Friday, April 30, 2010

Sprawllywood, California

Hugh Hefner is being credited far and wide as a "winner" in the battle against sprawl in Hollywood. It isn't mentioned that he used traditional market forces to do it.

The land parcel on which the sign is located was owned by Howard Hughes, and after his death the land was sold by his estate to land devleopers out of Chicago. The famous and infamous "HOLLYWOOD" sign was under attack from these developers who wanted raze the sign down and build luxury homes. California quickly mobilized, and donations poured in from all sides.

Nearly every studio and network in the area, and many of the big names in the business like Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and of course, Hugh Hefner, donated substantial sums to the conservation group, "The Trust for Public Land", in order to purchase the parcel around the sign. Donations to save the sign came from all 50 states and 10 different countries.

This is a VERY clear example of the land being purchased for its most highly valued use. The stars were able to show the value of the parcel to the developers by delivering the appropriate dollar price within the timeframe they were given. This to me is also a very clear example of the correct way to address problems of "sprawl". Rather than public indignation and outrage (which Hef also dished out in large portions), interested parties can either show that they value the land more highly as a landmark/open space/historic district, or the land would actually have a more highly valued use in development.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Government Policy Coming our way!?

My dad being the crazy transportation nut that has him searching day-in and day-out for information that could aid him in implementing a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system. In his searches he has come across this news article related to legislation this is claimed to be seeking at facilitating livable communities. Finally my dad found something interesting and potentially useful, but is this likely to happen and is the legislation truly as good (can government force ever be good?) as the Denver Daily News, Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Mayor John Hickenlooper say it is?
My focus is to simply bring awareness to one topic of many that could be coming to Colorado, more specifically Denver. I know not the truth, severity, or timing of what the exact legislation is that’s aiming at creating these said “livable communities”. With this being said I am blogging in response to the Denver Daily News article in their Wednesday, March 31, 2010 edition called Planning livable communities. I bring this article to every ones attention for the mere fact that we have politicians claiming that they are promoting legislation that “would not legislate mandates or directives, but instead offer opportunity to local governments, whether regional or hyper-local.” The article went further on to explain ‘“The beauty of what Congressman Perlmutter’s created is that it’s not prescriptive, it’s not government coming in and saying, ‘You must do this,’” said Hickenlooper. “It’s facilitating what’s a good idea and it’s already beginning to happen and it’s actually allowing that to spread like wildfire, which I think is the real beauty — it’s creating a context where it’s going to happen naturally and organically, but much, much more rapidly.”
The legislation is called The Livable Communities Act which would aim at creating communities that have a balance of transportation, housing, retail, and community (whatever they mean by this general term… oh wait confusing political catch-all term, that’s what they mean). The article makes the claim that they will accomplish this by ‘breaking down barriers among regions, among cities, and among federal departments’. (sounds like they’re aiming at decreasing transaction costs amongst government entities in order to increase efficiency). Is this what we (the general public0 want or is this just Another Government Policy Coming our Way!?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Unintended Consequences

This semester we have talked and read extensively about the state of Oregon and its anti-sprawl policies. We have read the pros and the cons as the "experts" see them (which really differs by the value judgments of each expert). I admit that after all the reading and discussions, I plan to never move to Oregon. I am not fond of being told what I can and cannot do. While reading an article in the Wall Street Journal, my notion that government laws and regulations are meant for a static rather than dynamic world were reaffirmed. The government intervenes to improve social welfare or at least that is their intention. But the unintended consequences of that intervention often out weighs any possible positive outcomes.

The article is about pear growers in Oregon. Like many businesses, the current economic downturn (or down slide because downturn just doesn't express the extent of this recession) has affected the pear business. And because of Oregon Senate Bill 100 of 1973, these pear growers are unable to take advantage of business opportunities that would help their businesses out. David D. Lowry an executive for Associated Fruit Co (one of the big three pear growers in Medford, Oregon) said, "It's the worst case of unintended consequences you can image." His company has "plenty of land to sell, but no one willing to buy [it] as long as it is zoned for farming only." Selling this land and buying other land further away from the city would help get the pear companies out seriously financial trouble.

For instance, by selling 70-acre orchard Associated Fruit Co could raise $7 million ($100,000 per acre) if they could sell to a housing developer which would be enough to refinance the company's debt and plant new orchards on land further from the city core. Instead, because of the strict zoning laws created in 1973, "the land is valued at just $10,000 per acre, [Lowry] says, a moot point since there are no takers."

The zoning laws of Oregon are intended to prevent sprawl. The unintended consequences is that it limits economic growth and liberty.