In any other city, Mike Goodman would be hailed as a visionary of "smart growth." He buys dilapidated properties near Tucson's downtown core and the University of Arizona and replaces them with upscale higher-density housing that meets or exceeds zoning requirements and building standards. The developments increase property values and help alleviate the shortage of student housing.
But the City of Tucson is so ideologically anti-development that it stymies Goodman and other developers by all of the considerable means at its disposal.
The latest is an anti-demolition statute that imposes a massive bureaucratic process throughout the "historic" central core. Where previously demolition permits were issued as a matter of course, property owners now must navigate a labyrinth of reviews and approvals, subject to the most nebulous and subjective of standards. At the end of the process, the City may purchase the property or "arrange" for its purchase-subject to no standards or conditions whatsoever.
The anti-demolition ordinance instantly reduced property rights and values for thousands of property owners. A state court struck the law down because it was enacted as part of the city's building code rather than the zoning code where it belongs. The city may appeal that decision or re-adopt the ordinance as part of the zoning code.
Meanwhile, the Goldwater Institute litigation center has taken up Goodman's cause, challenging the law as a violation of due process and Proposition 207, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which requires compensation when regulations diminish property rights and values. The suit could produce a major Prop. 207 precedent that would make cities think twice before enacting sweeping regulations of private property. If so, it will be only the latest instance in which a government's overreaching leads to a precedent that tightens the reins on grassroots tyranny.
Clint Bolick is the director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Goldwater Institute: "Playing the Takings Game: How Government Regulates Away Property Rights"
Arizona Daily Star: "Building restrictions may face court test"
Goldwater Institute: "Protecting private property rights will not disrupt normal land use planning"