• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: November 9, 2018

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

This week's Urban Law Bulletin highlights news from last Tuesday's election, as well as legal updates on issues including sustainability, housing, and employment discrimination.


Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation

Nationwide, Transportation Measures Rolled to Victory

More than three hundred transportation-related measures were on the ballot across the country last Tuesday, together representing more than $50 billion dollars of investments in infrastructure, public transit, cycling paths, and more. A large majority of these measures passed, and the incoming Congress could reverse the trend of declining federal support for infrastructure progress, particularly in urban areas. Read more here for a summary of initiatives that won (and a few that lost) across the country last week.

David A. Lieb/AP

Washington, D.C. Issues Dockless Regs to Tame Burgeoning Industry

In an attempt to bring structure to an otherwise unstructured industry, Washington, D.C. recently announced proposed rules for its growing dockless bike industry. The regulations would require bikes to be equipped with a lock, as well as companies to provide a toll-free number for riders to report badly parked bicycles. While dockless vehicles are changing the transportation landscape of the District, it is still unclear how many people are trading their cars for bikes. The proposed regulations are open for public comment for the next month.

Paul Wasneski via Flickr


City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

Age Discrimination Law Applies to State and Local Governments Regardless of Number of Employees

Last week the Supreme Court held 8-0 that the protections of the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to all state and local government employers, regardless of how many employees they have. The dispute in Mt. Lemmon Fire District v. Guido began when the Mount Lemmon Fire District, a political subdivision in Arizona, laid off its two oldest full-time employees in the midst of a budget shortfall. ADEA defines “employer” as “[a person engaged in commerce] who has twenty or more employees… The term also means … (2) a State or political subdivision.” Writing for the unanimous court, Justice Ginsburg found that the phrase “also means” ought to be construed broadly and that public employers need not meet the 20 employee requirement to be covered by ADEA.


Environment and Sustainability #sustainability

Portlanders Pass Measure To Create Clean Energy Fund

On Tuesday, Portland voters approved Ballot Measure 26-201, which established a new 1% tax that large retailers will pay on all revenue generated in the city. The revenues will be used to create a clean energy fund. The former mayor of Portland, Sam Adam, believes the initiative will help tackle climate change, advance equity, and help with the transition to more clean energy jobs. Portland is expected to raise an estimated $30 million annually through the initiative, and it will be “prioritized to help those who have been hit hardest by climate change and need better jobs — communities of color, people with disabilities, and people who are chronically unemployed.”

Supporters of Measure 26-201 celebrate their Election Night victory in Portland, Oregon, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Ericka Cruz Guevarra/OPB

"Green roofs" become "cool roofs" as Denver council repeals, revises voter-approved law Denver’s City Council voted to repeal and replace its “green roof law,” which required that buildings larger than 25,000 square feet house rooftop vegetation. While the “original green-roof law” passed with a 54% majority in 2017, the City Council unanimously voted to repeal and replace it with a broader and more versatile “cool-roof” ordinance instead, pertaining to buildings 25,000 square feet and over. This, in essence, allows building owners to choose from a wider array of options for “cooling,” including “installing green space, funding it elsewhere, meeting green design standards or installing renewable energy.” The wider range of options for roof-cooling may prove more cost-effective for some building owners, however, others are lamenting the loss of the previous legislation, which could have provided water and air benefits, and more “permeable landscape throughout the city.”

A reflective roof installed in Denver by North-West Roofing. (Courtesy North-West Roofing)


Housing and Development #housing

Once Seen as a Local Issue, Afford Housing Is Becoming a State Focus States are “scrambling” to find ways to address the growing lack of affordable housing, an escalating crisis in cities across the United States. Some states have “remov[ed] zoning barriers to building affordable housing,” while others have sought to do away with the requirement “that builders include affordable housing units in their developments.” In California, the Democratic governor Jerry Brown signed into law a series of housing-related laws, “most of which try to ease zoning restrictions around building affordable housing.” However, other states such as Louisiana, have tried to do away with legislation that permits inclusionary zoning; Hawaii and Tennessee have also followed suit. One piece of the conversation is the ever-pervasive state versus federal powers question; however, most affordable housing proponents and politicians have argued that a one-size-fits-all policy will not work.

Chinese restaurants are a cultural fixture—as American as cherry pie

Startlingly, however, there was once a national movement to eliminate Chinese restaurants, using innovative legal methods to drive them out… Chicago used anti-Chinese zoning, Los Angeles restricted restaurant jobs to citizens, Boston authorities denied Chinese restaurants licenses, and the New York Police Department simply ordered whites out of Chinatown… The campaign is of more than historical interest today. As current anti-immigration sentiments and efforts show, even now the idea that white Americans should have a privileged place in the economy, or that nonwhites are culturally incongruous, persists among some”

Gabriel Chin & John Ormonde, The War Against Chinese Resturants, 67 Duke L. J. 681, 2018

Evan Sung for The New York Times


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 #sustainability

· 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 theurbanlawbulletin@gmail.com.

Subscribe to The Urban Law Bulletin here.

The Urban Law Center at Fordham University School of Law

Nestor M. Davidson

Faculty Director, Urban Law Center

Geeta Tewari

Associate Director, Urban Law Center

Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors

Victoria Lee

Thomas Lloyd

Steven Stern

Shirley Ureña