Land use and development roundup

  • “Expanding housing and job opportunities by cutting back on zoning” [Ilya Somin on Ed Glaeser Brookings essay]
  • Always hold back and let the government do it. That way the $550 stairs can be built for $65,000-$150,000 [CTV, CBC, sequel: city of Toronto tears down stairs] Some reasons why even without NIMBY or funding constraints, government infrastructure projects can be hard to get done [Coyote]
  • Cities dressed up retail malls as “public use” to justify land takings. Many courts went along. Not looking so good now [Gideon Kanner]
  • “Is inclusionary zoning legal?” [Emily Hamilton, Market Urbanism] Rejoinder: constitutional attacks on this type of zoning modification will make libertarians sorry if localities just go back to strict zoning [Rick Hills, PrawfsBlawg]
  • House Natural Resources Committee hears testimony on package of reforms to Endangered Species Act [Michael Sandoval, Western Wire]
  • Are takings claimants entitled to have suits heard in an Article III court? [Robert Thomas, Inverse Condemnation]


  • RE the Toronto stairs case.

    The CBC article has pictures of the stairs the “handyman” built taken from different angles. The stairs and the landings aren’t level and have other construction issues.

    If those stairs were built on private property, no one would pay for them. They’re that bad.

    While I applaud and support the idea of a man looking at a problem and trying to address it, his solution can’t open up the City to liability issues. If he had built the stairs correctly, that would be one thing. He didn’t.

    Of course, the reason why this stair case is here is because of the exorbitant estimate by the City to build the stairs. Those estimate probably include all sorts of site design, RFP’s, contracts, inspections, etc — all things the City itself mandates.

    It never seems to raise an eyebrow of some City officials when they are spending other people’s money. (And we won’t even get into the fact that the cities will claim they can’t do projects like this because they don’t have the money so they want to raise taxes.)

    This may be one of those rare cases where both parties – the man and the city – are at fault.

    • I’ve seen similar stairs built by the government in Wisconsin state parks. People were already going up and down that slope before the stairs were built, with nothing but a rope to hang on to.

      As off kilter and rickety looking as those stairs are, they are an order of magnitude safer than what they replaced.

  • I agree with GC that the construction is substandard (though better than what came before it). As a way to get the city to build a proper staircase, however, it was cost-effective lobbying.

    In more liability-conscious America, the builder and others who disrespected the police barrier would have been hauled off by a SWAT team. A fence would have been put up, and a proper staircase not built for years if ever.

    In the final article about removing the staircase, the builder made a shockingly un-American (in a modern sense) remark implying that it was OK for 10-year-olds to risk sliding and falling on a muddy slope. In modern America, it is unthinkable to leave children under age 18 outside without adult supervision, where they might risk blood poisoning from scraped knees.

    • MattS and Hugo,

      While it can be argued that the stairs may be safer (and given the construction, that appears to be in contention) there can be little doubt that the consequences of an actual fall go up greatly with the stairs. (Unless, of course, someone wants to argue that landing on soft ground is more dangerous than landing on a hard surface with hard edges from wooden boards.)

      The other issue is that the toehold of the slope was cut. The actual slope can now slide out taking the steps and anyone on them with it. There is a reason that when you cut the toehold, you have to put support back into the slope.

      The man should be applauded for his initiative. I agree with Hugo that it was cost effective lobbying. In addition, as I said, it shows the silliness of the estimates the city gave for the stairs.

      With Toronto’s freeze and thaw cycle, the toehold issue, the lack of proper construction giving people a false sense of security, and the difference in the consequences of a fall, the stairs may not be any better than the short cut the residents created.