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Rant on Community Laws

2008 July 15
by Julie Clawson

Do community “laws” discriminate against certain sorts of people? (rant to follow…)

I was thinking about this the other day as I read in the paper about a local suburb that was making a new law restricting the number of cars that can be parked in front of a house. The law is in response to a local car collector who apparently has a dozen cars parked around his house, but I had to wonder about the ways it will hurt lower income households. I’ve had groups of friends who have rented houses together and therefore needed to park 8-9 cars in front of the house. And for families with multiple generations living together, multiple cars are just part of having multiple adults living together under the same roof. This is America – to be a working adult in most places in the country (that have no public transportation) you need a car. So this new rule limits the people who can live in the community to small single family households.

Same thing with laws about parking on the street. In towns that ban overnight street parking unless you have a home with a driveway, you can never have guests. I hated this when we lived in an apartment. We were more than willing to have friends or family stay on the pull out couch, but they would get a parking ticket (or would be towed) if they came to stay. The law effectively implies that only those rich enough to own a house with a driveway are allowed to entertain and socialize.

And don’t even get me started on the communities around here that have laws stating you cannot hang clothing up to dry outside. So I am not legally allowed to be environmentally friendly???

I understand these laws are all about property value and even safety, but when did your “right” not to have to look at my laundry or a few extra cars necessitate legal action? Does it really mess your life up to have to look at that stuff? As much as it messes up the lives of those that honestly need to park that many cars on the property? Some days I just have to wonder how far we will go to insulate ourselves against dealing with anyone not exactly like us or with anything we may not like. Are we really that self-consumed?


11 Responses leave one →
  1. July 16, 2008

    I have been to the America several times. As a visitor I have to be obedient and observant to laws. But its okay, I enjoyed going around and I love being in America. I have no problem observing your laws but I am saddened to see local residents defying local ordinances.

  2. July 16, 2008

    To answer your question in a word: Yes. I am 100% with you on this issue!!

  3. Nitika permalink
    July 19, 2008

    Are these actually laws? Or are you referring to covenants (contracts usually set up through a neighborhood association which residents voluntarily enter into)?

  4. July 19, 2008

    the parking ones are laws. I think the laundry thing is an association thing.

  5. Liz permalink
    July 20, 2008

    this gets ridiculous. We lived in a neighborhood where you couldn’t have a screen door that showed. My neighbor had to put in a sliding one that was invisible. This same neighborhood also had a very specific list of colors your house or fence could be painted, tiles on roof, etc etc. This stuff just gets stupid. Not much you can do about it. It only gets worse in condo associations. when you live in neighborhoods that aren’t quite as “organized” (read: usually older houses or out in the country) you seem to escape it. Its dumb but not much you can do about it but choose not to live in those neighborhoods. I can totally see the car thing. I mean if you have a garage you can still usually squeeze four cars on the driveway? Who pray tell has more than five cars (other than a car collector?) As for the group thing: I can sorta see that. Our neighborhood is pretty lax about codes except ones that make sense. They do have stuff in place to prevent multiple families from occupying a single family unit. I don’t know that I have a problem with that. A lot of families don’t want the college student party thing going on next door. Nothing wrong with an individual renting a room out, but I can sorta see why they want to prevent large scale groups of students living in a group. Further, most of these groups do not OWN their property. They are renters. At most perhaps one of the parents has bought the property for investment purposes. The part of the country I live in has had a HUGE problem with people coming up from Cali and buying tons of property and doing the absentee slumlord thing. Especially with the lower end housing. They do not have a problem with renting per see.

  6. July 20, 2008

    Locally we see this in laws around loitering, pan-handling, and a new “red zone” law that excludes selected individuals from a specific downtown zone for a specified period of time. All these laws have a positive and useful side; but what bothers me is the way they are discriminately applied. Pressure for the existence of these laws comes from the downtown business community, many of whom are Christian and who perhaps don’t always understand the discriminate application or the way we further oppress people who are already at a disadvantage and who can’t defend their own rights. Sigh. I’m hoping this next year that we can gather together a group to challenge the red-zone law in particular and specifically the way it is used.

  7. Liz permalink
    July 20, 2008

    oops. got cut off. What I was saying is that the problem isn’t renting per se, but people who will rent to anyone and everyone because they want to rake in the money. It is a sad fact of life that the more money you make, the more you get to choose your neighbors. Other than communism, I really see no way around it. My best friend is a low income single mom. She really has no choice in the fact she lives in a condo complex (complete with dumb rules about what she can do to the INSIDE of her rental unit) In addition to some good decent folks, she also has a smattering of tweaker neighbors who cause all manner of lowlife trouble. She would be the first to tell you that because of some bad choices she made earlier in life, this is what she is dealing with now. It sort of sucks, but I am not sure I really see any solution. In our neighborhood, someone was going to put up a halfway house for newly released felons. Huge outcry. On the one hand, it is really really important to have stuff as this and I agree in it wholeheartedly. On the other hand, am I willing to go to bat for it so much that I have it next door to me? In my case: yes, but I can also see where some folks are not comfortable with that. This is why people buy in developments instead of in less regulated neighborhoods or out of city limits. And having lived on the east coast I can tell you that the parking stuff is something you just have to live with. I remember well people staking out parking places they had shoveled themselves and defending them to the point of bodily injury to any encroachers on “their” space.

  8. July 21, 2008

    It seems a bit weird to me to say it makes sense to not want to have to enounter certain sorts of people. Are college students not people too? Are people from cultures that value family – and family living together – not people too? It just seems arrogant and unchristian to say that we don’t want to interact with those sorts of people…

  9. Liz permalink
    July 21, 2008

    what I am saying is I totally understand people not wanting to live next to a house full of people coming and going at all hours. And possibly having very loud parties into the wee hours. You went to a Christian college Julie. Not all college students would be as good neighbors as no doubt you and your friends were. I know I would not have wanted to live next door to me and my rowdy friends now that I am an adult. This is also where you get zoning stuff about businesses. The purpose is so that people in residential neighborhoods don’t have to deal with comings and goings and having their driveway blocked at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately, I know of several people who probably have less traffic as a result of their business than a lot of people get socially who have gotten screwed by this and had to move. It is really really hard to strike the balance between stuff that prevents the neighbors from “nuisance” and that also doesn’t wind up unintentionally “getting” someone who isn’t really a problem. I don’t get what you mean about “valuing family” and “family living together?” I would think that the amount of people the house is capable of holding would probably not exceed the number of cars they could get in a driveway. More if its like most residential neighborhoods and has a garage. I hope this doesn’t sound bad, but most people who cram a lot of family members under one roof tend to not have the kind of value system where they all need an individual vehicle either. I live in a part of the country where there are a lot of Mormons. Which means a lot of big families. I know of several houses in my neighborhood that have upwards of seven and eight people living there. When I lived on the east coast I knew a lot of families that had grandma or grandpa ensconced in a separate apartment plus a number of kids still at home. Of course people don’t usually buy every single kid a car because most of them are not simultaneously of driving age.
    An area that her personally affected me has been the rulings against pets when I was a renter. A lot of people, especially the elderly, get screwed by this. Unfortunately, I know why landlords do this: because the few irresponsible pet owners spoil it for the rest. After you have had people move out, sneakily covering a urine spot so bad that it ate through the floor, their security deposit in hand, you will put some rules in place to prevent it happening again. The same could be said of people who have rented to a group of college students only to find the place trashed or to get complaints about police visits at all hours of the night. I have nothing against young people. I love them. But I totally get why someone wouldn’t want to risk moving into a neighborhood and finding themselves next to “party central”. no doubt, the party crowd has spoiled it for groups of well behaved serious minded college students who would like to rent a house in a nice residential neighborhood. I hear “college student” and my first word association is “loud obnoxious party”.

  10. Janice permalink
    August 19, 2008

    I thought that the parking regulations had to do with enabling residents to actually HAVE a place to park, protecting renters and low income people who live on multi-unit streets. For instance, in Baltimore, people who own a rowhome or live in an apartment have a sticker they place in their car window (or whatever) and THEY take up the entire street. If visitors, guests, tourists, etc park there too – where DO residents then park when they come home after a long day at work?

    However, I do believe that each occupant received a guest parking sticker. But just one. Other than that I guess they have to park a few streets over where there are meters or find a parking lot.

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