Last June, local nonprofit the Sightline Institute launched an initiative, called the Making Sustainability Legal project, to weed out defunct laws—everything from parking space requirements at bars to clothesline bans—that are currently blockading sustainability reforms in and around Seattle. Sightline published a new report today. Here's the executive summary (.pdf) and here's the full report (.pdf), which details case studies on 16 arguably draconian laws that have managed to persist over the years, despite their adverse impact on progressive policy making. From the report:
Making Sustainability Legal is about pulling moldy regulations out of the back of our law books and composting them. Whatever virtue they may have had in their prime, dozens of regulations now do little but block northwesterners from adopting affordable, common-sense, green solutions.
One study in the report details the impossibly complex legal rigamarole that non-profits such as the YMCA need to go through in order to obtain licenses for leading underprivileged youth on nature hikes. Another describes the state laws which prohibit car insurance companies from implementing cheaper, pay-as-you-go plans that would benefit those who don't drive often. A couple of the issues are near and dear to Slog's heart, such as the annual phonebook cavalcade (though Sightline focuses on the White Pages), as well as the "thicket of city codes" that is responsible for keeping Seattle's food truck scene in relative infancy.
A few case studies, however, aren't nearly as cut and dry.
One argument the study makes is that Seattle's mandatory helmet laws are the biggest blockade to creating a comprehensive bike sharing program. To make its point, Sightline cites a study demonstrating that more bikes on the road increases rider safety, but without also citing solid research on the efficacy of helmet laws—which seems like a glaring omission to me. Though they suggest that small revisions could do the trick—making riding helmetless a secondary offense, or making the law optional for bike sharers—the issue remains extremely dicey.
Another case study, about the current cap in Seattle and other cities on the number of taxi licenses the city can issue, is also slightly more complex than the report indicates.
The report features plenty more studies for Sloggers to froth about, including fire-safety tests for couches, possibly-racist training requirements for African hair-braiders, and restrictions on car sharing policies. Go check it out.