Some of you might think that I am exaggerating when I say that zoning and similar land use regulations give non-owners of property a voice in its use, that the rightful owner is held hostage to the demands of others. An article in today's Chronicle should end any doubts about such statements.
In an article titled Final say sought on homeless site, Bill Murphy writes about a proposed homeless shelter just outside downtown. The Eastwood Civic Association opposes the proposed project and they refuse to meet with the developers unless one specific condition is met: "The project will not go forward if its members oppose it."
In other words, if the civic association opposes the project they expect the developer to cave to their demand. And if the developer refuses to agree to that, at least some at City Hall are ready to do more.
Councilman James Rodriguez, whose district includes the site of the proposed shelter, said "he opposes the project because the civic association and others are against it." Principles such as property rights and the rule of law are not as important to Rodriguez as is pandering to his constituents.
Mayor White, who supports the project, "generally does not force a project on a district if the district's councilman opposes it." But he is willing to use force against the developers. In other words, White is willing to use government coercion to prevent the developers from using their property, but is unwilling to demand that a Councilman recognize the property rights of the developers.
As with the Ashby High Rise, this is nothing more than a gang of loud home owners seeking to use City Hall as their proxy. Because they do not like a proposed use for land near their neighborhood, they seek to make that use illegal. They seek to make the developers criminals for converting a long-vacant motel into affordable housing.
Interestingly, the civic association first voted to support the project in April. But several days later they rescinded their vote under pressure from home owners. (A similar thing happened when the City rescinded approval of a traffic study regarding the Ashby High Rise.) Which means, the civic association's board caved to their members, a Councilman is caving to the civic association, and Mayor White is caving to the Councilman.
And through all of this, the developers are helplessly held hostage to the arbitrary demands of a small number of home owners. The property rights of the developers are being violated because City Hall is more interested in political expediency than principle.
© J. Brian Phillips 2008