In Soviet Los Angeles, Housing Affordables You!

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When I used to write editorials for the L.A. Times about the city's buttinskyite approach to property rights in the name of preserving "affordable housing," I went to extraordinary lengths to ask each and every relevant local official and activist I met the same question: How many affordable housing units—however you care to define the term—exist right now?

The answer was as you'd expect: They really, truly, have no idea; not even when you break it down into categories like rental units. No one keeps track of the numbers. Still! Must do something!

This week, by unanimous votes, we get the L.A. City Council's solution to the affordable housing crisis: Prevent owners of fleabag residency hotels from upgrading their properties into higher-priced condos and lofts; and prohibit home-owners from increasing the size of their houses to any more than one-half the size of their property. After all, if owners are free to buy, sell, and expand on their properties as they see fit, then how in the heck will we get more housing stock built in Los Angeles?

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  1. Matt,

    No fair beating EVERYBODY to the Yakov Smirnoff joke!

    H&R has traditions and they do not stomp all over you!

  2. How the hell does housing “affordable” anything? “Affordable” isn’t even a verb.

  3. Damn html… Let me try that again:

    <Yakov Smirnoff ignorance>

    How the hell does housing “affordable” anything? “Affordable” isn’t even a verb.

    </Yakov Smirnoff ignorance>

  4. ClubMedSux,

    Calvin of “Calvin & Hobbes” fame begs to differ 🙂

    http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/humor/calvin.html

  5. “how in the heck will we get more housing stock built in Los Angeles?”

    Tear down city hall and put up an apartment building?

  6. Meh, verbing words has almost no impact on the language.

  7. If they really wanted affordable housing, they’d simply raise the income tax rate to 100%. Then nobody would want to live there. Housing would be cheap Cheap CHEAP!

    And at least that’s more Constitutional than these backdoor takings.

  8. Soooooo . . . LA’s answer to keeping housing “affordable” is basically to stagnate improvements to any housing? Sucks to be a homeowner in that city.

  9. HUGE pet peeve issue of mine. IMO City and county governments should be the more economically in tune than state or federal governments since the parts of the economy they regulate are on-the-ground localized sectors.
    Instead, they are all ignorant. Here in California, planning commissions all over are constantly raising development fees and taxes while at the same time bitching about affordable housing. As if increasing the cost of doing business to astronomical levels will help the market provide cheaper product! The city of San Francisco has been debating whether or not to impose a moratorium on new market-rate housing projects in response to complaints about housing being to expensive. They are going to cut off supply in order to bring prices down! the ignorance is astounding.

  10. If they really wanted affordable housing, they’d simply raise the income tax rate to 100%. Then nobody would want to live there. Housing would be cheap Cheap CHEAP!

    And at least that’s more Constitutional than these backdoor takings.

    You make an excellent point MP. However, history teaches us that at that rate, people would still live there, but nobody would have any income to tax.

  11. Wilshire Bl. from Miracle Mile to about the Mid-City area is booming with new developments, and in my opinion is the next hot area. Already LA blogosphere is twittering about how awful it is that the character of the area is besmirched by these “Faux-art-deco” monstrosities. I’ve seen the plans, and the buildings that do look art deco are hardly such, but more streamline, and even if they are postmodern to that effect, the better, as if I see another futurist/bauhaus sustainable-green building, I’ll puke. Regardless, the old 1960 Masonic Temple near Hancock Park is now for sale. Since it has sculptures by Albert Stewart on the exterior, they’ll probably keep it intact. I think it would make a bitchin’ nightclub! Anyone who’s seen that place knows I’m right. And it has great parking.

  12. I hate zoning laws. I blame them for sprawl, the high cost of housing, pollution, traffic, and a whole host of other things. If I own a piece of property, I should be able to build whatever I want to and use it for whatever purpose I feel like it. The only restrictions I am in favor of are for legitimate health and safety reasons (the building has to meet fire codes; don’t build a lead smelter next to a kindergarten).

  13. Stupid.

    There isn’t a shortage of low-cost houses in Los Angeles because people have been making their houses larger. There’s a shortage of housing in Los Angeles because there haven’t been enough housing units built.

    What’s interesting is that the problem is not a shortage of HOUSES being built – if anything, there is an oversupply of free-standing, single family homes. This situation is masked, however, by the fact that there is an even greater shortage of the types of housing the zoning forbids – apartments, condos, townhouses, you know, affordable housing – which causes people who would have chosen those other types of housing to be compelled to buy houses they can’t afford instead.

    Which then reduces the supply of entry-level housing, driving those people into the next tier of housing, reducing the supply of those units for their natural buyers and forcing them in to the next tier, and on and on.

    Added to this is the fact that the heavily-restricted housing is that which, because it uses land and building materials so much more efficiently, is naturally more affordable. Not only are you forcing someone to buy/rent 1800 square feet of building instead of 900, but you’re also forcing them to pay for 10,000 square feet of land instead of 600, 4000, or even (in the cast of urban apartment buildings) 1000. And on top of that, you’re forcing them to pay for four walls of siding instead of 1/2 of one wall (per unit), an entire boiler instead of a portion of a boiler, etc.

    The problem is the zoning laws that restrict the supply of the lowest-cost housing – but there’s your sprawl ideology for you. Multi-family houses promote crack addiction and socialism, or something.

  14. Sounds like a rule in direct violation of California’s green-house emissions targets.

  15. Think of it like this: if you limit what you can do with the land, the land itself is devalued! It’s ingenious!!!!! Bravo, Los Angeles. You’ve always been on the ball with affordable housing plans. It only costs four times more to live in L.A. than Houston.* Talk about bang for the buck!

    * BSed statistics, but they’re probably pretty close to the truth.

  16. joe, are you sick? Do you have a fever?

  17. No, Daniel. I’ve been saying this for years.

    Opposition to snob zoning has been a defining plank in the liberal platform for, oh, about thirty to forty years now.

  18. But what about those nasty evil businessmen who will exploit the land and crowd all of the people together?

    And why the hell does Texas have very little zoning and places like Oregon and California and New Jersey have a lot of zoning laws?

    Controlling how society “should” run sounds pretty liberal/neocon. I’m glad you’re correct on the issue, though!

  19. Opposition to snob zoning has been a defining plank in the liberal platform for, oh, about thirty to forty years now.

    You’ve personally been consistent about it. And I wouldn’t doubt that’s true also of all your friends in the planning field. But it’s a big stretch to say that’s a defining plank of the liberal platform. Open space zoning, which is securely bound to the concept of snob zoning, is tightly embraced by the “liberal platform”.

    You didn’t touch on the fleabag motel angle, which was also part of this story. Does upconversion of existing real estate fit into your planning utopia (assuming the upconversion keeps or increases the number of units)?

  20. Sounds like a rule in direct violation of California’s green-house emissions targets.

    Reality is a rule in direct violation of California’s green-house emissions targets.

  21. Affordable housing crisis?

    You would think with propoerty values dropping, housing would become more affordable.

  22. The city of San Francisco has been debating whether or not to impose a moratorium on new market-rate housing projects in response to complaints about housing being to expensive. They are going to cut off supply in order to bring prices down! the ignorance is astounding.

    It seems that invincible ignorance on the subject of economics is a requirement for election to office in San Francisco.

  23. Daniel,

    But what about those nasty evil businessmen who will exploit the land and crowd all of the people together? The snobs hate them.

    And why the hell does Texas have very little zoning and places like Oregon and California and New Jersey have a lot of zoning laws?

    History. Lots of history. History that has very little to do with left and right.

    MP,

    Open space zoning, which is securely bound to the concept of snob zoning, is tightly embraced by the “liberal platform”. Not really. There are many different varieties of open-space zoning. For example, Transfer of Development Rights zoning – allowing landowners in one area to sell the development rights to their land, to keep in as open space, to developers who can then increase the density at which they build in another area, so you end with a traditional-scale neighborhood and a woodland, instead of two sprawling subdivisions.

    The relationship between open space protection and snob zoning is complicated. People in favor of the former looooooooove to hide behind the latter. But I’m standing pat on the statement that opposition to snob zoning as such – that is, opposition to zoning intended to price people out of an area – is definitional to liberalism these days. Sometimes people don’t understand the issues very well, and sometimes different imperatives collide, but neither of those observations sunders the ideological link between liberalism and pro-integration land use policies.

    Does upconversion of existing real estate fit into your planning utopia (assuming the upconversion keeps or increases the number of units)? Of course. Los Angeles is just trying to find work-arounds, because the straightforward answer (eliminating snob zoning or otherwise allowing for the construction of more and cheaper housing) dredges up all sort of other issues, and is very politically difficult.

    Michael E,

    You would think with propoerty values dropping, housing would become more affordable.

    You would think, but what we’re seeing is potential buyers becoming less afford-ing, if you catch my meaning, because of the evaporation of their equity and the loss of their jobs.

  24. I love it, the same politicians demanding government intervention to protect affordable housing are also the same ones demanding government intervention to prevent housing values from declining (and becoming affordable).

  25. The “eliminate snob zoning” solution overlaps with the “eliminate zoning” solution. Tbe nifty thing is that with the former, there are still some government planning jobs.

    Snob zoners and other zoners share a larger philosophy. Maybe it’s not liberalism, but it’s something.

  26. Matt,

    Shocker, joe thinks you are stupid for saying the same things about LA that Dr. Thomas Sowell has been saying about SF since you and his son were in grade school.

    Take it as a rite of passage 🙂

  27. Usually blog headlines are stupid, but this one was hilarious. Well done.

  28. So, Guy, did they buy you all pizza when the filmed Gigli at your school?

    I was AGREEING with Matt, dumbass.

    Apparently, you don’t hear “Yes” enough to recognize it.

  29. MP | May 7, 2008, 5:14pm | #

    If they really wanted affordable housing, they’d simply raise the income tax rate to 100%. Then nobody would want to live there. Housing would be cheap Cheap CHEAP!

    And at least that’s more Constitutional than these backdoor takings.

    Don’t give them ideas.

  30. You know when you hear “back-door takings” that Guy Montag will show up eventually.

  31. If they really wanted affordable housing, they’d simply raise the income tax rate to 100%. Then nobody would want to live there. Housing would be cheap Cheap CHEAP!

    And at least that’s more Constitutional than these backdoor takings.

    As a bonus, they could arrest & jail all the tax evaders. Maybe they could even have a few no-knock police raids.

  32. “I hate zoning laws. I blame them for sprawl, the high cost of housing, pollution, traffic, and a whole host of other things. If I own a piece of property, I should be able to build whatever I want to and use it for whatever purpose I feel like it. The only restrictions I am in favor of are for legitimate health and safety reasons (the building has to meet fire codes; don’t build a lead smelter next to a kindergarten).”

    Actually: you don’t even need those restrictions. All you have to do is demand that property owners buy third party insurance. This way, the insurance company gives the property owner a list of dos and do-nots which keeps the surroundings safe and rationalizes safety regulations: The property-owners is free to reject the suggestions of the Insurance company and pay higher premiums. Also, the cost of inspections is bourne by the insurance company.

  33. Opposition to snob zoning has been a defining plank in the liberal platform for, oh, about thirty to forty years now.

    Joe’s rewriting of history is verging on Orwellian.

    Anyway, if you are so opposed to zoning joe, then why are you not opposed to zoning?

  34. If they really wanted affordable housing, they’d simply raise the income tax rate to 100%. Then nobody would want to live there. Housing would be cheap Cheap CHEAP!

    In the urban growth area where I live (a uga is where you are allowed to have urban density…you would think that would be in the city but no it is in the county but the city regulates it…that is right i can’t vote for the people who control the zoning and land use regulations of where i live) the city hired a smart growth firm from San Fransisco to look in on the affordability problem…the firm correctly identified the problem that the high prices were due to a lack of supply…their solution was to raise taxes in two different areas, price controls, and to divert money away from infrastructure improvements into hiring more planners.

  35. “…their solution was to raise taxes in two different areas, price controls, and to divert money away from infrastructure improvements into hiring more planners.”

    The planning firm or the city’s solution?

  36. Opposition to snob zoning has been a defining plank in the liberal platform for, oh, about thirty to forty years now.

    Oh, c’mon. Its “occasionally mentioned”, at most. And many other parts of the “liberal platform” drive up the cost of housing, so liberals aren’t exactly expanding the supply of cheap housing.

    Although your first post was excellent, joe.

  37. Joshua corning, whom no on will accuse of being part of an intellectual elite, asks Anyway, if you are so opposed to zoning joe, then why are you not opposed to zoning?

    Because I’m not opposed to zoning as a whole, just to bad zoning.

    Sort of like I’m not opposed to the all war, but I’m opposed the Iraq war.

    This is one of those remarkably easy questions that you have to really try not to get.

  38. RC,

    It is “occasionally mentioned” in national politics because it isn’t really a national issue.

    If you look at state-level and local politics, there is a lot of action on that front.

    And many other parts of the “liberal platform” drive up the cost of housing, so liberals aren’t exactly expanding the supply of cheap housing. Sort of like many parts of the conservative platform have driven up the rate of terrorism worldwide?

    Yes, there are competing interests and priorities that aren’t always reconciled well, and there are bad-faith appeals to liberal ideals that are used to stifle other liberal goals. Those things don’t really tell us much about what liberals believe.

  39. Opposition to snob zoning has been a defining plank in the liberal platform for, oh, about thirty to forty years now.

    I know what Joe is going for here, but this is conflating two different types of zoning dispute into a single issue in a somewhat confusing way.

    Liberals do in fact oppose “snob zoning” in areas that are wealthy and dominated by single-family homes, because they see that zoning as exclusionary. So they oppose zoning ordinances that require 2 acre lots or things like that.

    But they certainly do not oppose the zoning power itself, nor the use of that power for assertions of “community development imperatives” that have nothing to do with the health or safety of the public and everything to do with the preferences of individual planners. And they certainly do not oppose the extraordinarily fine level of control created by the zoning, planning and permitting requirements of areas that liberals politically control, like our urban areas.

    When you hear Joe say that he doesn’t like a particular bit of zoning, don’t mishear him and think that he’s saying he agrees with you on the question generally. What he means is that he doesn’t like the zoning decisions of guys not named Joe.

    But what liberals [and Joe] don’t realize, I’m afraid, is that the zoning power will always be used to the benefit of the dominant political faction of an area, so holding the position “I like the zoning power, but I don’t like what rich communities do with it,” or “I like the zoning power, but I think previous generations of planners made really bad decisions,” is really no position at all. It could not have turned out any other way once the power[s] were in place.

    No offense, Joe.

  40. Because I’m not opposed to zoning as a whole, just to bad zoning.

    Oops, didn’t read the whole thread. Joe basically made a good part of my previous post unnecessary with this statement.

    The problem with this statement, Joe, is that when you deliver this power into the hands of local community leaders, you have to accept that they will probably use it.

    And how exactly do you think the leaders of a community of wealthy people living in single-family homes on large lots – most of whom moved there because they don’t like poor or brown people – are going to use that power?

  41. Think of it this way:

    If I said that I favored allowing individual police officers to assess the guilt or innocence of suspects and to impose punishment on the spot like something out of Judge Dredd, people would probably say, “This summary punishment policy is a terrible idea, think of all the innocent people that would get hurt, think of the way the power would go to cops’ heads!” Etc.

    Would it really make sense for me to answer, “Well, I’m opposed to those bad uses of my summary punishment power. I only support the good uses of the summary punishment power”?

  42. and everything to do with the preferences of individual planners

    Anybody with a passing familiarity with the planning professions would laugh out loud at that statement.

    Urban planning is the area of government that incorporates the MOST public participation in setting policy. Have you ever heard of a public design workshop to set a city budget? To decide who will build a fighter jet? Have you ever heard of ANY aspect of government, other than community planning, that makes frequent use of public events to establish goals, objectives, and recommendations, or to get feedback on proposals, other than urban planning?

    That is just a silly statement, Fluffy, that tells us a great deal more about your political ideology than the subject of the thread.

  43. The problem with this statement, Joe, is that when you deliver this power into the hands of local community leaders, you have to accept that they will probably use it.

    Fluffy writes this as if he’s informing me about somethinig.

    Dude, do you have any real-world knowledge at all about urban planning?

    Let me fill you in on something: I earned a masters degree in the field, and literally half of the courses I took revolved around exactly the issue of “Who plans?”

    What you just wrote amounts the first sentence out of the mouth of the lecturer on the first day of the undergraduate Planning 101 course. The thinking on this subject within the field of urban planning is as far beyond your observation, as the research being conducted in supercolliders is beyond Momentum = Mass X Velocity.

  44. Actually: you don’t even need those restrictions. All you have to do is demand that property owners buy third party insurance. This way, the insurance company gives the property owner a list of dos and do-nots which keeps the surroundings safe and rationalizes safety regulations: The property-owners is free to reject the suggestions of the Insurance company and pay higher premiums. Also, the cost of inspections is bourne by the insurance company.

    Well, that’s one of the shittiest ideas I’ve heard lately. Force me to buy a service I may not need or want and then insist that I meet the terms of the service provider with respect to the use of my property. I think I’ll pass on that idea, thanks. Zoning may be screwed, but its a better idea than this.

  45. Anybody with a passing familiarity with the planning professions would laugh out loud at that statement.

    OK, that’s fair.

    You, joe, the individual planner guy with an office and a desk, may not achieve each of your personal preferences. So it was silly to personalize it like that.

    But zoning codes absolutely, positively reflect someone’s arbitrary preferences vastly more than they reflect any actual attempt to protect the health and safety of the citizenry.

    The case for zoning is almost always made with the example of trying to separate toxic industries from residential areas to protect the health of citizens. But that sort of restriction represents a tiny, tiny fraction of modern zoning, which more and more is represented by codes to try to control the size of signage of fast food restaurants and similar non-safety-related trivia. And those non-safety-related items represent the imposition of arbitrary preference by those persons who manage to gain control of the planning and zoning process. Period.

  46. But zoning codes absolutely, positively reflect someone’s arbitrary preferences vastly more than they reflect any actual attempt to protect the health and safety of the citizenry.

    False dichotomy. That you do not share certain values doen not make arbitrary, trivial, or even mere preferences.

  47. joe,

    The problem is the zoning laws that restrict the supply of the lowest-cost housing – but there’s your sprawl ideology for you. Multi-family houses promote crack addiction and socialism, or something.

    You do realize, that unlike you, nearly everyone else here favors getting rid of those zoning laws (I realize you dont want to keep them as is, but the power to zone is the power to zone poorly)?

  48. Everyone beat me to my point. Oh well. I have thrashed this out with joe enough times anyway.

    We are right, he is wrong.

    The power to zone corrupts. The power to snob zone corrupts snobbily.

  49. Yes, robc, believe it or not, after seven years, I think I’ve figured out a thing or two about the beliefs of libertarians.

    Hold onto your hat: not every comment I write is an attempt to pick a fight. Sometimes, I’m agreeing with the blogger.

    Whoa!

  50. False dichotomy. That you do not share certain values doen not make arbitrary, trivial, or even mere preferences.

    That’s fine, but if all decisions are self-validating then I don’t want to hear your complaints about “snob zoning”.

    You have no basis to complain. Essentially, if your quote here is true, there is no such thing as bad zoning and no way for an observer to declare a particular form of zoning bad, because whatever evaluation you make is meaningless since it just represents a failure to “share values”.

    This effectively neuters your statement that you like zoning, just not bad zoning. You’re creating a false dichotomy because you don’t share the values of the people who make different zoning judgments than you.

    Let me fill you in on something: I earned a masters degree in the field, and literally half of the courses I took revolved around exactly the issue of “Who plans?”

    What you just wrote amounts the first sentence out of the mouth of the lecturer on the first day of the undergraduate Planning 101 course. The thinking on this subject within the field of urban planning is as far beyond your observation, as the research being conducted in supercolliders is beyond Momentum = Mass X Velocity.

    That’s very nice, but doesn’t actually address the substance of my criticism.

    If I state that zoning is likely to end up expressing the preferences of the politically powerful in a given area, it simply is not responsive to say, “Yeah, that teach us that on the first day of planning class.” Apparently they don’t teach it very well, because you went right ahead and became a planner despite the lack of an answer to that dilemma.

    If brilliant advances are being made in this area, to come up with brilliant ways to overcome this “existential problem” for zoning, those advances don’t seem to have any practical impact on the process. The same planning errors [if we’re allowed to call them errors, since it’s all just a value question anyway] that you say you don’t like not only continue to happen, they happen even more than they used to, over a wider area, at an accelerating rate.

  51. joe: [i]Urban planning is the area of government that incorporates the MOST public participation in setting policy. Have you ever heard of a public design workshop to set a city budget? To decide who will build a fighter jet? Have you ever heard of ANY aspect of government, other than community planning, that makes frequent use of public events to establish goals, objectives, and recommendations, or to get feedback on proposals, other than urban planning?[/i]

    Well, have you heard of elections? Election campaigns? City, County, etc. board meetings? Coffee klatches? I could go on.

    Local government, when it functions well (which may be rare these days), is far, far more participatory than the best urban planning sessions; real decisions get made, as opposed to urban planning sessions which can be useful but it almost all cases tend to be advisory or consultative.

  52. I was AGREEING with Matt, dumbass.

    Yea, the phrasing below had me all confused. Stupid is, apparently, the new “Yes, I agree” in Leftieland.

    joe | May 7, 2008, 6:11pm | #

    Stupid. . . .

  53. That’s fine, but if all decisions are self-validating then I don’t want to hear your complaints about “snob zoning”.

    Man, whoever said that “all decision are self-validating” is, like, totally pwned!

    There are concerns that fall in between mere prefences and feelings on the one hand, and immediate threats to health and safety on the other.

    Guy,

    “Stupid,” as someone with at leat a dull-normal intelligence could have figured out from the rest of what I wrote, referred to the Los Angeles City Council’s actions. See, the way I wrote several paragraphs explaining why their actions were stupid should have beern the tip-off.

    So, did you and your buddies get to meet Ben Afflek, or did the Gigle production crew keep the extras away from the talent?

    John in Michigan,

    Elections allow the public to vote up or down, pick this one or that one. Public participation in a planning process, on the other hand, goes well beyond this, into involving members of the public and stakeholders in deciding not just yes or no, not just among alternatives presented to them, not just determining what the alternatives put up for a vote will be, not even just in deciding how different alternatives will meet a set of goals and objectives, but in determining what the design criteria will actually be, what the alternatives being produced should strive to achieve.

    Modern public participation theory in the planning field is, in fact, a reaction to the “put what the planners and politicians decided to a vote” process of the urban renewal period. That process is ok for picking who will fill government offices, but the public needs to be involved at a much earlier stage, and have much more substantive impact in, the planning process.

  54. John in Michigan,

    You might find this interesting. It was a text in several of the graduate courses I took for my degree.

    http://lithgow-schmidt.dk/sherry-arnstein/ladder-of-citizen-participation.html

  55. You know, that could very well be the first time in history that “interesting” and “texts from a graduate planning course” have been used in the same paragraph.

  56. Man, whoever said that “all decision are self-validating” is, like, totally pwned!

    There are concerns that fall in between mere prefences and feelings on the one hand, and immediate threats to health and safety on the other.

    Examples.

  57. Nope.

    Try again.

    Try not to quote something that uses the phrase “mere preferences and feelings,” because it totally refutes your point.

  58. Whoops, my bad.

    Apologies, Fluffy, I totally misread that.

    Example: limiting the size of street-fronting parking lots and putting storefronts near the sidewalk make it possible for commercial areas to be accessible to both pedestrians and drivers, allowing those who cannot drive to have greater independence in meeting their commercial needs.

    I suppose you could call “being able to buy groceries by yourself instead of relying on someone to drive you to the supermarket” a preference, but it’s a bit of a stretch.

  59. joe,

    While a storefront is clearly more convenient to the pedestrian, if you have already walked to the store, walking across a parking lot aint exactly difficult. So, yeah, it could be called a preference.

    If you live in the neighborhood behind the store, for example, and the parking lot is in back instead of front (so that entrance is on storefront), it might actually be a longer walk to the store. Im just thinking of a specific example from the neighborhood I grew up in. The parking lot in front of the store shortened my walking distance.

    The storefront stores look nicer, but I think that most definately falls into the preference category.

  60. robc,

    In practice, when a store is built a football field off the street, behind a big old sea of asphalt, it not only makes that store harder to get to, but it wrecks the entire commercial district as a location for pedestrian-oriented retail. In addition to making it just plain more difficult and unpleasant to get to that store on foot, you end up with one of those commercial strips where you’re talking your life in your hands if you try to walk there.

    If you want to talk on the level of “no one put a gun to your head,” then fine, it remains physically possible to do so, but you’re ignoring a whole lot of reality between the implication of the word “preference” and what is physically impossible.

    Planners, designing for actual human beings, tend not to think that way.

    If you live in the neighborhood behind the store, for example, and the parking lot is in back instead of front (so that entrance is on storefront), it might actually be a longer walk to the store. There are a million possible variations on design choices and their implications; coming up with an exception to a generality isn’t terribly difficult, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the point.

  61. joe, are you really saying that the failure to reconcile competing interests and priorities that well, and the bad-faith appeals to liberal ideals that are used to stifle other liberal goals, don’t really tell us much about what liberals believe?

    If we can’t rely on what liberals say, because what they say is contradictory and could well be a bad faith appeal to their alleged ideals, and we can’t rely on what they do, because they can’t reconcile priorities or keep from throwing their goals overboard every time some smooth talker comes along, just how are we supposed to figure out what liberals are all about?

  62. joe,

    In practice, when a store is built a football field off the street, behind a big old sea of asphalt, it not only makes that store harder to get to, but it wrecks the entire commercial district as a location for pedestrian-oriented retail. In addition to making it just plain more difficult and unpleasant to get to that store on foot

    I agree with that, but it brings up a few things:

    1. If I have to walk a mile to get to even get to the start of a commercial-district, my pedestrian options are already limited.

    2. (and I know we disagree on this one, but Im going to to state it anyway) It isnt the responsibility of Business A to worry about the pedestrian-orientedness of the rest of the commercial district. They may choose to do so, especially if it helps there business out, but if they shouldnt be required to.

    Both of these point to eliminating zoning. The concept of commercial districts is part of the problem.

  63. joe,

    coming up with an exception to a generality isn’t terribly difficult, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the point.

    It was just the first thing that popped into my head. Anecdotal evidence is worth not much, but it is interesting that the primary store-attending-via-foot experiences of my life were a counterexample.

    Currently, I have a restaurant I walk to from my house. It more fits your idea. Heck, it would improve the pedestrian experience if the major road I have to walk along to get to it had a sidewalk.

  64. Why the hell can’t we ever have an agreeable thread?

    I write a comment in agreement with the post, expand on the subject, and the response is to cast about to find some tangential topic to talk about instead, just to make sure that the thread turns into an argument, instead of a more in-depth discussion of the issue we all agree on?

    Is it that horrible to have people who aren’t TRUE LIBERTARIANS agree with you, that your first reaction to being agreed with is to figure out a way to start a fight?

  65. joe,

    check out yesterday’s arkansas no-knock thread. I think (with a minor troll later) everyone was in agreement.

  66. Apparently, until someone without a decoder ring shows up, this law, its effects, its motivations, and its wrong-headedness were perfectly fine subjects of conversation.

    And if I’d posted under the name “Libertarian Louie,” and written exactly the same comment, that would have continued to be the subject of the thread.

    Sick behavior.

  67. Also, “politicians are stupid, they dont understand basic economics” threads dont last but about 8 posts.

  68. Looking back through the thread, there’s actually an answer to my question:

    Fucking corning. He never contributes anything to any of the threads. I don’t think he’s written a comment other than “joe you suck” in years.

  69. R C Dean,

    joe, are you really saying that the failure to reconcile competing interests and priorities that well, and the bad-faith appeals to liberal ideals that are used to stifle other liberal goals, don’t really tell us much about what liberals believe?

    Yes, in exactly the same way that we can look at farm-bill recipients who seize on libertarianish rhetoric about environmental regulations, and their eagerness for federal checks wouldn’t tell us much about what libertarians believe.

    People motivated by selfishness like to seize on principoled, noble-sounding arguments they don’t actually believe to advance their cause. You haven’t noticed this?

    If we can’t rely on what liberals say Shall I respond by calling the above farmer a libertarian?

    Get it?

  70. robc,

    Both of these point to eliminating zoning.

    Not unless you decided beforehand that you were going to set out to eliminate zoning, and were just seizing on arguments you don’t believe in to advance you cause.

    To the problem of commercial districts being too far away, there are many other answers than eliminatintg zoning; more commercial districts, allowing some commercial uses in residential districts, eliminating zoning districts but imposing form-based zoning on commercial uses being just three.

    Your second response isn’t even an argument about how to achieve the desired outcome, just an exhortation to the people being screwed to suck it up, because somebody with money decided that you don’t get to have a walkable commercial district. If that’s what you think, fine, but it’s not a reponse to the problem.

  71. joe,

    To the problem of commercial districts being too far away, there are many other answers than eliminatintg zoning; more commercial districts, allowing some commercial uses in residential districts, eliminating zoning districts but imposing form-based zoning on commercial uses being just three.

    While there may be other solutions, why not go for the easiest (and the most freedom oriented – you may not care about that, but I do)?

    Your second response isn’t even an argument about how to achieve the desired outcome

    Sure it is. The desired outcome is freedom.

    If that’s what you think, fine, but it’s not a reponse to the problem.

    What problem? If wal-mart wants to put one of their death trap parking lots (and, as far as I can tell, all wal-mart parking lots are death traps) in the middle of what was previously a pedestrian commercial zone, what is the problem? Its their property. And, yes, Im telling people to suck it up. Plus, you can just walk right past the wal-mart if you want to stay pedestrain-oriented.

  72. joe,

    check out the link to the ping pong story posted in the pirate flag thread. I think it applies to this thread to. I think we can all come to agreement on that one.

  73. And if I’d posted under the name “Libertarian Louie,” and written exactly the same comment, that would have continued to be the subject of the thread.

    C’mon joe, lighten up. We’re only hard on you because we care so much.

  74. robc,

    While there may be other solutions, why not go for the easiest

    It’s not the easiest, but is in fact, orders of magnitude more difficult than practical solutions.

    It throws the baby out with the bathwater.

    Sure it is. The desired outcome is freedom.

    Your desired outcome. Other people weigh different values differently.

    But to your point, yes, which is why I wrote, in response to your assertion that the problem I mentioned, Not unless you decided beforehand that you were going to set out to eliminate zoning, and were just seizing on arguments you don’t believe in to advance you cause.

    What problem? I already explained the problem.

    Plus, you can just walk right past the wal-mart if you want to stay pedestrain-oriented. No, you can’t, and I already explained this, too.

  75. You would think with propoerty values dropping, housing would become more affordable.

    When I said that, I was being completely sarcastic. The thing is that the roles of most land are usually predetermined without zoning. For example, businesses attract more business on major roads, and residents like to live peacefully on side streets. You don’t need zoning to make that happen.

  76. And then, since zoning laws are usually anti-congestion or set off land for certain uses, that just lowers the optimal supply of land in an area. You’d think because there’s so much (cheaper) land in other places that people could spread out, but that’s just not the case. People are just willing to pay a high price to live in certain areas, whether for relatives, the environment, really high paying jobs, etc.

  77. I write a comment in agreement with the post, expand on the subject, and the response is to cast about to find some tangential topic to talk about instead, just to make sure that the thread turns into an argument, instead of a more in-depth discussion of the issue we all agree on?

    People often say that I’m a pretty good troll.

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