Saturday, March 31, 2012


What do Mayors of Pacific Northwest cities have against sitting? Seattle, Portland, Olympia, Anchorage, Berkeley, and San Francisco all have ordinances that restrict sitting on sidewalks. The ordinances have different names, from “Sidewalk Management Plan” (Portland), to “Pedestrian Interference Ordinance” (Olympia), to the slightly less Orwellian “sit / lie ban” (Seattle), but all are weapons against that scourge of downtowns everywhere: sitting on the sidewalk.

It all started in Seattle, where, in 1993, then-City Attorney Mark Sidran introduced a “sit / lie ban” as part of a package of “civility laws” created to entice businesses to lease downtown offices and storefronts. Gradually, other cities in the Northwest cities followed suit, with Portland’s, Anchorage’s, and San Francisco’s bans all taking effect between 2009 and 2011.

Why ban sidewalk sitting? To “clean up” downtown streets of the homeless, of course. Some of the ordinances are quite explicit about this, while others are not. In an official video explaining Portland’s Sidewalk Management Plan, for example, the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff explains: “As you see we have multiple users on our sidewalks, going from one of our transit stops, visiting one of our mini-retailers in downtown Portland, or just travelling from Point A to Point B. So you can see as a city we have to be able to manage usage of the sidewalks.” (The evidence doesn’t bode well for those who deny that the homeless are the intended targets: between August 2007 and June 2008, 72.3 percent of the 159 people receiving warnings or citations for violating the Sit-Lie law were homeless.)

All of the ordinances work in more less the same way, by criminalizing sitting or reclining on downtown sidewalks for a period of time, usually 6AM until 12AM or so. However Portland’s Sidewalk Management Plan is interesting in that it proposes a 6' - 8' "pedestrian use zone" in which pedestrians "must move immediately to accommodate the multiple users of the sidewalk." Importantly, the zone measures out from the property line, ruling out leaning on (or sleeping on) buildings.

Quite honestly as New Yorkers, it’s hard for us not to scoff at this nonsense. If such ordinances aren’t needed in midtown Manhattan—which hosts some of the busiest, most diverse sidewalks in the world—are they really needed in the relatively serene downtowns of the Pacific Northwest?


This post in the Huffington Post caught out attention this morning. Included in the list of the "12 Worst Schools for Free Speech in 2012" is the University of Cincinnati, which has a "free speech zone" that limits “all demonstrations, pickets, and rallies” to a free speech zone that takes up just 0.1% of its campus.

We haven't written about FREE SPEECH ZONES here, which clearly deserve a place in the Arsenal of Exclusion.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Something like a “free speech zone,” or a special area set aside for the practice of free speech, would therefore be unnecessary, would it not? If one existed, would free speech therefore be prohibited outside it? If so, wouldn’t this violate the First Amendment?

As Orwellian as it sounds, free speech zones not only exist, but are used regularly to control political dissent. Colleges instituted free speech zones during the Vietnam-era protests of the 1960s and 1970s, but according to The National Lawyers Guild, a “pattern of behavior that stifles First Amendment rights” emerged from 1999’s World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. Subsequently, throughout the 2000s, free speech zones were a regular presence at national conventions, presidential debates, war demonstrations, and pretty much any public appearance of George W. Bush.

Groups like the ACLU have challenged the constitutionality of free speech zones, but a lot of criticism has been aimed at the free speech zones themselves, which, in most cases, have been too small, too harsh, and too out of the way. Most famous was the free speech zone designated for the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Enclosed by jersey barriers, barbed wire, and a chain link fence, and separated from the convention by service roads, train tracks, and a parking lot, it became known as the “protest pen” or “the cage.” A Judge who visited it before the convention commented that "One cannot conceive of other elements put in place to make a space more of an affront to the idea of free expression than the designated demonstration zone."

The constitutionality of free speech zones is ambiguous. Court decisions stipulating that the time, place, and manner of expression can be regulated and that protesters don’t have a right to a "captive audience" have led some to believe in their constitutionality, but others argue that the right to free speech implies a right to be heard – a right that is severely undermined when protesters are put in a cage and tucked behind a parking lot. Regardless, free speech zones are on the rise, and are starting to be used to control protesters at Occupy rallies around the country. Fortunately, there is resistance. A Google image search reveals many variations of the same theme. Graphically challenged though they are, they strike us as just about right:

Friday, March 30, 2012


We were reading Antero Pietila's Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped American City, and came across a reference to religious quotas. Pietila tells an interesting story about The Maylander apartment building, a 507-unit building near Johns Hopkins that was finished in 1951. Three years after the Supreme Court deemed restrictive covenants unenforceable in Shelley v. Kraemer, the management company behind the Marylander instituted a quota for Jews: until the building was 75 percent occupied, no more than 12 percent of tenants could be Jewish.

We wondered, what is the history of using RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS QUOTAS in housing? With some internet research, we came across the fascinating story of Starrett City. In an effort to achieve a tenant mix of 55 percent white and 45 percent black or Hispanic, managers of Brooklyn’s Starrett City—a 46-building moderate-income housing development that opened in 1974—enforced a racial quota. As whites were vastly outnumbered by blacks and Hispanics on the waiting list, enforcing the quota meant giving preferential treatment to whites. As Robert C. Rosenberg, the general manager of Starrett City said in a 1988 interview with The New York Times, “We have understood from the very beginning that this is a form of discrimination, but there is no other way effectively to bring about large-scale integrated communities.”

Starrett City wasn’t the only development to use racial quotas for purposes of integration. Developers of Chicago’s Atrium Village, a 309-unit housing complex built in 1979 as a buffer between Cabrini-Green and the city’s Gold Coast, used quotas to achieve a 50 / 50 split between blacks and whites (State housing officials and HUD proposed a 70 / 30 ratio, fearing that anything over 30 percent was a tipping point, but the coalition of churches behind the project objected). Quotas were also used in developments in Boston and Charleston. (Quotas have also been used in Singapore since 1989 to create a balance between Singapore’s Malay, Indian, and Chinese populations.)

Racial quotas were challenged by the Reagan administration, for whom racial integration wasn’t exactly a priority. In a suit filed in 1984, the United States Justice Department, led by William Bradford Reynolds, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, successfully argued that racial quotas violated the Fair Housing Act, and ended the programs at Starrett City and Atrium Village. As critics have pointed out, this was smart politicking on Reagan’s part: Reagan was able to strike a blow against affirmative action while claiming to take a stand for blacks (the quotas were originally challenged by the NAACP in 1980). At issue here was an age-old (and ongoing) disagreement about the intention of the Fair Housing Act. Is it, as Rosenburg put it, “to bring about an integrated society and not have two separate societies,” or, as Reynolds and his team would argue, to refrain from discriminating against any individual on the basis of race?

Interestingly, Starrett City has managed to remain integrated without the quotas. In 2000, of the 14,620 people living in Starrett City, 44.7 percent are African American, 38 percent are White, 18.4 percent are Hispanic or Latino, and 4.1 percent are Asian.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Crowdsourcing Images of Stoops in Popular Culture

Interboro is collecting examples of people hanging out on stoops in movies, TV shows, and on album covers. If you have images of stoop scenes, or can remember a stoop scene in a movie, TV show, or album cover, please leave a comment below or send us an email at Pasted below are a few examples. We would appreciate your help with this!

Monday, March 26, 2012


White people don't ride the public bus in Baltimore. This isn't a fact--I haven't actually found any statistics--but a suspicion informed by 1) my own experience riding the number 36, 3, and 8 buses, 2) a morning spent browsing Twitter feeds and blog posts on the topic, and 3) most importantly, for this post, spending a lot of time waiting for the northbound number 3 bus in front of Penn Station. Baltimore boosters sometimes bemoan the fact that the first thing visitors to their fine city see when they emerge from Penn Station is a phalanx of surface and structured parking lots, but another of Baltimore's epidemics--segregation--is also on proud display just steps from the station's front door. It is here, on Charles Street between Mt. Royal and Lanvale, where perceptive tourists will notice the following phenomenon: two cues of bus passengers, 100 or so feet apart from each-other, and almost completely segregated by race. The "weapon" of segregation in this case? The free CAMPUS SHUTTLE that connects Johns Hopkins's Homewood campus to Baltimore's downtown. Almost invariably, the white passengers on the line to the south are waiting for the free "Hopkins Shuttle" and the African American passengers to the north are waiting for the 3, 11, 61, or 64 bus. (Only Johns Hopkins students are allowed to ride the Hopkins Shuttle.)

From an exclusion / inclusion perspective, the campus shuttle is ambiguous. One the one hand, as evidenced by the lines outside Penn Station, it creates very visible segregation. Moreover, isolating students in a private, familiar, safe bus reinforces the "student bubble" that itself reinforces and perpetuates "town and gown" dynamics, and a sense that the city "out there" or "off campus" is a foreign, dangerous place that students should avoid encounters with. The bus is a great democratic public space. Unlike a plane and perhaps more so than a subway, a bus sometimes feels like a place in itself. Especially when there is a FLAT FARE, buses can be diverse spaces of encounter, where it's not hard to strike up a conversation with someone who is very different than you. Buses can thus remind us that despite whatever voluntary bubble we seclude ourselves in (student, tourist, commuter, etc.), there is a public infrastructure that is shared by everyone who lives, works, or shops in the city. For these reasons, the bus offers a valuable learning opportunity for college students; isolating students in a private, familiar, safe bus is dangerous, but from this perspective it's also a missed opportunity.

On the other hand, who's to say that these students would leave the campus at all if not for the shuttle? Baltimore can be a dangerous place, and the public bus can indeed be unreliable. Most students who come to schools like Johns Hopkins, MICA, and Goucher are coming from segregated, suburban environments. For some of my MICA students, the "College Town" shuttle established rapprochement: they used the shuttle to help bust their bubble, so to speak, but once they started becoming comfortable off campus, they threw it away and started using the public bus.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


APARTMENT SIZE is a good example of a weapon that violates the spirit of the Fair Housing Act without necessarily violating its letter. Because families need larger apartments than, say, young, childless singles or empty-nesters, builders can use apartment size as a proxy for tenant types. If you're a town and you want to attract ratables, or if you're a developer who thinks it will be easier to lease and maintain apartments for singles, build studios and one-bedrooms and you're likely to get your wish. (Building only studios and one-bedrooms is also an effective means of attracting whites, since minority households are almost always more likely to be family households than white households.) Thus it is small apartment units that are typically exclusionary. But here's an interesting case in which the opposite is true - a case in which a minority groups felt discriminated against on the grounds that a builder planned units that were too big. As reported by New York World, "Manhattan State Supreme Court judge has halted a city-sponsored affordable housing development planned in Brooklyn, asserting it illegally excludes prospective black and Hispanic occupants." How so? In the plan blocked by the court, more than 40 percent of the apartments would have three or four bedrooms, which, the plaintiffs' successfully argued, favors the area’s Hasidic Jewish community to the detriment of other residents in the area.

As the New York World points out, the ruling challenges the city’s routine practice of offering preferences for scarce low-cost apartments to residents of the community district hosting the project. It's worth pointing out that this disturbingly anachronistic practice could itself be in the Arsenal of Exclusion, since in a segregated environment, offering preferences for units to residents of the community district hosting the units will obviously only led to further segregation. (Interestingly, it was one of the practices that ACLU of Maryland cited in Thompson v. HUD to make the case that HUD and Housing Authority of Baltimore City were discriminatory in their siting of public housing projects).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Andrew W. Kahrl's The Land Was Ours

We're looking forward to reading Andrew Kahrl's The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South, which is set to be released in the coming weeks. Here is a flyer from Harvard University Press:

From the description: "A century ago a surprising amount of southern beachfront property was owned and populated by African Americans. In a path-breaking combination of social and environmental history, Kahrl shows how the rise and fall of Jim Crow and the growing prosperity of the Sunbelt have transformed both communities and ecosystems along the southern coastline."

Andrew W. Kahrl is Assistant Professor of History at Marquette University, not to mention a contributor to The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion! (Andrew wrote a great piece about the use of BEACH TAGS by municipalities, private homeowners’ associations, and clubs and resorts to restrict access to beaches, swimming pools, and other recreational amenities to residents and their guests, dues paying club members, or hotel and resort patrons.) We wish Andrew the best of luck with his new book!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


There's a great article in the NYTimes today about SHABBAT ELEVATORS. A Shabbat elevator (they are also called "Sabbath elevators," "Shabbos elevators," and "automatic elevators"), is an elevator that stops on every floor so that Orthodox Jews--who are forbidden from operating machinery on the Sabbath and who therefore cannot push the elevator buttons--can still use the elevator to access their apartments. The article does a great job of outlining some of the issues here: on the one hand, the elevators--like the ERUV and the SUKKAH BALCONY-- allow Orthodox Jews to live in modern urban environments, and are therefore a positive thing. However unlike the eruv and the Sukkah Balcony, Shabbat Elevators can be really annoying to non-Jews. Shabbat Elevators are a great example of what legal scholar (and Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion contributor) Lior Jacob Strahilevitz calls an "exclusionary amenity:" while they are an amenity to Orthodox Jews, they seriously inconvenience non-Jews who are forced to endure long waits for no good reason, and who therefore might opt to live in a building that doesn't have them. From this perspective, Shabbat elevators have a segregating effect. Indeed, the article points out that brokers sometimes leave Shabbat elevators off their advertisements for fear of violating the Fair Housing Act: "Apartments must be marketed to the general public, and saying there is such an elevator could very likely be interpreted as targeting a single group and excluding others."

At the risk of offending Jews, we should point out that exclusionary amenities exist in all religions. A community prayer speaker that wakes Muslims up at the crack of dawn for prayer and non-Muslims up at the crack of dawn for no good reason at all would be an example, as would the presence of a church in a private community to which residents had to pay a mandatory maintenance due (as is the case in the private community of Ave Maria in Naples, FL).

The article is also interesting for the tactics that building owners and residents use to avoid conflict. (e.g. building owners can program the elevators to shoot up to the penthouse and then work their way down, or exchange "Shabbat" and "normal" operations mode every five minutes, while residents can jump into a regular elevator and hope their fellow passengers head to a floor near their own destination).

Saturday, March 3, 2012


A student of ours alerted us to this terrific essay about OCCUPANCY STANDARDS by Ellen Pader, an Associate Professor of Regional Planning at UMass Amherst. What is an occupancy standard? In a nutshell, it's a rule that outlines how many people can live in a dwelling unit. The most widely followed standard is HUD's: no more than two people per bedroom. As Pader points out, while the standards take up only a few lines in state health and safety codes, they have a disproportionately large impact on the ethnic, racial, social, and economic structure of communities. Here's Pader: "When fewer people are permitted to share a unit, it means larger families may be priced out of the market or forced to move into run-down neighborhoods with larger, less expensive homes and often poorer quality services . . . and schools. In practice, this tends to segregate neighborhoods by race, ethnicity, and class."

Standards, of course, are cultural constructs: what is "too close for comfort" for one person might not be for someone else. The paper does not, however, make a case to abolish occupancy standards, only to give households the opportunity to decide for themselves what they consider acceptable and preferred living arrangements. The argument is for "a definition of equality that recognizes difference, not one that touts sameness as a social goal."

A highly recommended read!


To our running list of victims of the Arsenal of Exclusion (which includes blacks, the poor, Jews, the homeless, immigrants, teenagers, the disabled, revelers, tourists, farmers, beach-goers, frat boys, straight people, and people without children), we have to include patrons of strip clubs. A great article on Salon called "Taking sex out of the city," describes recent weapons in the war against sex-oriented businesses, including midnight curfews, making it a crime for performers to come within six feet of an audience member, and a nude dancing ban (which could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court). The article is also smart for pointing out an entrenched double-standard: as “neon-signed sleaze-baskets” are increasingly targeted, “sex-positive” boutique establishments like Babeland and the Pleasure Chest get a pass. As the author puts it: "As urban amenities of all types have upscaled, from gyms to coffee shops to cupcake emporiums, so too have sex stores, offering a gentler experience at a premium price."

Friday, March 2, 2012


While researching HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATIONS and CONDITIONS, COVENANTS, AND RESTRICTIONS, our intern James Estrada stumbled upon this great series of articles about CLOTHESLINE BANS and the "right to dry" movement that has sprung up to confront them.