Saturday, November 18, 2023

#322 / The Yimbys And The Nimbys


48 Hills, which provides reliable news about politics in San Francisco (and about other things, too), recently published an article titled, "The Yimbys are winning the media narrative, and that’s bad for all of us." I don't think there is a paywall. Feel free to click away, and to read what Editor Tim Redmond has to say about this topic. 

Redmond's article quotes the The San Francisco Standard, which also provides news about San Francisco politics. The article in The Standard, authored by Josh Koehn, is titled as follows: "Are YIMBYs on the Verge of Winning San Francisco’s Housing War?"

For those not totally sure about the acronyms that appear in these articles (and in the headline I have placed on this blog posting), let me make them clear:

  • YIMBY - "Yes In My Backyard"
  • NIMBY - "Not In My Backyard"

The Koehn article, in The Standard, contains the following statement, which was then quoted by 48 Hills

In the dog days of summer, while many California state legislators were vacationing or raising campaign money during the monthlong recess, Scott Wiener was convening secret meetings. The state senator and a close-knit crew of housing wonks were hatching a plan to make an 11th-hour amendment to one of his bills—one that would surely raise the hackles of some of his fiercest critics. 
During his seven years in the Legislature, no elected official in California has proposed more ambitious policies to streamline housing construction than Wiener. 
Those efforts have made him loved by YIMBYs, the boisterous “Yes In My Backyard” movement that believes developing both market-rate and affordable housing will reduce costs and demand. But some of those same laws have made Wiener equally loathed by NIMBYs, a less-defined group whose reputation for saying “Not In My Backyard” is rooted in retaining the character of neighborhoods, often leading to accusations of opposing new developments under the pretext of environmental concerns.

For those who are not much engaged in the land use policy debates in which the "NIMBY" and "YIMBY" designations are frenquently employed, I want to make a distinction - and it is an important distinction. 

There IS an organized group that calls itself, "YIMBY." In fact, if you click the following link, you will find that California YIMBY has its own website. It is, in fact, not just a "political group." It is a bona fide tax-exempt nonprofit organizstion. The group has received major funding from big business and development interests, and the group has a paid staff, and hires lobbyists to urge policy proposals aimed at making development easier. YIMBY has supported all sorts of legislation that prevents local government agencies from turning down proposed developments, or from imposing conditions that developers don't like. As the article in The Standard notes, State Senator Scott Wiener is one of the state legislators who is particlarly supportive of these pro-development and YIMBY-sponsored proposals.

But what about the NIMBY group? Well, actually, there isn't any "NIMBY" group. 

NO organized group has adopted the slogan, "Not In My Backyard." NO ONE self-identifies as a "NIMBY." That term, which is both derisive and opprobrious, has been applied by pro-development interests to people who may raise objections to a specific proposed development, but who have not organized themselves to oppose development in general. 

Those persons who might oppose a specific development proposal (you might think of them as your "neighbors") generally raise objections that are based on specific aspects of a proposed development project. For instance, maybe the neighbors think that a proposed development won't provide enough parking. Or, maybe neighbors object that the development, as proposed, will shade their sunny backyards and deprive them of the use of their solar collectors. Or, those opposing a project might claim that the site is on a hillside and that there are dangers of geologic instability.

The point is, "NIMBY" is a phrase, used by others, to denigrate and depreciate those who raise objections to a proposed development, no matter how reasonable such objections might be. "NIMBY" is name calling, not self-identification, with the implication being that if someone raises objections to, or concerns about, or opposes a particular development project then that "NIMBY" person is selfish, cares nothing for anyone else, and just doesn't want anything to change in his or her "backyard."

"YIMBYS" do self-identify as such. "YIMBYS" have chosen to organize themselves to support development, in general, but there is no organized "NIMBY" effort arguing on the other side. There are no "NIMBY" lobbyists. And there is no group that calls itself, "NIMBY." 

"NIMBY" is name-calling!

As I say, this distinction between "YIMBY" and "NIMBY" is important. It's pretty understandable that there will be different views about almost any proposal to change something. There are always "pros" and "cons." 

But "YIMBY" is an organized, pro-development group, funded by business and development interests, and  "YIMBY" is not "at war" with some similar group that has organized to prevent development. Because so many people don't understand that, "YIMBY" (the organized, developer-funded group) does appear to be winning the media narrative. 

As Tim Redmond says in his 48 Hills article, "that's bad for all of us." 

I hope those reading this blog posting will understand why.

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