Are Liberals and Conservatives Fighting Each Other's Land Use Battles?

In his book, The Rent Is Too Damn High, Matthew Yglesias encourages us to reexamine our assumptions about which urban policies our values really support.

When it comes to local politics, it appears that many people have their ideologies confused, according to Yglesias:

"When progressives, for example, see a fight pitting a neighborhood activist against rich developers, their instinct is to side with the activist, even if all the developer really wants to do is erect a building that will allow a lot more people to live or work or shop in their neighborhood. Indeed, the vast majority of big city residents are deeply committed to liberal politics on the national level, but feel just as comfortable standing with entrenched interests seeking to block change on a local level."

Because liberal politics often advocate for greater economic equality, Yglesias writes, liberals can be distracted by the wealth of real estate developers, often at the peril of families who need a home and businesses that need patrons who live nearby.

And conservatives are just as culpable for crossing wires, he argues. Few are ever seen at the helm of efforts to eliminate parking requirements and reform anti-density land use regulation, in spite of loudly-proclaimed small-government values. "Ideological battles focus much more on questions of identity, and the conservative movement has strongly positioned itself as an anti-urban movement (see Rick Santorum's city-bashing over the weekend) for conformism-minded suburbanites."

Regardless of ideological arguments about the virtues and perils of cities, however, Americans are continuing to move into the urban core. The challenge for both sides, it would seem, will be to do away with government policies that artificially encumber life and business there.

Full Story: The Mixed-Up Politics of Urbanism



Right on the money

This is strikingly true. The rhetoric in my NW Denver neighborhood even included ads accusing the city of "playing favorites" with an "out of town developer" and accused the new development (which will have 1 parking space per 1 BR unit) of having "no parking." They attempted to elevate this to a moral argument, when it was a bald-faced anti-apartment movement.

Then conservatives are always arguing for low-density regulations, wide streets, and high parking standards. I remember one planning commissioner where I used to work who even asked that our city require large minimum house sizes in certain neighborhoods!

The folks at the extremes are often on the same page. I loved seeing someone with a "we are the 99%" yard sign also having an anti-apartment yard sign (... where will the 99% live?) Then seeing around the corner a Ron Paul sign next to an anti-apartment sign (... free market anyone?). Kudos to our Mayor and Councilwoman for not swaying to the extremists.

Not sure how to educate these folks, or if its about educating the moderates to participate in the process. Any support we can give to YIMBY movements is critical.


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