At Lincoln House

The Weblog of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

April 03, 2014

Lincoln Institute at World Urban Forum 7 in Medellin

     A delegation from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is on hand in Medellin for UN-HABITAT's World Urban Forum 7 through April 11, engaged in a wide range of topics from resilience to value capture.
     Some 25,000 registered participants are expected in this city, which has gone from crime capital to one of the most innovative municipalities in all of Latin America, with innovations in parks, public space and transportation infrastructure, including the successful Metrocable aerial tram system.
     The World Urban Forum is a non-legislative technical forum convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), hosted in a different city every two years, to examine the most pressing issues facing the world today in the area of human settlement, including rapid urbanization and its impact on cities, communities, economies, climate change and policies.
     Lincoln Institute-related events begin Saturday April 5 at the Plaza Mayor convention center with screenings in the Cinema Room of the short video from the Inkling enhanced ebook version of Made for Walking and the documentary film Making Sense of Place – Phoenix: The Urban Desert. The Lincoln Institute will have a booth at Stand No. 39 in the exhibit hall. Beginning Monday April 7, the schedule of events is as follows:

Monday, April 7, 2014

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.          Presentation: Value Capture (Martim Smolka, Gregory Ingram), at Innovative Americas pavilion hosted pavilion hosted by The Next City, the Kresge Foundation, and the Ford Foundation

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.              Presentation: Planeta de Ciudades (translation of 2012 publication Planet of Cities), at the Urban Library  

2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.              Roundtable and Presentation: Value Sharing: An International Perspective, at theUrban Library

Tuesday, April 8, 2014         

8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.            Urban Expansion Initiative -- Reporting on work in Colombia and Ethiopia based on the policy recommendations in Shlomo Angel’s book, Planet of Cities, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in 2012

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.          Presentation: Resilience (Armando Carbonell, Anthony Flint), at The Next City / Kresge Foundation / Ford Foundation Pavilion

4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.              Networking Event: Using Land Value Capture Mechanisms for Financing Urban Development in Latin America (Getúlio Vargas Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank), at the Yellow Pavilion, Room NE 35

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

9:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.            Presentation of New Publication, Instrumentos Notables de Intervención Urbana (Banco del Estado del Ecuador, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy), at theUrban Library

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.              The Atlas of Urban Expansion: 2015 Edition—Gregory K. Ingram, president of the Lincoln Institute, in Special Session Urban Data for the New Urban Agenda

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.              Networking Event: Urban planning and Cities Sprawling concerning Risk Management and Evaluation for Disasters ( Japan International Cooperation AgencyJICA), at the Yellow Pavilion, Room 2

Thursday, April 10, 2014

8:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.            Training Event: Urban equity outcomes: Enabling policies and tools to access land and housing (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Housing and Urban Development Studies-IHS, UN-Habitat), at theRed Pavilion, Room 16

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.              Networking Event: Addressing Urban Environmental Risk in Latin America, at the Yellow Pavilion, Room 8

      In addition, at Booth 39 in the exhibition area, the Lincoln Institute will be presenting a series of short videos selected from the Latin American Forum on Noteworthy Instruments for Urban Intervention, held in Quito, Ecuador in May of last year. The videos, on such topics as betterment levies and land readjustment, will be followed by a discussion with experts who will be on hand, on the case studies and policy tools presented in each session. These presentations will be in Spanish, and more details are available here.
     The Policy Focus Report Implementing Value Capture in Latin America: Policy Tools for Urban Development by Martim Smolka will be available at the convening in both English and a recently published version in Spanish -- Implentacion de la recuperacion de plusvalias en America Latina: Politicas e instrumentos para el desarrollo urbano
   The Next City has posted a history of the World Urban Forum, as well as an article by Greg Scruggs on the story of the Medellin’s remarkable transformation. Carolina Barco, former Colombian ambassador to the U.S., and member of the board of the Lincoln Institute, is quoted in the article.

March 25, 2014

On to Medellin

Centro_medellin-1Medellin, which has gone from crime capital to poster city for all of Latin America, with its innovations in parks, public space and transportation infrastructure, will host UN-HABITAT's World Urban Forum 7 next month, and a Lincoln Institute delegation will join some 25,000 registered participants, engaged in a wide range of topics from resilience to value capture.
     Lincoln Institute-related events include the screenings in the Cinema Room of the short video from the Inkling enhanced ebook version of Made for Walking and the documentary film Making Sense of Place – Phoenix: The Urban Desertpresentations on value capture and resilience by Latin America program director Martim Smolka, Lincoln Institute president Gregory K. Ingram, and senior fellow Armando Carbonell at the Innovative Americas pavillion hosted by The Next City, the Kresge Foundation, and the Ford Foundation; a roundtable, Value Sharing: An International Perspective at the Urban Library; a presentation by visiting fellow and Planet of Cities author Shlomo Angel on the Urban Expansion Initiative; the networking event, Using Land Value Capture Mechanisms for Financing Urban Development in Latin America, with the Getúlio Vargas Foundation; a presentation of a new publication, Instrumentos Notables de Intervención Urbana, with the Banco del Estado del Ecuador; a discussion of The Atlas of Urban Expansion: 2015 edition with Gregory K. Ingram, as part of a special session of Urban Data for the New Urban Agenda; the networking event, Urban planning and Cities Sprawling concerning Risk Management and Evaluation for Disasters, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency; the training workshop, Urban equity outcomes: Enabling policies and tools to access land and housing, with the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies-IHS and UN-Habitat; and the networking event Addressing Urban Environmental Risk in Latin America.
The Policy Focus Report Implementing Value Capture in Latin America: Policy Tools for Urban Development by Martim Smolka will be available at the convening in both English and a recently published version in Spanish -- Implentacion de la recuperacion de plusvalias en America Latina: Politicas e instrumentos para el desarrollo urbano.
     An excellent history of the World Urban Forum can be found at The Next City site here.




March 17, 2014

The design dividend

     In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, with more frequent extreme weather events and rising sea level in progress, the vulnerability of coastal cities and towns has become a matter of urgency. But out of disasters can come opportunities for innovation. Post-Sandy, a range of new initiatives, tools, policies, governance frameworks and incentives are being tested, including competitions like Rebuild by Design. Design is seen as a key tool for dealing with complex problems by creating integrated strategies to build resilience, sustainability and liveability. Using the Rebuild by Design process as a case study, Helen Lochhead will present The Design Dividend: An Integrated Approach to Climate Resilience, March 25 at the Lincoln Institute, considering the possibilities for such a process to deliver projects and strategies that can be implemented and brought to scale.
     Helen Lochhead, an Australian architect, urban and landscape designer, is currently a Lincoln/Loeb Fellow at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Most recently she has been the executive director of Place Development at Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. She is also an adjunct professor at Sydney University.
     Next month, the Lincoln Institute will publish a major report synthesizing lessons from Sandy and recommending future steps to build coastal resilience.

March 11, 2014

Rocky Mountain Time

     Lincoln Institute fellows Peter Pollock and Jim Levitt will be on hand later this week for the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute's 23rd annual conference, Moving Beyond Recession: What's Next? March 13-14 in Denver.
     Pollock, the former city planner of Boulder, will bring together planners from the region, including Aurora, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, for a retreat and subsequent session titled "As Go Cities, So Goes the Region." The group will address how 
metropolitan regions and their central cities are essential to the future of the Rocky Mountain West. As key political appointees, each city’s planning director tends to become the lightning rod for issues as diverse as urban design, neighborhood character, and redevelopment. The planners will explore key themes in economic recovery, unresolved issues, and new directions that might unfold over the next several years.
     Levitt, who has been leading an international initiative in large landscape conservation, will moderate the panel Framing an Urban Agenda for Nature
. William L. Allen, director of strategic conservation at The Conservation Fund, Bob Ratcliffe, chief of conservation and recreational programs at the National Park Service, and Tim Sullivan, Colorado state director of The Nature Conservancy, will look at how cities and nature have often been seen as incompatible: as two different things and places -- but that recently, there has been a rediscovery of the benefits of nature in cities and the need for collaborative partnerships that tackle these complex metropolitan issues beyond their political boundaries. Protecting, restoring, and connecting nature in cities and the metropolitan regions that surround them can enhance human health, create more livable and enjoyable places while promoting economic vitality, save scarce dollars by employing “green” infrastructure, and contribute to a more sustainable future in the face of climate change. The conversation will be the opening session of the Conservation in Metropolitan Regions track and will set the stage to establish a coherent national agenda for urban conservation.
     The Lincoln Institute is a proud partner in the RMLUI conference, and a wide range of publications will be available, including the recently published Policy Focus Report Arrested Developments: Combating Zombie Subdivisions and Other Excess Entitlements.

March 05, 2014

Deconstructing the homeowners association

Photo (5)Over 20 percent of all homes in the U.S. are in homeowners associations, which govern over some 63 million Americans and take in nearly $40 billion in annual revenue through fees. Last week, visiting fellow Gerald Korngold led a workshop at the Lincoln Institute, "Homeowners Associations and Local Government: Current Issues and Future Trends," to take stock of this burgeoning form of governance, with all its legal implications and controversies -- including fines for such violations as a wreath shaped like a peace sign to too many stickers on the rear window of a car parked in a driveway.
     Ron Cheun from Oberlin College considered the question of whether homeowners associations mitigate or aggravate the dynamic when residential neighborhoods are in distress. Rachel Meltzer from The Milano School of the New School examined the effect of private land use regulation, and Roger Colinvaux, from the Catholic University School of Law, presented on homeowners associations as non-profit organizations. Barbara Coyle McCabe from the University of Texas-San Antonio examined the relationship of homeowners associations and local governments.
     Part of the goal of the gathering, organized by Joan Youngman, senior fellow and chair of the Department of Valuation and Taxation, was to come up with themes that are worthy of future research. Korngold's lecture on the subject can be viewed here.

March 04, 2014

Detroit's bankruptcy and the property tax

     Anyone concerned about cities is closely following Detroit's struggle to emerge from bankruptcy. Civic leaders unveiled a path to solvency last week. While there are many causes and circumstances that have contributed to dire fiscal conditions in Detroit, the erosion of the property tax base is and will continue to be critical. A number of factors have led to significant tax base erosion: regional economic decline, policies, tax delinquency and tax foreclosure.
     Mark Skidmore, professor of economics at Michigan State University and a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute, will address recent developments in Detroit, in Detroit Bankruptcy and the Eroding Property Tax Base, the next in the Lincoln Institute's spring lecture series. Skidmore, who researches urban and regional economics, state and local government tax policy, intergovernmental relations, the interrelationship between public sector decisions and economic activity, and the economics of natural disasters, will consider important changes that could improve Detroit's overall economic and fiscal health as the city emerges from bankruptcy. An interview with Skidmore, who is also co-editor of the Journal of Urban Affairs, appears in the January issue of Land Lines.

February 25, 2014

Enhancing the ebook

MFW-ipad-screen-smallIn a continuing effort at the frontier of electronic publishing, the Lincoln Institute is now offering its bestselling title, Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form,  as an enhanced ebook on the Inkling platform. A sample chapter is available for free viewing here.
     Inkling is renowned for uniting the latest enhanced ebook technology with the most fluid design in the medium, which is particularly compelling for the subjects of urban planning and urban design, said Maureen Clarke, director of Publications at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
      “Made for Walking has been especially popular with students and other millennial generation readers, who tend to eschew cars and prefer to live in compact, walkable environments. We hope to compel more of them in the digital space with this state-of-the-art product in epub3, which renders beautifully across a wide range of mobile devices and browsers,” said Clarke.
      Through self-guided tours, peel-away scale maps, scrollable panoramas, and photo slideshows, readers can explore walkable neighborhoods and other elements of cities where residents can live comfortably without a car. The ebook also includes a five-minute educational video about urban walkability as exemplified by Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts.
      Made for Walking: Density and Urban Form, by landscape architect and urban designer Julie Campoli, is ideal for coursework, and Inkling content is search-enabled and shareable via social media. Using Twitter or Facebook, readers can raise questions and exchange notes in the virtual margins and share interactive segments with anyone in their social networks.
     “The interactive Inkling format affords users a more immersive experience of the walkable neighborhoods captured by Campoli’s street-level photographs and panoramas,” said Clarke.
     The Made for Walking Inkling edition is available for iPad and iPhone, as well as other mobile devices, Macs and PCs via the Web reader. A free sample includes the video and a portion of chapter 4, which showcases 12 walkable neighborhoods in the U.S. and Canada. Most web browsers allow direct access to the sample, but for the best experience on mobile, users should create an Inkling log-in to download and explore the free content on their phones or tablets. Users can purchase the book or individual chapters through a link on the Lincoln Institute website.
     Made for Walking became the Lincoln Institute’s bestselling title after its publication in December 2012. The book is a guide to the essential ingredients of walkable districts, examining how urban form influences travel behavior and neighborhood vitality. Julie Campoli builds on the “five Ds” of transit-oriented, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly urban areas: Together with the element of parking, the Ds have evolved into a handy device for defining and measuring compact form and its influence on travel and vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
      Julie Campoli, principal at Terra Firma Design inBurlington,Vermont, looked at 12 pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhoods in theUnited States andCanada, from Green Point inBrooklyn,New York to LoDo and the Central PlatteValley inDenver, Colorado.

February 22, 2014

The global emergence of private land conservation

     Land conservation is catching on all around the world, but remarkably, most international non-governmental organizations are working without the advantage of the financial and tax incentives that have powered the American land trust movement. So says Peter Stein, principal at Lyme Timber Co. and a Kingsbury Browne Fellow at the Lincoln Institute, who kicked off the 2014 spring lecture series earlier this month.
     In a wide-ranging survey of international conservation efforts, Stein shared research on private land conserving efforts across the globe and highlighted select examples of individual NGO action and networked associations. Stein looked at activity in more than 35 countries, many of them relying on growing information networks of NGO practitioners, from New Zealand to Chile. He also reflected on his personal experience as one of the many architects of the U.S. land trust movement over the past 35 years, and the potential for establishing an international network.
     Beginning in Massachusetts with the Trustees of Reservations in 1891 and continuing with the Audubon Society in 1896, permanent land protection on a regional basis by non-profit organizations got a big boost in the second half of the 20th century with the advent of tax-deductible conservation easements. As transactions increased, Boston attorney Kingsbury Browne first had the idea of coordination at the national overview. He convened a group of conservation specialists in 1981 at the Lincoln Institute, which ultimately turned into the Land Trust Alliance. Today there are more than 1,700 local and regional land trusts in the U.S. as well as two dozen national organizations, that have collectively protected more than 47 million acres of land.
      Worldwide, 74 countries have NGOs dealing in some way with private land conservation, Stein said. But the notion of permanent land protection is quite different in most other countries, outside of the United Kingdom and Australia, he said. More common are stewardship agreements, short-term leases, as well as some easements, though they tend not to be permanent. “In many countries, nobody is allowed to own land in perpetuity,” not just a land trust, he said.
     Following up on the lecture as a respondent, Laura Johnson, immediate past president of the Mass Audubon, noted that easements “changed the game” in terms of common property law in the U.S., and that conservation unquestionably accelerated thanks to favorable tax treatment.
     Also this month on the subject, a working paper by Harvey Jacobs has been posted, Conservation Easements in the U.S. and Abroad

February 15, 2014

At New Partners, Legacy Cities, zombie subdivisions, and planning tools

     Some 1,100 planners, elected officials and others braved winter weather across the country and gathered in Denver this week for the 13th annual New Partners for Smart Growth conference. The first two days included sessions on topics that the Lincoln Institute has been immersed in of late: Legacy Cities and zombie subdivisions. The use of technology in planning and citizen engagement was a highlight as well.
     Alan Mallach, co-author with Lavea Brachman of the Policy Focus Report Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, presented on the challenges facing Baltimore, Camden, Flint, Detroit, and Youngstown, among many other urban areas once referred to as “shrinking cities,” due to massive population loss accompanying disappearing manufacturing base. Amid the many grim scenarios and vast acres of vacant lots and abandoned buildings, Mallach said, there are almost as many success stories. He singled out the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati and Washington Avenue in St. Louis, where historic garment district buildings have been renovated and re-used, and underscored the importance of making the most of existing urban fabric in downtowns. So-called “eds and meds” – colleges and medical centers – continue to be vital economic engines and job providers in many Legacy Cities, he said. The critical question is whether all residents can share in economic regeneration, beyond neighborhoods that are improving or gentrifying. A roundtable on Legacy Cities with a number of presented and former mayors is planned for May at the Lincoln Institute.
     Jim Holway, lead author of Arrested Developments: Combating Zombie Subdivisions and Other Excess Entitlements, led a workshop detailing the different methods communities can use to reconfigure vast acres of incomplete – and in many cases, largely empty -- residential developments. The session, which included co-authors Anna Trentadue, program director of Valley Advocates for Responsible Development, and Don Elliot, Denver-based director of Clarion Associates, focused on strategies to reconfigure zombie subdivisions and prevent the phenomenon from occurring so intensely in the future. In trying to “kill, prevent or reincarnate” these subdivisions, local planners can reconfigure, replat, and even vacate subdivisions, and in the future put time limits on development agreements, require realistic market feasibility studies, infrastructure up front, and building in phases. Communities faced with extensive tracts of land where there are empty streets and vacant lots – 12 to 66 percent of all lots in eight states in the Intermountain West, the report found – are concerned that “this is going to happen again,” said Linda Dannenberger, planning director for Mesa County, Colorado. The temptation for quick profits, seen in the run-up to the 2008 housing bust, “is just human nature,” she said.
     Another big event at New Partners was the announcement of winners of the inaugural Innovation Awards put on by the Open Planning Tools Group, the network of innovators originally convened by the Lincoln Institute in association with the publication of the report, Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools. The awards, designed as a way to recognize significant contributions in planning tools technology, went to Forest Planner by Ecotrust, where forest managers can map properties, prepare forest management scenarios, and evaluate the results based on key indicators of forest production and health. Forest Planner connects science to decision-making using a system developed in collaboration with Oregon State University Extension foresters. Previously, analytics of this type were available only through the use of expensive and complicated software. Forest Planner’s web-based interface makes complex data accessible to land owners and other decision-makers. Using open source software further opens up the access to this tool to new audiences, brings together years of forest and conservation modeling with tool development in the open source Madrona framework.
     The other winner was the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’sMassachusetts Priority Mapping Protocol, which creates a framework for using civic engagement and data-driven technology to identify priority areas for housing and economic development in Massachusetts. It exemplifies the Open Planning Tool Group’s linked goals of advancing the use of open access and open source tools to improve planning decisions through engagement with the public, providing improved analytics and information to decision makers, and supporting the use of scenario planning practices in policy development. In the two projects where it has been used, 80 public meetings allowed participants learn about the complex factors that shape their community, and more importantly to share information with and learn from each other.. The innovative use of geospatial tools like Community Viz allowed technical staff to gather public feedback that provides significantly more precise, and thus useful, guidance for future policy decisions. The Priority Mapping Protocol was implemented in collaboration with the State’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and the South East Regional Planning and Economic Development District; the tools developed to support the protocol are available to any region in Massachusetts and include a library of supporting data and guidance for the inclusion of locally sourced information.

January 22, 2014

Confronting zombie subdivisions

Arrested-Developments_web_heroVast acres of approved but empty or incomplete subdivisions have become a blight on the landscape across the Intermountain West, compromising quality of life, diminishing fiscal health, and distorting real estate markets, according to new research published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
     “Zombie subdivisions” – the living dead of the real estate market – can be reconfigured for more open space or turned over to other uses, but the far better policy is to prevent the phenomenon in the first place, say Jim Holway, Don Elliott, and Anna Trentadue, authors of Arrested Developments: Combating Zombie Subdivisions and Other Excess Entitlements, the Lincoln Institute’s latest Policy Focus Report, available for free downloading. Key findings and case studies are also excerpted in the January issue of Land Lines.
     The phenomenon as it has played out in Colorado in particular is examined in this coverage of the report in The Denver Post. Utah Business also looks at what it means for that state, and additional coverage is at The Next City and Planetizen.
     The suburban equivalent of blight seen in such cities as Detroit, the incomplete subdivisions, in some cases all but abandoned following the 2007-2008 real estate bust, have left a landscape of roads to nowhere slicing through farmland, lonely lampposts and street signs, and “spec” houses standing alone amid marketing billboards and land cleared for nonexistent golf courses.
     The researchers, analyzing eight states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – identified millions of “entitled” empty lots in subdivisions, where 15 percent to two-thirds of the developments were vacant. By region, they found that:
     --  An estimated 1.3 million approved lots in the Phoenix-to-Tucson Sun Corridor remained unbuilt during the height of the bust.
     -- In five Colorado counties as of 2012, nearly 30,000 subdivision lots are vacant, with an average of 20 percent of the approved land undeveloped.
     -- In Teton County, Idaho, three out of every four lots entitled for development were vacant.
     The incomplete developments—also known as “excess entitlements” that were granted by local governments, and some of which exist only on paper —are a burden on natural resources, hurt property values, and impose fiscal strains, requiring road maintenance, infrastructure, and obligatory emergency services coverage – all without contributing to the local tax base.
     Very recently, regional rebounds in the housing markets have begun to chip away at what is clearly an oversupply, but demand is returning for areas closer to urban centers, rather than far-flung exurban areas. In many cases it would take years for the planned developments to be built out, if ever.
     Economic forces shape the regional markets for land development and drive the boom and bust cycles. But local planning and development controls greatly influence how these market forces will play out in any particular community.
     The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Sonoran Institute initiated the study to provide information and tools to help cities and counties struggling with distressed subdivisions. Drawing on case studies, lessons shared by experts during several workshops, survey results, and data analysis, the report identifies the challenges communities typically face when they attempt to address excess development entitlements – ranging from property rights to fragmented ownership.
     The authors recommend several mechanisms to avoid future zombie subdivisions. Communities likely to face significant growth pressures would be well served by growth management policies that help to align new development entitlements and infrastructure investments with evolving market demands. For communities already facing problems stemming from distressed subdivisions, a willingness to reconsider past approvals and projects and to acknowledge problems is an essential ingredient for success.
     At the state level, the researchers recommend the adoption of new state enabling authority to ensure local governments have the tools and guidance they need. At the local level, they recommend that governments prepare and revise community comprehensive plansand entitlement strategies; adopt enhanced procedures for development approvals and ensure policies are up to date and consistently applied; and r
ationalize development assurances to ensure they are practical, affordable, and enforceable, and establish mechanisms to ensure development pays its share of costs.
     In addition, local governments should serve as a facilitatorand pursue public-private partnerships to forge creative and sustainable solutions, b
uild community capacity and maintain political will to sustain policy action, and establish systems for tracking development data to enable effective solutions, subdivision by subdivision, the report says.
     Jim Holway FAICP is the director of Western Lands and Communities, the Lincoln Institute’s joint program with the Sonoran Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Don Elliott,FAICP is a land use lawyer, city planner, and a director at Clarion Associates in Denver, Colorado. Anna Trentadueis the staff attorney for Valley Advocates for Responsible Development in Driggs, Idaho.