Citing the importance of the famed Strand used bookstore as a literary hub for Gotham writers over much of the past century, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering a proposal to slap landmark status on the structure, along with some other nearby buildings in its neighborhood south of Union Square. But “Nancy Bass Wyden, who owns the Strand and its building at 826 Broadway, said landmarking could deal a death blow to the business her family has owned for 91 years, one of the largest book stores in the world.” Landmark status in New York seriously constricts owners’ discretion to renovate, maintain and change space. [Corey Kilgannon, New York Times; Joe Setyon, Reason]
- Political fight brewing in California over ballot initiative that would pave way for bringing back rent control [Michael Hendrix, City Journal]
- “Metes and bounds” method of describing legal property boundaries has been much derided, but new archival research from American colonial period suggests its benefits then were greater and costs lower than might appear [Maureen (Molly) Brady, SSRN, forthcoming Yale Law Journal] Just for fun: street grid orientation (or lack thereof) in major cities expressed as polar charts [Geoff Boeing]
- “Alexandria, Virginia Gets Housing Affordability Wrong” [Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato]
- Houston does not zone but it does subsidize deed restrictions. Is that good? [Nolan Gray, Market Urbanism]
- Great moments in historic preservation: “Silver Lake gas station moves toward landmark status” but connoisseurs say it’s not nearly as choice as the three service stations previously landmarked in L.A. [Curbed Los Angeles]
- “America’s Ugly Strip Malls Were Caused By Government Regulation” [Scott Beyer]
- An extraordinary tale of fraud and justice: Second Circuit puts definitive kibosh on tainted $9 billion Chevron/Ecuador judgment [decision, Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal, our coverage over many years] “Attorney Who Took Chevron to Court for $18 Billion Suspended by Amazon Defense Front” [Roger Parloff, Fortune]
- New Zealand accords legal personality to river and former national park through treaty settlements with Maori groups [New York Times]
- “The looting of Volkswagen: The company deserves a fine, but politicians keep demanding more” [WSJ editorial]
- Property owners have constitutional rights against NYC landmarks-law NIMBYism [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer] Where court protection of owners is weaker, cities designate more properties as historic [Nick Zaiac, Market Urbanism] “Against Historic Preservation” [Alex Tabarrok]
- “The growing battle over the use of eminent domain to take property for pipelines” [Ilya Somin]
- “How Anti-Growth Sentiment, Reflected in Zoning Laws, Thwarts Equality” [Conor Dougherty, New York Times, via John Cochrane] Life without zoning goes on in Houston [Scott Beyer, The Federalist]
- Oh, George Takei, must you approvingly link to conspiracy site saying Zika virus microcephaly is caused by Monsanto? [archived]
- Texas lawyer who blew GM trial sued over alleged BP compensation scam [Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg Business Week]
- “Enviros Plan To Militantly Shutter World’s Major Coal Plants” [Daily Caller]
- Obama administration has been on a tear imposing compulsory energy efficiency standards on consumer products, but a bill in Congress would halt that trend [Paul (“Chip”) Knappenberger and Patrick Michaels, Cato]
- From the vaults: Ted Frank notes how historic preservation laws can lead owners to pre-emptively demolish a building for fear that exploring options to save it could lead opponents to organize and seek an injunction [Point of Law]
- “Obscure Taxpayer-Funded Program Bankrolls Anti-Pipeline Activists” [Inside Sources]
- Pressed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Attorney General Loretta Lynch says Exxon’s claimed climate denial has been referred to FBI [Grist, I get a mention]
…curb ADA bounty-hunting [Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune, and thanks for mention]
Myron Magnet has a new article in City Journal on how George Washington’s country seat at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s at Monticello were saved from war, insult, neglect, and legal hazard. From his discussion of Monticello:
What had happened to the house in the meantime was what happens to any property tied up in litigation: it fell once more into a Dickensian state of ruin. As the suits dragged on, Uriah Levy’s old overseer, Joel Wheeler, “took care” of Monticello and sometimes lived in it. While he grew increasingly blind, paint peeled, glass broke, shutters and gutters disappeared, grime deepened, and the roof and terraces rotted. Wheeler dug up the lawn for a vegetable garden on one side and a pigpen on the other. Cattle wintered in the cellars, and Wheeler winnowed grain on the parlor’s parquet floor. On his watch, judged Wheeler’s successor, Thomas Rhodes, Monticello “was wantonly desecrated.”
Whole thing here.
It’s nice to know that in Manhattan’s super-expensive West Village there’s a transplanted farmhouse with a doggy chute opening in the door and a connection to the late Margaret Wise Brown, author of children’s classic Goodnight Moon. It’s less nice to know that New York City preservation law parlays this cute historic footnote into the potential imposition (if development is blocked) of an opportunity cost that the property owner thinks might be as high as $20 million [Scouting New York]
In the name of so-called universal design — a much-promoted theory that disabled-accessibility features should be designed into all structures, public or private, from the start — Vancouver is adopting building code changes that prohibit use of doorknobs in favor of levers and other mechanisms that are more easily used by the handicapped and elderly. While the ban will apply only to new construction, the city has already deferred to the new thinking by replacing the ornate doorknobs in its Art Deco-era City Hall. Building experts see doorknob bans in private housing construction as likely to spread in the years ahead. [Vancouver Sun] Perennial Overlawyered bete noire Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has in recent Congresses introduced something called the Inclusive Home Design Act which would mandate some accessibility features in all federally assisted newly constructed housing units.
More: “Vancouver Banned Doorknobs. Good,” writes Colin Lecher at Popular Science. Because the less diversity and private choice and historical continuity, the better.
The former Mercedes showroom on Park Avenue in Manhattan was one of only three Frank Lloyd Wright projects built in New York City, along with the Guggenheim Museum and a Usonian house on Staten Island. “On March 22, the Landmarks Preservation Commission called the owners of 430 Park Ave. to tell them the city was considering designating the Wright showroom … as the city’s 115th interior landmark. … on March 28, the building’s owners, Midwood Investment & Management and Oestreicher Properties, reached out to another city agency, the Department of Buildings, requesting a demolition permit for the Wright showroom. The permit was approved the same day, sealing the showroom’s fate.” [Matt Chaban/Crain’s New York Business, New York Times, Metropolis] That’s only the latest in a series of incidents in which the prospect of city intervention under Gotham’s famously cumbersome preservation laws has precipitated teardown instead [New York] More thoughts: Scott Greenfield.
…In Europe, sound recordings enter the public domain 50 years after their initial release. Once that happens, anyone can reissue them, which makes it easy for Europeans to purchase classic records of the past. In America, by contrast, sound recordings are “protected” by a prohibitive snarl of federal and state legislation whose effect was summed up in a report issued in 2010 by the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress: “The effective term of copyright protection for even the oldest U.S. recordings, dating from the late 19th century, will not end until the year 2067 at the earliest.… Thus, a published U.S. sound recording created in 1890 will not enter the public domain until 177 years after its creation, constituting a term of rights protection 82 years longer than that of all other forms of audio visual works made for hire.”
Among countless other undesirable things, this means that American record companies that aren’t interested in reissuing old records can stop anyone else from doing so, and can also stop libraries from making those same records readily accessible to scholars who want to use them for noncommercial purposes. Even worse, it means that American libraries cannot legally copy records made before 1972 to digital formats for the purpose of preservation—not unless those records have already deteriorated to the point where they may soon become unplayable.