Last month a court struck down Los Angeles’s ordinance intended to discourage city contractors from dealing with the National Rifle Association (NRA), ruling it a First Amendment violation intended to chill speech and association. An amusing feature: the bill’s sponsor just couldn’t help grandstanding on Twitter and elsewhere about taking down the NRA, which provided the court with valuable evidence of the city’s intent. Moreover, the gun rights group has been making headway against similar efforts in San Francisco and New York state (led there by Gov. Andrew Cuomo) to target its pocketbook. I explain in a new piece at National Review.
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.”
A memo last week from San Francisco Mayor London Breed made clear that “the City’s contracting processes and policies have not changed and will not change as a result of the Resolution” by the Board of Supervisors branding the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist group. [Joshua Koehn, San Francisco Chronicle] The resolution had proclaimed that the city should take all reasonable steps to identify and limit business and financial links between its vendors and contractors and the membership organization, but Breed pointed out that the city enacts changes to its law only by ordinance, not by resolution, which means the swaggering language had no effect off the playground. It had been widely predicted that courts would strike down a move by the city to coerce contractors in this way. Earlier here and here.
San Francisco’s resolution denouncing the National Rifle Association (earlier) might seem like so much empty wind. But there are practical reasons why such a designation poses a problem. I talk with
Caleb Brown for the Cato Daily Podcast.
Relatedly, and in no surprise, the NRA itself has sued San Francisco over the resolution, although there may be questions about whether a contractor at risk of losing city business might have a sounder claim to standing. [AP] Jacob Sullum cites “the poisonous tendency to portray one’s political opponents as mass murderers.” [Reason] And the supervisors may have a bigger group of co-thinkers out there than you might expect: 18% of voters polled “think it should be against the law to belong to pro-gun rights groups like the NRA.” [Eugene Volokh]
I’m in today’s Wall Street Journal [paywalled for some readers] with a piece on last week’s vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to brand the National Rifle Association a “domestic terrorist organization.” The resolution repeatedly takes the view that “advocacy,” “propaganda” and “promotion” of certain political viewpoints, or of gun ownership, constitutes terrorism or, as the case may be, “material support” for it.
First Amendment aside, there’s more than just symbolism in the board’s divisive attempt to change the meaning of words by main force. The resolution also declares a crackdown on city contractors who do business with the gun-advocacy group, and under current law that is very likely to be struck down in itself as inconsistent with the First Amendment under a 1996 Supreme Court precedent.
Some related links: the resolution; the 1996 Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr case, in which the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the First Amendment restrains localities’ discretion to shun contractors because of their politics; Jonathan Adler in 2015 on the Chick-Fil-A controversies; and reporting on the San Francisco supervisors’ resolution to use nicer, not-so-dehumanizing terminology about criminals (Jim Geraghty at National Review noticed this before me).
- 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]
- 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]
- Following similar rulings in Charleston, S.C., and Washington, D.C., federal judge rules Savannah violated First Amendment when it passed law forbidding unlicensed tour guides [Andrew Wimer, Institute for Justice]
- Pursuing a leak, San Francisco cops raid home of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody, hold him captive, seize his equipment [Yashar Ali, CNN] “SF police got warrant to tap journalist’s phone months before controversial raid” [Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle] Update: judge revokes warrant and says cops didn’t tell her target of wiretap was a journalist [Billy Binion, Reason]
- Breadth of the Julian Assange indictment and implications for the First Amendment [Eugene Volokh]
- Three concepts of “hate speech” related to religion, and their different legal treatment: “speech that denigrates religion as such; speech that threatens imminent violence against believers; and speech that insults or denigrates believers on the basis of religion” [Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami podcast, Center for Law and Religion, St. John’s]
- New York disciplines a civil servant over political opinions he expressed on Facebook. Can it do that? [Center for Individual Rights]
- “Goldsmith … was charged with simple misdemeanor harassment for a Facebook post he made expressing his criticism of the policing methods he witnessed by an Adams County sheriff’s deputy at a local town festival.” [ACLU] Speaking of that organization: “ACLU (N.H.) Challenging Criminal Libel Statute” [Eugene Volokh last winter]
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]