Via John Cochrane and Tyler Cowen comes a piece by a blogger explaining how costly rules make it difficult for small operators to convert old urban buildings to more productive uses:
A family bought an old fire station a few years ago with the intention of turning it in to a Portuguese bakery and brew pub. They thought they'd have to retrofit the interior of the building to meet health and safety standards for such an establishment. Turns out, the cost of bringing the landscape around the outside of the building up to code was their primary impediment.
Mandatory parking requirements, sidewalks, curb cuts, fire lanes, on site stormwater management, handicapped accessibility, draught tolerant native plantings... It's a very long list that totaled $340,000 worth of work. They only paid $245,000 for the entire property. And that's before they even started bringing the building itself up to code for their intended use. Guess what? They decided not to open the bakery or brewery....
Each element of the design is based on an accumulation of amendments to the code over many decades. Individually it's impossible to argue against each of the particulars. Do you really want to deprive people in wheelchairs of the basic civil right of public accommodation? Do you really want the place to catch fire and burn? Do you want a barren landscape that's bereft of vegetation?