Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

In suburban Maryland, much ado about ADUs

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.

Trimming back the “regulatory thicket”

For small businesses, regulation vies with taxes as the most complained-of public policy issue. Commonly, however, no one regulation is singled out as causing most of the problem: it’s more the cumulative and interactive hassle of various burdens, especially as a company grows or tries to enter new markets or take on new functions. The Federalist Society has launched a “regulatory thicket” project aimed at shedding light on the problem. Among its products so far: an overview paper by Anastasia Boden et al.; a paper on how the thicket operates in one urban jurisdiction, the District of Columbia [Yesim Sayin Taylor]; a video on how it affects an Oregon couple’s home-based telecommunications services firm; and a teleforum with Brooks Rainwater and Luke Wake.

A related op-ed [Braden Boucek and Luke Wake, Real Clear Policy] notes that reformers often appeal to state legislators, with ideas such as sunset laws and regulatory impact statements for new legislation. But other actors can be involved too:

One especially interesting proposal that has been tried in Arizona with success is giving people a way to challenge regulations in court when they needlessly burden the right to earn a living. That way lawmakers are not the sole party able to bring about reform.

State governors are also in a position to help trim the regulatory thicket in many cases. Governors might follow Canada’s success in controlling the growth of regulation by requiring government agencies to eliminate regulatory impositions for every new mandate. President Trump’s executive order to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation is another instructive example. Likewise, state legislatures might assign the task of reviewing and eliminating regulation to a special commission.

Land use and zoning roundup

  • 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]

Trouble at Sedgwick Gardens

In D.C.’s Cleveland Park, a neighborhood that reporter Peter Jamison describes as a “bastion of urbane liberalism,” a stately apartment complex called the Sedgwick Gardens is something of an experimental subject for a combination of various progressive housing policies. “As of February, tenants with city-issued housing vouchers had filled nearly half of the building’s roughly 140 units,” and many of the new tenants “are homeless men and women who came directly from shelters or the streets, some still struggling with severe behavioral problems.” Jamison tells the story in this Washington Post article (reprinted at Seattle Times).

More on the District of Columbia’s “source of income discrimination” law, under which landlords commit a violation if they reject a prospective tenant because he or she will be paid for by a voucher, here and here.

D.C. considers deputizing citizen parking enforcers

“A proposal before the D.C. Council would allow up to 80 regular citizens, 10 in each ward, to issue tickets to vehicles parked where they aren’t allowed — blocking crosswalks, in bike lanes, in front of bus stops.” What could go wrong? [Luz Lazo, Washington Post, also Laredo Morning Times]

Still, others say most people would prefer enforcement be left to trained, public employees.

“Public officials may be far from perfect .?.?. but there is that extra layer that at least you can train them and they are likely to have the time on the job that allows them to build up their expertise,” said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. They also have protocols to follow — and a job at stake.

“The cellphone evidence can go a long way, but it still doesn’t always tell the whole story,” he said. “A lot of times you are going to have people who are genuinely guilty and you will be enforcing the law as it was intended to be enforced. But traffic enforcement does have a lot of judgment calls.”

But Olson says he can see why the practice would be attractive to cities.

“The city gets more revenue without having to pay salaries,” he said. “The potential increase in ticket revenue would get their interest right away.”

Environment roundup

  • “Everything would be all renewable all the time if we could just pass the right laws.” The wishful underpinnings of the Green New Deal [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Regulation Magazine editor Peter Van Doren]
  • “The U.S. rail system is optimized for freight, vs. European and Japanese systems that are optimized for passengers (it is hard to do both well with the same network). The U.S. situation is actually better, much better, for energy conservation.” [Coyote]
  • Federalist Society discussions of climate litigation based on public nuisance theories: National Lawyers Convention panel with David Bookbinder, Eric Grant, James Huffman, Mark W. Smith, moderated by Hon. John K. Bush; “Originally Speaking” written debate with John Baker, Richard Faulk, Dan Lungren, Donald Kochan, Pat Parenteau, David Bookbinder; Boston Lawyers Chapter panel on municipal litigation with Steven Ferrey, Phil Goldberg, Donald Kochan, James R. May, Kenneth Reich] Climate nuisance suits have met with an unfriendly reception in American courts and there is no good rationale for filing copycat claims in Canada [Stewart Muir, Resource Works]
  • “Public Universities Exploit Eminent Domain Powers with Little Oversight” [Chris West, Martin Center]
  • Many pro-market reforms would reduce the risks to life and property from natural disasters, climate-related and otherwise [Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • “On patrol with the enforcer of DC’s plastic-straw ban” [Fenit Nirappil/AP via Peter Bonilla (“Welcome to the worst ride along ever”)]

December 26 roundup

  • “Elephant Habeas Case: Steven Wise’s Forum Shopping Apparently Fails” [Ted Folkman, Letters Blogatory, earlier here and here]
  • Right now owners of gas stations in D.C. “need approval from the Gas Station Advisory Board (GSAB) to close. However, there’s one small problem. The GSAB hasn’t had members since 2008, so there’s no one to get approval from.” [Daniel Warwick, Greater Greater Washington]
  • “Jones Act Reform Gaining Momentum” [Colin Grabow, Cato, earlier]
  • “Serving Two (or More) Masters: Civil Service and Bureaucratic Resistance in our Administrative State” [Adam White working paper and related video as part of Hoover Institution’s Land, Labor, and Rule of Law conference]
  • MoCo vs. NoVa in business site relocation, Baltimore policing, charmless climate suit, red flag law and more Maryland policy in my latest Free State Notes;
  • New York appears ready to return to the days of confiscatory rent control, a policy that helped ruin wide swaths of the city in the 60s and 70s [Charles Urstadt, City Journal]

Wage and hour roundup

  • Politicians interfere with a complex industry they don’t understand: when the $15 minimum wage came to New York car washes [Jim Epstein, Reason: article, 13:32 video]
  • “D.C. Repeals a Minimum Wage Hike That Restaurant Workers Didn’t Want” [Eric Boehm, Reason] “Tipping lawsuit leads popular Salem restaurant to declare bankruptcy” [Dan Casey, Roanoke Times]
  • Challenging a premise: “Why a federal minimum wage?” [Scott Sumner] “Pew Map Shows One Reason a National $15 Minimum Wage Won’t Work” [Joe Setyon, Reason]
  • New evidence on effects of Seattle $15 minimum: benefits go to workers with relatively high experience, “8% reduction in job turnover rates as well as a significant reduction in the rate of new entries into the workforce.” [NBER] “Minimum wage hike in Venezuela shuts stores, wipes out many jobs” [Hans Bader]
  • “Ontario labour minister’s office vandalized after minimum wage cap announced” [Canadian Press, CBC background of Ford provincial government rollback of Wynne-era labor measures]
  • DoL plans new rules on joint-employer definition [Jaclyn Diaz, Bloomberg; Alex Passantino, Seyfarth Shaw, earlier]

July 18 roundup

Pearson pants suit, ten years later

Believe it or not, the case of Judge Roy Pearson and his lost pants, widely covered here and at many other outlets ten years ago, continues to drag on in peripheral legal proceedings. “Disciplinary Counsel began this investigation eleven years and one name change ago,” declares the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility in an opinion rejecting a lesser sanction and ordering a 90-day suspension for the former administrative law judge, who had “sued his dry cleaners for $67 million for allegedly losing his pants.” The court said that although the definition of frivolous litigation in Washington, D.C. practice was so strict that few lawsuits went over the line, Pearson’s did. He had also unreasonably delayed and multiplied proceedings in the disciplinary case itself. [Mike Frisch, Legal Profession Blog; ABA Journal] “Throughout the proceedings,” the board said, Pearson “failed to conduct an objective appraisal of the legal merits of his position. He made, and continues to make, arguments that no reasonable attorney would think had even a faint hope of success on the legal merits.”