Connor Dougherty published this thoughtful piece about NIMBYs over the weekend in the New York Times. And it has been making the rounds online ever since.
It is thoughtful in that Connor tries to understand what makes NIMBYs tick. And he does this by interviewing people like Susan Kirsch, a resident of Marin County, California who generally opposes all of the things that California is doing to try and address its housing shortage and who has been fighting a townhouse project in her neighborhood for the last 18 years.
The developer, who is now 86, started the project in his 60s. In the article he is quoted saying that he’s either going to succeed or he’s going to die. It’s one or the other.
What is clear is that we all see things differently. While some people might see new housing as serving an important need. Others see new development as running counter to environmentalism and good stewardship. Indeed, for some, there is no shortage of housing (even in cities that are growing in population). It’s simply a problem of too many investors buying and creating rental homes or too many Airbnbs or some other red herring.
Whatever the case may be, it’s hard not to pay attention to quotes like this one:
“From my backyard I see the hillside,” Ms. Kirsch wrote from her Hotmail account. “Explain how my property value is not deflated if open space is replace(d) with view-blocking, dense, unsightly buildings.”
Look, we all get this. Nobody wants their views obstructed. Nobody wants more cars parked in their neighborhood. And nobody wants more dog shit in their local park, among many other things. But implicit in this statement is a view that certain people’s needs and desires are more important than those of others. I was here first. Too bad for you.