Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How the dream came crashing down

The dream of suburbia has crashed hard in the last ten years or so.  Like anything, this did not happen overnight and really no one thing or person's fault.  The concept of suburbia has thrived in all sorts of places far and wide and outlived most of its critics.  So how and what happened.  Was just bad policy and politics, the economy, the real estate boom and bust, over planning, all of the above and more?  I think it's best to look at the history suburbs if we can begin to understand what happened to the dream and how it all came crashing down so horribly.

Grame Davison of Monash University in Australia chronicles a brief but complete history of the rise and fall of suburbia in the current issue of the Journal of Urban History.  Professor Davison focuses on England while drawing examples from the United States and Australia.  He follows suburbia from its ideological roots  in the Victorian era to its detractors in the present day.  The modern suburb began life in the early to mid-nineteenth century England.  By the 1830s, urban areas such as London and new industrial cities such as Manchester were beginning to stretch beyond  the boundaries of their cores.  One observer in 1843 commented that unlike Paris, which was a desert beyond the center, and Rome, a desert, London was laid out in concentric sub-communities.  Davison wrote that by 1850, London had six times the population of Vienna by twenty times the area.  A similar pattern was emerging in the United States and Australia.  In fact, by the close of the nineteenth century, Chicago, Illinois and Melbourne, Australia had smaller populations than London but covered as much land (Chicago) and more (Melbourne).

Professor Davison argued that it just was the pressure of population that encouraged this early form of sprawl.  There were other factors at play including, improved rail transit which made commuting inside and outside the center easier.  Davison also points to four major ideologies-in the fields of religion, science, the arts, and social life-were also critical sources of the shift:

1) Evangelicalism-the purity of the home was a central value in the Evangelical revival.  Cities were portrayed as sources of corruption, while the countryside was seen as a moral refuge
Just to go off on a tangent for a moment, we can see this in the Tea Party strain of the Republican Party.  Witness Paul Ryan.  Anyway back to the subject.
2) Sanitarianism-dovetailing on Evangelicalism, cleanliness was next to godliness.  Cities were rotted through with garbage, manure, and soot everywhere-breeding grounds for disease and corruption.  They suburbs were this clean hygienic places.  In the nineteenth century, this description of cities would have been accurate.
3) Romanticism-this is not a reference to love but to the aesthetic movement that promoted feeling over reason, nature over artifice, solitude over society, nostalgia over ambition.  Thus detached residences and private gardens were considered more beautiful than the cramped quarters in the city.  Again, if this were the nineteenth century, this would probably be true.
4) Class Segregation-as urban cores became places of industry and manufacture, suburban areas became places of retreat for the upper classes.  The suburbs served as a protective border between the upper and laboring classes.  This may account for the misconception of poverty and social ills are urban problems not suburban issues.

These ideologies resulted in avoidance ( the desire to get away from the vice and dirt of the cities) and attraction (the need to embrace virtue and cleanliness) behaviors which formed suburban culture.  With suburbia came its detractors.  Libertarians rejected the Evangelical strain, Socialists rejected class segregation, Artistic realism rejected Romanticism.  This sounds like the beginnings of modernism.  Improvements in medicine allied fears of disease.  Suburbia became an emblem of snobbery.  As I've said in a previous post, in an ironic twist, hipsters in Brooklyn, New York who swore they would never become their-suburban-living-minivan-driving-parents are moving to the suburbs to find more affordable housing.  Hey it could happen in YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD.  Hey mom check out the multiple pierced tatted up new neighbors next door.  The push back grew in the twentieth century as urban planners recognized that sprawl was wasteful and unsustainable-a type of environmental disease.  In the fifties and sixties, at the apex of America's migration to the suburbs, social critic and one-time suburban cheerleader Lewis Mumford chastised the burbs for clinging to its illusions.  Mumford felt that suburbanites were not only withdrawing from the cities but also shirking their civic duties.

In the interim, the original goals of suburbia-exclusivity and seclusion-have been undermined by its newfound affordability and popularity.  The promise of individuality became a mandate for conformity.  Think neighborhood associations, not be confused with Historic Preservation Overlay Zones, that can tell you what color to paint your house or how high your grass should be.  In short, in contemporary times, the idea of a suburb is more of a marketing tool than an ideal.  The day of the suburb is at an end.  Now its time for policy and politics to catch up.


Monday, March 25, 2013

More on Suburban Poverty

Today I want to continue on the subject of suburban poverty because it's a subject that has wide ranging impact.  I want to deal with one family's story in order to put a face on suburban poverty.  This story comes from a recent report on the "NBC Nightly News."  It concerns a single mom in the State of Connecticut who wanted a better life for her daughter only to end up struggling just to keep a roof over their heads.  Mother and daughter moved to the suburb of West Hartford in order to live in a nice, safe neighborhood with good schools.  At the time, the mother was financially secure but a period of unemployment and the inability to find a new job that paid well knocked from that perch into the ranks of the working poor.  Like many Americans, she's struggling against a weak economy.  In her words, "I'm basically paying to say I live in West Hartford...It is worth it."  Is it really?  At what price is the American Dream?

The Brookings Institute estimated that the number of suburban poor rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, about 16.4 million, according to an analysis of 95 of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.  This is more than double the rate of growth for urban poor in those areas.  Part of the problem is that poverty is still perceived as an urban or rural problem.  The hard truth is that  we have to acknowledge that it's rapidly becoming a suburban problem.  In this particular case, the fact is the mother is single, which complicates matters, because poverty and financial insecurity occurs at higher rates among single moms than dads or two-parent households.  Interesting, that single dads have a lesser rate of poverty and financial insecurity than single moms.  To go off on a Sheryl Sandberg "Lean In" tangent for a moment.  I would speculate that the reason is that women are given this mixed message from birth about having a career but must carry the burden of sacrificing upward mobility in the career for marriage and family.  The whole either having it all or sacrificing it all for marriage and family with no in between.  Oddly, single dads never have to make this choice.  Anyway back to the subject.  During the nineties, the rate of poverty among single mom improved dramatically thanks to a strong economy, more favorable tax breaks, the success of the welfare-to-work programs.  What killed was two recessions and years of high unemployment.

This story began with the mother moving from the State of Massachusetts to West Hartford eight years ago for a job at a local rug retailer.  The daughter made friends and took up lacrosse and is now in high school.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, West Hartford has a median household income of $80,061, more than double the median income for the City of Hartford which is $29,107. Yet the number of people in need of assistance has gone up rapidly.  According to Susan Huleatt, the Human Services Manager for West Hartford, about five years a mobile van began coming once a month to distribute fresh produce to people in need.  Now four vans come and more than 200 people line up for food.

The mother in the story accepts some of the blame for her situation.  She expected to work at the rug retailer until retirement but quit after disputes with one of the owners.  The mother went without unemployment or benefits for five months before obtaining work as a customer service representative.  Her take home pay and child support barely leave enough.  She is behind in the utilities bills, credit cards, and her daughter's lacrosse club.  The mother has sold jewelry for cash and taken out a payday loan.  The pair were forces to leave the house they were renting after she lost her job and roommate.  They were able to get one-time aid from the city to help with a down payment on a less expensive apartment.  Still, the rent takes up more than half of her monthly take home pay.  Unable to afford health insurance, she went on Medicaid.  Throughout this ordeal, the mother remains hopeful, continuing to applying for better paying jobs and hoping that a scholarship for her daughter to a someplace like the University of Florida will enable her to move to a warmer climate.

It's people like the mother in the story that put a face on what suburban poverty is like and will hopefully force a rethink of policy and politics.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Suburban Poverty

When we think of suburbia, one typical response is affluent.  However, a recent "New York Times" article dispels this idea.  Instead of pristine lawns and tidy house, blight has taken over.  This has resulted in boarded up windows, abandoned properties, and overgrown lots that have spread across the United States effecting, and still do, regions in Nevada, California, and Florida that experienced housing bubbles in the late nineties and early 2000s.  Why is this happening and what can be done about it?

The Brookings Institution reported that in 2008 the suburbs were home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the nation.  In the previous eight years, suburban areas near metropolitan areas saw poverty rates climb by 25 percent, nearly five times faster than cities.  Nationally, 55 percent of the poor living in the metropolitan regions lived in the suburbs.  Adding salt to the wound a new measure to calculate poverty, introduced by the United States Census Bureau in 2011 revealed that 51 million households had incomes of less than 50 percent above the official poverty line, nearly half were in the suburbs. (campaignstops.blog.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/the-new-suburban-poverty/ March 19, 2012)

So why is this happening?  Part of the reason is demographics.  More Americans live in the suburbs, consequently there are more poor people.  The economic downturn has had a major impact on the suburbs, with a decline in certain job categories and the end to the housing boom that drew Americans to the suburbs in the first place.  How does the growing rate of suburban poverty threaten the assumptions of suburban life?  The reality of the suburbia is that they have been historically more economically and culturally diverse than anyone would assume.  Given the soaring poverty rate, the image of a comfortable existence shakes the suburbanite identity to the core, threatening suburban politics and the nation's self-image.  The "keeping up with the Joneses" caricature that evoked materialism and consumption has given way to the new normal of making ends meet, with formerly middle-class families trying to figure out how to pay for utilities, shelter, food, and transportation.  These residents are increasingly turning to food pantries and social service offices for assistance, transforming there own sense of identity and that of the place they live.  It remains to been if the politics of suburban living change accordingly.

The soaring rates of suburban poverty herald a definite end to the Fordist of mass production and consumption, and its most globally recognized symbol, the average middle class family neatly ensconced in a suburban development.  In an ironic twist, this model was once considered a novelty.in America.  Public infrastructure built during the New Deal, World War II, and the Cold War transformed the built environment.  The construction of a national and regional highway system shortened commutes to the surrounding urban centers.  Developers leveraged cheap mass-building techniques, loans to returning veterans, and Federal Housing Authority programs to produce subdivisions from Levittown, to Anaheim, California.  Blue collar men and women could purchase homes with government backed low-interest mortgages that required no down payments.  This increased the number of American homeowners from 40 percent in 1940 to 62 percent by 1960.  The number of people living in the suburbs grew from 7 percent in 1910 to 32 percent by 1960.  By 1970, the Census Bureau declared that the United States had "become a nation of suburbs." (ibid)  By then, the population in suburban areas had surpassed that of the central cities and non-metropolitan areas.  This rapid growth, together with the population to the Sun Belt states in the last third of the twentieth century, had serious political implications.  It fostered a variation of conservative politics, building a base of middle-income voters who favored the Republican Party.

The American postwar identity was strongly rooted in the upward striving suburban utopia.  The truth was that this vision was never realized.  These communities have and always been socially and economically diverse, socially stratified, and places of fluid mobility.  During periods of economic expansion following World War II, poverty was seen as someone else's problem, perceived as an urban and racial issue.  In 1962 Michael Harrington argued in "The Other America" that poverty survived especially because it was largely invisible to most Americans. Harrington declared that "ours is, indeed, an affluent society."  Americans saw poverty on the "other side of the tracks" in fleeting glimpses from a train or care, part of the distant inner city. (ibid)

The idea that poverty is a problem suffered by someone less deserving people was an essential part of self-identity that was reflected in politics. I hope Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and all the other bloated Tea Party red elephants read this article and were paying attention.  Well off suburban schools and organizations contributed to the overall sense of family residential security, individual meritocracy and private life.  Of course, they conveniently forgot that if it weren't for federal programs, their lives would not be possible.  Out this emerged a status quo preservationists politics of Nimbyism (Not In My Backyard).  The California tax revolt that led to the passage of Proposition 13 was an expression of this, an effort to contain local and state spending considered parasitical to the suburban tax bas.  Of course, the end result was Proposition 13 crippled municipalities' abilities to raise property taxes and the state's capacity to raise income to finance essential public services.  Proposition 13 and its spawn won widespread support nationally because suburbanites self-identified as "job creators" not recipients of services.  Got that you RNC blow hards.  In 1980, Ronald Reagan rode this tide into the White House, launching an attack on the New Deal State.  Despite the many signs that the golden age of suburbia had passed, its political legacy was passed down to the Tea Party.

Can the rising tide of suburban poverty threaten the core assumptions of suburban life.  Gone is the day when suburbanites could shield themselves from the problems formerly associated with the inner city: poverty, social disorder, drugs and violence.  What does this mean for the suburban poor, the suburban municipalities, and nationally?  The basic level, poor people living in the suburbs are challenged in their efforts to gain access to services they need because the municipalities they live are either unaccustomed, hostile to providing them, or simply unable to do so.  Despite the thin safety nets, the suburbs are not well equipped to handle the rising need for social welfare services.  Local food pantries are stretched beyond their limit to meet the needs of the needs of the new poor.  The suburban poor also face geographic challenges of decentralized living.  Car ownership, an essential part of suburban living, has become costly in the face of weak suburban public transit networks.  Budget cutbacks often target public transit first, impeding access to jobs and other services.  Add to this the environmental challenges of heating and lighting spacious but energy inefficient homes.  There's a chance that suburbs facing the highest share of the new poverty will be the least able to meet the new demands because of economic recession and the spatial retreat of the more affluent.  Just as "white flight" in the 1960s left cities with declining tax revenues and fewer job opportunities, there is a new cycle of flight of the affluent from the central urban centers.  As they retreat, provisions for amenities and essentials such as sanitation and parks, heavily funded by property tax are destined to flounder for those remaining.A study conducted by Sean Reardon and Kendra Bischoff of Stanford University documented the spatial sorting by income that is occurring with the wealthy congregating in exurbs and gentrifying pockets of urban centers.  In 1970, only 15 percent of families in metropolitan areas lived in socio-economic segregated neighborhoods categorized as affluent or poor.  In 2007, that figure 31.7 percent.  Does the new poverty have the potential to loosen the suburbs' historic ties to the Republican Party with its on individualism?

With the 2012 Presidential election over and done with, will President Obama's proposal for tax increases on the wealthy translate into suburban support for increased public revenues and spending?  As the suburbs grapple with poverty in their midst public solutions will begin to have appeal in places where voters have historically trended fiscal conservatism.  In the recent election, suburban voters by and large voted Republican but the new suburban poverty may alter this.  A recent survey by the National Center for Suburban Studies found that 59 percent suburbanites, though suspicious of the President's performance and extremely dissatisfied with their personal economic circumstances, favor a tax increase on the wealth.  The new poverty could loosen the suburbs ties with the Republican Party and their emphasis on individualist solutions.  Gazing into the future, the growth in suburban poverty should raise the alarm that this way of life is over and it's time to rethink the politics of the past.  As President Obama's second term begins to take form, it will be interesting to see what happens.  The recent report issued by the CPAC, condemned the hard core conservative politics favored by the Tea Party wing and favored more socially responsible policies without compromising the core beliefs of the party.  Yet it remains to be seen what happens next.    

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Art as a Tool for Community Development

Art is a wonderful thing.  It can move us to emotion, educate us, provoke discussion, and prove that G-d does exist.  Who hasn't been moved by the sight of Natalia Makarova dancing "Swan Lake?"  However, can art become a way to develop communities?  Interesting prospect.  Before we go any further, let's define the word art as a broad category that includes, dance, music, architecture, graphic design, digital media, sculpture, writing, and so forth.  A growing trend in communities across the United States is the integration of art into community development efforts.  As a viable approach, the arts can serve as a catalyst for business incubators, cooperatives, and the development of tourist venues, just to name a few.  The efficacy of the arts as a basis community development depends programs that are flexible and creative as well as a strong base of support for the arts.

Art as a strategy for community development is gaining traction in the United States.  In the United Kingdom most communities consider the main importance of the arts as a jobs generator against the background of a tough economy.  In truth, support for the arts as a strategy for community development in the United States goes back to the 1890s with the City Beautiful Movement.  Daniel Burnham, the principle architect of the movement, and his cohorts were strong believers in the idea of integrating public arts into parks and other open spaces and beautiful architecture.  This approach to planning was quite popular for a time and when it ended so did its support until the resurgence of interest about one hundred years later.  The upside of this was that it made work for historic preservationist such as your truly.  This time the interest in the arts is focused on the recognition of its social and cultural impact on community.  Often conflated with the term "cultural resource," the arts' contribution to community development is modified in such a way that it becomes attractive to investors, cultural tourism development for increased services, and increases the capacity for internal development.  Commodifying culture as a supplement to traditional development activities has become the focus of many communities around the world.  For examples, the 1999 Culture Counts Conference organized by the World Bank and Italy in cooperation with the United Nations Economic, Scientific, and Culture Office intended to explore the links between cultural resource investment and economic growth.  It should be noted that the majority of the participants were from North America and Europe there were no representatives from the non-Western countries.

Too much commodification of art and culture can and does happen, leaving a community with no real social and cultural benefits.  Without the involvement of the specific community in the development process, communities may experience conflict between culture, community, and identity.  Essentially,  local development needs to be at the cultural level to facilitate participation and empowerment if the desired outcome is to be achieved.  This fits within the context of an arts-based community economic development approach because the arts can be considered a community asset.  A community asset can be defined as the gifts, skills, and abilities of individuals, associations, and institutions within the community.  In short, the arts build on the inherent assets of a community, and if the definition of community development as a planned efforts to build assets that improves the residents' quality of life, then an arts-based community development has a great deal of potential. Brilliant.

The arts, in context to community economic development can be defined as:

1) an industry comprised of individuals, institutions, and organizations functioning as businesses interrelated with other local and regional business; (a symbiotic relationship)
2)Wide-ranging to specific cultural amenities;
3) cultural education, tools, policies, and processes (support Arts Education in your local schools).

Some see the arts as a powerful catalyst for rebuilding all aspects of a community not just economically.  Who would've thought that a local historic landmark could be so powerful.  Think about for a second.  Look at Downtown Los Angeles as a case study.  Like Brooklyn, New York, the creative types needed an affordable alternative to housing in Los Angeles.  In the eighties, Downtown Los Angeles was not quite the place it is now.  There were a lot of empty run down older buildings, homeless and criminal element, cultural institutions such as museums and galleries did not exist.  This provided an appealing setting for painters, writers, photographers, and so forth to practice their craft while living on next to nothing.  Additionally, there was plenty of space to exhibit their work and share ideas.  Soon buyers and gallery owners began to filter into the area to check out the new talent.  Little by little, restaurants, retail spaces, and other amenities began to pop up.  Eventually developers caught on and overtime, Downtown Los Angeles grew into a more glamourous place.  To be sure, there are still parts of the area that very questionable but what we have here is a good case study of what happens when arts-based development becomes a catalyst for other things.  Perhaps, the impact of the arts at the community and regional level was stated best in this quote from Rural Action, Inc.,

The arts touch people on a personal, emotional level and have the power to rebuild the fabric of community where it has been torn apart by years of poverty and struggle.  the arts can construct bridges across barriers of class, race, gender and age.  The arts can interpret and celebrate the past, present and future of a community to replace despair and apathy with hope and creation. (Rural Action, Inc., 2001, p.7; http://cdj.oxfordjournal.org, 2004)

There are four types of approaches to how the arts are used for community economic development.  The first type is the Arts business incubator.  Here, incubator program are an economic development tool intended to foster a community's business development efforts.  This method includes shared administrative and other services, centralized space and business development assistance provided in the facility where new or young small businesses co-exist.  Almost half of the incubators are sponsored by the government and non-profit organizations with main directive being general economic development goals of job creation, economic diversification, and tax-base expansion.  Notice how I didn't mention corporations and wealthy individuals as "job creators."  Sorry I couldn't resist a dig at the Republican National Committee.  An arts incubator helps artisans develop much needed business acumen skills or puts them together in a cooperative situations or other organizational arrangements to provide the necessary skills.  Keeping costs low and providing support services combine to make it possible for artist entrepreneurs to start businesses.  Good idea because, honestly, the whole starving artist thing get really old really fast.  Arts incubator programs are emerging in a variety of context in major cities as well as smaller communities.

For example, in Sneedville, Tennessee The Jubilee Business Incubator is funded and operated by a community coalition of religious organizations, artisans, farming groups, and others.  This incubator program helps organize people in the area into a network of grass-roots community, youth, economic cooperative and small business groups.  The craftsmanship is part of the heritage of the mountain community and the Jubilee project is a way to preserve this heritage while addressing community needs.  In the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, The Entergy Arts Business Center focuses on helping local artisans learn the fundamental skills necessary to operate small businesses.  The Center's goal is to support the creation and development of arts-based businesses.  It is funded from a variety of sources and functions as a business incubator offering rental space and shared services to small art-based business start-ups.  The center also offers business-training programs to other artisans who are not incubator tenants, for a small fee, covering topics such as business and financial planning, marketing, and legal issues,  The Entergry Arts Business Center is considered a success because of its efforts to support business development.

A second type of arts-based community economic development is the Arts cooperative.  Cooperatives can be an effective method for encouraging arts-based business development.  Typically, a group of local or regional artisans from a non-profit organization to market and promote their work.  A portion of their revenues from sales pay shared market expenses.  One example is The Craftsman Guild of Mississippi.  This cooperative was formed in 1973 by a group of artisans interested in preserving and promoting the folk, traditional, and contemporary crafts of Mississippi.  The goal of the non-profit organization has been to set standards of excellence in arts and crafts.  By ensuring high standards, the Guild developed a reputation as one of the best arts cooperatives in the region and has impacted community development in a positive way.  Their first project was the establishment of the Mississippi Crafts Center on the historic Natchez Trace Parkway north of Jackson in a traditional log cabin.  The Guild constructed a second project near downtown Jackson, The Chimneyville Crafts Gallery, which includes a sales center, main offices, classrooms, and studios.  The Guild also conducts public service projects to promote the arts and community and holds several large festivals every year.  They also sponsor continuing education programs in addition to handling the sales and marketing of member's work

A third type of arts-based community economic development is the tourist venue.  Okay, Okay I heard that groaning, I did it myself.  The tourist venue, ugh.  Brings to mind the ridicules installation piece commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art "Levitated Mass" which received a lot of publicity touting to be THE MUST SEE ART EVENT OF 2012.  However, the arts-as-a-tourist-venue can be used for purposes of good.  While arts incubators, cooperatives, and comprehensive approaches may recognize tourism as a tool for economic development, this approach explicitly develops programs focusing on tourism.  Some communities use themselves as a palette for venues, painting murals on buildings or incorporating public art on a major scale.  Caution must be exercised so that this approach does not become over-commercialized and reduced to Disney-fying community.

One example is the town of Tifton, Georgia located in Southern Georgia's prime agricultural land.  Tifton used an approach of providing several venues to attract visitors to spend the day or more exploring the arts.  Two sites-the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage and the Georgia Agrirama to serve this purpose.  Also, a special program has been implemented in conjunction with the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, the Art Experiment Station.  The latter focuses on putting public art around downtown and in regional schools.  The realization that the arts could serve as a vehicle for community develop came with the development of the The Georgia Agrirama in 1976.  Built with state funds, the Agrirama is a living history museum, eerily similar to Colonial Williamsburg (http://www.abac.edu/museum) and incorporates traditional arts and craft exhibits.  The Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage was developed in a historic downtown building, refurbished with a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts (support them).  This project was instrumental in an arts-based development strategy and has promoted the redevelopment of nearby properties for related activities.

The final approach is the comprehensive approach in which the arts serve as one component of ann overall development plan, the arts become the foundation usually focusing on revitalizing local economies.  The underlying motive for the community-wide revitalizing effort is that the arts are a key to bringing back the economy.  While art-related events are not enough, the integration of arts in the overall community development strategy and planning, encouraging wide-spread citizen participation, that appears to be an effective community development strategy.  One example is Bellows Fall, Vermont.

By the late 1980s, this dying former mill town was in serious economic decline.  The once bustling brick factories were vacant and crumbling, the Victorian houses subdivided into apartments, and the majority of storefronts were empty.  In 1997, Robert McBride, a New York-based artist, founded the Rockingham Arts and Museum Project (RAMP).  This community-based organization's mission statement,

RAMP  is intent on developing awareness of the arts, creating vitality in the community with the arts and demonstrating that the arts favorably impact the local economy.  Success of the program relies on developing effective partnerships.  The theme is Art Makes a Difference (author's insertion: YES).  (Rockingham Art and Museum Project, 2000, p. 1)

This organization has prompted the village to take charge of its future rather than letting fall victime to hard economic times.  RAMP integrates art into the overall community development in a way that builds support for the arts through infrastructure improvement and other activities.  For example, RAMP renovated the historic Exner Block (c. 1870s).  The pressed tin structure is considered one of the state's most important architectural features was remained unused for decades.  The Exner Block is now affordable space for artists studios, apartments and retail space.  Funding for the project required a creative mix of public and private sources which totaled more than $1 million in tax credits from local banks, $400,000 from federal sources, and $400,000 from the state of Vermont (Rockingham Arts and Museum Project, 2000, p. 2).  Through RAMP's efforts, Bellow Fall became the ninth community in the state to receive official Downtown Designation, which helps promote revitalization activities.

What are some of the considerations for implementing an arts-based community development strategy?  There are five points to think about:

1) General support for the arts.  Citizens and local government officials need to recognize that a healthy arts presences is a vital part of community infrastructure and is important in terms of community development.  Participation approaches in community decision-making should be used to further build support.
2) Seek out untapped resources.  Local governments may have more resources that direct funding that can be used to support arts-based businesses and other activities.  Examples include rent-free facilities from a variety of sources such as school classrooms and auditoriums, commercial warehouses, conference centers or vacant retail spaces.
3) Integrate the support of arts with community development benefits.  Whenever possible, the community should strive to link benefits with arts-based activities.  For example, artisans could participate in programs such as bringing art to public schools or placement of art in public venues.
4) Maximize resources through community sharing.  The centralization of facilities and resources is  a significant factor in the success of arts-based programs.  A centralized facility such as a production studion, gallery, office, or retail space can be used by numerous groups to provide cost savings.  This is one of the underlying premises of arts business incubator program-by sharing, costs are reduced for everyone involved.
5) Adopt a flexible approach to arts support.  All artists are different and need different kinds of support and assistance.  Business management assistance to arts entrepreneurs is usually a critical need in communities, yet the type of assistance may vary.  Successful arts-based programs will respond to artists on an individual basis. (http://cdj.oxfordjournals.org, 2004, p. 8-9)

So what can we conclude from all of this.  On paper it sounds like a sure-fire wonderful way to bring back ailing communities.  Certainly, as evidenced here, it works but there are challenges.  The approaches presented here are typologies that can be applied according to the situation.  The key is flexibility and creativity.  No one approach works.  In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone came up with a whole new set of arts-based community economic development.  The other crucial factor is community support.  In this time of sequestration, it might be hard to find a community that would support an art-based community economic development program no matter great it sounds.  This is an idea worth pursuing, it has promise.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What is the Problem With Gentrification?

Why is it when someone mentions the word "gentrification" it produces a negative response?  Is gentrification really that bad or is it a conditioned response?  Playing the part of an anti-gentrification person for the moment, if the financial downturn of 2008 did one thing positive, it brought the process to a screeching halt.  The main complaint about gentrification is that it displaces long-time, low-income residents.  But is that always the case?  Are there other factors at work?  We can look at the example of what happened in Brooklyn, New York as a case study for whether or not gentrification is really so bad.

In the early part of the 2000s, Brooklyn began to experience a migration of creative types (i.e. actors, musicians, writers, painters, et cetera) seeking to find more affordable housing alternatives to Manhattan.  In 2003, Lance Freeman, an associate professor of urban planning at Columbia University began a study to find out exactly how much displacement occurred in two predominantly African-American communities: Clinton Hill and Harlem that were rapidly gentrifying.  Prof. Freeman discovered, his surprise, that there was no causal relationship between displacement and gentrification.  How was that possible?  Well, neighborhoods, like cities, are not static, they change over time.  Prof. Freeman studied the late-twentieth century decline of Harlem with with conditions of the Lower East Side in previous decades.  Early urban slums were bustling and overcrowded, thus able to sustain a wide range of services.  Curious, if the slums of the Lower East Side were overcrowded how was sustaining services possible?  I mean maintaining proper sanitation was a perpetual issue and fire was always a very real threat.  In contrast, Harlem lost 30 percent of its population by the seventies.  The result was these neighborhoods became places where no one dared to set foot in anytime of the day.  Another interesting point, there's no mention about the demographic make up of the Lower East Side.  Could that have played a part in the lack of displacement?  The conclusion arrived by Prof. Freeman was since the neighborhoods were drained of services, displacement did not occur.  Thus when gentrification arrived the long-time residents did not leave immediately and once the neighborhood improved, people opted to stay if they could.

Obviously not everyone stayed.  As the gentrification process continued, buildings got sold, rents were raised, and people moved out.  In a perfect world you would not have to wait for this to happen before the neighborhood improved or the police began making more routine patrols.  The irony here is that a city's real hope was racial and economic reintegration and in parts of Brooklyn, it did really happen.  The even greater irony is that the people (i.e. low to moderate-income Latino and African-Americans) who would provide that reintegration are leaving the cities because they no longer can afford there.  Instead, urban areas are being populated by more affluent individuals and couples who will not necessarily got to the local mom and pop stores and restaurants.

What does this mean for Los Angeles?  Returning to a subject I previously addressed, the Jordan Downs Housing complex in Historic South Central is slated to undergo major rehabilitation in the next few years.  While the developers of this project and the City of Los Angeles are making every effort to provide very necessary social services, it remains to be seen whether or not Jordan Downs and the surrounding community will follow the pattern of attrition studied by Prof. Freeman.  The same question holds for  Downtown Los Angeles, especially as more affluent couples and individuals; creative types move in while developers tear down older buildings and put newer more expensive places.  Logic would have it that yes, these places will fall in line with same patterns.  However, I believe that Prof. Freeman's study needs to go a bit further and look at the residents who did stay, who they are, and why they didn't move.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Hello all, I know I've been away for a while and I have a good reason. First, life, as always, gets in the way and second, I've been doing some research. My research has taken me to the subject of immigration. Specifically, immigration in urban centers. This is not a new topic because foreign-born and native migrants have historically flocked to the major cities in search of opportunity. What is different is the immigration experience in Los Angeles, California. For most of the twentieth century, Los Angeles grew because of its appeal to U.S.-born migrants in search of an alternative to the crowded cities of the Northeast and Midwest. The city has gained popularity among highly-skilled immigrants, those with at least one college degree and entrepreneurial who could move right into the middle class. However, in the last twenty of so years this characterization has changed. Instead, there has been an acceleration of low-skilled and least educated immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America, coming to the city. These individuals flock to urban centers such as East Los Angeles, MacArthur Park/Pico Union, and Huntington Park. While these enclaves remain, newer immigrant communities are springing up in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Vallies. Who are these immigrants? For the most part, they are from Mexico. Mexican immigrants comprise about 36 percent of newcomers to Los Angeles. This is down from about 44 percent. They are generally younger, between twenty and fifty. Los Angeles is also home to the largest population of undocumented immigrant, an estimated 60 percent are of Mexican origin, thus giving rise to the popular misconception of immigrant equals Mexican. In the work place, immigrants comprise about 46 percent of the labor pool. What are the key issues facing immigrants to Los Angeles? First, is the need for increased opportunities for economic mobility. This is a three-pronged approach that combines English language acquisition, increasing opportunities for families and children of immigrants through improved K-12 education and specifically, by promoting parental involvement in the schools. Third, investing in African-American communities and organizations in increasingly immigrant communities in order to complete the economic and social integration of the native populations. Curious, why this community in particular? Why not the Asian-American or other established immigrant communities? Another issue is enhancing civic participation opportunities for immigrants. This is where involvement in historic preservation related activities could come in handy. The first way to go about this is by building leadership skills through proven models, experimentation with new models, active learning from leadership training experiences from other regions. Here, immigrant community members could be empowered to take an active interest in the places they live through a leadership training program that can be adapted to the specific place. Next, increasing political participation through support of naturalization, as well as encouraging immigrant residents to participate in the local planning process and assisting city authorities in developing outreach. Without going into the whole the issue of citizenship for undocumented immigrants, I can't think of any more powerful tool the people have than the right to vote. Civic participation is part of preservation process. Advocacy is a key component of historic preservation. Without it, we wouldn't have the local, state, and national landmarks we have today. Therefore, it is crucial for the voiceless to be heard at local planning meetings. The big hurdle here is the trust issue. Immigrants, in particular undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers have historically had a mistrust of civic authorities. Finally, supporting a multi-ethnic, multi-sector, multi-agency convening process that can help immigrants and non-immigrants, as well as leaders from the diverse immigrant communities build a basis for collaboration. Historic preservation activities can do this because once the communities are aware of the assets in their neighborhood, they can begin to develop a sense of pride and work with civic agency to broadcast it to the larger world. This dovetails into the third issue, fostering openness in the broader society towards immigrants and their families. There is this image of the immigrant as "the other." That "other" is something to feared. Conversely, in the immigrant communities there is the fear of the greater society as being intrusive. These fears and lack of trust can be mitigated three ways. First, support for organizations that try to reframe the debate and provide a balanced view of immigrant contributions to the local and regional economy and society. The challenge here is not come off as patronizing and condescending. Second, helping local governments understand that immigrant integration is a core responsibility and assisting officials who are finding ways to work across often complicated jurisdictional lines. This may be easier said than done especially in this era of fiscal belt tightening and the silo-like mentality of civic agencies. Last, supporting groups that organize around common issues that span diverse immigrant and non-immigrant populations and can help see their mutual interests. Again, here is where historic preservation can help. Sometimes, there are historic resources in the immigrant communities that no one is aware of. Sometimes, they are of interest only to that community; other times they are of interest to the greater society. Either way rallying an immigrant community around the preservation of a historic asset can be a great way to foster that openness through educational and cultural programming. So what about the future? the preservation of community assets is one way to integrate immigrant communities into the greater society. This can be accomplished through educational and cultural programming. However, high hurdles must be scaled if the task is to be successfully acomplished.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Critical Legal Issues in Historic Preservation"

First of all, I've noticed that I have an audience. Great, I'd love to hear from you. The goal of this blog is for it to be a research journal so that one day I can put it all together as some sort of great scholarly work. If you want to get in touch and leave feedback, the places to go to are Facebook or Twitter. Any feedback is good. http://www.facebook.com/lenorelowen or http://www.twitter.com/glamavon Now to the matter at hand, important legal issues in Historic Preservation. This is a very dense field because the important legal issues cover a wide variety of topics such as planning, land use, due process, the use of legislative power, and so on. I can't even pretend to know everything about the subject and I doubt that even the most experienced lawyer would be able to wax prosaically on the subject. However, through this journal I am learning a good deal more than what I did in school. So let's focus on the critical issues. There have been two major legal decisions that have shaped the nature of Historic Preservation in the United States, Penn Central Transport Co. v. New York and Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company. The argument in both cases centered around landmarking buildings and historic districts fell under the auspicies of zoning and other land use legislation. In one sense, the preservation of buildings of historic or aesthetic value and historic districts falls under land use law and development, encompassed in the term zoning. Thus, the history of zoning and similar land use laws present interesting parallels. In 1916, New York City enacted the first comprehensive zoning of height, area, and use. Actually, between 1909 and 1915 the City of Los Angeles divided up the city into twenty-seven districts including a large residential area. In 1915 Hadacheck v Sebastian, 239 U.S. 394 upheld the ban on brickyards in Los Angeles. (landuselaw.wustl.edu/powerpoint/Tab%20History%20of%20Zoning--11-01-2006.pdf). It was noted that the first comprehensive zoning laws, like historic preservation, appeared about one hundred years too late. In the early twentieth century, the zeal for zoning grew out of New York's laws. A standard state zoning enabling act prepared in the early twenties by then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover was adopted in parts and whole by nineteen states. In the decade that followed, the question became what would the Supreme Court do in light of the new restriction on property rights? In 1924, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio (297 Fed. 307) struck down the comprehensive zoning ordinance of the Village of Euclid which would have, for all intents and purposes, settled the constitutional validity of zoning. The Village of Euclid, a suburb of Cleveland, adopted a comprehensive zoning ordinance in 1922, which regulated use, lot area to be built upon, and the size and height of buildings. The ordinance cut Ambler Realty Company's land, which it held for industrial development, into long, thin slices and placed substantial portions into residential zones. The alleged market value for industrial use of the land was $10,000 and $2,500 an acre for residential use. While Ambler did not challenge the particular application of the zoning ordinance to a specific parcel, which did look unreasonable as precluding any logical development. Euclid did challenge the whole concept of comprehensive zoning. The Court noted that the effect of the bill is that the ordinance greatly reduced the value of Ambler's land and destroyed their marketability for industrial and residential use. The attack was directed not at any specific element of the provision, but at the ordinance as a whole. Two opposing state court decisions were submitted to the Court. After the first argument, the majority of the justicies were ready to declare the ordinance unconstitutional. In a rehearing, the ordinance was sustained by a vote of 6-3. Within four years zoning enabling legislation was enacted in forty-seven state and in the forty-eighth, home rule provisions had been declared judicially as enabling cities of the first class to adopt similar ordinances. The state and municipalities' response to the need for zoning regulation prior to Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company was extensive, prompting a flood of zoning regulations in all forty-eight states. What preceded Penn Central Transport Co. v. New York in the states, with respect to landmark and historic preservation was a modest response than the response for zoning regulation. The reason was that the public perception of the need for light, air, and uniformity to protect the market and use value of the American home is and always has more urgent that the need for a quality of life served by the aesthetics of historic architecture. However, the foundation for a comprehensive national historic preservation law was laid down in all of the states and a large number of municipalities that encouraged or required preservation of districts and buildings of historic or aesthetic value. Overall, while the state and local response to the need for historic and district preservation has been widespread, it was tentative in its implementation. Some of the states authorized the preservation of certain districts, others authorized local enactment of historic zoning ordinances, still other authorized municipalities to note the need for historic preservation in the administration of zoning and land use regulations. There was a definite tendency in the legislation to create historic commission that would identify the properties and areas to be preserved and work with the owners toward that goal on a voluntary basis, or use such powers so as not call into question the basic issue of whether the regulation is a taking calling for an exercise of eminent domain powers. Now there's a big topic, eminent domain, thank you Fifth Amendment. Eminent domain powers including restrictive easements, have given been given to state and local historical trusts or commission in order to acquire landmark structures or interests but restraints on budgets were and have been deterrents to exercising this power. Some state use incentives like tax exemptions of historic properties or permission to credit again property tax expenditures to the extent to which preservation depreciates the market values, and in the case of the state of Virginia-a presumption that landmark status depreciates its value for commercial, residential or other purposes. In New York, which has been at the forefront of historic and landmark preservation in recent years, effort were focused on public or quasi-public structures; possibly because these properties were owned by charitable, education or similar organizations, the legal issue was whether preservation of a historic or landmark property, physically or financially, seriously interfered with the goal of the organization. This is very different from the legal issues presented by landmark or historic district ordinances as it affects private property. The one significant and startling difference between the history of zoning laws and landmark/historic district laws is the absence of the former and the presence of the latter of an interest and encouragement by the federal government. Zoning, subdivision and planning ordinances are a particularly local phenomenon, written by local legislative bodies, administered by the local citizens, interpreted and enforced by the state courts. Not true for landmark and historic district regulations. Here the federal presence has really made itself felt. One example was the opinion rendered by the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in WATCH v. Harris. Congressional interest in historic preservation has had a long history. The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized the President to set aside national monuments on federally controlled land. The Historic Sites Act adopted in 1935 made it national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings, and objects of national significance and established the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments. In 1949, Congress charted the National Trust for HIstoric Preservation, a nonprofit corporation charged with task of of facilitating public participation in the preservation of sites, buildings, and objects of national significance or interest. This was huge because up until this point there really was not any federal agency that was given this job or empowered to establish preservation policy. In 1965, recognizing that urban renewal project might have an affect on historic resources because of the Housing and Urban Development Act of the same year, permitted a project to relocate a resource determined to be of historic value and would be disposed of to a public entity or private nonprofit organization which would renovate and maintain said structure for historic purposes. However, It was not until the United States Conference of Mayors' study by a committed on historic preservation, "With A Heritage So Rich," did Congress, in enacting the NHPA, took a crucial step in protecting resources not only of national significance but also properties of of historical, architectural, or cultural significance at the local, state, and federal level. A report by the House of Representatives emphasized the importance of focusing attention on the significance of these resources especially in the realm of urban renewal and the need to strike a meaningful balance between preservation and new construction. The proposed NHPA had a three-point purpose: 1) to strengthen and expand the work being done under section 2(b) of the action of August 21, 1935...and to establish a national register of sites, structures, and the like which are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, and culture; 2) to encourage local, regional, state, and national interest in the protection of such properties; and 3) to establish an Advisory Council on Historic Preservation charged with the duties of advising the President and Congress on matters related to preservation of such properties, recommending measures to coordinate public and private preservation efforts, reviewing plans for federal undertakings and undertakings of other involving federal assistance or requiring a federal license with affect sites, structures, and the like listed in the national register referred to above. Very huge The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 sums up the goal of the federal involvement in landmark and historic preservation succinctly by stating that "the historical and cultural foundation of the nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people." Since public construction projects have been the chief cause of landmark and historic site destruction, federal intervention on their behalf is enormously significant as exemplified in Section 106 of the NHPA. Section 106 requires that every federal agency head consider the effect of a federal project(s) or those receiving federal assistance on historic properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register. This provides the ACHP with an opportunity to comment. Recent cases which have centered on applicability rather than factual situations (procedural instead of substantive questions) have demonstrated how effectively a project can be stalled indefinitely when the question of preservation is presented and finding an acceptable alternative to demolition. In Wisconsin Heritages Inc. v. Harris, the nonprofit corporation brought Section 106 action to prevent the demolition of buildings,deemed of historical and architectural value, located in urban renewal areas on several grounds. The reasons were: the alleged applicability of requirements of the National Housing Preservation Act. Executive Order issued to implement that act directing federal agencies to consult with the Advisory Council to assure that federal plans and programs contributed to the preservation and enhancement of these sites and of the National Environmental Policy Act. The Court held that the NHPA and the Executive Order were inapplicable because the historic structure in question was not listed on the National Register at the time the urban renewal agreement was signed. However, the Court granted an injunction on the grounds that the National Environmental Policy Act was applicable so long as some control existed over the remaining funds for demolition and an adequate environmental state had not been prepared. The section in NEPA that requires federal agencies to include all recommendations or reports on any major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment also applies to historic structure located within federally assisted urban renewal projects as long the federal agency remains meaningfully involved and HUD was still involved when the action was brought. The Penn Central decision appears to be based largely on interpretations of previously enacted federal legislation. This decision seems to have a greater impact at the state and local level and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Law may have been a model such legislation, as its zoning law for similar ordinances following Village of Euclid v. Ambler. Thus, the New York law warrants more careful examination because of its role as a standard bearer for the United States Supreme Court on its format. In the beginning, there was state enabling legislation expressing New York's public policy to preserve buildings and districts of special historical or aesthetic value and authorized the enactment by local government of ordinances to create the mechanism whereby reasonable restrictions could be imposed and implemented to perpetuate them. Thus enabled, New York City enacted its landmarks law. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Ordinance established a commission representative of the building professions and interested citizens: three architects, one historian, one city planner, one realtor, and a resident of each of the city's five boroughs. The mechanics of the law can be outlined as follows: Owners of properties given landmark designation by the commission must apply to the commission for a permit before altering or demolishing such designated structures, and to obtain the permit must show that the property as it exists cannot earn a net annual return of at least 6 percent of the assessed value; the net annual return is the excess of earned income over operating expenses excluding debt service and allowance (2 percent) for and reserves but including a specified allowance (2 percent) for depreciation. If the property is not that minimum amount, the commission may work out an alternative plan to achieve that standard including remission of real estate taxes-all, of course with the approval of the city's governing body, the Board of Estimate. As part of the permission process, owners of landmark properties may be allowed to transfer excess development rights to adjoining. In a recent transaction involving a proposed New York City office structure, such development rights were valued by the adjoining owner at several million dollars, primarily because it assured a view of Park Avenue for the adjacent office structure by precluding construction on the "landmark" site-in other words, not actually for increased development on its site which it had achieved in other ways, but to achieve a permanent easement of light and air for its own structure. This outline makes a couple of key points. First, permission to demolish or alter a historic structure must be granted. However, this statement specifically indicates that before such permission is granted, a building must demonstrated a rate of annual return of 6 percent. I don't believe I've seen this stipulation in either the in the Los Angeles Historic Preservation Ordinance or the one for the Village of Oak Park, Illinois. Second, historic property owners are allowed to transfer excess development rights to adjoining structures-i.e. transfer of development rights (TDR). A quick digression-I have to confess that this is something I should've been paying a bit more attention to in my Preservation Planning, Management, and Economics class. Anyway, what TDRs are is a property owner is allowed to transfer the air above the building-"air rights"- to the adjoining property for a a greater return on the profit. Here, it's used as an incentive for developers to preserve historic structures. The basic premise of New York City's preservation law, as well as others, is that historic and other landmark structures must be preserved by alternate means instead of simply demolishing them. This may have worked in previous decades when historic structure rehabilitation costs were lower and there people readily available who had the specialized skills necessary but not so much today. Further, public entities are given the task of encouraging preservation to private owners and users of buildings by providing services, standards, controls, and incentives. This implied that city budgets could not afford the demolition costs including the reduction of the tax base, even if that was not true, it would obviously be better to that theses buildings not be converted to cultural institutions supported by public funds. Not that this is a bad thing but you can't make every historic structure a museum or cultural center especially since urban populations are growing. So where are we now that the Supreme Court has spoken? Prior to the Court's involvement, state courts had sustained state landmark and historic district legislation through various approaches. For example, in 1931, Charleston, South Carolina, preserved its historic district through use of its zoning law. About a half century later, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld, New Orleans' Vieux Carre ordinance to preserve the "tout ensemble" (see previous post on Maher v. New Orleans) of the French Quarter. The court cited this ordinance as a legitimate constitutional end using permissible means because, "the operations of the Vieux Carre commission satisfy the due process standards in that they provide reasonable legislative and practical guidance to, and control over, administrative decision making." In 1915 only about 100 municipal landmarks or historic district preservation ordinances existed; presently, there are literally thousands of such ordinances. What Penn Central accomplished is that it permitted landmark and historic district preservation to stand on its own merit as an appropriate use of police power, placing the burden of proof that the historic commission acted illegally or arbitrarily on the owner. So, one issue for the future is the question of "taking." The question is whether or not the historic preservation ordinance is a "taking" or permissible exercise of police power not compensable, has been resolved. Meaning, has a "taking" been justified thus requiring due compensation so stipulated under the Fourteenth Amendment or not? The Court conceded that they have frequently noticed whether a particular restriction would be rendered invalid by the government's failure to make just compensation caused by a "taking" that was essentially based on ad hoc factual research. In other words has actual fact be differentiated from opinion? In the Penn Central case, the justices may have reached a different decision if opinion outweighed fact. Thus, the constitutional question of a "taking" will remain a critical issue in litigation based on landmark designation, especially regarding whole districts, unless the Supreme Court can stem the tide as it did with zoning regulation cases. Second, there will continue to be serious procedural implications under state and local law by virtue of the National Register designation. For example, a developer seeking to build a commercial space, "as of right" under applicable building and zoning laws, maybe stall by procedural delays because the site is adjacent to a structure listed on on the National Register (CEQA, in California, or NEPA hearings and comments are the frequent cause). Real estate lawyers must be aware if they are representing owners who are potential sellers or buyer who are possible developers or simply owners of designated properties, that as a consequence of local ordinances, their clients will have an obligation to keep the exterior portion of their buildings in "good repair;" also that the buildings are burdened by a severe nonconsensual servitude that restricts demolition or future development. In simple language, historic preservation ordinances have the potential to infringe on a potential owner or developer's right to dispose of the property as they see fit or earn a living on it. It also opens the door to potential abuses by community groups and individuals who may or may not have any vested interest in preservation but simply want to "shake down" the owners and developers, as in the case of the proposed Downtown Los Angeles football stadium Farmer's Field. One of the unfortunate consequences of Penn Central is that may discourage distinguished architecture, whose design represents an outstanding example of a specific style. I can definitely see this one happening both literally and metaphorically as more corporations get involved in stadium building at the college and professional levels. Obviously, more needs to be done to improve landmark ordinances so that they don't become an undue burden on owners or developers. More also needs to be done to educate the general public regarding the desirability of landmark designation and historic district preservation as an enhancement of the quality of live and dispel some myths about preservation. Even more important, landmark conservation citizen groups and commissions must do more to relate municipal programs in cycling housing and revitalizing commercial areas to the objectives of historic and architectural preservation. Litigation involving denials of demolition permits will increase substantially and their final results could hinge on these efforts. One illustration, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a private not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation of and continuing use of landmark buildings, has actually assumed responsibilities of ownership or lease hold tenure and has successfully completed complicated real estate transactions to insure a building's preservation. The assumption of the conservancy that landmarks should just become museums and that the only practical means of preservation is to find new uses for the city's rich architectural heritage is find new use for the buildings. After all, "the greenest building is the one already built." The Conservancy purchased five properties on the historic Fraunces Tavern block in lower Manhattan from an owner who intended to demolish the early nineteenth century structures and turn it into a parking. Pave paradise put up a parking lot, Joni Mitchell. The organization then leased the buildings on a long term basis to a private developer who converted the buildings into residential and commercial uses in conformity with guidelines set by the Conservancy that preserve the historic character of the place. See my point about the green buildings. Taking a completely different approach than public regulation for landmark preservation, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws began to consider the possibilities of a Uniform Conservation and Historic Preservation Agreements Act. Instead of protecting the future of landmarks preservation ordinances, the landmark's future would be safeguarded through a voluntary private property owner's agreement, that would create an enforcement right in a charitable or governmental agency to enforce through action on contract such preservation. The reason for this interest is that current legal doctrine in many states would not support such contrats without appropriate statutory permission. Common law does not look favorably on these easements in totality, where there is no dominant tenement and the obvious donee of a privately created easement would be an historic trust or governmental entity. Thus a statue would be necessary in order to create important rights in such organizations which would obviously not have common law sanctioned relationship of "privity" with the donor of the easement and does not own "appurtenant property" required by common law to sustain the status that would come from the right to enforce restraints of the easement by and against strangers to the private contract transaction under which the easement was granted. I think my head just exploded from wonk overload. Seriously, a Uniform Conservation and Historic Preservation Agreement Act sounds(ed) like good idea but in the current realpolitik climate the chief battle cry against this would be "It's my property and I'll do what I want with it." Hence, easements need to be accompanied with some sort of real incentive for private owners to enter into such agreements. A ten or twenty percent tax credit is pretty minor when the commercial value of a property outweighs the benefit. Another issue would be is the mechanism of enforcement. How would the restraints of the easements be enforced? Through warnings, sanctions, something else? Why would a private property owner allow a charitable or governmental agency to come in and take over some or all of the property at all? Clearly, there are some attendant issues that need to be addressed. No one will be happy with whatever the solution(s) is(are) but the idea of a Uniform Conservation and Historic Preservation Agreement Act has some critical points that need attention. Additionally, there are some extremely significant policy question that need to be resolved before a Historic Preservation Agreement statute can enacted. The public policies that support the historic common law rules against long-term restraints on land need reexamination. How are privately enforced restraints on the future of real property adjusted so that they respond to the contemporary needs of the property. One serious policy question is whether intervention of any public agency is a necessary instrument to modify, release, or extinguish any privately created mechanism that would limit the change in use of a property over generations of ownership. If the appropriate purpose is no longer be served by a privately owned restraint on use and the conditions have change so much that it is clear that it is no longer in the public interest, should there be a mechanism other than the actions of the original parties to the easement contract or their successors in interest to extinguish control? The doctrine of "changed conditions" is a typical common law concept in ending property restrictions that no longer fill a valid or valuable purpose. Recording acts be a useful tool for control with the purpose of extinguishing "stale" restrictions. There are also issues of local property taxation that result from such agreements. A Historic Preservation Agreement could very well reduce the market value and the assessment for municipal taxes. Should legislation which authorizes private restrictive agreements of this kind also provide for changes in the real property tax laws corresponding to the changes already in the Internal Revenus Code with respect the deductibility of the value of such easements to governmental and charitable organizations? (Yes) As the kinks are worked out of the Historic Preservation Agreements Act, we can begin to see a meaningful relationship between this and Landmarks and Preservation Act, premised on public regulation of land use and development reflected in the Penn Central case.