Californians to be free to hang laundry on clotheslines

In a move toward energy conservation, California will soon have “laundry liberation“:

In what a legislative analysis called a “modest energy conservation and freedom of choice measure,” Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation requiring property managers to let renters and homeowner association members string clotheslines in private areas.

Assembly Bill 1448, by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, comes amid heightened concern about greenhouse gas emissions in California – and the energy consumption of driers.

One columnist notes the class dynamics at work:

As a class signifier, the clothesline has always been highly charged. In the late 1960s, tumble dryers began to creep their way into middle-class households — according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, fewer than half of American households had dryers in 1980; by 2009, it had jumped to 80% — the clothesline has connoted a certain unsophistication if not downright poverty.

That’s especially true in big cities, where clotheslines hanging between buildings are an indelible marker of tenement living and overall blight. I visited Beijing a couple of years ago, and hanging laundry was ubiquitous even on the balconies of expensive high-rises. During the 2008 Olympic Games, I was told, the Chinese government prohibited outdoor clotheslines as part of an overall image-control effort. As soon as the Games were over, the laundry went back up.

The primary argument against clotheslines is the perceived effect on property values. Yet, why not give people the choice to dry clothes outside rather than put it in the hands of homeowner associations or local governments? I would guess that many middle and upper class residents still won’t hang clothes outside even if they can. At the same time, it could be a nice economic benefit for households with less money.

Is the status tied to using a clothes dryer in your own home more about consumption (having the ability to buy such an object and pay for its ongoing use) or the ability to keep personal items (like dirty laundry) within private areas?

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