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Friday, August 11, 2006

“Property Rights” Initiatives Gut Land-Use Law

Posted by on August 11 at 15:12 PM

If there was any doubt that “property rights” initiatives such as Portland’s Measure 37 and Washington’s proposed Initiative 933 lead to development run amok, the Sightline Institute has laid them firmly to rest, with these maps showing development in the rural area surrounding Portland before and after Measure 37 (which allows property owners to do pretty much anything they want on their land, regardless of environmental and land-use laws, or forces taxpayers to pay them to follow those laws). The first map shows development around Portland before Measure 37 passed; each dot represents ten new rural residents. Obviously, most of the new development was concentrated around Vancouver; development near Portland was limited by Oregon’s strict growth-management law.



The second map shows development around Portland after Measure 37 passed. As you can see, rural and exurban housing development shifted dramatically; now most new development is massed in the rural areas in Oregond outside Portlanda direct result of the initiative, which gutted state and local land-use laws. Washington’s Initiative 933, on the ballot this November, is even worse: not only does it require taxpayers to pay land owners to follow nearly every state and local environmental and land-use law, it makes no allowance to enforce federal laws like the Clean Air Act; includes no exemptions for public nuisances; and actually allows property owners to jeopardize their neighbors’ health and safety, as long as the threat is not “immediate.”

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Fuck, moved two years too late to vote against it...

Welcome to Houston.
(You rock, Erica.)

Erica -
I have no reason to believe that the Sightline folks are wrong - but their maps sure do make me think that they have something to hide. Far from "laying the issue firmly to rest" - by using different colors and a different scale I'm left thinking that things must not be that bad if they have to turn to deception in order to prove their point. This issue is too important to leave yourself open to these very basic criticisms. Shame on them!

No kidding. How exactly should I weigh the visual impact of the little tiny purple dots with the big fat red dots?

And what do you mean by "shifted dramatically" and "most development"? It appears from the second map that development north of Vancover came to a complete halt after Measure 37. Amazing!

Those maps are bullshit and they are not helping.

Man, that would probably increase traffic, pollution, and gas consumption dramatically.

So, basically, voting for these "property rights" initiatives is like handing a loaded gun to al-Qaeda.

You don't need a map to see what's happening with land use. Portland's nowhere near as fucked as we are already, and I-933 is going to make it ten times worse. Go for a drive this weekend out to the countryside. Make sure you get out of the county -- the action's in Snohomish, Skagit, Pierce and Thurston. Go to South Hill in Puyallup, and drop down into Orting right up to the edge of Mt. Rainier, or cruise up the backroads to Marysville, and even Arlington, and check out the hillsides up there. See the area around the Tulalip Casino/Walmart/Home Despot/Outlet Mall, and across the freeway at Smokey Point.

It'll blow your mind how much development is going on out there, and how cheap and nasty it is, and how fucked those areas are forever.

Then reflect on how fucked we're all going to be when the west side of the Cascades is a solid block of crappy houses from Bellingham to Battle Ground, which is precisely what the I-933 people want and precisely what they're going to get -- because everybody loves rights, right?

Yeah... everybody loves rights.

Would you prefer wrongs?

Not being able to use your land as you choose is every bit as wrong as not being able to use your body as you choose!

Why is Seattle so hostile to people who work hard to earn money (and own property)? Some should try to remember that it's their dollars that fund the lifestyles of those who choose not to work hard and earn so that they can own property.

I'm a renter, YGBKM. Why don't you explain to me how your dollars pay for my "lifestyle" because I can't recall the last time you bought me a drink...

Oh... maybe I was mistaken, I thought that all that property tax I pay more and more of each year went toward some public good. Possibly some public good that is used disproportionately by the "under privileged" (in relation to their contribution to its provision).

Happy to buy you a drink anytime!


"More than 55% of property tax goes to support public schools."

Well I guess those are used disproportionately by the "under privileged." (For the record, public school was always somewhat of an inhibition to my "lifestyle")

But the real issue here isn't what your property taxes are used for so much as the rolling back of regulations that protect a public good known as the environment. As much as I'm sure developers would love to build on every inch of land they own (or extort money from the public not to), there is a public interest served by carefully managed growth and environmental protection.

All I am saying is that it is fundamentaly wrong to continualy increase the responsibilities of property owners through riseing taxes while striping them of thier rights. If the public has a vested interest in controling land use for the common good, shouldn't it share in the expense of doing so? Why shouldn't a property owner whos land value is regulated away be made whole by the public that does so? Why should the property owner carry the whole burden? I may not agree with many of the regulations being put on land use, but I don't disagree with the publics right to do so.

Furthermore, property owners have a vested interest in maintianing the value of thier property. Many of the things you dread would lower that value. Typicaly (though admitedly not always) renters don't take as good care of property as owners.

Property owedners are not losing money, by not being allowed to sell their land for housing to be built on. Their property value is not decreasing. I do not see it as a hardship, that people are not legally allowed to sell their land at an inflated price. How can you say that these property owners are hurt by this?


Various regulations have been around for a long time. They're the price of doing business and the price of owning property. Most, if not all, property owners bought their property knowing that the government might place restrictions on its use. Excuse me for not pitying the fuckers.

Obviously very few people here who own any undevloped rural property and maybe even fewer who have ever applied for a building permit anywhere.

I-933 is a can of worms, poorly drafted and will lead to enless litigation. Butif it passes will be whittled down by future legislatures and the urban courts because basically the people of this state are just like the commenters on this blog post -- they like zoning because it limits new development, thus making their own house more valuable.

The attitudes here are as selfish as the I-933 folks except in reverse: We got ours so fuck them, those rural rednecks.

A pox on both sets of houses.

No welfare for land rapers. NO on I-933.


Consider this: as a homeowner who purchased in Snohomish county 3 years ago, I've benefited from rising property values precisely because of the growth management regulations imposed by King County. In essence, King County is running out of land that can be developed into suburbs. The rise in property values there has caused many people to move out of the county because they can no longer afford the property taxes, the down payment, etc. The result is that the value of my home in Monroe has skyrocketed.

I-933 would change those rules. It would allow for more development in King County in such a way as it has the potential of slowing down property value in that county which, in turn, affects my county. In essence, I'd see at least a slow down in property value increase and could actually see a decrease, costing me money. The rights of the people supporting I-933 are trumping my rights. Where's the fairness in that?

Finally, I have some sympathy for some of the arguments made by I-933 supporters. We need to rethink the way that the rules and regulations are applied or if they should be applied in all instances. However, the retroactive clause of the measure (going back ten years) is a non-starter for me. If you want to level the playing field, then do so now and not in the past. If the measure were to allow that from now on we know what the rules are and that in the future the impact of rule changes or new rules for current property owners (new buyers don't get to claim ignorance of the law as a loss of property) would be studied and accounted for either in payments or deferments, then I'd have a great deal more support for the measure.

I do own rural property, which I am desperately trying to save from schlock development, Seattle Man. It gets harder every year, because rampant unchecked garbage development all around us is driving the property tax of even protected forest land through the roof. YOUR development costs ME money, when I am trying to PRESERVE forest. That's bull fucking shit.

Unchecked development is destroying this state. Your rights do not include the right to rape the land for maximum profit while shitting all over your neighbors. Your "property rights" slop over your boundaries and destroy communities and destroy the land that supports us all.

The property-rights nuts paint this as a picture of thousands of individual plot owners, who each live in an isolated universe, beholden to no one, dependent on nothing but their own proud invidualism for their position in life. But that's a LIE. Your house in Snoqualmie Ridge needs sewers, and electricity, and clogged roads and pavement as far as the eye can see. You're not paying for that; the community is. And so the community gets to pay for its own destruction.

Upstream pavement causes downstream erosion, for which there is no accountability and no recourse. Ask the people who live along the thousands of creeks in the Puget Sound area how they feel about the property rights of the people on top of the hills who are sending raging rivers of poisoned water down into their creekbeds.

Density, density, density. One million new residents are moving into our region in the next ten years. They have to live somewhere. I never go to the suburbs anyway so I don't care what happens there. I look forward to new high rises downtown, great new restaurants, and vibrant urban living. Plus my property value is going no place but Up! Up! Up!

So... I have a question. If this passes, does that mean Seattle would have to reimburse Rick's for the new strip club laws?

And what about the height restrictions in... well, everywhere? Would we have to start paying people not to build skyscrapers wherever they want?

And historic buildings... could we start razing everything in Pioneer Square?

I'm almost tempted to vote for this... it could be hilarious.

The hundred year old First Methodist Church should be the first to be torn down. Seattle is the future. Old buildings drag us down.

YGBKM is typical of the whiny victim complex that is sweeping this country. In this form, it's the "Wah! I pay so much in taxes and don't get anything back! Wah!" variety, but there are a million manifestations, the most popular being "Wah. I'm a Christian and I'm perecuted! Wah!"

Most of these whiny victims identify as conservatives, because the GOP is genious at feeding the underacheivers, and telling them that their failures and shortcomings are someone else's fault.

Here's the thing of it. YGTBKM would, in a second, flip sides if they decided to put a lead arsenic compiler (I don't know what that is, but I was going for something grim sounding) next to his little bungalow. Then it would be "Wah! Why can't the government stop this? Wah!"

And, for the record, my property taxes in King County are the same (or slightly less) than my mom's in Iowa - and that's after her senior and military veteran's widow's discount. We get A LOT from our property taxes here, dumbshit.

Lastly, renters pay property taxes. It's just figured into their rent. Anyone who doesn't realize that is a moron. In this case, a whiny victim moron.

What kills me about these property rights initiatives is how easily people are manipulated. These initiatives are always engendered and funded by the big developers. Of course the big developers want to be allowed to do whatever they please wherever they please - that way, they can throw up vast quantities of subpar tract housing with zero infrastructure to support it, pocket their obscene profits and move on to rape another area. But they manipulate the small rural property owners through fear: "them cityfolk is comin' to take yer barn! They won't let you cut blackberries! You'll have to shoot all your horses and sell them to a halal butcher!"

That the developers do this is not surprising. What IS surprising is how successful they are at it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that most people are gullible and easily manipulated; hell, P.T. Barnum built an empire on that philosophy.

Zoning laws are nothing new - and growth management restrictions are just another form of zoning laws. If you're opposed to zoning laws, then is it okay if I have an open cesspool on the property next to yours? How about a wrecking yard? A strip mine? A dog kennel? A pig farm?

The people fussing about this remind me of the suburbanites who move into a new development in a formerly-rural area which still has agriculture and livestock, and immediately start bitching about how cowshit at the dairy next door smells bad. No, duh.

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