Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Surprising Editorial-- Not

Not surprisingly, the Chronicle has endorsed expanding the historic preservation ordinance:
People who want to live in historic neighborhoods ought to have that choice. And if we don’t protect those neighborhoods, they’ll slowly slip away.
In true collectivist fashion, the paper argues that what an individual property owner wants is irrelevant--he must surrender his judgment and desires to that of his neighbors. If enough noisy and nosy property owners in a neighborhood want to force others to beg the city for permission to use their property, then so be it.

In response to critics of the proposal the paper offers the following:

Detractors argue that any limitation on what can be done with a piece of land is bad for property values. But that’s a hard case to make: In cities across the country, historic neighborhoods tend to be the most desirable.
The paper doesn't tell us which cities, so I can only assume that it means the same ones that have made housing unaffordable for the middle class because of land-use regulations. I can only assume that it means the same cities that are losing citizens and jobs. The connection between preservation and higher housing costs isn't lost on the Chronicle:
And tight protections certainly haven’t hurt the Old Sixth Ward. If anything, they seem to make buyers feel secure. In the three years the protections have been in place there, sale prices have zoomed up by roughly 30 percent.
These arbitrarily inflated housing costs are what the paper and preservationists want to impose on neighborhoods around the city. And the impact won't be limited to the neighborhoods receiving "protection". Higher housing costs in those neighborhoods will increase demand in non-historic neighborhoods, thereby driving up housing costs there.

But these simple economic arguments are not the primary case against historic preservation. The primary case is moral--each individual has a moral right to use his property as he judges best, so long as he respects the mutual rights of others. Government's purpose is to protect this right by prohibiting the initiation of force.

Renovating or demolishing an old building does not violate the rights of anyone. Forcing property owners to seek government approval to do so does--it is founded on the premise that property owners may act only with permission, rather than by right. Ownership means control; land-use regulations--including historic preservation--wrests control from the rightful owner and places it in the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and nosy neighbors.

Preservationists hold that buildings have intrinsic value. They hold that buildings should be protected and preserved regardless of the consequences to human beings. In their zeal to protect bricks and mortar they do not hesitate to trample on the lives of property owners.


Rational Education said...

There is another ugly aspect to this "historic preservation" racket. Cities receive milions of dollars of federal loot and newly minted money if they can get themselves deemed "historic" that need to be preserved. Therefore states, cities, districts, counties, jostle to stand in this line of alms. I was recently in one such city --Staunton, VA--the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson. The city was facing a massive recession only a few years back, when "historic preservation" funds came in and saved the day and revived the city.
The question is what will happen to this shortcut to prosperity when the funds dry up --as they will when the music stops.

Brian Phillips said...

Thanks Jasmine,
I wasn't aware of the use of federal money for this purpose. It doesn't surprise me.

So the feds are taking our money to give to local governments to spend for the purpose of controlling our property. We get raped twice.