Unlike most cities, San Francisco follows a land use practice called “discretionary review,” which “allows anybody to appeal any permit for any reason (or no reason) and force a public hearing in front of the famously arbitrary Planning Commission.” A falafel shop wanted an ordinarily straightforward change of use permit to open in a vacant storefront on Castro Street, but an incumbent gyro shop on the same block filed an objection which will succeed in delaying the opening for months. The whole episode “encapsulates everything wrong with San Francisco’s permitting process.” [Dana Beuschel, Medium] Update: newcomer prevails for now, but maybe because not enough commissioners showed up at the meeting to pronounce a “no.”
After New York moves to ban ride-sharing services from drivers with out-of-state licenses, Connecticut considers going tit for tat [John McGlothlin, Law and Liberty]
In a Cato Podcast with Caleb Brown, John Samples discusses his new Cato policy analysis, “Why the Government Should Not Regulate Content Moderation of Social Media.” One thing that changed just lately: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in the words of Nick Gillespie,
is explicitly calling for government regulation of specifically political speech on his platform and beyond. In his quest to limit expression on social media, Zuckerberg is joined not only by progressive Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) but conservative Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who are calling for the equivalent of a Fairness Doctrine for Twitter and similar services.
For those of us who believe in freedom of expression, this is a revolting development.
More: event video; “Will a Free Press Cheer on Government Censorship of the Internet?” [Scott Shackford, Hans Bader] Several commentators note that having made Facebook the big success in its market, Zuckerberg can now ask for regulations that would tend to lock in its dominance by heaping compliance burdens on rising competitors [Coyote, Andrea O’Sullivan, Mercatus]
- So many private actors, from Michael Bloomberg on down, helped steer New York AG office to sue Exxon [John Solomon, The Hill; Tom Stebbins, Crain’s New York Business; Francis Menton, RealClearEnergy; earlier here, here, here, here, etc. ] “Whatever the merits of the plaintiffs’ policy objectives, their campaign to circumvent the political branches poses a serious threat to the rule of law and the constitutional principle of separation of powers.” [Jim Huffman, Quillette] “Emails Show Law Firm Pitched San Francisco on Idea of Suing Energy Producers” [Todd Shepherd, Free Beacon]
- Supreme Court heard oral argument last month on the dusky gopher frog habitat case, Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service [Faimon Roberts, The Advocate; Rick Hills, PrawfsBlawg; earlier here and here]
- High court has ordered reargument on cemetery-trespass takings case Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania [Gideon Kanner; earlier here, here, here, and here; Ilya Somin and more and yet more on what’s at stake]
- Reduction or no, damage award against Monsanto in Roundup/glyphosate case is likely headed to appeal [Helen Christophi, Courthouse News and more, earlier]
- Behind push for European regulatory crackdown on cadmium levels in fertilizer, “a Russian fertilizer giant that has ties to the Kremlin” [Matt Apuzzo, New York Times]
- “No, LaCroix Isn’t Poisoning You Like You’re A Giant Cockroach” [Christie Aschwanden, Five Thirty-Eight, earlier] There’s Drano in your eye drops, and it’s okay to relax about that [Josh Bloom, ACSH]
“American firms cheering for protectionism in the form of tariffs on their foreign competitors should be careful what they wish for. As they say, ‘What goes around comes around.’ Case in point: The American washer and dryer manufacturer Whirlpool Corp.,” which applauded tariffs on imports of washing machines and then found its own costs of production soaring when steel and aluminum imports also came under tariffs. [Veronique de Rugy, syndicated; @SoberLook on Twitter]
“Two city legislators on Tuesday are expected to announce legislation banning on-site workplace cafeterias in an effort to promote and support local restaurants.” The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, embracing the role of villains in an Ayn Rand novel, are backing the measure, sponsored by San Francisco supervisors Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin. The bill would be prospective only, so that while the famed in-house dining options at tech headquarters like Twitter’s could continue, new corporate arrivals would not be allowed to start anything similar. [Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, San Francisco Examiner]
The European Union’s new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is sometimes defended as a response to the prospect that too much data will concentrate in the hands of the biggest corporate data users. Per the WSJ, however, one of its earliest effects “is drawing advertising money toward Google’s online-ad services and away from competitors that are straining to show they’re complying with the sweeping regulation.” In particular, Google is showing a higher rate of success in gathering individuals’ consents to be marketed to. [Tyler Cowen] With bonus mention of CPSIA: “The Inevitable Lifecycle of Government Regulation Benefiting the Very Companies Whose Actions Triggered It” [Coyote]
Protected geographical designation laws, which prevent the sale in some countries of articles like Champagne or Gouda cheese unless produced in the indicated locality, are sometimes defended as advancing consumers’ interest in fraud prevention or accuracy in labeling; it is also suspected that they can serve to curtail competition and protect incumbents even when no genuinely distinctive local contributions are at issue of soil, technique, etc. In 2000, Newcastle Breweries and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, obtained a designation on Newcastle Brown Ale, a popular product dating back to 1927, to prevent it from being sold unless manufactured in the city. That didn’t work out so well when the brewery moved to nearby Gateshead four years later. Dan Lewis, Now I Know:
EU regulators took notice and weren’t as forgiving as the brewers would have hoped. The owners of the Newcastle Brown Ale brand had two obvious choices: move back across the Tyne or change the name of the product. Neither was a good option, so the brewery decided to do something new: they applied to have the registration canceled. And as seen in this pdf, they were successful. In August 2007, the EU revoked Newcastle Brown Ale’s PGI status, allowing it to be made across the river — or anywhere else.
Today, Newcastle Brown Ale is made in neither Newcastle nor Gateshead. Heineken, which bought the Newcastle’s brewers in 2008, has since relocated operations to Amsterdam.
Wisconsin, where dairy producers hold great political sway, maintains a uniquely onerous scheme of butter grading that “has nothing to do with public health or nutrition” but does serve to restrict the sale of butter made in other states, including high-end artisanal butter. Representing Ohio’s Minerva Dairy, the Pacific Legal Foundation has sued to overturn the regulation on Commerce Clause, Due Process, and Equal Protection theories, and Cato has now filed a pun-strewn amicus supporting the due process and equal protection claims [Ilya Shapiro and Matt Larosiere]