Sunday, April 19, 2009

National land use planning

I am at the American Dream Coalition conference in Seattle. Many interesting papers, among them Ron Utt's "President Obama's New Plan to Decide Where Americans Live and How They Travel." Utt sees an end to recent administrations' "benign neglect" of local land use questions. In the name of carbon footprints, Utt reports, the new administration has created a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Involving these in a new national land use planning effort would be unprecedented.

There are several problems. Any evidence that higher density transit-oriented living is "energy efficient" is very shaky. And most Americans do not want to live that lifestyle. But growth controls and stunningly expensive rail transit (including high-speed rail for California; the rest of the U.S. may get medium-speed rail) have an irresistable appeal to the green left.

Re benign neglect, Richard Epstein writes that the courts have allowed eminent domain abuse by, local governments with respect to land use issues.

Is there a pattern here?