KAPO Testimony on Stormwater Design Manual Changes

KITSAP ALLIANCE OF PROPERTY OWNERS (KAPO) over the years has maintained a vigil against over regulation and regulation for regulation sake. We have been consistent in continually bringing the question – “what is the problem we are trying to solve? to the forefront. The next question to be examined in the public debate is: “how are the existing regulations failing to address the problem? While answering these questions we want to know what types of studies have been performed to document problem(s) or the ineffective measures applied in the past. And equally important is: “what is the cost to the public and private sectors to implement new regulations.”

Any regulation, existing or proposed that is crafted without first answering the above basic questions, is by definition “regulation for regulation sake.” Volume 1 of the Stormwater Design Manual fits that definition. It is that fact and other issues as outlined in this review response, that explains why KAPO is opposed to these new stormwater design regulations.

KAPO knows it is costly to actually study the environment (to include the regulatory environment) and it is much easier to just propose regulations because somebody thinks it might be a good idea. The problem with that approach is that regulations get piled on top of other regulations and nobody ever takes the time to make the analysis of whether we even need all of the regulations a county or city has adopted. Read the full letter: KAPO Testimony StmWtrDsgnRegs 6-16-20

Kitsap County Response Matrix to Citizen comments: SDM Comment Matrix

Response To Staff Comments In The Matrix For Issues Raised By Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners On June 16, 2020

Honorable Commissioners:

Before addressing the Staff comments in the matrix, KITSAP ALLIANCE OF PROPERTY OWNERS (KAPO) wants to emphasize something to correct an impression that might be held by some. Besides our mission of working to see that the protections in our US and State Constitutions are not abridged for people who own property, we are advocates for “local control and decision making” and not for State or Regional Control of Kitsap County. Thus, we want our local legislators and their supporting staff to have as their primary concern, what is best for Kitsap County and not what a state agency thinks is best or implements through their funding guidelines. In short, we reject the premise that says in effect, “the state made me do it” to include adoption of this or that regulation.

Even when our State law makers impose regulations on Kitsap County without our (the people of Kitsap County’s) consent, we want to see evidence that our local legislators have exerted every effort possible to oppose regulations that adversely affect the residents and property owners of Kitsap County or the County’s budget in a vigorous line of defense.

Quite frankly what we have witnessed in the last 20-years of involvement in the plans and ordinance development process is either no strong advocacy for local control or passive resistance only. The net result being that abdominal admission ………. “we have no choice ……… the State mandates it.” All that does is call into question, “who do our elected and staff actually represent, the State or Kitsap County?

Now to the issues posed in our June 16th letter. Continue reading

Opinion: Rebuilding economy will require rethinking government’s role

To better understand the recent surge of criticism and resistance against government-mandated lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, take a closer look at the Commerce Department jobs report published last week.

In April, the United States lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs, with the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 14.7 percent.

Those numbers suggest the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic response will be staggering. The losses will be compounded by the countless number of small businesses that will likely never reopen, diminished household incomes and savings, and massive public debt.

As the hard work of rebuilding the economy begins in the months to come, one lesson should be clear: The way forward will require government to get out of the way so that the private sector can focus on building, producing and innovating. And the most important contribution the government can make to the recovery is to reduce the senseless laws and regulations that restrain growth.

To be sure, the government has played a significant — though sometimes controversial — role in the pandemic response, through its power to coerce and restrain.

Imposing quarantines, shutting down businesses, sending stimulus checks and issuing stay-at-home orders are genuinely debatable steps, but perhaps they were necessary, at least in the short term, to address a public health emergency marked by unknown risks.

But we’ve also seen substantial evidence that the government’s regulatory powers have made things worse. Across a wide range of areas — restricting healthcare licensing regimes, barriers to entrepreneurship and misguided land use regulations — government policies are hurting more than they’re helping.

Right now, especially as states and localities begin phased reopenings, is an ideal time to rethink many of the policies that hold back growth and innovation. The organization I lead, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), published a report detailing four areas in which federal, state and local government leaders can help by simply getting out of the way.

First, it’s time to liberate the healthcare sector by ending counter-productive regulations.

For years, we’ve fought to end “certificate of need” laws, which prohibit healthcare providers from increasing the supply of services without permission from the government. These changes would bring more entrepreneurial energy into the healthcare sector, where such energy is desperately needed to respond to new challenges.

Likewise, PLF has called for easing the restrictions on healthcare professionals working across state lines and reforming licensing laws for healthcare workers, both of which would allow these vital service providers to adapt to changing conditions and shift resources to where the better belong.

Second, we’ve appealed to lawmakers to lift restrictions on entrepreneurship so that Americans can get back to work.

By reducing the burden of occupational licensing requirements, liberating freelancers and gig workers to pursue their chosen work, and lifting restrictions on home-based businesses, governments will unleash a wave of entrepreneurial energy that will make it easier for American workers to get back on their feet.

Third, PLF makes the case that protecting property rights are key to expanding economic opportunity.

Easing restrictive policies like occupancy restrictions, unnecessary limits on development and endless permit reviews will go a long way toward boosting the recovery, while at the same time addressing the need for more affordable housing. Sheltering in place, after all, requires shelter. In addition, we need to speed the ability to redevelop and repurpose shuttered offices, hotels, and other businesses.

Finally, we’ve advocated for reducing the role of administrative bureaucracy over American life.

While entrepreneurs and workers look to step up to create the new businesses and opportunities that will move the economy toward recovery, it’s time we diminish the power of regulators, rule makers and bureaucrats.

Reducing outdated and burdensome regulations, and restoring the constitutionally required separation of powers that limits government authority, will be critical steps in transferring more control and responsibility to the people, and away from Washington and state capitals.

The public health emergency we’re facing isn’t over, but we must begin thinking about what comes next.

The private sector will have to lead the way to get the economy back on its feet. Government at all levels — federal, state and local — should focus on doing what it can to step aside so that the nation’s entrepreneurial energies can be unleashed.

Otherwise, the coronavirus tragedy will be further compounded by economic disaster.

This op-ed was originally published by InsideSources on June 3, 2020.

Pacific Legal Foundation Op-Ed June 03, 2020  By STEVEN D. ANDERSON

Trump’s New ‘Navigable Waters’ Rule Is an Improvement, but Still Murky

The Trump administration published this spring its new definition of “navigable waters” (also known as “waters of the United States”) under the Clean Water Act.

The long-awaited action reversed course on decades of bureaucratic overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA’s partner in the abuse of property rights.

Those two agencies misused their Clean Water Act authority to control private property well beyond the limits set by the Constitution and congressional authorization. Those abuses culminated in a 2015 regulation by the Obama administration, widely referred to as the “waters of the United States” rule.

The new rule, published April 21, is a significant retreat from the extreme land grab that prior administrations carried out under the Clean Water Act. Fewer acres of remote or physically isolated wetlands will fall under EPA control. Fewer homebuilders will need the Army Corps of Engineers’ permission to provide housing. Continue reading

Jul 30: KAPO Dinner at 5 PM

KAPO Candidate Forum Canceled
Candidates for 23rd, 26th, 35th Legis. Dists. 1st and 2nd Commissioner Districts

Family Pancake House, Kitsap Way
July 30. Room available at 5pm for no-host dinner
Speakers 6 pm to 8pm.

Questions? Pat Ryan 350-692-4750 pat.ryan58@comcast.net

The Government-Created Housing Shortage

The American spirit is synonymous with a can-do attitude—we are builders, creators, and innovators. The remarkable construction of New York’s legendary Empire State Building symbolizes that spirit: from start to finish, the completion of this American landmark took a single year.

But that spirit now seems diminished. Many U.S. cities face a housing shortage thanks to prohibitive and heavy-handed regulations pushed by local governments—and the shortage has pushed median rents and purchase prices too high for ordinary incomes to afford.

The way to make housing more affordable is to build more housing. Americans of yesteryear could have made short work of the problem: build, baby, build!  But as PLF’s cases show, property owners and developers today must navigate a minefield of land-use regulations that stymie or punish development. The result? Dwindling new construction of homes, higher costs, and, ultimately, stagnation.

Consider a few examples:

  • For years, PLF litigated against “urban growth boundaries” in Seattle, which constrained the supply of housing by effectively prohibiting homebuilding beyond a politically-established ring drawn on a map around the city.
  • Or PLF’s recent case involving small developers Jonathan and Shelah Lehrer-Graiwer in West Hollywood, California. They bought several lots with older single-family homes, which they wanted to demolish and replace with an 11-unit condominium complex. City officials welcomed the project because it increased the housing supply. The city then demanded an extraordinary fee of more than a half million dollars as a condition of the building permit to subsidize a government-run affordable housing program.
  • Or consider a case out of Berkeley, California, where the city blocked the construction of a large, modern apartment building by abusing an “historical preservation” ordinance to prohibit the property owner from first razing a smaller, aging apartment building. The city justified its decision on the grounds that it was important to preserve the last wood-shingle-sided apartment building in the city.

These anecdotes merely hint at the gauntlet property owners face today when exercising their right to build on their own land.

Cities and counties throughout the country routinely require lot sizes of one, five, or even more acres per home; they demand the dedication of free “open space”; they prohibit multi-family housing in large segments of a community; they demand all manner of studies, fees, and restrictions under the guise of environmental restrictions with dubious connection to public health or safety; and they wield zoning ordinances so detailed that they effectively allow the government to control the style, building materials, and even landscaping of every home proposed.

In New York, an estimated 40 percent of today’s buildings could not be built again under the state’s complicated and prohibitive land-use laws. Some of America’s most loved historic neighborhoods in other large cities, like the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, Boston’s Beacon Hill, or New Orleans’ French Quarter are effectively outlawed in our modern regulatory state. Beyond cities, many suburban land-use policies are arguably worse, as the cases of Seattle and West Hollywood above suggest.

All this has the predictable result of creating skyrocketing prices in the most regulated cities. Prohibitive local regulations act like a tax, sometimes adding 50 percent or more to housing prices, according to Wharton economist Joseph Gyorko. Left-leaning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out that California’s high housing prices “owe a lot to policies that sharply limit construction.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Houston, Texas, for instance—one of America’s largest and fastest growing cities—has one of the nation’s most lightly-regulated housing markets, allowing for an orderly but relatively free market in housing production.

Many people today find their budgets stretched to put a roof over their head—maybe including you or your children or your grandchildren—and can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods where they grew up. The root of that problem is regulation, which needlessly limits the supply and raises the cost of housing. The only long-term solution lies in respect for property rights and a renewal of the American spirit of building.

Pacific Legal Foundation Article  of April 07, 2020 By LARRY SALZMAN




Restrictive housing policies put low-income city residents at risk during COVID-19

In the 19th century, epidemics and crowded tenement housing went hand in hand. Cholera, smallpox, and even the bubonic plague swept through America’s slum housing in numbers that make the COVID-19 epidemic seem like a case of the sniffles.

Unfortunately, today’s housing policies in many urban areas make low-income and minority city residents most at risk of catching infectious diseases. And as the COVID-19 pandemic’s tragic results in cities like New York have now made clear, housing and zoning reform is one of the best ways to protect many city residents.

As early as 1820, the link between overcrowded housing and health was established in official reports, according to A History of Housing in New York City, by Richard Plunz. He notes that one out of every 27 New Yorkers died in 1859, as a result of “urban killers” like cholera, smallpox, typhoid fever, malaria, yellow fever, and tuberculosis.

In 1890, an influential reformist book, How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis, chronicled tenement living with as much contempt for the bad housing as for the people who lived there. Riis described, block by block, the overcrowded, unsanitary housing, while criticizing the poor, ethnic residents as “content to live in a pig sty,” ignorant, lazy, thieves, beggars, tramps, drunkards, greedy, stupid, and so on.

Riis noted that the tenements were “hot-beds of the epidemics that carry death to rich and poor alike.” And that prejudiced outlook drove much of the urban housing reform movement: It was one thing for the “contemptible” classes to die in their slums but quite another for their diseases to spread to “respectable” Americans.

Housing reform throughout the 19th and 20th centuries had a common tactic: The best way to address the problem was by getting rid of the poor, and the best way to get rid of the poor was to get rid of their dwellings. Indeed, the primary reason conservative members of the Supreme Court voted to uphold one of the nation’s first zoning laws in 1926 was to prevent the spread of “apartment houses,” as the slum tenements were known, because they would become parasitic nuisances in otherwise-nice neighborhoods.

In more recent times, “urban redevelopment” and central-city highway construction had a particularly adverse impact on minority neighborhoods. Much poor and working-class urban housing was destroyed, but little was rebuilt.

But whether it was early reform efforts to punch windows in airless apartments, mandating air shafts, or setting minimum building standards, there were gradual improvements. These reforms, combined with economic growth and modern medicine, did much to relieve the urban overcrowding and disease so prevalent in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

That history makes today’s zoning and land use policies appear quite ironic. Instead of allowing people to create and move to lower-density housing if they so choose, today’s planners and politicians strive to pack more people into denser cities, serviced by crowded rail and bus systems. This is all necessary, we are told, to protect environmental habitat and save the climate.

Thus, urban growth lines have been drawn, outside of which—in some cities, such as Portland—it is nearly impossible to build. Urban economist Randal O’Toole has described this so-called “smart-growth” planning model as one that is not building for the American dream, but as the title of his book puts it, for the American Nightmare: How Government Undermines the Dream of Home Ownership.

But the irony on top of irony is that environmental and zoning restrictions have reduced new home and apartment construction in coastal regions to a fraction of what is needed to maintain existing population trends. As a result, existing housing has become outrageously expensive. Families once again are doubling up. Worse, our streets are filling with homeless encampments as bad as any of the slums of the 19th century.

And like those slums of yesteryear, the homeless camps are becoming beset by illness, through no fault of the people forced to live in them. Diseases once thought eradicated from America are back with a vengeance, as cases of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis and cholera surge among the homeless. Now, with COVID-19, some of the homeless are being sheltered in empty hotel rooms in order to protect the rest of us. But how long will this stop-gap altruism last?

And even aside from the homeless camps, dense urban living is far from ideal. With greater density comes greater crime, worse schools, and more opportunity for disease. With COVID-19, who wants to ride on a crowded train or bus, if given a choice? How many social-distancing urban dwellers cooped up in small and crowded apartments would not rather live elsewhere?

Don’t let the past be our future. Unless we free up the housing markets and let people build and buy the homes they want to build and buy, conditions in the urban core will only get worse. Instead of planning our way back into the 19th century, we should build into the 21st.

Pacific Legal Foundation Article April 30, 2020 I By JAMES BURLING

Mar 30: EPA withdraws compliance order against Sacketts

Washington, D.C.; March 30, 2020: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally withdrawn an administrative compliance order it issued in 2007 against Michael and Chantell Sackett, removing the threat of crushing fines that the couple has lived under for more than a decade.

The EPA accused the couple of illegally filling a wetland under the Clean Water Act when they broke ground to build their house in a residential neighborhood near Priest Lake, Idaho. The EPA also told the Sacketts that no home could be built on the lot, despite never establishing that the lot is a wetland under congressionally mandated criteria.

The Sacketts have spent the past 12 years fighting the EPA in federal courts — including at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Sacketts are relieved that the EPA removed its years-long threat of ruinous penalties against them,” said Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Tony Francois. “This case is a dramatic illustration of how heavily the bureaucratic hand of the administrative state can fall on ordinary Americans. One day the Sacketts were trying to build a house in a residential neighborhood; the next, they were facing fines of up to $75,000 per day. The Sacketts’ resolve and perseverance in this case is admirable.”

Despite the welcome news, an important detail remains unresolved: whether the Sacketts can now build on the lot.

“While the compliance order is withdrawn, it’s not clear whether the Sacketts can build anything without permission from the EPA. The EPA’s determination that the Sacketts’ vacant lot is a federally regulated wetland appears to remain in effect,” Francois explained. “We will ask the Court of Appeals to resolve that question in the Sacketts’ favor if EPA won’t clarify it. Otherwise, the Sacketts remain under the threat of future enforcement action or a citizen suit if they proceed to build on the lot.”

Pacific Legal Foundation Article

The March KAPO Dinner is Canceled

Join us for Dinner at the Family Pancake House, 3900 Kitsap Way Bremerton Washington, Thursday April 30 at 5:30 PM.

More Info Contact Pat Ryan (360) 692-4750, pat,ryan58@comcast.net

Ending the Administrative State Is an Uphill and Necessary Battle for a Free Nation

James Madison defined tyranny as the “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands.” Yet, according to many prominent progressives, this venerable principle that inspired our constitutional structure is an existential threat to the modern architecture of the federal government. Take, for instance, a New Republic article, which sees Madison’s remedy for tyranny as an evil plot to sink the entire federal bureaucracy.

In “The Plot to Level the Administrative State,” New Republic writer Matt Ford warns that some Supreme Court justices want to revive the nondelegation doctrine — a fancy term for the idea that Congress can’t punt its lawmaking power to a different branch of government. Many on the left fret that this revival poses an existential threat to the modern trend of bureaucratic rule. I hope they’re right.

This wicked plot began in 1787. That year, our Founders built a constitutional structure unique in history — a binding document that separated government functions into three distinct spheres: legislative, executive, and judicial.

Article I vests the legislative power in Congress and sets rules about how lawmaking happens. It splits the lawmaking body into two houses, determines how the lawmakers are selected, and requires that legislation pass both houses and be presented for the president’s approval.

Other rules abound, such as requirements that tax bills begin in the House and that no legislator can be appointed to a federal civil office during their tenure. These rules rein in the power to pass laws that bind the people. If Congress could abdicate such authority to the executive branch, which faces no similar constraints, then those constraints would be meaningless. The power to make laws would face few barriers to abuse. Yet that is precisely what is happening today. Continue reading

Rentals Everywhere, but No Place to Live

Government rules drive developers to build luxury apartments.

Good news: More new apartments will come on the market this year in the U.S. than in decades. Keep reading for the bad news. Builders are expected to complete some 371,000 new apartments in 2020, compared to 247,000 in 2019 and 119,000 in 2010, according to the real estate analytics firm RealPage. The problem is that many of the new apartments will be too expensive for lower- and middle-class families. RealPage data show that in many metropolitan areas between 60% and 89% of the apartments under construction are in neighborhoods known for higher-than-average rents.

Bernie Sanders blames this on “corrupt real estate developers” who are “gentrifying neighborhoods” and replacing affordable homes with “fancy condominiums and hotels that only the very rich can afford.” Elizabeth Warren says “developers can usually turn bigger profits by building fancier new units targeted at higher-income families rather than units targeted at lower-income families.”

Their solution is more government control of the rental market. But what if that is already the main problem?

In a December 2019 working paper, Harvard and University of Pennsylvania researchers measured land-use rules, zoning and permitting regulations and how many government entities must sign off on new construction, among other restrictions. Though outliers exist, the mismatch between expensive supply and affordable demand was significantly more acute in the places with the most severe regulations.

Meanwhile, the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated last year that there were 30 or fewer affordable apartments available for every 100 extremely low-income renters in Washington, Oregon, California, Florida and Arizona. These states are home to seven of the 10 most restrictive metropolitan areas in the Harvard-Penn study.

RealPage and Harvard-Penn draw the borders of metropolitan areas slightly differently. But Fort Lauderdale, the Seattle-Bellevue area, Phoenix and Portland—all in the top 10 most restrictive regions—are also where 84.9% or more of new apartments are in neighborhoods with rent generally above the metro-area average. The restrictive cities of Miami, Washington, D.C., and its suburbs and Los Angeles are also in regions where only 18.7% to 35.8% of this year’s new rentals are being built in neighborhoods that low- and middle-income families can afford.

Last year, highly restrictive cities built ultra-luxury apartments at a higher rate than less restrictive ones, according to data from the real-estate market-intelligence firm Yardi Matrix. The most high-end classes of rentals accounted for 4.8% of the overall new supply in Manhattan, 3.8% in Phoenix, about 3% in D.C. and its suburbs, and 2.4% in Los Angeles.

But premium rentals are merely 0.3% of new supply in St. Louis, 0.1% in Cincinnati, Grand Rapids and Cleveland, and an even smaller share in Detroit and Rochester—all among the least restrictive building areas examined by the Harvard and Penn researchers.

The progressive solution to the lack of affordable housing—more government rules and controls—is damaging the very people they say they want to help.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Feb 5 2020