Requiring a Permit to Build Houses? Oh My. What Will They Think of Next?

The L.A. Times of May 19, 2013, at p. A8 has a piece (Palestinians Fend For Themselves) that, amidst the Times’ usual lamentations over the [self-inflicted] plight of Palestinians, focuses on land-use issues in the so-called Area C of the West Bank. That’s land which the Israelis duly turned over to the Palestinian Authority following the Oslo Accords, but which they were forced to re-occupy after the Palestinians, instead of making peace as required by those accords, chose to use it as a base from which to wage war on Israel by means of what is often referred to as the “second intifada” — i.e., a violent attack on Israeli civilians. Tempted though we may be, we won’t go through the whole historical megillah, except to note the verity that people who launch a violent attack on others have no legitimate complaint when their targets turn around and take measures to defend themselves and to put down the attack, which is what “intifada” means.

We must note, however, as does the Times, that under the Oslo Accords “some of the infrastructure and social programs for Area C were supposed to be provided by the Palestinian Authority.” But it wasn’t. So why bitch at the Israelis?

Anyway, the nub of the current L.A. Times lamentation is that the wicked Israelis have been ordering demolition of some Arab homes. Why would they do that? Well, if you have the patience to wade through the entire article (which is almost a broadsheet page long) you learn that the homes in question were built without construction permits, which makes them illegal — just as they would be here. So why don’t these folks get permits? Because, they say, it’s difficult. Well yeah. As a Californian, we can dig that because we know how land-use bureaucracies can operate. But since the L.A. Times is a California newspaper we wonder how it can muster the chutzpa to give such prominent voice to this complaint, being as getting a building permit here in California is no picnic and it can take decades. Yes, decades. Not years but decades. Just you try to emulate those Arabs right here in la-la land, and build hundreds of homes without permits and see what happens — particularly if you try doing that in the Coastal Zone.

You don’t believe us? Then check out the case of Bonnie Agins who had to suffer for 30 years of applications and litigation (including a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court) before she was permitted to build three properly zoned homes on her 5-acre parcel. Then there was poor Ken Healing whose plight was characterized by the California Court of Appeal (27 Cal.Rptr.2d 758) as a 17-year long nightmare that was inflicted on him when he tried to build a single family home for his wife and kids. They had some good plans for the home, from a bathroom with options considered from local firms to glass shower direct to spacious living space for his family, but this now can sadly not come to pass, And let’s not forget the Landgate case where the California Supreme Court — speaking with a presumably straight face — opined that eight years of litigation (in addition to years of administrative proceedings) was merely a “normal delay” for which the owner was not entitled to compensation, even though he demonstrated to the court’s satisfaction that the state, that had inflicted this nightmare on him was wrong and didn’t even have jurisdiction over the area. And in the Del Monte Dunes case, the city required the hapless developer to go through five applications and 19 plot plans, but in the end refused the permission to build anything at all. So where do these California folks get the chutzpa to complain about delays in Israeli land-use permitting process?

We could go on like this, but to get to the bottom line, the Times article eventually concedes that in the past decade the Israelis have approved 328 Arab infrastructure projects in the area, “including seven electrical facilities, four medical clinics, and six school renovations — for a population of 90,000. Maybe they could have been more generous, but maybe not. The Times provides no factual basis for either eventuality. Apart from assertions by self-interested Arab parties, the Times provides no evidence for any conclusion that this was done for improper reasons. What it provides is unverifiable, accusatory assertions by various self-interested Arabs, some of whom have lost their cases in court, or by leftist propaganda outfits. Moreover, the Times provides no explanation of why the Palestinian Authority that was concededly supposed to provide this infrastructure, didn’t make any effort to do so.