Friday, August 31, 2007

Article Update...

...I just accepted an offer to publish my article entitled "All Sprawled Out: How the Federal Regulatory System Has Driven Unsustainable Growth" with the University of Tennessee Law Review.

If you are interested in receiving a reprint once it is published, feel free to contact me at

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Measure E...

The so-called "Stamp Out Sprawl" ballot measure in California is continuing to draw very strong feelings--including some belief that it won't do what it claims it will:
Denny's Stamp Out Sprawl initiative, which will be called Measure E on the February ballot, does little to protect farmland. It contains no farmland mitigation measures and it leaves cities absolutely unfettered to pave over as much farmland as they wish. According to the California Department of Finance, 87 percent of Stanislaus County's growth since 1990 has taken place within its cities.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Neighborhood Schools: the Anti-Sprawl?

Thanks to Dan Banks with CityLoft Corporation for his help in putting together this Transect of Smart Growth Schools.

The Maryland Supreme Court...

...has just agreed to hear an important case involving the issue of Comprehensive Plans and their legal effects. The excellent Law of the Land blog has more here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Reduction in the Mortgage Interest Deduction?

If Congress were to limit the mortgage interest deduction to houses less than 3,000 square feet in size, would that help reduce sprawl?

At least one influential Congressman thinks so...and he's introducing legislation to do just that:
Besides imposing hefty new federal taxes on gasoline, the forthcoming bill would, in Dingell's words, seek to "remove the mortgage interest deduction on McMansions - homes over 3,000 square feet." Dingell said he recognizes that proposals like these will be highly controversial, but he says they are essential to achieving the environmental goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050.

While the concept sounds good, I'm afraid that it would simply result in a bunch of still low-density, 2,950 square foot houses. Which, obviously, wouldn't be much of a long-term improvement.

Rather than this approach, I would first introduce legislation eliminating the MID on all second homes. That too is incremental, but seems politically more viable and doesn't use a seemingly arbitrary square footage number.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sprawl and Fire Hydrant Regulations

This article discusses how some sprawling growth is easily outdistancing the nearest fire hydrants. It goes on to question whether localities should pass regulations requiring hydrants within a certain distance of a house:
Nearly a fourth of U.S. families face the same protection inadequacies as the Webers because they live in extended suburban or rural locations with no hydrants, says Lori Moore-Merrell, an operations analyst with the International Association of Fire Fighters. The lack of fire hydrants is a growing problem as more homes are built outside urban and suburban infrastructure, she says.

States create their own standards, and localities may or may not enact stricter rules, says Chris Jelenewicz, an engineer with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

While fire protection is obviously important, any regulatory efforts to address the issue should require that the costs of extending the required infrastructure for these hydrants (as well as future maintenance) is bore exclusively by those developments and homeowners necessitating the expansion.

In other words, if people insist on living in sprawl, they should bear the present and future costs of that short-sighted decision.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Sounds of Sprawl...

...Daily Sprawl is always in search of multimedia sprawl resources. After all, students learn in many different ways.

Recently, while preparing for a Land Planning & Development Law class that I teach at the law school, I came across these two at the iTunes music store:

Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds

Rockin' the Suburbs by Ben Folds (er, I used the Over the Hedge edited version)

UPDATE: We quickly received the Rockin' the Suburbs video (again, Over the Hedge version). Quite good.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Smart Growth Law Update...'s a case from Wyoming in which a county's efforts to promote more sustainable land development patterns (by, among other things, clustering new development into denser nodes) survived a legal challenge based on a variety of claims including an alleged Fair Housing Act violation: 482 F.3d 1225 (10th Cir. 2007).

Losing Touch With Reality in Southern California... least one elected official in Orange County, California has apparently lost even a loose grip of reality. That person would be Jerry Amante--Mayor Pro Tem of Tustin and a director of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

He recently wrote this editorial that essentially praises Orange County for building more and more traffic lanes while, in his eyes, Los Angeles erroneously focuses on multi-user transit options:
There is a philosophical difference between OCTA's reputation as a road-builder – at least since the proposed CenterLine light-right system was laid to rest several years ago – and Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which focuses its resources on subways and rail. What it boils down to is that, in Orange County we're proud to build lanes, not trains.

Mr. Amante, please pause and reflect on what you are really saying. For the last 50+ years, Southern California has been addicted to new road-building/expanding. It has spent billions of dollars on this habit.

And, for what result?

Annually, some of the worst congestion in the United States of America. Yet, now you propose to ramp up this addiction even more?

This reminds Daily Sprawl of the last throes of Soviet Russia--desperately using rhetoric to cling to a failed policy.

We think that your once fellow Golden Stater might have best described this madness:

Mr. Amante, tear down that overpass.

A Developer Tries To Do the Right Thing...

...but the city says no. Short-sightedness, indeed:
Commissioners tabled the project, asking House to return with plans that incorporate larger setbacks, more access for emergency vehicles and revised parking plans that don’t allow for roadside parking along 34 th Street.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Weekly Sprawl Sighting...

Every now and then, we'll try and provide an interesting visual example of sprawl. When doing so, we always try and provide the correct credit for the image. Sometimes though that isn't available. So, if you ever see an image that has no credit or an incorrect credit, please let us know and we'll get it fixed.

And, as always, this is a non-commercial, educational blog--no ads or other revenue are ever generated here...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two articles...

I recently set up my SSRN account.

So, now readers can download my latest sprawl-related law review articles for free.

This includes the work-in-progress version of my latest article "All Sprawled Out: How the Federal Regulatory System Has Driven Unsustainable Growth".

Just click here and away you go...

Fellow lawprof...

Michael Lewyn has published a new lawrev article on how zoning laws foster auto dependence.

You can download the paper from here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sprawling into the Animal World?

This article demonstrates how sprawl growth is bringing a new meaning to the phrase "living with nature."

Meanwhile, Connecticut has stepped up its regulatory efforts to reduce sprawl:
New legislation establishing a Responsible Growth Task Force has been designed to help guide the state’s economic development decisions and study state land use laws, policies and programs.


The 19-member task force consists of 11 agency heads or their designees, six legislatively appointed members and two members appointed by the governor.

The agencies involved are the Office of Policy and Management, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the Connecticut Development Authority, Connecticut Innovations Inc., the Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Office of Workforce Competitiveness and the departments of Agriculture, Economic and Community Development, Environmental Protection, Public Health and Transportation.

The top six legislative leaders each appoint one task force member. The governor appoints two task force members, one being a current or former chief elected official or city or town manager from a municipality with a population in excess of 25,000 and one from a municipality with a population of less than 25,000. The Office of Policy and Management secretary or his designee will serve as the chair.

Under the legislation, the task force has a deadline of Feb. 15, 2008, to identify responsible growth criteria and standards to guide the state’s future investment decisions and submit recommendations to the governor.

Effective July 1, 2009, in consultation with other agencies, the Department of Economic and Community Development is to prepare a strategic plan assessing and evaluating the economic development challenges and opportunities for Connecticut when compared with other states and the region. The plan is to also include a vision for the future.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I'm in Taos, New Mexico today...

...conducting a SmartCode OnSite. You can see some images over at my other blog. It's a stunning place.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sprawl and Green Building

The goal of increasing the "green-ness" (a/k/a environmental sustainability) of buildings continues to grow--led by organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council. Indeed, more and more projects are seeking certification under green standards.

But, this article discusses how simply building a green building in a sea of unsustainable surroundings is really incremental improvement at best:
Much though I appreciate the goal of building green, without a larger perspective on the context for the buildings, it is nothing more than greenwashing. A green big box store on a greenfield requiring miles of infrastructure is simply not sustainable. The USGBC is attempting to remedy this situation through its LEED for Neighborhood Development, but all LEED rating systems should incorporate prohibitions on developing in an unsustainable fashion. In addition, green building regulations from government entities must also incorporate context into their requirements.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ancient Sprawl?

While some suggest that sprawl growth is a relatively new phenomenon, this article argues just the opposite--that its been hurting cities as old as ancient times:
Cambodia's long-lost temple complex of Angkor is the world's largest known preindustrial settlement, reveals a new radar study that found 74 new temples and more than a thousand manmade ponds at the site.

But urban sprawl and its associated environmental devastation may have led to the collapse of the kingdom, which includes the renowned temple of Angkor Wat, the study suggests.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Welcome to Sprawl Watch...

I recently submitted my latest law review article "All Sprawled Out: How the Federal Regulatory System Has Driven Unsustainable Growth" for publication.

Following up on that, I've decided to start this new blog: Sprawl Watch.

Our primary goal will be to find articles and other information that exposes the harms of sprawl.

Let's go ahead and start today with this one:
Converting farmland into exurban subdivisions requires a tremendous amount of new infrastructure -- everything from new and widened highways to new sewer and water systems. The cost is compounded by residential layouts that make pedestrian travel either difficult or impossible -- how many exurban residents can walk to school, church or the grocery store? It’s a lifestyle that’s expensive to maintain, and every dollar spent on a multi-lane highway to accommodate exurban commuters is one less dollar that’s spent to maintain existing roads and bridges.

Choosing to live far from work, school, church, shopping areas, etc., consumes vast amounts of resources, and infrastructure could be built and maintained at a much lesser cost if more people lived in Minneapolis and St. Paul and fewer people lived in Stillwater and Hudson. It’s easy to view the rubble of an Interstate highway bridge and conclude more money must be spent on infrastructure. The hard part is coming to grips with how much our lifestyles really cost.