My updated Urban Planning and Social Policy syllabus

I’ve updated my syllabus. I’ve always struggled with this class because I feel like no matter what I do, I either short the urban planning part or the social policy part. I don’t know that I have figured it out this time, but I am excited about the topics and the skills I’ve settled on talking about. Students on the first day of class have a chance to add to the syllabus, and they can introduce cases throughout, so we always wind up doing more than whatever is laid out here.

Anyway, check it out, tell me what you think. I have some time to revise it.

Los Angeles TOD sketching project: Sketch #1 Wilshire & Vermont #urbansketchers #urbansketcherslosangeles

In the getting-self-outside-department, I’ve decided to do some sketching of LA train and bus station areas. I did Wilshire & Vermont yesterday. I will likely go back and do some more as there are nice bits to sketch all over that station.

In this sketch, I’m playing with shading and negative space. The building itself is very colorful, but I wanted to avoid dealing with that (where I get a little OCD and fixated), so I forced myself to go with one color, one pen. There is a very good picture of the station from LA magazine, shown here.

There were quite a few people and cars out, and I just got overwhelmed, so I didn’t include any. I think as the project unfolds, we will see how my confidence and skills improve with practice. It doesn’t matter how well I draw. It just matters that I do so.

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“Vehicle obstructing” aka “license to kill” bills list and their outcomes so far

Re: people have making excuses for the guy in Charlottesville who tried to commit a spree killing with his car. This brought up–rightly–the many bills that Republican representatives have introduced over the last year in response to Black Lives Matter protests.

I noticed that the list of states trying out zero liability for motorists who kill protestors on Twitter was incomplete. Thanks for Vets Against Trump (@commondefense) and Dean Gloster (@deangloster) for the starting list, though. I was thinking about doing some more research on this topic, so I thought I would gather up some notes to see if it’s worth working on. It looks like a lot of these die in committee, as they deserve to, so I don’t think I’ll go any further with it. Note, however, it’s passed the NC House. I always use this blog to share ideas and research notes, and so I thought others might be interested in what I found while I digging around. If you have more, holler at me, either on Twitter (@drschweitzer) or via email at

These are not the full plate of anti-protest laws cropping up, which include increasing fines for trespass on infrastructure. I don’t see those as deliberate attempts to embolden the use of deadly weapons in the public sphere, like SYG, in the same way as zero-liability laws do for motorists. The US already has clear language about what constitutes accidents and what constitutes vehicular homicide; trespassing is already treated as a mitigating factor in assigning liability. These laws merely muddy the water and make it easier for people to cause harm without personal consequences.

Nonetheless some of these anti-protest laws are far-reaching, and you might want to check out the summary from the United Nations. They mostly increase fines for trespass and introduce the ability of the state to sue individual protestors.

Florida SB 1096 Sponsored by Sen. George B. Gainer.

(2) A motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes
26 injury or death to a person who obstructs or interferes with the
27 regular flow of vehicular traffic in violation of subsection (1)
28 is not liable for such injury or death. In any action brought
29 pursuant to this section, a person accused of violating
30 subsection (1) or his or her representative has the burden of
31 proving that he or she did not violate subsection (1) or that
32 the injury or death was not unintentional.
33 Section 2. This act shall take effect

Failed in committee.

Indiana SB 285Sponsored by Republican Bruce Borders

Sec. 2. A responsible public official shall, not later than fifteen
1 (15) minutes after first learning that a mass traffic obstruction
2 exists in the official’s jurisdiction, dispatch all available law
3 enforcement officers to the mass traffic obstruction with directions
4 to use any means necessary to clear the roads of the persons
5 unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic.

The “by any means necessary” business in there is troubling, even though this is not a zero liability law. This part was removed in later versions of the bill. It’s still in committee.

North Dakota HB 1203 Rep. Keith Kempenich (R)

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a driver of a motor vehicle who
unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a
public road, street, or highway is not guilty of an offense.

Defeated by majority vote.

This is…sigh:

Republican state Representative Keith Kempenich told local media that he sponsored the bill after his mother-in-law was caught in a protest while driving.

North Carolina HB 330 Sponsored by Rep. Richard Burr (R) and Rep. Chris Millis (R)

(a) A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public
street or highway is immune from civil liability for the injury.
(b) A person shall not be immune from civil liability if the actions leading to the injury
were willful or wanton.
(c) Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply if the injured person participating in a
protest or demonstration was doing so with a valid permit allowing persons to protest or demonstrate on the public street or highway where the injury occurred.

Passed in House 68-47, referred to Senate in April.

Tennessee’s SB0944

Tennessee’s HB 668–Sponsored by Republican state Rep. Matthew Hill (R) and Rep Judd Matheny (R).

(a) A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures
another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in
a public right-of-way is immune from civil liability for such injury.
(b) A person shall not be immune from civil liability if the actions leading to the
injury were willful or wanton.

Failed in committee in both houses.

Texas HB250 sponsored by Rep. Pat Fallon (R) who is all over Twitter today wondering whether Heather Heyer, the young woman killed in Charlottesville, was on the street “illegally.” Pro tip: shut your BBQ-hole, Pat.

A person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the motor vehicle is not liable for the injury if, at the time of the injury:

(1) the person operating the motor vehicle was exercising due care; and

(2) the person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration.

(b) This section does not affect a person’s liability for an
injury caused by grossly negligent conduct.

Referred to committee. Though it is worth noting it’s been through the wringer multiple times and he had to withdraw it before.

Isabelle Anquelovski’s (@ianguelovski) book on environmental justice is terrific

So I haven’t finished it all yet, but I’ve seen enough to give a big, big endorsement. These are three, excellent cases and really good comparative urban research. The appendices are *terrific*; it’s a nice model for how to present the important findings from the cases in the main text, but then to show the nitty-gritty of coding strategies for all the nerds in the back.

It’s available from MIT Press.

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Anti-NIMBY Bible quote

Suggesting that spatially exclusionary policies go back aways, I stumbled on this reading about Christian perspectives on hospitality; Isaiah 5:8. Hebrew is the worst of my reading languages, but I went back and looked at what is reported for the Westminster-Leningrad Codex. This is the Hebrew as it appears:

ה֗וֹי מַגִּיעֵ֥י בַ֙יִת֙ בְּבַ֔יִת שָׂדֶ֥ה בְשָׂדֶ֖ה יַקְרִ֑יבוּ עַ֚ד אֶ֣פֶס מָק֔וֹם וְהֽוּשַׁבְתֶּ֥ם לְבַדְּכֶ֖ם בְּקֶ֥רֶב הָאָֽרֶץ׃


Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!


What sorrow for you who buy up house after house and field after field,
until everyone is evicted and you live alone in the land.

Look at you people! You join houses to houses and fields to fields until there is no room for anyone else. But when the punishment comes, you will be forced to live alone. You will be the only people in the whole land.

I am going with:

Those who add house to house,
And join field to field,
Till there is room for none but you,
To dwell in the land!