembled a team of bloggers with different areas of specialty, but all of whom I think share the idea that land use is a fundamentally interdisciplinary subject: it involves many fields within law, and many disciplines and professions across the human landscape, and transcends national systems as well.  But until today, I never thought that land use involved inter-species issues.  But I was wrong.   Check out Chimpanzee Gangs Kill for Land.

Chimp-on-chimp attacks in the wild are very common, especially among small packs of males on patrol. Now research suggests the motive for these crimes is to gain territory. . . . 

"The take-home is clear and simple," said researcher John Mitani of the University of Michigan. "Chimpanzees kill each other. They kill their neighbors. Up until now, we have not known why. Our observations indicate that they do so to expand their territories at the expense of their victims."

So maybe the impulse to control the use of land transcends humanity.  Do the chimpanzees signal our "primal" innate desire to own land and regulate it?  Who knows; read it for fun.  

Matt Festa

June 23, 2010 in Humorous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keep Houston Ugly

So last night after yoga class I'm standing in the check out line at our local Earth Fare and I spot the latest issue of Good.  This issue's theme is "Here Comes the Neighborhood." Given all the work I've done with neighborhoods (including my own) over the years, I purchased this as a must-read.

I've just started digging in, but I came across something immediately blog-worthy - a quiz about local slogans.  It turns out that "Keep Houston Ugly" is one of the several "Keep America Beautiful" riffs around the country.  For whatever reason, Texas has several, including "Keep San Antonio Lame" (care to explain that one, Matt?), "Keep Austin Weird" (heard that one before), and "Keep Waco Wacko" (fair enough).

Athens needs a better slogan than "The Classic City" (besides "Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful" which is a great organization but not a great slogan).  Maybe I'll start a "Keep Athens..." contest .

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 14, 2010 in Georgia, Houston, Humorous | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More on Dirt Piles

Okay, I know we joke around that land use lawyers are "dirt" lawyers, but that's becoming literal for me.  As you may recall, I blogged recently about a giant dirt pile in our neighborhood.  Although everyone here in Athens agrees they've never seen anything like it, apparently rogue dirt piles are not a totally uncommon phenomenon.  One of my students, Chad Hayes, has been doing some research, and he ran across this article in The Roanoke Times.

My favorite quote from the article:

...the dirt pile is now a colossal heap, reaching toward the sky. It has been there so long it's covered with weeds and grass and has recently become a roosting place for a flock of turkey vultures.

Some of the residents of the neighborhood, where hundreds of town houses and single-family homes have been built in recent years, have expressed concern, dismay and even a bit of merry mockery.

"Mount Sinai?" Orange Leaf Court resident Judith Liberman joked when asked what she thinks about the mound, visible from her town house.

"I keep waiting for Moses to come down."

We've dubbed our own dirt pile "Mt. Price" (after the name of the street) but it's also been called "Price Hill."  I've even considered having t-shirts made.  Our dirt pile is less than a month old, so I dearly hope we dont' find ourselves Roanoke's situation three years later.

Jamie Baker Roskie

UPDATE: Chad Hayes just sent me this link, in which the developer filed what looks to me like a SLAPP suit against his critics.  The suit was ultimately dismissed.

UPDATE TWO - Here's a giant dirt pile on Florida's Intercoastal Waterway.

Of course, there are people who love dirt piles.

March 31, 2010 in Development, Environmental Law, Georgia, Humorous, Local Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nothing says "Be Mine" quite like . . . manure

On the 14th I was disappointed that I couldn't think of any holiday-themed items to blog about for Valentine's Day.  But a Minnesota farmer has come to my rescue with seven loads of manure.  From, Local Farmer Makes Manure Valentine:

Bruce Andersland raises cattle and farms near Albert Lea Minnesota, and this Valentine's Day, he's saying "I Love You" to his wife Beth of nearly forty years, in a unique way. . . .

He used his machinery to draw this arrow pirced heart on their farm land, with manure. . . .

After seven loads of fertilizer he let his wife beth in on his big Valentine's wish.

Beth said, "I've had flowers, jewelery, and chocolate, this was something from the heart and imagination and he's very creative and very thoughtful so this was something special."

Bruce said he thought up the idea one day when he noticed just how well the dark manure showed up on the white snow. . . .

It's about a half a mile wide and in order to see the whole thing you need a plane.

So, they hired a pilot to take aerial shots of the Bruce's creation.

Click the link above for an aerial photo of the giant manure heart.  The fun isn't over yet, either:

Bruce said, "now next year we're gonna see if the corn grows a little better in the shape of a heart."

Thanks to John McKinney for the pointer.  Now if only someone would send me a good land use story for Mardi Gras or Ash Wednesday!

Matt Festa

February 16, 2010 in Agriculture, Humorous | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Unhappy Hipsters"

Here's another fun website, forwarded to me by my architect husband (the silent 6th blogger, as those of you who follow my posts may have noticed).  This is a hilarious blog (if you like humor at the expense of modernist architects and writers) made up of photos from Dwell magazine with added humorous captions.  It highlights the blankness and bleakness of many current exemplars of modern form.  I would tell you that my favorite caption is "He sipped his tepid coffee and pondered how to tell her that, in fact, the pants made the sack dress even less appealing," but another blog has beaten me to the punch.  (Apparently Dwell's managing editor has endorse the parody through a tweet.)

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 28, 2010 in Architecture, Humorous | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)