An Eternal, Ever-Changing Covenant

|

Manassas, Virginia, officials are defending the city's new ordinance redefining family so as to prevent residents from living with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, or nephews–all of whom now count as unrelated. The ordinance, which is enforced in response to neighbors' complaints, has been used primarily against Latino immigrants. According to an official statement, "The City views residential zoning regulations as a covenant with citizens who purchase property in the community, and our actions honor this commitment. The suggestion that changes in the zoning ordinance reflect any other intent on the part of City government are absolutely false."

It seems strange to describe zoning regulations as a "covenant," since one party is free to change the terms of the arrangement at will, while the other has no choice but to obey its requirements. People who bought homes in Manassas with the expectation of living in them with their extended families had no reason to think they would one day be forced to evict their relatives. The city claims to be motivated by "broad-based community concerns about overcrowding." But that rationale is belied by the fact that the city is making "unrelated" family members move out of households that are well within their legal occupancy limits.

Given the new rule's disproportionate impact on Latinos and the immigration-related concerns underlying its passage, its victims have a plausible discrimination claim. They also can argue that the ordinance violates the 14th Amendment by depriving them of liberty without due process. In 1977 the Supreme Court overturned a similar zoning rule in East Cleveland, Ohio, on due process grounds. That case involved a woman living with her son and two grandsons who were cousins to each other, a grouping that did not count as a "family" under East Cleveland's housing ordinance. In an opinion by Lewis Powell, the Court ruled that the ordinance violated "the sanctity of the family," adding: "Ours is by no means a tradition limited to respect for the bonds uniting the members of the nuclear family. The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins, and especially grandparents sharing a household along with parents and children has roots equally venerable and equally deserving of constitutional recognition."

Under threat of litigation, at least one member of the Manassas City Council seems to be having second thoughts. "I admit, we're legislators," she told The Washington Post, "part-time legislators. We do the best we can, and if we made a mistake with this, we will reconsider."

NEXT: English Patients: Literature in the digital age

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Wait a minute….am I reading this right? The town government can decide that only family members may live together?! What the fuck!?!?! So if my friend and I decide to share a house, that’s illegal?

  2. Thank God for activist judges. Although there has seemed to be a problem that a lot of the judges who believe in states’ rights have no concern for individual rights, and all the judges who championed individual rights seemed to have no concern for limiting the Federal government. Oh well, I’ll still vote against any candidate who I hear mention the words “activist judges”.

  3. “Under the city’s old zoning ordinance, there were three definitions of who could share a house: three unrelated people; two unrelated people and their children; or any combination of relatives, however extended, plus one unrelated person. It is the third definition that was changed under the new law.

    “What we tried to do is define it in a way that was traditional, to make sure these peripheral people start to be winnowed out,” Smith said.”

    Right, since only nuc-u-lar families are “traditional.” In a civilized society no one ever lives with anyone outside their immediate family.

  4. This blog is really great. Got to know many interesting things .

  5. This blog is really great. Got to know many interesting things .

  6. I have some money to spend, and I have a sudden urge to find out more about “Wireless Internet Online.” But where could I possibly obtain information about such things?

    I have some money to spend, and I have a sudden urge to find out more about “Wireless Internet Online.” But where could I possibly obtain information about such things?

    Never mind — the moment passed.

  7. Convenants are usually broken, if you take the biblical version. They’re followed by new covenants, which man as usual promises to follow.

    Breaking promises is big in soap opera too.

  8. How long until they ban homosexuals from co-habiting?

    Oh wait, this is only about kicking out Mexican’s. Phew.

  9. its victims have a plausible discrimination claim.

    If you want to eliminate the spectre of racism, you can’t keep picking fights based on claims that an action has an undercurrent of racism. The biggest thing that keeps the fear of racism alive today is the constant mention of it.

  10. I would have *loved* to have seen them try to kick my grandma out of my parent’s house. She would have made them regret their mistake real fast.

  11. MP, the biggest thing that keeps the fear of racism alive today is racism.

    If these houses were inhabited by three generation WASP familes, there is no chance in hell this law gets passed.

  12. “The suggestion that changes in the zoning ordinance reflect any other intent on the part of City government are absolutely false.”

    That is, until your vice mayor admits in the very next paragraph that it’s all about piling up on immigrants. Oops!

    “we’re trying to do our part to discourage illegal immigration and we have found that overcrowding generally or very frequently disproportionately involves illegal immigrants, so that’s why we tightened the rules.”

    Leaving aside the question of why the city feels the need to do “its part”, it’s nice to hear a blunt admission of what the law is *really* all about.

  13. If these houses were inhabited by three generation WASP familes, there is no chance in hell this law gets passed.

    Bull. This law is no different than “keep your grass short” and “keep the cars off your lawn” laws that are targeted towards the poor. People in single family neighborhoods have a preference (like wayne) to keep large groups from being their neighbors.

    Cries of racism at every opportunity only help, not hurt, the eventual goal of colorblindness (which already mostly exists…its the clash of cultures (both along class and regional divides) that is far more responsible for bitterness towards our fellow man than simply the color of their skin).

  14. Dave,

    Quite a few towns and cities have zoning ordinances against non-family members sharing houses. This is generally done in areas where there are a lot of young people (like college students) in order to preserve the single family housing characteristics of a neighborhood. I’ve never seen one keeping 2 unrelated people from living together, but I’ve seen quite a few that ban 3 or more unmarried people.

    This may get my libertarian card pulled, but I kind of support this for strictly selfish reasons. I live near a large university and chose my neighborhood precisely because it wasn’t full of students. I doubt any of them could afford to live there on their own, but 3 or 4 living together undoubtedly could do so. I’m sure our man Joe can give you some further insight into this type of zoning.

  15. What if you marry your cousin? huh? huh?

  16. Cries of racism at every opportunity only help, not hurt,

    dammit…should have been “only hurt, not help“.

  17. Also I just found out that the old “sorority house are illegal in some states because they are classified as brotherls ” is untrue.

    🙁

  18. Is it April 1st yet?

    Disgraceful.

  19. What if you marry your cousin? huh? huh?

    Interestingly, Virginia is one of the states were you *can* marry your cousin. So maybe we’ll find out soon.

    Oh wait, this is only about kicking out Mexican’s.

    In English, we form plurals by adding the “s” *without* an apostrophe. You don’t mind if La Migra comes by to ask you a few questions, do you, K? (And in any event, it’s Salvadorans, not Mexicans, who are the target in Northern Virginia.)

  20. And in any event, it’s Salvadorans, not Mexicans, who are the target in Northern Virginia.

    Cool. Now I know where to get a good papusa in Virginia! 😉

  21. I got Manassas, Virginia mixed up with Manassa, Colorado in the earlier thread. Ignore me.

  22. This may get my libertarian card pulled, but I kind of support this for strictly selfish reasons. I live near a large university and chose my neighborhood precisely because it wasn’t full of students. I doubt any of them could afford to live there on their own, but 3 or 4 living together undoubtedly could do so.

    So you support using the force of government to keep poor people in poor neighborhoods, rather than allow them to pool their resources and better their circumstances? If you’re worried that a crowded house will generate too much noise, or litter, there are already laws in place to deal with that.

  23. Hey, I said it was strictly selfish. I also don’t know that I would call the college students that I see poor, per se. Too many of them are driving BMWs, 4-Runners, etc. I just don’t want to live next door to people whose party is just getting cranked up about the time I’m going to bed on a Wednesday night. Yeah, there are noise control ordinances, but I also don’t want to have to monitor my neighbors in order to get the police there just so I can sleep.

    I think the Mannassas law is a bit of an overreach, but I really don’t have a problem with some zoning. You can play the “you hate poor people” card all day long, but if I buy a $300k house, I don’t want some dude opening a trailer park next door. It’s all about property value.

    Besides, part of college is living in crappy apartments and rundown houses. It’s part of the charm.

  24. Seamus. I tried to hit the old stop button, correct and re-submit, but then realized it would just double submit, which would be more annoying than an extra “‘”.

    But thanks for being a punctuation nazi. It really adds to the conversation.

    And I was using Mexican as a general term to describe all hispanics as a lot of us white people tend to do, to make a point about racism.

  25. You can play the “you hate poor people” card all day long, but if I buy a $300k house, I don’t want some dude opening a trailer park next door.

    Then you should have bought the lot next door too.

  26. Besides, part of college is living in crappy apartments and rundown houses. It’s part of the charm.

    This Manassas law isn’t directed against college students.

    I think the Mannassas law is a bit of an overreach, but I really don’t have a problem with some zoning. You can play the “you hate poor people” card all day long, but if I buy a $300k house, I don’t want some dude opening a trailer park next door. It’s all about property value.

    We’re not talking about a guy opening a trailer park; we’re talking about laws mandating who is allowed to live in a house, and how much DNA the housedwellers are required to have in common before they break the law.

  27. I grew up in a college town and live in Austin, Texas, home of the metastatic University of Texas. I have, in the past, done some legal work related to zoning laws. The problem with this law is not that it restricts the number of people in a house, which is perfectly legal, it’s that it defines certain relatives as unrelated. That was the issue in the East Cleveland case, the city defined family, against virtually every other state law affecting family relations.

    Let’s examine the family definition issue a bit. I haven’t looked it up for Virginia, but in Texas nieces and nephews can inherit from an intestate aunt or uncle and are prohibited from marrying said aunt or uncle, precisely because they are defined as first degree collateral relations. I can’t imagine Virginia law differing on this issue. In Manassas, however, such people are not considered relatives for occupancy purposes. There are enough issues in here for a law school final, but the main one is that the city has effectively overridden the state on what constitutes a relative. The cousin in the Ohio case didn’t have that much state law behind him. Coupled with the really moronic statements by some city council members that this is Manassas’s push to stem the Brown Tide from the South, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the law is racially motivated. (Lawyer point: I would so love to get that idiot on the stand and go over in detail his opinion of Salvadorans.)

    Finally, while I certainly agree that thorwing around charges of racism with drunken sailor abandon is counterproductive, I do think it’s important to nail the real thing when we see it. Unless Manassas VA can show that the city has never allowed collaterals to share houses or that this addresses a problem unrelated to the skin color of Salvadorans, this law is not going to stand.

  28. Me, I like Houston, because zoning laws are teh suck.

  29. This may get my libertarian card pulled, but…

    Don’t worry, for the most part, the public has accepted the idea that libertarians only care about legalizing pot and getting rid of taxes. The fact that you want to prevent 3 people with a lower income than you from pooling their resources to live in your neighborhood isn’t out of character at all.

    There are actual, valid, reasons for occupancy limits in homes, mostly related to safety and the city’s expectations when it comes to how many people it can expect its public infratructure to support (eg, schools, roads, and sewage). However, to crack down on a family living in a house and staying well within its expected occupancy is really unjustified.

  30. There are actual, valid, reasons for occupancy limits in homes, mostly related to safety and the city’s expectations when it comes to how many people it can expect its public infratructure to support (eg, schools, roads, and sewage).

    You know, a reasonable occupancy limit to me seems like twice to three times as many people as there are bedrooms.

  31. Hey, I said that I thought the law was an overreach. If it makes you feel better, its probably unconstitutional as well. The original article references a SC decision that I read in law school but am currently too lazy to look up. From what I remember, it pretty much addressed precisely this situation. And frankly, the N. Va. housing market being what it is, I think we’ll see a lot of opposition to this ordinance.

    My only point is that I’m okay with some zoning, in contrast to some of you who are clearly more pure libertarians than I am. Yes MP, I realize that the textbook answer is to buy the lot next door. I guess I could buy the lot across the street too. And the ones a few lots down just to make sure nobody builds a paper plant or something on them.

  32. I would in theory be against this law, and in fact I know it is not going to work, but as a Northern Virginian living in a neighborhood filling fast with houses busting at the seams with illegal immigrant “families” (families made up largely of young working men who come and go mysteriously according to the season), I understand why the citizens of Manassas were begging their government to do something. Laws against noise, trash . . . . Wonderful. How nice. Nice except that those laws are not enforced. Nor do police ever ask anyone in one of those houses to produce any proof of being here legally, as there is no graceful, nonhumiliating, nonracist way to demand such proof. Nor does anyone wonder what the effects might be on young girls who are living in houses with transient men their mothers are renting to, or other women in those neighborhoods who are constantly being aggressively eyed by strangers. Yes, I will be verbally jumped here for that statement, perhaps rightly so, but YOU live with it and see how you like it! A rape just occurred three houses down from us in someone’s backyard — a man followed a woman home from the Metro — and the only description we have of the guy is that he was an unfamiliar Hispanic man. Now mind you, before you point out that most rapists are white guys and that I am implying something here that I am not — that these bursting-at-the-seams houses are filled with rapists, of course they are not! — what I am saying is, people are uneasy because neighborhoods whose homes used to be Mom-Dad-Kids-Cat-Dog, whom everyone would know, are now turning into boarding houses filled with unknown people who do not stay long, or who come and go, and yes, there is a noticeable increase in crime associated with this situation, both petty crime and violent crime, and (big current problem) gang activity. YOU can come and wash the spray painted territorial dog-piss markings off my retaining wall, if you think there is no problem here. You can come clean the glass out of my car after the windows were shot out with a shotgun by some random nut.

    Or somebody, please give me a better solution.

  33. I wonder why groups like Focus on the Family don’t seem to care about issues like this? Aren’t they all about protecting the sanctity of the family as the”basic unit of society”?

  34. Laws against noise, trash . . . . Wonderful. How nice. Nice except that those laws are not enforced.

    So if we already have laws that aren’t being enforced, you think more laws will stop the problem?

    Nor does anyone wonder what the effects might be on young girls who are living in houses with transient men their mothers are renting to, or other women in those neighborhoods who are constantly being aggressively eyed by strangers.

    That’s a new one–the problem of child molestation can be solved through zoning reform.

    A rape just occurred three houses down from us in someone’s backyard — a man followed a woman home from the Metro — and the only description we have of the guy is that he was an unfamiliar Hispanic man.

    And we must assume that the rapist lives in your neighborhood, since it’s impossible for people to commit crimes that aren’t in walking distance of their own homes. We must also assume that this guy respects all laws EXCEPT the one against rape, and thus passing more laws will definitely keep him from attacking someone else. Furthermore, let’s assume that the time cops spend counting the number of people who live in each house will NOT take away from the time they can spend solving actual crimes, like catching this rapist.

    Or somebody, please give me a better solution.

    Get on the cops’ asses to enforce the laws that are already in effect. Fire the bastards if they don’t.

  35. P.S. My husband and I were just discussing this situation with some Mexican-American friends from the neighborhood (of the classic Mom-Dad-Kids-Dog-Cat mold), and they told me they are hoping a law like Manassas’s is passed in Fairfax County, where we live. They are worried about their own kids being endangered by gangs. My post above could easily be interpreted as racist, so I want to point out, our reasons for concern do not have anything to do with the race or language of the people we are talking about here. The issues are overcrowding and transciency. It does so happen that culture is a huge issue within the issue, because “family” to the Central Americans moving here in huge numbers seems to mean, basically, the whole extended clan, plus friends or anyone they might be able to rent to.

  36. Nice except that those laws are not enforced.

    Non-enforcement of these laws gives you great confidence that some new, other law will be enforced?

    The solution to that problem is enforce the bloody noise ordinance.

    A rape just occurred three houses down from us in someone’s backyard — a man followed a woman home from the Metro

    So he, apparently, didn’t live in the neighborhood then?

    what I am saying is, people are uneasy because neighborhoods whose homes used to be Mom-Dad-Kids-Cat-Dog, whom everyone would know, are now turning into boarding houses filled with unknown people who do not stay long, or who come and go, and yes, there is a noticeable increase in crime associated with this situation, both petty crime and violent crime, and (big current problem) gang activity.

    Things cost more than they used to! Everything is going to hell! What’s happening to society?!?!?! There are already laws against violence, and vandalism, etc etc.

    YOU can come and wash the spray painted territorial dog-piss markings off my retaining wall, if you think there is no problem here. You can come clean the glass out of my car after the windows were shot out with a shotgun by some random nut.

    It’s your car, not mine, and, again there are laws against these things already. I suggest you look into getting somebody to enforce them, or perhaps buying some firearms and defending your property.

    Or somebody, please give me a better solution.

    There’s the rest of my comment above. See also: bloody move.

  37. Or somebody, please give me a better solution.

    Move to jolly old England. You’ll love ASBOs.

  38. >what the effects might be on young girls who are living in houses with transient men their mothers are renting to

    I’d suppose that would be the mother’s business, since there’s nothing inherently wrong with the choice to earn a living by renting rooms.

    I’m sorry your neighborhood is changing in ways you’re uncomfortable with, but it seems a good first step would be agitating for enforcing existing laws rather than trying to come down on activities that really aren’t anyone’s business.

  39. You can play the “you hate poor people” card all day long, but if I buy a $300k house, I don’t want some dude opening a trailer park next door.

    But if you build a $300K house in a trailer park (“working-class” neighborhood) it’s called “gentrification”.

  40. our reasons for concern do not have anything to do with the race or language of the people we are talking about here. The issues are overcrowding and transciency. It does so happen that culture is a huge issue within the issue, because “family” to the Central Americans moving here in huge numbers seems to mean, basically, the whole extended clan, plus friends or anyone they might be able to rent to.

    Ah, yes, the government’s job is to make sure that “family” is only defined as “what Catalina says it is, as opposed to what those goddamned Central Americans think it is.”

  41. You always have the choice of buying into a deed-restricted community where everyone has agreed in advance as to how many people can live in a house, or what color the house can be, where you can or cannot park your car, etc.

  42. Catalina,
    1) take responsibility for your self defense, buy and learn to use a firearm.

    2) Get a community group together and take your neighborhood private. It is rarely done, and can be complex and difficult, but possible. I do not know what is required in VA do do this, but once done, you can control entry to the neighborhood and enforce your own covenants just like a condo development can.

    3) If your neighborhood has declined so much that there are not enough owner occupants to talk to, and the land owners do not see the benfit to a private association, move.

    There are no garantees in life. I knew an elderly guy that came to the US with his kids and grandkids after the USSR broke up. He lived in central Europe his entire life, in the same house, and in at least three counries.

    He and the house stayed put, the borders kept moving.

    He and his family moved as soon as they could, and in a bigger way than few miles over to the next town or county.

  43. MP, is your only point is that “racism” is an inappropriate term to describe prejudice based on culture?

    Whether your point is based on linguistic pedantry, or a desire to define away aspects of racism so they appear more acceptable, it is irrelevant.

  44. “People in single family neighborhoods have a preference (like wayne) to keep large groups from being their neighbors.”

    No, they have a preference to keep “those people” from being their neighbors. In this case, they wrote the law in such a way that it targetted a practice that is more common among “those people” (Hispanics with moderate incomes or below) – extended family living.

    Had their concern been merely about legitimate overcrowding, they wouldn’t have bothered to get into family relations.

  45. How long until they ban homosexuals from co-habiting?

    What are you, kidding? This is Virginia! They practically already did!

  46. I seem to have done a service. I offered lots of juicy material to jump on. Enjoy.

    Thanks for the suggestions, Tom. The reason my husband and I moved to our neighborhood was, it is the kind of place where we can park our pick-up out front, mount herds of reindeer on the roof at Christmas, and grow whole fields of tall wildflowers in the back without anybody telling us what to do. We don’t use weedkiller so we have lots of birds, but we also don’t have any grass. McLean would not have us. (Not that we can afford it.)

    And I do love the cultural diversity of the neighborhood, my angry words notwithstanding. I fully recognize that the Manassas law cannot stand. I’m just very worried about the trends — the gang stuff is scary and many of the young men hanging around are rude. I walk home from the Metro at night and my husband is trying to persuade me to pack heat. We are not going anywhere. Sigh.

  47. I seem to have done a service. I offered lots of juicy material to jump on. Enjoy.

    Thanks for the suggestions, Tom. The reason my husband and I moved to our neighborhood was, it is the kind of place where we can park our pick-up out front, mount herds of reindeer on the roof at Christmas, and grow whole fields of tall wildflowers in the back without anybody telling us what to do. We don’t use weedkiller so we have lots of birds, but we also don’t have any grass. McLean would not have us. (Not that we can afford it.)

    And I do love the cultural diversity of the neighborhood, my angry words notwithstanding. I fully recognize that the Manassas law cannot stand. I’m just very worried about the trends — the gang stuff is scary and many of the young men hanging around are rude. I walk home from the Metro at night and my husband is trying to persuade me to pack heat. We are not going anywhere. Sigh.

  48. Oh wait, this is only about kicking out Mexican’s.

    Any restrictions on how many people you can put into the bed of a pickup truck?

    Ay Caramba!

  49. “How long until they ban homosexuals from co-habiting?”

    There are many co-habiting homosexuals in our neighborhood. They are welcome.

  50. The reason my husband and I moved to our neighborhood was, it is the kind of place where we can park our pick-up out front, mount herds of reindeer on the roof at Christmas, and grow whole fields of tall wildflowers in the back without anybody telling us what to do.

    Yet you have no qualms about using the government to tell others what to do.

  51. David,

    Focus on the Family filed a brief with the Supreme Court against a grandmother who asserted that her ex-son-in-law was depriving her of her “grandparents’ rights” by refusing to let her visit her grandkids, ever. They argued that only parents have a stake in a family relationship that the law is bound to recognize. If a parent wants to deny his children’s grandparents the opportunity to meet them, FotF argued, that is that parent’s right.

    So I doubt they’d have any problem with this.

  52. “My post above could easily be interpreted as racist, so I want to point out, our reasons for concern do not have anything to do with the race or language of the people we are talking about here. The issues are overcrowding and transciency.”

    It isn’t racist, not at all, it’s just classist. So it’s ok.

  53. Ok, touche, Matthew.

  54. In this case, the racism manifest itself through the conflation of many unlike things, with the only common feature being the association of those things, in some people’s minds, with Hispanic people.

    On this thread, we’ve seen people defend a law forbidding a man, his chilren, his mother, and his dead wife’s sister from living together. The reasons given for supporting this law include tales of ten or more young, single men living together; the damage to property values done by the construction of less costly housing (trailer park was brought up, as was boarding house) near more costly housing; graffitti and gang activity; and illegal immigration.

    There are legitimate and illegitimate concerns all mixed up in there. But what you see all the time, and what’s happening here, is that the law is drawn in such a way as to encompass activities (in this case, the presence of a small extended family in a house that is plenty big enough for them) that have no connection to the true dangers people point out, except that those activities are associated with the “other” group more commonly than with the “mainstream” group.

    When you look at the family set-up I described above, and see something that’s pretty much the same as a criminal gang occupying a house, or a severely overcrowding, messy house, you are engaging in prejudice. And, MP’s pedantry aside, prejudice against Hispanic people is generally accepted to count as racism.

  55. Don’t worry, for the most part, the public has accepted the idea that libertarians only care about legalizing pot and getting rid of taxes.

    What about machine guns? Don’t forget them!

  56. Whether your point is based on linguistic pedantry, or a desire to define away aspects of racism so they appear more acceptable, it is irrelevant.

    I’ve always thought that expanding government based anti-discrimination enforcement beyond simple color-blindness is a very bad thing, leading to all sorts of strange special privilege legistlation. So yes, it is relevant to my small goverment tendencies, and I’ll stomp on it when I see it.

  57. And, MP’s pedantry aside, prejudice against Hispanic people is generally accepted to count as racism.

    Which is something I’ve never quite been able to get, I mean, Mexicans are the descendents of Spaniards who tended to interbeed more with the locals upon conquest than the other Europeans who landed in this here New World, but to my mind that essentially makes most Hispanics tan white folks who speak Spanish and have a different culture.

    I guess my point is that “racial identity” is stupid because the deliniations are largely arbitrary. Now, it’s pretty obvious that there are going to be genotypal and phenotypal differences between different sub-groups of the human species, but that descendents of Italians are “white” and the descendents of Spaniards are “hispanic” should put the lie to the whole racial mess.

  58. As for MP’s comment about colorblindness: I think any hiring between equally qualified candidates should be done using an open-source random number generator.

  59. I guess my point is that “racial identity” is stupid because the deliniations are largely arbitrary. Now, it’s pretty obvious that there are going to be genotypal and phenotypal differences between different sub-groups of the human species, but that descendents of Italians are “white” and the descendents of Spaniards are “hispanic” should put the lie to the whole racial mess.

    You know and I know that Hispanics are not some alien race as compared to “pure” white people, but this doesn’t matter to the folks who hate Hispanics for being Hispanic.

    This argument about whether hating Hispanics is or is not racist is like saying that back in the nineteenth century, WASPy Americans who hated Irish and Italian people weren’t really racist, because the Irish and Italians were still white.

    There’s no word in English for “hatred based on ethnicity”; instead, the concept falls under the “racist” umbrella.

  60. The reason my husband and I moved to our neighborhood was, it is the kind of place where we can park our pick-up out front, mount herds of reindeer on the roof at Christmas, and grow whole fields of tall wildflowers in the back without anybody telling us what to do.

    Oh, so you’re the ones? Well, I live in Fairfax County also, and I don’t like any of those things, so I’m going to get my councilman to introduce an ordinance banning them,

    Timothy:: I guess my point is that “racial identity” is stupid because the deliniations are largely arbitrary . . . that descendents of Italians are “white” and the descendents of Spaniards are “hispanic” should put the lie to the whole racial mess.

    That’s cold comfort both to the people who “don’t like wetbacks” and the people who suffer the effects of discrimination, however poorly the categories are constructed.

  61. Jennifer & Phil: Point taken. Drives me nuts, though, I think we should take it upon ourselves to invent or import a more precise term.

  62. The whole problem with racism (which is still extant, and always will be) is that racists treat individuals as a collective: “All black people are criminals” or some other such derogatory comment. This is bad, especially under a libertarian philosophy.

    However, only in bizarro world government land does the solution to the problem of racists not recognizing individuality become “well, lets treat them as a collective and give em all extra benefits, whether they as individuals deserve them or not.”

    Wait, what was the point of this thread?…

  63. You know and I know that Hispanics are not some alien race as compared to “pure” white people, but this doesn’t matter to the folks who hate Hispanics for being Hispanic.

    Hell, the great apes are barely an alien race compared to homo sapiens sapiens, the only reason to pay attention to region-of-origin is risk factors for certain diseases and other things of medical interest.

  64. It’s interesting how, on a forum where people are supposedly interested in freedom, so many bigots come out of the woodwork to explain why this regulation is OK.

    Don’t like noise? Let’s talk about noise ordinances. Don’t like litter? Let’s talk about litter laws? Do you have non-snob concerns about density? Then you’ll be pleased to know that the families in question were under the occupancy limits.

    Let me repeat that: The families in question were under the occupancy limits. That’s precisely why the city passed this new law: They needed to create an exception to the existing laws, so they could go after legal immigrants, in some cases even naturalized citizens.

    I’m done arguing this issue. This particular case is about bigotry, pure and simple.

  65. Hell, the great apes are barely an alien race compared to homo sapiens sapiens, the only reason to pay attention to region-of-origin is risk factors for certain diseases and other things of medical interest.

    Again, this makes no difference to the people who DO think that skin color or ethnicity are a good indicator of what kind of personality a person has. You may as well assume that the Taliban oppresses women ONLY because they honestly don’t know that women have the same moral and intellectual capacities as men. Or that Klansmen will throw away their white hoods if only someone shows them DNA testing which proves that blacks are human, too.

    You’re trying to reason with the unreasonable, here.

  66. I’ll qualify what I have to say with the statement that it is not the place of the city to determine who lives where. However, in the real world cities tell homeowners what they can and cannot do constantly. Everything from the height of your front fence to how many cars you can have up on blocks.

    I happen to own a house next door to one of those multi-generational abodes that this law is directed at. The noise, pollution, stench, sheer overwhelming number of vehicles, frequent visits by the cops, and the piles of garbage in the yard make it increasingly difficult to attract tenants to my property.

    Suffice it to say that I’d sooner share a fence with a rendering plant than these 20 people crammed into a two bedroom house. All things considered, the sketcher who used to live there making meth in the garage was preferable, although I was delighted when he eventually hung himself.

    I’m libertarian so I keep hoping they’ll move. But I am very close to filing a complaint with the city. At the very least their presence is a serious health hazard. And my tenants are sick of them throwing shit over the fence.

    That’s a glimpse of what the law is actually about. Right or wrong it doesn’t have jack to do with racism.

  67. What an incredibly depressing topic.

    I agree with Joe’s post earlier, and also with the argument that this is more a matter of classism than racism. I think the problem has more to do with poverty and a clash of values that are driven by economic circumstances. People who already have peace, quiet, safety, and some measure of a sense of control over their immediate environment can look at this and see pure bigotry. And no doubt, bigotry is involved. But that is not the whole story.

    The law in Manassas is stupid and has been applied more stupidly. But there are underlying beasts of problems here, to do with immigration, crowding and law enforcement. They will provide many Hit & Run discussions in the future. They are not going away.

  68. I’m libertarian so I keep hoping they’ll move. But I am very close to filing a complaint with the city. At the very least their presence is a serious health hazard. And my tenants are sick of them throwing shit over the fence.

    But again, the problem is in what these people are doing, not how many live there or what relation they are to each other. Even a person living alone can play the stereo at all hours of the night, open a meth lab in his garage or throw bags of shit over the fence.

  69. Back when the Mafia was first getting a foothold in this country, what do you think would have been the best and most effective way to deal with them: have the cops focus on Mafia-related activities, or pass laws limiting the number of Italians who can live in any one place?

  70. Jennifer: Again, point taken…makes me, well, bloody sad is all. If you can’t reason out a problem, there’s not a solution. I hate that.

    I mean, I guess we can hope that as the racists are largely ignored over time things will keep getting better, but that’s not particularly satisfying.

  71. Back when the Mafia was first getting a foothold in this country, what do you think would have been the best and most effective way to deal with them:

    DON’T BAN ALCOHOL!

    That, and liberalize laws on gambling and prostitution.

  72. DON’T BAN ALCOHOL!

    What, the mob sells alcohol, banning it makes perfect sense!

    Why are y’all looking at me like that?

    What?

  73. DON’T BAN ALCOHOL!

    Apparently, not everyone is convinced of that.

  74. the problem is in what these people are doing, not how many live there or what relation they are to each other

    Absolutely. But in America it’s like 4th grade, they’ve spoiled it for everybody and so there has to be a law now.

    My other point is that nobody is threatening to sue the city for the thousands of laws that infringe upon our freedom to use our property as we see fit.

    And why doesn’t anyone see the implicit racism in laws prohibiting you from keeping chickens and goats in the front yard even though that’s exactly what many immigrants did in their home countries. By the foregoing arguments that’s a racist law as well.

  75. “Bull. This law is no different than “keep your grass short” and “keep the cars off your lawn” laws that are targeted towards the poor. People in single family neighborhoods have a preference (like wayne) to keep large groups from being their neighbors.

    Cries of racism at every opportunity only help, not hurt, the eventual goal of colorblindness (which already mostly exists…its the clash of cultures (both along class and regional divides) that is far more responsible for bitterness towards our fellow man than simply the color of their skin).”

    I am floored. A reasonable post. MP, you are a brave man.

  76. “And why doesn’t anyone see the implicit racism in laws prohibiting you from keeping chickens and goats in the front yard even though that’s exactly what many immigrants did in their home countries. By the foregoing arguments that’s a racist law as well.”

    We have had houses disappear behind row upon row of corn (don’t care) and have been woken up by roosters (don’t mind). The gang graffiti on my retaining wall, however, was too much.

    Disclaimer: YES, there are many many boys of every ethnicity involved in gangs.

  77. TWC, first of all, have you tried the Rosemount “Golden Hills” Shiraz? Fantastic, even better than their regular shiraz, which is one of my favorite low cost wines.

    Second, I’m sorry you have such lousy neighbors. But please keep in mind, most multigeneration households are not like that. There’s a visibility problem, where you are only noticing the bad one of the group. There are probably multigenerational families in other houses in your n’hood that you’ve never even noticed.

    Third, “That’s a glimpse of what the law is actually about. Right or wrong it doesn’t have jack to do with racism.” Well, those concerns may be related to what the motivation for the law is about. The law itself is about keeping perfectly responsible households from living together, because of other circumstances that have nothing to do with those households, besides cultural/national/ethnic origin. That’s the problem.

    Fourth, “And why doesn’t anyone see the implicit racism in laws prohibiting you from keeping chickens and goats in the front yard even though that’s exactly what many immigrants did in their home countries. By the foregoing arguments that’s a racist law as well.” No, there’s a difference. There are legitimate concerns about keeping livestock in a non-rural residential area. It is the presence of the livestock themselves that is the problem, so that’s what’s banned. In this case, harmless, respectable households are banned, even though the problem is something else.

  78. Didn’t we hash through all this the other day?

  79. What if you marry your cousin? huh? huh?

    The article is about Manassas, not Shelbyville.

  80. Jennifer, your defenses are eloquent. I’m back to being totally in love with you. Stick it to ’em, girl.

  81. This particular case is about bigotry, pure and simple.

    Exactly. And arguments about noise, garbage, gangs, overcrowding, and the like–while interesting–are irrelevant to this case, because all of those issues are already covered by existing law!

  82. May all of you sanctimonious libertarians endure what Catalina described.

  83. Joe,

    Rosemount Golden Hills Shiraz? Fantastic, even better than their regular shiraz, which is one of my favorite low cost wines.

    Had the regular which is quite good. I’ll need to try the Golden Hills.

    Thanks for your sympathy, fortunately for us we haven’t lived in that house for many years (used to call it the Little Blue House by the Lake).

    Joe, that was a thoughtful post, all of which I agree with. As Jennifer pointed out, the problem is what the people are doing and not how many live there.

    I don’t agree with the law I am merely trying to point out that it doesn’t necessarily have it’s roots in bigotry. It’s a clumsy but totally unsurprising way that the city is trying to deal with it.

    In Lake Elsinore, where my problem house is, if you piss off the city enough they will simply bulldoze your house as a blighted nuisance (without compensation). And it’s legal. And nobody has cried racism. That, is one reason why I haven’t gone to the city as yet. The bulldozer I mean.

    Finally, do I understand you to mean that if the city simply had a flat occupancy rate it would be okay? Say, 7 people per house, for health and safety reasons? That’d be hell on big families, which is why, I suppose, the city tried to define who is a legal relative and who is not.

  84. Catalina, I understand.

    Listen to your hubby, learn how to use the gun, and be determined that you are worth more than anyone that assaults you.

    I understand your problem. I grew up and live in NJ. I do not have the option to carry, though my home is well protected. I lived in Hawthorne, NJ for a while. A nice, well kept, peaceful suburb of NY. But I was right accross the river from Paterson, literally 100 feet from a bridge across the Passaic river, a not so nice city. I had situations where I could not walk to the front door of my apartment due to unsavory looking people hanging around in front of the building. So I know what you are talking of. Nothing as bad as shootings though.

    If the neighborhood is that bad, and cleaning it up is not an option, move. Wildflowers are not worth your safety or life. Zoning won’t help.

  85. Absolutely. But in America it’s like 4th grade, they’ve spoiled it for everybody and so there has to be a law now.

    So you think that, given a choice between having the government treat us all like fourth-graders or having to occasionally deal with rude neighbors, a nation of fourth-graders is the lesser of two evils?

    Next thing you know everyone in Manassas will have to write “I will not overcrowd my house” one hundred times.

  86. Let me offer myself up, without pride, as a case-example of how prejudice can quietly foster and grow in an atmosphere of fear. I consider myself, more or less incoherently, a liberal libertarian — I am usually in favor of de-criminalizing or legalizing just about everything, I am against the death penalty, obviously against torture, against unchecked presidential power, don’t like the Iraq war, etc. According to my husband, a dreaded lefty. Years ago I left college as a bright young thing excited to live in a multi-cultural world. And I still feel that way. However, at the moment, the reality also is that I deal with beer bottles in my yard, gang graffiti on my retaining wall, houses around us filled with transcients who play their music loudly at all times of the day and night; and I can do NOTHING. The police in Fairfax County, rightly, are chasing murderers and rapists, and do not give two hoots in hell about the beer bottles in my yard; meanwhile, I am afraid (yes) to confront anybody personally about these insults because I am liable to get my tires slashed or, worse, I am liable to be shot. (Not a big step from a shot-out car to a shot-out Catalina.)

    So sure, f*ck me for anything I say which might hurt or oppress anybody. I agree. But again, this is in part how this bigotry starts. Fear. It is not rational. It is not Reason. However, it is reality.

  87. tWineCom.,

    There is nothing un-libertarian about calling the cops on people that are comminting crimes against your property. If they are tossing stuff over the fence they are trespassing, possibly causing physical damage, perhaps polluting. Maybe even causing a physical danger to health if they are actually tossing feces over, as your phrasing implies.

    It may be un-anarchist, but not un-libertarian.

    You could also consult an attorney about damage to the value of your property and sueing the property owner. That would be a royal pain though.

    None of us that wants to live according to libertarian principles should decline from using the machinery of governemnt when it is not objectionable to our beliefs, simply because much of that machinery IS objectionable. Do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Some governemnt is good and necessary, and inevitable according to human nature, from what I can see.

  88. Catalina, your problem isn’t that you live next door to Hispanics, or next door to a crowded house; your problem is that you’re living next door to trashy people. And zoning laws limiting the number of honest folk who can live together will not solve the problem of rude trash who doesn’t care about their neighbors.

    There’s another thread on Hit and Run today, explaining how honest citizens who wish to buy certain cold medicines can no longer do so, because the government is trying to crack down on the dishonest citizens who will use cold medicine to make methamphetamine. Do you not see any correlation between the anti-cold-medicine laws and your proposed zoning laws? They will only harm the honest and the law-abiding; the criminals won’t give a damn.

  89. “May all of you sanctimonious libertarians endure what Catalina described.”
    May all of you zoning worshipers get divorced and be forced to move your fucking single asses into a squalid neighborhood.

  90. Catalina, Fear can be rational: It keeps you alive. Reason is what we should use to respond rationally to it. In your situation fear is perfectly reasonable. Whether your response is rational depends on you.

    In my situation above, not as bad as yours, I stayed while I was hunting for a house to buy, and moved as soon as I could. If I was in your situation, I would both move and make sure I could defend myself.

  91. So you think that, given a choice between having the government treat us all like fourth-graders or having to occasionally deal with rude neighbors, a nation of fourth-graders is the lesser of two evils?

    Jennifer, you apparently missed the sarcasm in my comment. Another shortcoming of this medium as compared to say, hoisting a glass of wine in the fireplace room where you could hear and see the sarcasm dripping from my upper lip.

  92. Gotcha, TWC.

  93. Jennifer, I think you also missed this:

    Joe, that was a thoughtful post, all of which I agree with. As Jennifer pointed out, the problem is what the people are doing and not how many live there.

  94. Thanks for your thoughts Tom. More than likely we’ll be selling the place soon. Just waiting for the tenant to give notice and then a quick rehab and on the market it goes.

  95. “Do you not see any correlation between the anti-cold-medicine laws and your proposed zoning laws? They will only harm the honest and the law-abiding; the criminals won’t give a damn.”

    Yes. A lot of what is in this thread does not and cannot argue for the wacky Manassas law. What it does is explain some of the psychology behind it. Plus (separate from everything I’ve said), people don’t like change and don’t like the unknown. There’s probably some of that going on in there too.

    Unfortunately I’ve got to get off this train and get back on a project. I’ve appreciated the discussion. Happy New Year, everybody.

  96. Case-in-trashy-point:

    I grew up in a safe, boring neighborhood in the Portland, OR suburbs. It was a fine place, even after the worst neighbors I’ve ever had in my life moved in next door to us. They were trashy folks, white by the by, who had screaming matches where they threw things at each other on the lawn, violated the CC&Rs by parking their trailer on the street, had an obnoxious brat of a litte boy who threw rocks at my dog, and who threw cigarette butts into our yard while blowing leaves into it with a leaf blower. The people my folks’ sold the house to when they moved have had similar problems, additionally: they guy has started slashing any tennis balls left near the fence, and even threated to kill their dog at one point. This threat was made to an eight-year-old child.

    Total occupants: three.

    No amount of zoning laws would’ve solved that problem, and there were already regulations about the trailer, etc, which the neighborhood association &c did its best to enforce.

  97. joe-

    If you’re still here, once upon a time you criticized Reason for not condemning snob zoning.

    Well, they just did.

  98. But what do you guys think about my earlier comment that went something like this:

    In Lake Elsinore, where my problem house is, if you piss off the city enough they will simply bulldoze your house as a blighted nuisance (without compensation). And it’s legal.

    I know, it’s off topic. But isn’t that kind of appalling? Been going on for years. They’ve probably bulldozed a couple of thousand houses over the years without compensating the owners a dime.

  99. “I admit, we’re legislators,” she told The Washington Post, “part-time legislators. We do the best we can, and if we made a mistake with this, we will reconsider.”

    Good. Get thee to reconsidering, because you made a mistake.

  100. In Lake Elsinore, where my problem house is, if you piss off the city enough they will simply bulldoze your house as a blighted nuisance (without compensation). And it’s legal.

    1) How on Earth is that legal?

    2) Good Flying Spaghetti Monster that’s fucking deplorable.

  101. Well, they just did.

    Twice in two days, at that.

  102. I’m okay with some zoning

    The catch here is that it grants the power to zone to the government. And in so doing it also transfers the power to define “some”. Don’t be surprised when their definition doesn’t match your’s (three guesses who wins that dispute).

  103. By golly thoreau, you’re right.

    But I know how that game is played:

    OK, fine, you’ve found one Imam who denounced terrorism. But why don’t they do it MORE? 😉

    TWC, were these occupied houses, or abandoned properties?

  104. Catalina,

    The house next to me is a rental. Several years ago it was rented to a drug dealer. Didn’t bother me until my house started getting broken into.

    At that point I got in touch with the police, started calling in plate numbers of buyers. A short while later the dealer was gone and the break-ins stopped.

    Being libertarian does allow for self-defense. And as far as I’m concerned any weapon is fair game, including unjust drug laws.

    Use your imagination, defend yourself, and good luck.

  105. JFC, you people have all [had] some rotten neighbors. Thank God I live in NYC where crime is low & people are not annoying 😉

  106. Timothy, it is not always the trashy ones that are at fault.

    I do not doubt your story. This is for everyone else. Which also goes to show why govt. zoning and other property use laws can be bad.

    I grew up in upper-middle class Glen Rock, NJ. The people on our block called US white trash. Literally. More than once we had people stand accross the street or on the sidewalk and yell at us. They were considered ‘decent folk’. We didn’t have the money to keep up the house as good as they thought it should be, nor was my paternal unit inclined to do so. It was not run down, or decaying, no junk in the yard, just a bit unkempt, needed better yard care, paint more often than it got it.

    After I left home, and after mom divorced the paternal unit, people would leave notes on the front stopp telling her to get out. She was a church secretary, a piano teacher, a semi-pro organist and executive secretary, caring for my brother, a handicapped adult. Some of these ‘decent’ neighbors complained, once she was alone, so she had a few run ins with the town, which had a lawn care ordinance. She managed to hold on, barely, with some help from her mother, brother and me, but just barely.

    After she passed, I planned on keeping the house, but the neighbors made it clear if I did, there would be harrasment.

    So I had a choice, try to keep the house and deal with the crap, or sell it and take the cash. I took the cash.

    When we listed the house, I made sure that the Sikh temple down the road knew about it. I had heard many people taking about the membership, thier odd clothes, not to mention the hysteria over the cermonial daggers the men carried in thier sashes. Unfortuantely, the house was sold before any of that membership had a chance to see it. Those ‘decent’ folks would have left a turd in the street if one of ‘them’ had bought the house.

    So threat of local town harrasment using zoning and condition laws, kept me out of the town I grew up in. You can be the judge of who the trash was.

  107. “Fear. It is not rational. It is not Reason. However, it is reality.”

    Catalina, you have my sympathy. There is nothing remotely irrational, or unreasoned about your fear. On the contrary, I would doubt your sanity if you did not have some fear.

  108. Tom, sounds like most homeowners associations.

    Joe, most of the properties are occupied, some are not because the city evicted the tenants. Very few are abandoned (if any).

    Timothy, it’s legal I guess because the city says so. The MO is to declare the property substandard and not up to code (these are usually old houses or apartments in poor neighborhoods). They give the owner time to make upgrades (6 months usually). If the owner can’t afford to do what is demanded or won’t do it, they bulldoze it. They’ve been doing it for at least 25 years.

  109. And actually, I’m surprised that more cities don’t bulldoze. It’s certainly cheaper than paying the owner for the property. And you know what else? The tack the cost of demolition onto the property tax bill.

  110. This Manassas law is a bad idea, I agree. What would you guys think of a law that said this:

    “It is unlawful for a house or apartment to have a population density greater than two adult people per bedroom.”

  111. TWC,

    Do you have a link to a news story about the bulldozing of a house in Lake Elsinore? This is quite interesting to me. I live a couple hundred mile north of Elsinore.

  112. “It is unlawful for a house or apartment to have a population density greater than two adult people per bedroom.”

    I disapprove of most zoning laws, but I could compromise and settle for this.

  113. “It is unlawful for a house or apartment to have a population density greater than two adult people per bedroom.”

    hey! What about the polygamists? This is monogamist-ism..or something.

  114. Tom: We has some perfectly nice neighbors who were in a similar situation to yours down at the end of the block. They had an unkempt front lawn, mown less often than is optimal and a basically wild back yard with a compost heap. They were some sort of envirohippies, don’t remember what they did. Anyway, great folks, we got along with them fine. Who gives a shit if the yard needs mowing so long as the folks in the house are all right?

    Sounds like the folks in your neighborhood were right assholes.

    I should clarify that the folks in my story above maintained their own property quite well, save the trailer. They were just jerks.

  115. Jenn,

    I too disapprove of most zoning laws. I think my simple proposed “law” that focuses on population density is much better as well.

    Now, let’s get to those nasty details: Suppose a married couple, both of fine Aryan stock, have raised their 2.5 kids and decided to sell their four-bedroom ranch and buy a sensible two bedroom that is in good shape. Three years later, the wife’s mother comes down with Alzheimer’s and the couple decide to take in Mom and Dad. Everything is cool because they now have four adults and two bedrooms. A year after that, the couple’s thirty year old son is laid off from his job at the INS because the government decides that since they don’t enforce the immigration laws, they don’t need so many employees (sorry, but I just could not resist :-]). So the adult son moves in with Mom and Dad. Should there be an exemption in the law that allows this, i.e. “more than two adults per bedroom if the adults are family”?

  116. TWC, cities are allowed to enter onto sites in order to remove threats to health and safety. Both of the cities I’ve worked in would demolish a couple of vacant, abandoned houses per year, after the Building Inspector declared them to be threats to health and safety, and after the owners were told to secure their buildings. What’s going on in your town sounds like a real abuse of the process, and I’m surprised they haven’t been stopped. We’ve had owners of jagged, charred piles of rubble go to court and challenge the demolition order. It sounds fisht to me that none of the property owners have gone to court and gotten relief, if the town is doing what you say.

  117. See also: this living in Texas business has led me to use “folks” far too often.

  118. timothy, yah, they were.

    I always referred to them as Ridgewood wannabees. Ridgewood being a very wealthy town right next door. (currently has it’s own Omaha Steaks, Duxiana and Pompanoosuc Mills stores. Not outlets, full retail)

  119. Joe:

    Exactly how is a vacant building a threat to public safety? The public can’t be hurt by a building that they aren’t in.

    I’m presuming the building isn’t tall enough to fall outside the property line.

  120. “hey! What about the polygamists? This is monogamist-ism..or something.”

    OK, we can make an exception:

    “It is unlawful for a house or apartment to have a population density greater than two adult people per bedroom. If the occupants practice polygamy in a lawful manner then the two person per bedroom rule is waived and the limit is raised to four people per bedroom, provided the bedroom is furnished with a California King sized bed.”

  121. Wayne, I am not sure some of those mormon types in the desert will go along with even that.

    After all, the ‘California King sized bed’ sounds awfully liberal and heathenish. And I am sure they won’t go along with that ‘adult’ stuff, unless you let them define ‘adult’.

    Hm. How about:
    “It is unlawful for a house or apartment to have a population density greater than that which pisses off the neighbors, with exceptions for religious and cultural practices, provided they are nice about it”?

  122. jeffiek,

    A building that is unattended and easily broken into is a target for arson, which endangers everyone in the neighborhood.

    A vacant building is, otherwise, an invitation to criminals – crack houses, meth labs, all the wonderful business operations brought about by the black market.

    At a certain point of dilapidation, the building could actually come down.

    There is also the doctrine of an “attractive nuisance.” Kids “explore” all sorts of dangerous things if you leave them lying about, whether they’re unsecured vacant houses, large unsecured holes in your construction site, or a loaded rifle left lying on your front lawn.

    Then there’s the attraction of rats, roaches, strays.

  123. tomWright, how do you distinguish between a single family home and a 50 room Single Room Occupancy building with common kitchen and bath facilities?

  124. “It is unlawful for a house or apartment to have a population density greater than that which pisses off the neighbors, with exceptions for religious and cultural practices, provided they are nice about it”?

    Well, I like your intentions here, but this seems unconstitutionally vague to me. Of course, I am not a lawyer so I might be all wet.

    We can strike the California King requirement if you want. I only threw it in because personally, I hate to be crowded in bed, and the thought of a queen with four people in it sort of made my skin crawl. That last sentence seems rife with puns.

  125. There is also the doctrine of an “attractive nuisance.” Kids “explore” all sorts of dangerous things if you leave them lying about

    Isn’t that the point? How will we ever solve the Child Problem without dangerous and attractive nuisances?

  126. Joe, Good point. I dunno. Now that would be a fun court case. A polygamist family buys an apartment house, but is charged with violating zoning laws.

    Lets make it a muslim family, with ancient cultural ties to polygamy, just to complicate things for the anti-xtian progressives.

    That would be entertainment.

  127. The problem I’ve always had with the “attractive nuisance” doctrine is that it is basically saying “Make sure that people who are committing a crime by illegally trespassing on your property are not likely to get hurt.”

  128. Wayne, I agree with the crowing point. A bunch of futons on a platform make for a much nicer party.

    AH! Maybe that is the answer. Number of people per square foot of mattress!

    How about 1 person per 18 square feet of mattress? That is about the size of a twin, I think.

    Horizontal mattress, just to be strict of course.

    Hm. THe vertical separation would need to be specified. How much air space above the typical bunk bed? 2 feet? 2.5?

  129. Could the “attractive nuisance” defense be used for brothels?

    But judge your honor! I wouldn’t have been there, but they were so attractive! It’s all thier fault! Those nuisances!

  130. Then there’s the attraction of rats, roaches, strays.

    OK, IF the town waits until after the rats show up. Somehow I doubt it though.

  131. “Hm. THe vertical separation would need to be specified. How much air space above the typical bunk bed? 2 feet? 2.5?”

    About 2 feet, I think. But that might not be enough for a really good polygamous bash, not enough maneuvering room, so maybe we ought to open it up to 3 feet.

  132. actually, attractive nuisance pretty well describes my first wife.

  133. …so maybe we ought to open it up to 3 feet

    Aren’t you risking charges of weight discrimination?
    I know a couple that would take more than 3 feet by themselves.

  134. Jennifer,

    Why not leave a loaded rifle on your front lawn? Only trespassers could hurt themselves.

    We write laws based on reality. Kids get into things; ergo, you have a responsibility to secure your property.

    jeffiek, we don’t wait for foreseeable disasters. We head them off.

  135. “Aren’t you risking charges of weight discrimination?
    I know a couple that would take more than 3 feet by themselves.”

    Hmmm, you’re probably right, but I, as a lawmaker, just can’t bring myself to visualize a couple that needs more than three feet of space.

    But we must not be weightists. Maybe we should just ban bunkbeds and thereby circumvent the problem?

  136. Wayne, good point. 3 feet it is.

    Course, with 10 foot ceilings, you could get a triple decker going!

    So, 1 person per 18 sq. ft of mattress with 3 feet of open space above it.

    Hm. What about floor space? You would need a certain amount of open floor space not covered by mattresses. Plus I think it is a good idea to keep bathrooms open, for health reasons, and kitchens as well, for both health and fire reasons.

    Needs a little more thinkage.

  137. Why not leave a loaded rifle on your front lawn? Only trespassers could hurt themselves.

    I wouldn’t leave such a thing on my front lawn, but I’d feel no guilt about keeping one in the backyard.

  138. Jeffiek, The 3 feet would be a minimal requirement. More would be ok.

  139. “Aren’t you risking charges of weight discrimination?
    I know a couple that would take more than 3 feet by themselves.”

    It’s all so complicated. By the way, Jeff pointed out my subconscious bigotry against meaty people, hence we have decided to ban bunkbeds altogether. I never knew I was a weightist until now. I read a poster on a restaurant wall when I was a kid that said, “Helen Wait is our credit manager, if you want credit go to Helen Wait”. I think that might have been the genesis of my weightism, spelling notwithstanding. Maybe I could sue that restaraunt?

  140. Then there’s the attraction of rats, roaches, strays.

    You mean, like the woods behind my house? Time for some deforestation, baby!

    jeffiek, we don’t wait for foreseeable disasters. We head them off.

    Spoken like a true statist. happy friday!

  141. Wayne, I am not sure we need to ban bunk beds. Kids like them. I think so long as we state that 3 feet is a minimal requirement, the impressivly zaftig among us will be properly accounted for.

  142. “I am not sure we need to ban bunk beds. Kids like them.”

    OK, bunk beds are back in with the three foot minimum. But you have to answer all the weightist questions.

  143. Wait (pun intended), I have a solution to our weightist problem. Let’s print up a poster that says, “Helen Weight is our anti-discrimination officer, if you have a complaint about discrimination go to Helen Weight”.

  144. Wayne, deal. I’ll handle questions from the prosperous-looking.

    Now to the open space. How about 1 square foot of open space for each square foot of of floor covered by any number of layers of bed. Open space in the kitchen(s) and bath(s) counts towards the open space requirement. I am open to alternatives.

  145. Wayne, I don’t know if there are news stories to link to because much of that happened before the internet was such a big part of our lives. I’m sure there would be stories in the archives of the local paper, which is/was a weekly.

    I lived in Lake Elsinore from 1984 until 1997 and the bulldozing was common. There were two houses on my street that were bulldozed for code violations that weren’t brought up to standards.

    Joe, I can assure you that while it stinks like fishy it actually happened frequently. Next time I’m down there I’ll take pictures of all the vacant lots where houses used to stand. I honestly don’t know if it still goes on but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does. Then again, they’ve abated most of the eyesores, crack houses, 1920’s apartments, dumps, flop houses, and the like.

    Lake Elsinore was once a resort that rivaled Palm Springs, but after the hey day was over, it became a dumping ground for parolees from state prison, businesses closed, the railroad shut down, people moved off to greener pastures, the property values plummeted, and the riff raff from other places settled in because it was cheap (think druggies and welfare queens). When I-15 went through to San Diego in the late 1970’s it suddenly wasn’t in the middle of nowhere any more. In the 1980’s they began to clean the place up. The bulldozer was one method.

    Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about Lake Smell-some-more.

  146. “Open space in the kitchen(s) and bath(s) counts towards the open space requirement. I am open to alternatives.”

    Do we count kitchen counter space as open space or sleeping space? We are, after all, dealing with polygamists here.

  147. Do we count kitchen counter space as open space or sleeping space? We are, after all, dealing with polygamists here.

    Abandon your cheesy adolescent sex fantasies, wayne. These are some dull people. How do I know this? Consider the amount of time the average man has sex with his girlfriend, compared to the amount of time he has sex with her after she becomes his wife.

    Huge decrease, right?

    Now multiply that sex decrease by two or three or four.

  148. TWC,

    Interesting… Thanks.

    Actually, pretty much all building departments state that anything built without a permit is subject to demolition, so I suppose this bulldozing thing could happen anywhere.

  149. Ooh. Pun. we’re in the sh!t now.

    Provided we spell ‘Helen’ with one ‘L’ to avoid offending Greeks, It might work.

  150. “Abandon your cheesy adolescent sex fantasies, wayne. These are some dull people. How do I know this? Consider the amount of time the average man has sex with his girlfriend, compared to the amount of time he has sex with her after she becomes his wife.

    Huge decrease, right?

    Now multiply that sex decrease by two or three or four.”

    Jennifer, you are ruining my high, man. You are right though. We should probably not allow polygamy in the first, you know, for the children.

    My cheesy sex fantasies are all that get me through many days at work. I wonder what Helen Weight would look like…

  151. Wayne, counter sapce counts. All those people will be too busy eating to use them for anything else. Plus the health and fire hazards of having mattresses next to a stove and food prep area. Need to be practical here.

    Jennifer, a good point. Which is why I always wondered why conservatives are so opposed to gay marriage. It’s bound to decrease the frequency of gay sex. Sounds like a plus for the fundies.

  152. “Which is why I always wondered why conservatives are so opposed to gay marriage. It’s bound to decrease the frequency of gay sex. Sounds like a plus for the fundies.”

    Very funny!

    I have to run now. It has been great fun rewriting the Honduran-bashing Manassas zoning laws with you all.

    Happy new year to all of you.

  153. Why not leave a loaded rifle on your front lawn? Only trespassers could hurt themselves.

    If my front lawn had a gate I’d leave it. Of course, the rife would be loaded with safety shot and mounted in such a way that anybody trying to tamper with it ended up severely injured, but that’s just evolution at work.

    Kids get into things; ergo, you have a responsibility to secure your property.

    Which is exactly why my yard will be full of pit traps, that’ll teach the damn kids to stay off my lawn.

  154. me too. I have bread waiting to put in the oven. Bricks are hot.

  155. Consider the amount of time the average man has sex with his girlfriend, compared to the amount of time he has sex with her after she becomes his wife.

    My father once opined that if you put a mark on the wall every time you had sex with your wife during the first year of marriage it would take you 19 more years to erase them all if you erased one every time you had sex with your wife during the following 19 years.

    This is probably why Oscar Wilde insisted that monogamy and bigamy each meant that there was one spouse too many.

  156. The law may not be flawless but anyone living next to a townhouse rented to a collage of trash and criminals will be glad to see a first step in the right direction

  157. I should call my dead Grandmother and tell her that she was violating future zoning laws aimed at a different race of future immigrants.

  158. Jennifer,

    “I wouldn’t leave such a thing on my front lawn, but I’d feel no guilt about keeping one in the backyard.”

    Why not? And why? What’s the difference? Please, go on.

  159. TWC, I’m not questioning your veracity. I’m sure quite a few buildings have been demolished as threats to health and safety. That happens in every city.

    But those stories about people being kicked out of buildings is sufficiently outrageous to make me think that either you’re a little confused, or the city is way over the line.

  160. “I wouldn’t leave such a thing on my front lawn, but I’d feel no guilt about keeping one in the backyard.” Why not? And why? What’s the difference? Please, go on.

    Because traipsing through the front yard isn’t hard-core trespassing (especially in areas where the sidewalks are narrow and the road really is too dangerous for pedestrians), whereas going through my backyard is.

    I would also have no qualms about leaving a big bowl of tasty antifreeze outside, if some dog kept pooping in my yard.

  161. “I would also have no qualms about leaving a big bowl of tasty antifreeze outside, if some dog kept pooping in my yard.”

    Comment by: Jennifer at December 31, 2005 06:15 PM

    Hell, Honey! He’s just trying to let the miserable bitch who lives there know that he’s available!

  162. He’s just trying to let the miserable bitch who lives there know that he’s available!

    Good one, Fido. But the antifreeze remains.

  163. Jennifer,

    Apparently you are not really against torture after all. Here’s hoping that you suffer a slow, painful death when you go. Maybe something like antifreez poisoning, or perhaps another kidney stone or something. Once southern white trash, always white trash. Toodles!

  164. Now, now, Fido. Surely you can do better than that.

  165. Jennifer,

    “Because traipsing through the front yard isn’t hard-core trespassing (especially in areas where the sidewalks are narrow and the road really is too dangerous for pedestrians), whereas going through my backyard is.”

    I like this “hardcore trespassing” idea. It recognizes that there are practical differences in zones of privacy in our society, that go beyond the simplistic “ownership” pushed by the libertoids.

    It is a similar distinction that I was trying to get at in the thread about paving your front yard. A front yard is “semi-public” is practice, even if it is on the “private” side of the “public property/private property” divide in a legal sense.

    In short, I agree wholeheartedly that the law should demonstrate increasing degrees of deference to private choice as space moves from semi-public (front yard) to semi-private (front porch, unfenced back yard) to entirely private (interior of the house, fenced back yard).

  166. Works for me, Joe. Likewise, I think there’s a difference between, say, keeping rusted-out junk in the front yard (which can irritate the neighbors) versus the back yard (in which case it is nobody’s business but my own).

    So if a kid gets tetanus because he scraped his leg against some rusted-out thing I left near my sidewalk, that is partially my fault. But if he gets tetanus because of something rusty in the backyard, that is entirely HIS fault.

  167. One more thing, Joe: in a case where kids regularly walk across my front lawn because their only alternative is walking in the road, God help any urban planner who gets on my ass because there’s a grassless dirt path worn across the front of my yard.

    And in seriousness, I think your example of a paved front yard doesn’t apply, because that is a matter of taste. Leaving rusty junk in my front yard is an actual health hazard, whereas the issue of green lawn vs. dandelions vs. pavement is purely a matter of opinion. I don’t mind being forced to adhere to a certain level of conformity for health reasons, but subjective matters of personal taste are an entirely different game.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.