The Urban Law Bulletin: January 25, 2019
Updated: Jan 29, 2019
This week's Urban Law Bulletin highlights legal updates on issues including climate change, privacy, mobility and equality.
City Administration and Urban Governance #administration
In November 2018, the Los Angeles City Council voted to legalize street vending. Prior to legalization, street vendors faced the risk not only of fines, but also of deportation as “selling on the city’s sidewalks is often the first profession for newly arrived immigrants.” For years, street vendors experienced police crackdowns, particularly in areas undergoing the process of gentrification. Now, the legalization of street vending has brought a sense of “dignity and security” for the 50,000 street vendors in Los Angeles. For Caridad Vasquez, an activist for the legalization of street vending who has been selling Mexican food on the streets of Los Angeles since 2006, the legalization is “an acknowledgement of the contributions of immigrants to the life of Los Angeles.”
Housing and Development #housing
As part of the 2017 Tax Reform, Congress created the Qualified Opportunity Zone tax benefits (“Opportunity Zones”) as a way to incentivize investments in “housing, small businesses, transit, and other assets” in the most economically depressed neighborhoods in the United States. Most of what the funds are used for is up to the discretion of state and local leaders. A brief developed by the Urban Institute provides recommendations for how those leaders can make opportunity zones worth the investment for both investors and residents. For some areas, leaders will need to provide a bigger incentive to draw in investors. In other neighborhoods however, the goal needs to be focusing on how to keep the neighborhood affordable for indigent residents
Environment and Sustainability #sustainability
London is the latest city to declare climate change, and its threat to future generations, an emergency. Mayor Khan outlined his new climate change plan, which sets a deadline for London to be carbon neutral by 2050. However, critics suggest an even more urgent plan is needed – asking that the target deadline be 2030. To meet either deadline, London would require a large amount of investment and technological advances. Thus, Mayor Khan is now calling on ministers and the central government to provide more funding for the plan which includes retrofitting hundreds of thousands of homes and offices to make them more energy efficient and decarbonizing the national grid.
Urban Mobility #mobility
While there has been an influx of electric scooters (“e-scooters”) in a handful of American cities such as Atlanta and D.C., the safety and longevity of this transportation method is still up for debate. While no “epidemiological” study has been done evaluating the public health risks of e-scooters, there has been a rise in the number of e-scooter related emergency room visits and negligence lawsuits directed at high-profile e-scooter companies. Scooter companies have since pledged to “make safety a priority” by upgrading models with stronger safety features, “pledg[ing] to donate $1 per day per vehicle” to efforts to build, and protecting bike lanes in cities where e-scooters operate. However, companies have continued to adopt a risk assumption attitude towards the safety of e-scooters. Since the legal landscape for e-scooter litigation is still in nascent stages, a recent example from Los Angeles County Superior Court here, there also is not much precedent for plaintiffs to rely on. In the cases that have been tried, there has often been a lack of evidence because an offending scooter can disappear before the plaintiff thinks to document or photograph the scene.
Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion #equality
Minneapolis is leading a charge against systemic racism embedded in housing policy by ending single-family home zoning. Single-family zoning, which limits the ability of those without established or abundant up-front capital to move in to a neighborhood, was “devised as a legal way” to segregated neighborhoods. In fact, it has been described as one of the “Jim Crow laws of the North.” But can Minneapolis, the first major U.S. city to pass legislation of this sort, start a trend nationwide? Besides combating segregation, ending single-family home zoning creates more affordable housing and potentially can alleviate long commutes.
Scholarship Corner #scholarship
Now Available: Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities
Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities is a collaborative scholarly focus on comparative and global perspectives in the growing field of urban law. This brand new volume offers diverse insights into urban law, with emerging theories and analyses of topics ranging from criminal reform and urban housing, to social and economic inequality and financial crises, and democratization and freedom for individual identity and space. Particularly now, social, economic, and cultural issues must be closely examined in conjunction with the rule of law not only to address inadequate access to basic services, but also to construct long-term plans for our cities and our world. The book is now available from Routledge here.
Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities (Nestor M. Davidson & Geeta Tewari eds., Routledge 1st ed. 2018) #international
We thank the Urban Law Center's Urban Law Student Fellows for assisting in preparation of The Bulletin, which provides news in all major areas of urban law, and categorizes the stories as follows:
· City Administration and Urban Governance #administration
· City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption
· Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion #equality
· Environment and Sustainability #environment
· Housing and Development #housing
· International/Global Urban Law #international
· Law and Justice #justice
· Public Health #health
· Technology #technology
· Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation
· Urban Mobility #mobility
· Urban Planning and Space #planning
If you have an article, legal decision, or commentary that you would like to share in an upcoming Bulletin, please e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Nestor M. Davidson
Faculty Director, Urban Law Center
Associate Director, Urban Law Center
Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors