As population and the job base in the Washington, D.C. area continue to expand, households face a crunch in the price of housing, made worse by the reluctance of local governments to permit residential construction near most of the major employment centers. A unanimous county council in Montgomery County, Md. has now made it slightly easier for homeowners to create in-law units or backyard cottages, but along the way had to face down noisy opposition. I tell the story in a new Cato post.
- Hearse driver in HOV lane to highway patrol: you mean I can’t count the corpse as a passenger? [Michelle Lou, CNN]
- “Caterpillar Now Going After All The Cats For Trademark Cancellations” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt, earlier]
- Before trying to open a storefront business in San Francisco you might look to this advice from commercial real estate brokers about the city’s zoning and permit hurdles, and please quit using words like “bonkers” or “flabbergasting” [Robert Fruchtman Twitter thread]
- “Lawyer engaged in ‘sustained campaign of unfounded litigation,’ disbarment recommendation says” [ABA Journal; Waukegan, Illinois]
- Breaking from two other federal appeals courts, Third Circuit rules that Amazon as a platform can be sued under strict liability principles over defective items sold by third-party vendors on its site [Brendan Pierson, Reuters] Should the ruling stand, implications for online marketplaces are dire [Eric Goldman]
- New challenges for Mathew Higbee, high volume copyright enforcement lawyer, and his clients [Paul Alan Levy, more, earlier]
It’s common for communities to use zoning codes to exclude commercial and industrial uses from residential areas, but Sacramento County, California, seems extra-zealous about making sure that residents don’t try to operate auto repair businesses amid homes. While it concedes to residents the right to perform minor auto repairs on their own cars in their driveway or garage, it bans repairs or maintenance in any of the following circumstances:
1. Using tools not normally found in a residence;
2. Conducted on vehicles registered to persons, not currently residing on the lot or parcel;
3. Conducted outside a fully enclosed garage and resulting in any vehicle being inoperable for a period in excess of twenty-four hours.
So if you’re thinking of
changing the oil in doing fairly minor work on your dad’s or girlfriend’s car, or trying any work that might run into a snag and have to be carried over to the next day — let alone working on a project car as a hobby, as many do — Sacramento County has other plans, and it doesn’t matter whether or not you are creating any nuisance for neighbors. “One commenter on the Grassroots Motorsports forum reported that he’d already been issued a $430 fine for working on his car in his garage.” [Jason Torchinsky, Jalopnik]
- NYC landmark decree will strangle famed Strand used bookstore, says owner [Nancy Bass Wyden, New York Daily News, Nick Gillespie, Reason, earlier] NIMBY resistance to Dupont Circle project behind Masonic Temple insists on preserving views that weren’t there until fairly recently [Nick Sementelli, Greater Greater Washington]
- “Barcelona city hall has finally issued a work permit for the unfinished church designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí, 137 years after construction started on the Sagrada Família basilica.” [AP/Guardian] At least they’re not in one of the American towns and cities that would make them tear down work outside the scope of permit before proceeding;
- FHA lending tilts heavily toward detached single-family housing over condos, encouraging sprawl [Scott Beyer]
- “San Francisco’s Regulations Are the Cause of Its Housing Crisis” [Beyer]
- “What Should I Read to Understand Zoning?” [Nolan Gray, Market Urbanism]
- I think we can all guess which union was not cut into a share of the work in this Bay Area housing development [Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Inside (Laborers union files CEQA suit), Christian Britschgi, Reason]
Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision along 5-4 ideological lines in Knick v. Township of Scott, on whether owners whose property is taken must first exhaust state remedies before seeking relief in federal court, is a big win for property owners. It overrules the unsound 1985 precedent to the contrary of a case called Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank. It also represents the second time this term the Court has overruled one of its precedents, following Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, in which it overturned an earlier precedent on the scope of state tax power. The Court this term has declined to overturn precedent in a third case (Gamble v. U.S., on double jeopardy) and has yet to decide whether to overturn two notable administrative-law precedents in the still-pending case of Kisor v. Wilkie.
In some legal contexts, it can make sense to condition court relief on exhaustion of administrative remedies. But as Chief Justice Roberts wrote for yesterday’s majority, claims under the Bill of Rights are in general allowed direct access to federal courts. In creating an exception, Williamson had “relegate[d] the Takings Clause ‘to the status of a poor relation’ among the provisions of the Bill of Rights.”
Cato actively urged the property owner’s case in Knick, a case arising from a Pennsylvania law that imposed various uncompensated mandates, barbed by fines and penalties, on the owners of land on which persons are buried. Pennsylvania is known for its rural practice of “backyard burials.” Ilya Shapiro has one quick reaction and Ilya Somin, who has written extensively on Knick and the constitutional issues it raises, has another.
As booming demand to live and work in the most sought-after cities runs into not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) restrictions on new housing construction, the ideas of Henry George are getting back into the conversation. Who will invest in civic amenities, even the most basic, if their effect is to cause rents to rise even further? [Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg; related and more on New Zealand cities where strict controls on building have contributed to unaffordable prices]
Related: “Why Is Japanese Zoning More Liberal Than US Zoning?” [Nolan Gray, Market Urbanism]
A 75-unit housing development in San Francisco’s Mission District, a block from a BART station, is running into delay over what is termed a “potentially historic laundromat.” It’s a total mystery why housing is so expensive in the city by the Bay, with the average one-bedroom apartment said to rent for $3,258. [Adam Brinklow, Curbed via Derek Thompson]
- Minneapolis enacts major relaxation of residential zoning, issue has united ideological opposites [Ilya Somin; Christian Britschgi; Somin on developments elsewhere]
- “The Disconnect Between Liberal Aspirations and Liberal Housing Policy Is Killing Coastal U.S. Cities” [Better Institutions]
- “Steelmanning the NIMBYs” [Scott Alexander, and a response from Michael Lewyn] Ben Carson battles the NIMBYs [Christian Britschgi]
- “The use of new urbanist codes to promote inner-suburban renewal pose two distinct problems,” erosion of rule of law and high compliance costs [Nicole Garnett at Hoover conference on “Land, Labor, and the Rule of Law,” related video]
- Obscure zoning change could give NYC politicos a lot of new leverage over hotel developers [Britschgi]
- Cities are primarily labor markets, ordinances to suppress informal shanty town settlements commonly fail, and more insights from new Alain Bertaud book on markets and cities [Tyler Cowen]
Even if California voters defeat Proposition 10 on Nov. 6, battles over rent control are likely to continue, I write in my new Cato post:
Though once favored in voter surveys, Proposition 10 has sagged lately, well behind in one poll and ahead in a second by only 41-38 with 21 percent undecided. But advocates of liberty (and all who prize the lessons of Economics 101) shouldn’t get complacent. …
It’s true that many California localities, the Bay Area especially, are experiencing skyrocketing housing costs. That has a lot to do with intense demand to live and work in places like Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and even more to do with the tight regulatory lid on new residential construction that artificially suppresses the supply of dwellings in the state generally and especially in desirable communities and near the coast. By shifting the blame for the resulting situation to owners of existing rental units, rent control would make it even less likely that Bay Area and coastal governments will take the one measure that would be effective against spiraling housing costs, namely legalizing much more new construction.
“Quite frequently, it is in the best interest for project organizers to pay off the people opposing the project, instead of going through the lawsuit and delay…. And understand that these groups claim they are speaking for you.” [Josh Albrektson, Market Urbanism Report] Earlier on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) here.