The Urban Law Bulletin: September 6, 2018
Updated: Oct 5, 2018
The Urban Law Bulletin is a bi-weekly e-newsletter highlighting significant news and legal developments in the field of urban law.
Is Your Refrigerator Running? It’s Okay if the City Knows. On August 16, 2018, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the data collected by smart meters constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This constitutional question arose after Naperville Smart Meter Awareness sued the City of Naperville for their smart-meter program. This program was developed after the city received $11 million to update its electrical grid as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Although the smart meters were meant to modernize the city, some residents also took the smart meters to be an invasion of privacy, as the smart meters recorded energy consumption data every fifteen minutes as opposed to once per month, as was the case with traditional energy meters. Both the Seventh Circuit and Naperville Smart Meter Awareness acknowledged that such data collection was sufficient to reveal “information about the happenings inside the home,” including when people were home, sleeping, eating, and even traveling. Although the court recognized that the data collection by the smart meters did amount to a search, the court did not find the program to be unreasonable (for now). Read the full decision here.
Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation
Commute Discrimination Is a Thing. A recent study finds that employers hiring for low-wage jobs in Washington, D.C., are more likely to call back applicants who live nearby, adding to the existing evidence that location may determine an individual’s economic well-being. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame found that employers located in D.C. tend to call back applicants who live further from the city center 14% less than those who live close. This finding is particularly significant in D.C. as central neighborhoods have become increasingly unaffordable in the past few decades, pushing low-income residents to live further outside the city center.
Housing and Development #housing
Airbnb sues NYC. On August 24, 2018, Airbnb filed suit over a law that would require it to share hosts' names and addresses with the city every month. The measure was passed by City Council to combat the impact of Airbnb on housing costs in New York. Airbnb's suit claims that the law is a violation of its hosts' First and Fourth Amendment rights. The stakes are high for the homesharing company: as many as two thirds of its New York rentals are illegal. San Francisco passed a similar law last winter, and half of all Airbnb listings were removed in a matter of days. The company eventually settled with SF, working with the city to register hosts before they post their apartments. A similar settlement seems unlikely in New York, where the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement has indicated that it has no interest in compromise.
Environment and Sustainability #sustainability
Will Houston residents approve a $2.5 billion flood-control bond package? A year after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston metropolitan area, its residents are set to vote on on a $2.5 billion bond package that would provide funding for flood mitigation and prevention. The initiative, known as Proposition A, will address the city’s flood infrastructure by paying for projects including widening of bayous and channels, excavating stormwater detention basins, and voluntary home buyouts. Some fear that Proposition A will cause Houston to lose its reputation as a low-tax, low regulation environment, where housing costs have remained comparatively affordable. Others believe that Houston’s great need for improved flood-control systems renders Proposition A a necessary measure and a bet worth placing on its sustainability. Only time will tell.
“Cities have been overlooked as a source of consumer protection. . . Cities should, nonetheless, be understood as an important source of consumer protection, especially as to efforts to protect consumers by “empowering” them. . .”
Susan Block-Lieb, Cities as a Source of Consumers’ Financial Empowerment, Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal, Volume 2, Issue 2.
We thank the Urban Law Center's Urban Law Student Fellows and Undergraduate Intern for assisting in preparation of The Bulletin.
The Bulletin collects news in major areas of urban law, categorizing 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe to The Urban Law Bulletin here.
Nestor M. Davidson
Faculty Director, Urban Law Center
Associate Director, Urban Law Center
Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors
Urban Undergraduate Student Intern Contributor