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Subject: Your Property and Property Rights Are Being Dynamited!

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." — George Santayana

Urban Planning

    From Wikipedia:

    In 1947, Saint Louis planners proposed replacement of DeSoto-Carr, a run-down black neighborhood, with new two- and three-story residential blocks and a public park. The plan did not materialize; instead, Democratic mayor Joseph Darst, elected in 1949, and Republican state leaders favored total clearing of the slums and replacing them with high-rise, high-density public housing. They reasoned that the new projects would create a net positive result to the city through increased revenues, new parks, playgrounds and shopping space.

    In 1948 voters rejected the proposal for a municipal loan to finance the change, but soon the situation was changed with the Housing Act of 1949 and Missouri state laws that provided co-financing of public housing projects. The approach taken by Darst, urban renewal, was shared by Harry S. Truman administration [sic] and fellow mayors of other cities overwhelmed by industrial workers recruited during the war. Specifically, Saint Louis Land Clearance and Redevelopment Authority was authorized to acquire and demolish the slums of the inner ring and then sell the land at reduced prices to private developers, fostering middle-class return and business growth. Another agency, Saint Louis Housing Authority, had to clear land to construct public housing for the former slum dwellers.

    Pruitt-Igoe was a large urban housing project first occupied in 1954 and completed in 1955 in the U.S. city of St. Louis, Missouri. Shortly after its completion, living conditions in Pruitt-Igoe began to decay; by the late 1960s, the extreme poverty, crime, and segregation brought the complex a great deal of infamy as it was covered extensively by the international press. The complex was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center towers.

    At 3 PM on March 16, 1972 — 16 years after construction was finished — the first of the complex's 33 buildings was demolished by the federal government. The other 32 buildings were destroyed over the next four years. The high-profile failure of Pruitt-Igoe has become an emblematic icon often evoked by all sides in public housing policy debate.

    Does anything above sound familiar? Government urban planners, with big ideas and only the best interests of the "general public" at heart, use the power of the state to seize huge tracts of private land, raze everything in sight, hand over that land to private developers, and proceed to create a new social and economic Shangri-La. Except things, for some unexpected reason, don't really turn out as anticipated! Oh well, don't worry. We'll get it right next time.

    From Wikipedia:

    During the 1950s and 60s, New Haven [Connecticut] received more urban renewal funding per capita than any city in the United States. New Haven became the de facto showcase of the new modern redeveloped city and plans for its downtown development were chronicled in publications like Time and Harper's magazines throughout the 1950s and 60s. Robert C. Weaver, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Lyndon Johnson Administration, once said that New Haven during this time was the closest America has ever been to having a "slumless" city.

    Since 2000, downtown has seen an increasing concentration of new restaurants, nightlife, and small retail stores. The area has experienced an influx of hundreds of new and renovated apartment and condominium units, and a significant number of up-scale restaurants and nightclubs have opened.

    Well, that certainly sounds more promising! However, as an architect and a resident of New Haven from 1978-1988, I recall a slightly different picture. Through the 60s, 70s and early 80s, despite being the home to Yale University, New Haven was an economically depressed area. All of that urban renewal money had been spent purchasing low-rent buildings within the downtown core, knocking them down, and creating temporarily gravel parking lots while wondrous new structures were planned. However, by the early 1980s, after 25 years of "planning", most of these areas remained open gravel lots, giving much of the city the appearance of a bombed war zone rather than a thriving community.

    But what about the claims of being a "slumless" city? Well, that might well be true. Every building within New Haven that offered inexpensive storefront rents and provided affordable housing on the upper floors were demolished. All of these self-sufficient business owners were displaced, as were their clientele, the low-income tenants who had previously occupied these buildings. With no place left to live or work, these people moved on to other cities or became new clients of the state-run subsidized housing developments springing up everywhere.

    While private development was being encouraged in the mid-to-late 80s when I left the state, I think the article's reference to economic expansion beginning to take real hold after 2000 — a 45-50 year period of economic stagnation — is the ultimate indictment against urban renewal. Strike two.

    From Wikipedia:

    Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another to further economic development. The case arose from the condemnation by New London, Connecticut, of privately owned real property so that it could be used as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan which promised 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues. The Court held in a 5-4 decision that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified such redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

    Following the decision, many of the plaintiffs expressed an intent to find other means by which they could continue contesting the seizure of their homes. Soon after the decision, city officials announced plans to charge the residents of the homes for back rent for the five years since condemnation procedures began. The city contended that the residents have been on city property for those five years and owe tens of thousands of dollars of rent. The case was finally resolved when the City agreed to move Kelo's house to a new location. The controversy was eventually settled when the city paid substantial additional compensation to the homeowners.

    In spite of repeated efforts, the redeveloper (who stood to get a 91-acre waterfront tract of land for $1 per year) was unable to obtain financing, and the redevelopment project was abandoned. As of the beginning of 2010, the original Kelo property was a vacant lot, generating no tax revenue for the city.

    In addition, in September 2009, Pfizer, whose upscale employees were supposed to be the clientele of the Fort Trumbull redevelopment project, completed its merger with Wyeth, resulting in a consolidation of research facilities of the two companies. Shortly after the merger closed, Pfizer decided to close its New London facility in favor of one across the Thames River in nearby Groton by 2011; this move coincides with the expiration of tax breaks on the New London campus that also expire by 2011, when Pfizer's tax bill on the property would have increased almost fivefold. [As reported in the papers] "Pfizer Inc. announced that it is closing the $350 million research center in New London that was the anchor for the New London redevelopment plan, and will be relocating some 1,500 jobs."

    Remember, these are the people who believe that they can run automobile plants, manage the entire US economy, and will soon be in charge of your life-and-death health care decisions.

    In each of the three cases cited above, who knows just how many houses, businesses, and millions of tax dollars were taken from productive people who would have furthered their lives and made sensible investments with their money, only to instead have it squandered by these bureaucrats? Then, realize that it is not three, but hundreds of similarly failed experiments taking place across the country each year, and the mind boggles at the lost wealth, in the billions and trillions, that has been pumped into these rat holes of disastrous attempts at social engineering by the central planners. They failed in the 1950s, and again and again in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, right up through the destruction of the town of New London, CT in 2009, and still no lesson has been learned — other than we can have our property confiscated from us at any time, so long as the magical incantation "for the public good" is first proclaimed.


    But until they come along and take your property for some urban planning scheme, it's yours to do with as you see fit, right? Not a chance. So called Euclidean Zoning laws, instituted in the early part of the 20th century have long placed a complex set of restrictions on what any individual could do with their land and buildings. These regulations specify what types of uses are allowed (residential, commercial, religious, etc.), the location where any structure may be placed on the lot, overall land coverage, total usable building area, height, allowable exterior pavement, types of landscaping required, restrictions on signage, lighting, grading, drainage, and on and on.

    After more than one hundred years of imposing these guidelines and restrictions all across the country, we must, by now, certainly be living in a designer's paradise. Well, according to a July 8th article in Architect magazine titled Brave New Codes, the result has been as follows:

    The separation of uses written into Euclidean zoning codes made sense to the lawyers who wrote them, but they have the effect of creating bland and inefficient places, Plater-Zyberk says.

    Great places weren't being produced under Euclidean zoning, according to Plater-Zyberk. "It became evident that this regulatory framework was really what was driving suburbia, sprawl, and the things that were being criticized as being inefficient and unsustainable," Plater-Zyberk says. "It wasn't that people wanted it to be that way—the codes were just written that way."

    So, the ill effects were not produced because "people wanted it to be that way", they were forced upon us all because "the codes were just written that way". Then the solution is obvious! Remove the zoning codes and let people achieve those better results that they desire. But no, freedom and choice is never a solution that crosses the mind of the totalitarian planner. Just as we saw in the case of urban planning, the zoning advocates believe that they now have all the answers and can create nirvana with a different set of regulations. So coming soon to a city near you is Form-based Zoning, the cure for what ails you.

    From Wikipedia:

    Form-based zoning relies on rules applied to development sites according to both prescriptive and potentially discretionary criteria.

    Design-based codes offer considerably more flexibility in building uses than do Euclidean codes, but, as they are comparatively new, may be more challenging to create. [...] When form-based codes do not contain appropriate illustrations and diagrams, they have been criticized as being difficult to interpret.

    One example of a recently adopted code with design-based features [...] creates "form districts"

    One version of form-based or "form integrated" zoning utilizes [...] three district components - a use component, a site component and an architectural component. The use component is similar in nature to the use districts of euclidian zoning. However, with an emphasis on form standards, use components are typically more inclusive and broader in scope. The site components define a variety of site conditions from low intensity to high intensity such as size and scale of buildings and parking, accessory structures, drive-through commercial lanes, landscaping, outdoor storage and display, vehicle fueling and washing, overhead commercial service doors, etc. The architectural components address architectural elements and materials.

    As a home or business owner, you have really got to love that "potentially discretionary criteria". It can really add some excitement to your life! And as an architect, it has got to be a relief that the form, elements and material design choices will now be made for you by a government agency rather than being a decision formulated between you and your client — much as medical decisions under nationalized health care will now be dictated by a bureaucrat rather than resulting from a consultation between patient and doctor.

    Here are some additional comments from the Brave New Codes article:

    "A lot of times, [the zoning codes are] just telling you what you can't do." [Peter] Park says Denver's form-based code tries harder to guide developers and designers toward what they can do, mainly by being a very visual document.    [Emphasis added]

    So instead of being left free to do anything other than what is specifically restricted, the new codes turn western culture upon its head by actively prohibiting everything except that which is explicitly allowed. Your right to use your property is now being placed in a straitjacket where a few subjective, discretionary strings are then loosened to allow you some very restricted range of motion, based not upon what you desire, but upon what others deem is best.

    "If the architects could understand that they're part of a larger effort of placemaking, and it's not just a restriction like any old code, I think that they would have a good time working with form-based codes."

    "Often 'design freedom' becomes another term for 'anything goes' solutions that contribute little, if any, to the collective enterprise," Jimenez adds. "Limits are not the curtailing of freedom, but rather opportunities to transcend them."

    Translated, this means that, as an architect, I will learn to enjoy my new role as an implementor of their rules, as soon as I come to accept my proper place as a comrade in the collective enterprise of state-mandated placemaking. These people have covered all the bases and their actions would bring a smile to Ellsworth Toohey's face.

    This collective premise is so pervasive in our society that many people are not even aware of the extent of its effect upon them. For example, in another article in Architect magazine titled If a Tree Falls, the author, Lance Hosey, discussing the ecological benefits to using regional construction materials, makes the following offhand statement:

    How would the construction industry change if builders were limited to what's in their own backyards?

    Notice that he didn't say "if builder's limited themselves", but "if builders were limited", ignoring the possibility of using persuasion and immediately assuming that external force should be applied against all builders in order to achieve his desired results — a result which apparently is to be taken as self-evidently correct and proper. For the collectivist, individual choice and personal freedom are nonexistent concepts, and all that matters here is an economic calculation concerning the use of raw materials. Trees and water are precious. Humans are beneath consideration.

National Social Engineering

    Which brings us to the real purpose of this piece. From an article written by Bob Livingston, it came to my attention that back on August 6, 2009, Christopher Dodd submitted to the Senate S.1619, a bill titled the Livable Communities Act of 2009, which was followed on February 25, 2010 by the companion House resolution H.R.4690, the Livable Communities Act of 2010. On August 3rd, 2010, S.1619 was released from committee and sent to the Senate and is currently awaiting a vote. Let's examine the major provisions of this legislation.

    • Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities
      This establishes another huge federal bureaucracy with broad powers applied at the state, regional and local levels, to promote planning and construction meeting federal guidelines for sustainability, energy conservation, affordability, and mass-transportation.

    • Implementation of Grant Programs
      This sets up a huge sub-bureaucracy for various grant programs used for the distribution of federal tax dollars to state, regional and local governmental organizations, as well as to private consultancy groups. This is the carrot used to induce participation and the hammer which elicits cooperation, and ultimately submission, to federal authority.

    • Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities
      This establishes an executive-branch council that coordinates and oversees the operations of the entire program. Of course, there would be one or more new czars installed to oversee the overseerers.

    • Funding
      The initial appropriation through 2013 is in excess of $3.7 billion.

    As has been the case with all recent congressional legislation, the bill deals with the establishment of a large and complex bureaucratic framework intended to implement goals which are merely hinted at within the text. At this point there is no direct way to gage the intentions of, or the specific actions that might be taken, by those ultimately chosen to staff this operation. In this way these bills can be made to appear as all things to all people, while being immune to meaningful criticism. Nevertheless, I think we can draw a few broad generalities based upon the goals of those sponsoring this initiative.

    • The creation of a federal planning and development agency would be a new and significantly greater infringement upon the remaining property rights of individuals and businesses.

    • The additional bureaucracy and costs imposed by this bill would create a substantial new impediment to economic recovery and future economic growth.

    • A large segment of the grant funding can be predicted to go to eco-groups who will be eager to finally be able to impose their "green" policies upon everyone else.

    • The sustainability and energy conservation goals of this legislation would significantly increase the cost of construction and energy in an effort to drive development in a different direction.

    • The mass-transportation goals of the bill would result in strictly controlled development corridors of high-density housing, serviced by rail. Gasoline prices would be forced significantly higher to discourage the freedom of automobile usage.

    • The affordability goals of the bill would be used as another tool for the redistribution of wealth in the country.

    • A long term goal might be the elimination of all suburban or rural homes, with these citizens being forced into cities. This could easily be accomplished by a congressional act condemning these properties and then razing the structures, just as we have seen demonstrated repeatedly by urban planners of the past.

    If central planners of the past were able to create such devastation in the wake of their grand schemes, imagine the magnitude of harm that could be unleashed by placing this much power in federal hands.

Global Social Engineering

    Dodd's bill is the first significant piece of legislation introduced in the United States which attempts to implement the goals of Agenda 21, described by the UN's Division for Sustainable Development (A division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) as follows:

    Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.

    Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992.

    During that conference, Agenda 21 was signed by President George H.W. Bush.

    A review of this document reveals the following goals:

    • Unite all nations in a common effort for sustainable development, with the UN ultimately acting as a super-government having authority over the remainder of the world's national governments.

    • National governments are required to "strengthen institutional structures to allow the full integration of environmental and developmental issues, at all levels of decision-making".

    • A massive redistribution of wealth from the rich (developed) countries to the poor (undeveloped) ones under the guise of creating "a more efficient and equitable world economy". In other words, eliminate world poverty in the name of promoting sustainable livelihoods and reduce the standard of living in developed countries as a necessity for reducing environmental stress.

    • Developed countries are to provide health care for undeveloped countries.

    • Global financial institutions are to be funded by rich countries in order to implement the environmental policies dictated by the UN.

    • By recognizing the "increasing interdependence of the community of nations", and working to "overcome confrontation", "foster a climate of genuine cooperation and solidarity", "strengthen national and international policies", and by adapting "to the new realities", strong countries are to be subjugated to the weak.

    • Use the UN's now discredited IPCC report as justification for throttling the economies of developed countries.

    • Adjust all land-use and resource policies to mitigate changes to the atmosphere, promote bio-diversity, conserve resources, minimize pollution, promote sustainability, provide shelter for all, promote sustainable construction, energy distribution, and transportation.

    • "Transfer" environmentally sound technology from the developers to those with a need. (Steal it.)

    • Promote education, public awareness and training. In other words, an active propaganda campaign.

    Agenda 21 is nothing more than a capitulation of the good to the bad, the rich to the poor, the strong to the weak, the productive to the unproductive, the creative to the uncreative, and the free to the unfree, all under the pretense of a global warming disaster which has been thoroughly debunked as one of the worlds biggest lies.


    As was the case with Health Care, the Disclose Act and Finance Reform, the Livable Communities Act is likely to be another piece of legislation that will be attempted to be pushed through the Democratic Congress with little regard for the impact upon the constitutional rights of the citizens of this country, or upon the fragile state of our economy. This is an administration focused upon one goal only — that being the consolidation of power — and this bill would expand federal power into devastating new areas. I encourage everyone to spread the word about this bill, and to contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them to vote NO when this Act comes up for consideration.
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