The Left-Leaning NIMBY

In Marin County and other wealthy, liberal enclaves, many residents are vocally supportive of affordable housing and other causes -- unless its in their neighborhood.

"Bill Duane knows most people can't afford homes like his $1 million bungalow on a hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. That's why the Marin County attorney volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. Until recently, that is, when the group announced plans to build two affordable duplexes just down the street from him. "Habitat usually goes into a blighted neighborhood and enhances it," Duane says. "Here, they are coming into an enhanced neighborhood and blighting it." Housing advocates say Duane exemplifies a vexing irony: People support affordable housing with their labor, money, and votes-just so long as it's nowhere near them."

"Marin is among the most liberal (and expensive) counties in the nation, but Duane says all of his neighbors back him. Indeed, opposition to affordable housing in the county was so fierce in the 1990s that a Marin chapter of Habitat disbanded, former members say, after finding itself unable to get a single project built in five years. On the opposite coast, in wealthy, liberal Martha's Vineyard, 10 homeowners sued earlier this year-on environmental grounds-to block construction of an affordable house for a fisherman who'd been living with his wife and children in a tent. In Boulder, Colorado, affordable-housing advocate Joni Lynch says her most strident foes were button-wearing progressives. And in the gentrifying Edgewood neighborhood of Washington, D.C., one resident who fought the construction of the low-income St. Martin's apartments nearby actually worked for a company that builds low-income apartments."

Full Story: NIMBY Notebook: Habitat For Hypocrisy



I'll take a

left-leaning NIMBY over a right-leaning NIMBY any day!!!

At least (with all their hypocrisy and supposed racism), the left-leaning NIMBYs typically vote for and support legislation that improves the quality of life in our nation.

Last I heard, the far right-leaning NIMBYs (notably in South Orange County, CA) supported hate groups such as the Minutemen, in a NIMBYist/racist attempt to defend our borders from the "brown menace".

And thank's to the legacy of the "left-leaning NIMBYs", Marin County has one of the largest and most biologically-diverse land trust/open space conservation districts in the nation.

So let's keep our NIMBY-bashing in perspective, shall we?

More leftist idiocy

"Perspective" is probably not a term you should be using, given the above screed.

This example barely scratches the surface of the hypocrisy of the Left. Shall we mention the Kennedy's no-holds-barred fight against wind power on Martha's Vinyard? Or Algores house? How about Laurie David's Gulfstream 5?

Were it not for the INVASION of illegals, we probably wouldn't even need HFH. The Minutemen are simply asking that the Federal government do one job they are truly SUPPOSED to be doing: Protecting our borders. Perhaps we should encourage the illegals to camp out on all that land-trust property...

Are you a

member of the Reason Foundation?

Let me guess, your's is a commonly-held sentiment in Southwestern Idaho...

The minutemen happen to be a nativist/extremist hate group on the level of other groups such as "American Freedom Riders":

To support and justify a group like the Minutemen is akin to allowing the treatment of the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Okies, Mexicans and others in the face of the powerful agriculture and banking interests in California back in the 1920s and 30s. Without shame, these interests hired goon squads and fascist sympathizers to beat, harass, and occasionally murder the organizers and participants of farmworkers' actions.

The nativist/racist/xenophobic/vigilante man is now back again in the form of groups like the Minutemen, god help us...

the Reason Foundation

does not support additional enforcement efforts for illegal immigration. It's pretty obvious from your comments that you have very little understanding of what they advocate. You might do some investigation before you make comments like that. In fact, this whole discussion is pretty silly - arguing over which is worse - the political leanings of someone who doesn't want their neighborhood to get worse.

Perhaps we should understand the original story in context - NIMBYs come in a variety of political ideologies, genders, and yes, races. Despite their desire to serve their own best interest, the interest of society is many times, hurt. It's a classic tragedy of the commons. At a minimum, you all should be arguing over how to mitigate this problem or issue rather than digress into some political right vs. left rant.

Who cares about

the Reason Foundation. Oops, you got me on a technicality! The main point of the posting was to shine light on the hateful ways of anti-immigration NIMBYs (who happen to be right-leaning).


I find it interesting that those whom seem to have the weakest arguments want to quote random websites or obscure texts as being support to their pathetic arguments.

On top of a genuinely pathetic argument, you continue to lump those folks in southwest Idaho in to a specific group of haters or racist. Did I misinterpret your meaning? That type of thinking in itself validates the entire article. Those on the left, whom seem to hold diversity as some form of religion, dislike diversity in their own communities, dislike ideas that are not their own, and dislike the ability of someone to disagree. Again, pathetic.

Let us not forget that communism and socialism, the current extension identified as a liberal democracy or liberalism, derived its strength from silencing the debate (i.e. “the debate is over”), demonizing dissenting viewpoints, and killed more people in this world than any other cause politic.

To follow, the NAACP, probably the most influential political organization in the United States representing Americans of color, has taken a very strong position against illegal immigration and is actively advocating that the United States federal government enforce existing federal immigration laws. I will certainly not be the first person to attack the NAACP for being a racist organization.

What's pathetic is that

I thought this argument was over and that the righties had left the building! Talk about a weak, "white pride", nativist, racist argument on their part. You (Drew and Greginboise) probably want to undue Brown v. Board of Education as well, huh?

Give it up neocons, your destructive, hateful, anti-welfare, anti-affirmative action, anti-immigration, anti-social programs, anti-NAACP, anti-big government time is over...

Please close the door on the way out.

Whoa! How did immigration get into this...

That came out of left field. If you're going to bring up illegals in the context of left bashing, then you probably should think about the fact that one of the biggest draws for illegal immigration are the jobs provided by the housing industry which has sidestepped existing regulations by creating an entire system based on sub contracting. The big housing companies can't be accused of hiring illegals, because that is done by their subcontractors.

However, it is the cherished system of capitalism that by definition always finds the cheapest way to make the most profit. In this case its illegal immigration, and lobbying to make sure that the focus of legislation is on punishing the individual illegal immigrant rather than the corporations, and industries that hire them. Then the officials make their scapegoating stump speeches and the rubes (sorry Greg, nothing personal) in the interior all cry out "Oh will somebody protect the border!!!" rather than "Hey if we enforced the employer side of the equation we'd get better results."

Never in the course of human history has enforcement strategy ever stemmed the tide of immigration if it is based on economic desire. If the people in Mexico have no way to survive back home, and there are plentiful jobs over here they will keep coming. You can't build a fence high enough or hire enough agents to make a difference. England has an illegal immigration problem AND ITS ON AN ISLAND!!!! However if the US Economy returned to a sense of balance: No illegal employment > higher service and construction wages > less consumer spending > more domestic production > more expensive products > less easy credit. More domestic production in Mexico.

Anyways there are a lot of things that you probably don't want to hear in there, but that is the price of the illegal immigrant free America. Now if you prefer glib one sentence solutions that don't work in a complex "real world" then stick with your conservative mantra, that you can have cheap consumer goods, high home ownership, a consumption growth based economy, and no government regulation.

NAFTA and illegals


Your little reductionist diatribe is of the type that has been proven to be wrong over and over again. This kind of thinking is like the hydra, cut off one head and three more grow in its place.

To get to the point: The guy from Marin County in the Mother Jones article fashions himself a liberal, but he is certainly no leftist. Secondly, the illegal migration from Mexico that seems to have gotten you so worked up is the result of NAFTA trade policies and IMF structural adjustment that have forced millions of rural Mexican farm workers to find a way to survive.

Some go to places like the border city "maquiladora" of Ciudad Juarez and spend their days and nights stitching together Levis jeans for pennies on the dollar, jeans which are then bought at Wal-Mart by Americans addicted to the seemingly endless cheap merchandise that is made by woman and children working endless hours in deplorable conditions. Others put their fate in the hands of the coyotes and make a run for the border. The amount of bravery needed to do this just boggles the mind. I can't even fathom it.

What are your thoughts on all of this, greginboise?

NIMBYs come in all sizes, shapes, and colors

As a proud, prominent liberal planner in my little fishpond town, I can relate to all sides of this story, barring the screed about immigrants, although that's part of the story too. The colonial fathers and mothers of America probably never thought that we'd be pack 300 million bodies from sea to shining sea (soon to reach 400 million in just a few more decades), but here we are, fighting like rats over increasingly scarce bits of really nice cheese--and facing millions more coming over the border for their bit of cheese. After more than 60 years of the New Deal and the post-WWII economic expansion that suggested that a chicken in every pot and a Prius in every garage might be possible, we're now facing European-level densities, a mortgage melt-down, terrorism, the rise of a security state, and the possible bankruptcy of the government from a disasterous, empire-busting war. Arguments against living down the road from schoolteachers and policemen are symptoms of bigger issues, including the illusion of economic and physical security in a world that just doesn't care at all about the affairs of humans. I know this is all reaching a bit, but stories like this are saddening to me, when those who try to rise above their own interests are shown to be hypocrits and selfish. Their only defense is that NIMBY's come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and political persuasions. Read it and weep.

Some just don't get it

First of all, it was vtboy who started on illegal immigration. Why should we leave the building, when we own it?

My point was the pathetic joke that is liberalism and its’ adherents. They are forever telling the rest of us “rubes” how to live (“You need to live in a loft in a high-density downtown!” “You need to drive a Prius!”), yet they rarely even attempt to abide by their own “rules,” as evidenced by my examples above (which no one refuted) and hundreds more I could cite. Anyone see the pictures of the parking lot in the Bay Area when Algore gave his little speech? You guessed it: loaded with SUV’s and sports cars. One lonely hybrid was spotted. Or Edwards bloviating on the plight of the poor from the deck of his 28,000 square foot house?

We get it

The pathetic joke is that conservatives have economically, culturally, and politically destroyed our nation in a systematic manner, having dismantled any remaining vestiges of the New Deal, since the terrible administration of Ronald Reagan. Hell, Reagan was the absolute WORST governor we ever had here in California!

It really doesn't matter how many hybrids there are at an Al Gore speach, or whether or not the Reason Foundation is against anti-immigration legislation.

The REAL issue is that time and again, the righties have created a slanderous smokescreen with regards to how the "latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, liberal elites" have undermined the very essence of patriotism and what it means to be an "American", when in reality, the NIMBYist right-wing elite have dismantled any program or subsidy that benefits the lower or middle class.

Oh, and by the way, Southwestern Idaho is a hotbed for conservative, reactionary, nativist hate groups and coalitions.

Idaho's per capita standing among the 50 states is a reflection of its conservatism:

Child sexual abuse - #1
Teen-age prenancies - #1
Money spend on child services - #50
Spending per pupil in elementary school - #49
Spending on mental health care - #50
Individual family income - #44

Idaho also received the lowest rating in quality of senior care. Idaho harbors within its borders the largest number of extremist, racist, radical, para-military, religiously bigoted organizations in the nation (Aryan Nation, The Order, KKK, Skin Heads, etc.) A number of these are headquartered in Idaho.

Idaho has the most solidly Republican controlled state legislature in America. There is a definite cause and effect relationship between this fact and the dismal statistics given.

Last I checked this country was pretty 50/50..

... so for the last thirty years one half of this country has at one point or another been telling the other half how to live. And don't think your anti-government stance isn't prescriptive. Many of us coastalites like our re-distributive government institutions, and we don't want to see them dismantled, and all of their functions turned over to private enterprise. Why do you think coastal republicans are so far left in their party?

And don't through that political hypocrite charge around so easily either, how many capitalists are the first ones in Washington asking for a handout when things go bad (savings and loan scandal, post 911 airline industry, billions in oil industry, and agro-corp subsidies).

To bring this back to planning..

Just the other day you chimed in on an article that was about parking in dense urban environments (like New York and Los Angeles) with your opinion on the supremacy of the automobile. So who is telling who how to live eh? Well contrary to your right wing paranoia we liberals don't sit around planning loft apartments in Boise. But we are tired of people who come to big cities with their 3-4 cars per family and complain that the freeways are congested. Or people who move 30 miles out to the suburbs then complain that their tax dollars aren't all going toward improving their ability to get quickly into, out of, or worse yet THROUGH our neighborhoods. Instead they howl about the inefficiency of mass transit without ever setting foot on a bus.

On a last note to tell you the truth, I do feel bad about the "rube" swipe, its not my usual style, but it has led to some fun blogging. What I was suggesting by that is that, in my opinion, your views on immigration and transportation while seemingly logical to you are actually carefully manufactured by business interests and FoxNews to get you all riled up and distracted from institutions that have a real and profound impact on your well-being. I'm sure you'll return the favor by pointing out that I am a brain washed liberal, but I wonder if that is true, who benefits to the tune of billions of dollars by my being brain washed versus who benefits by your being in that state? hmmm?

A Loft In Downtown Boise - Or A Streetcar Suburb

They are forever telling the rest of us “rubes” how to live (“You need to live in a loft in a high-density downtown!” ...)

Smart growth advocates don't say that everyone should live in a loft in downtown. I have written many times on this board that you can build walkable neighborhoods at many densities, including the density of the streetcar suburbs where middle-class Americans lived a century ago. New urbanists have built many neighborhoods at this density, where most people live in their own free-standing houses, but where there is a "Main Street" within walking distance where you can shop.

I myself live not in a loft or apartment but in a house in a streetcar suburb built during the first decade of the twentieth century. I am sure that Boise was made up the same sort of neighborhood at that time.

Since you have a child and a dog, you would probably enjoy doing what I used to do when my child was in the early grades of elementary school: first I used to walk him to school with our dog, than I would take the dog on a walk to our shopping street before walking back home. It beats putting the child and dog in an SUV and fighting traffic.

The streetcar suburb has virtually all the advantages of a sprawl suburb - a private house and backyard - and it has the added advantage of giving you the option of walking places, rather than being forced to drive every time you leave your house. What is the objection?

Charles Siegel

Mother Jones Avoids The Planning Issue

This article ignores the planning issue: this hillside site that is presumably only accessible by car is not a good place to put housing. It is bad environmentally to locate luxury housing here, but it is even worse to locate affordable housing here, since the people living in the affordable housing will have a hard time paying for the automobile transporation that is required.

In Berkeley, by contrast, we have lots of NIMBYs who consider themselves progressive but who oppose new housing in walkable neighborhoods near transit corridors, because they care more about easy parking for themselves than about anything else. We also have some progressive YIMBYs who support this housing, who Mother Jones might consider writing about.

Charles Siegel

Think About it a bit Further...

...does the opinion of one person demean a whole political philosophy? Just because Tom Tancredo, a firebrand Republican congressman from Colorado, wants to nuke Mecca, does that automatically make Republicanism or even conservatism anti-Muslim? It's easy to say that from my side of the aisle, but that's not how the real world works. That's just meaningless partisanship, and it doesn't do a damn thing useful except rile the natives.

The Mother Jones article is interesting, but it essentially uses anecdotes to say "Even some liberals are NIMBYites, too." Well, anyone who's worked in the planning field long enough knows that. The gentleman from Idaho passionately shoots himself in the foot by trying to correlate one person's opinion to the supposed immorality of anyone left of him. Well, everyone has an opinion, but it still doesn't solve anything, does it? I think it's great that Marin County has an inclusionary housing ordinance. It may not work very well, but the alternative, no doubt supported by the hotheaded gentleman in Idaho, is to not do anything and let the market work it out. Newsflash, dude: It won't.

Additional Newsflashes

I agree with your point and you have provided some necessary perspective. But, to speak to the last part of your post, NIMBYism is the opposite of the market working. NIMBYism is just one of many reasons Marin County even needs an inclusionary housing ordinance. NIMBYism is exploiting (in my opinion) the political process for individual benefit or gain at the detriment of society at large. This happens all the time in the market, but those are private actors, not those who have been elected to serve society at large instead of their individual interests or the desires of a few.

So, to suggest that somehow the market has failed and led to extraordinary housing prices in Marin County would be somewhat inaccurate. Through NIMBYism, they have kept supply scarce in what otherwise would be a densely built environment given its proximity in the San Francisco Bay Area. They have fought to keep BART out as well as new housing. At a minimum, you should at least acknowledge the "government failures" and political failures that have been at least as responsible in the run up of housing prices in Marin County.

I would also caution you to assume what this guy thinks is an appropriate policy - none, you are suggesting. He may not advocate the mandated 20% of units built affordable (which by the way does little), but there are other options.

I just thought you should consider this, but I do appreciate your perspective in the political allegiance of NIMBYs.

Another perspective about Nimbyism...

...comes from a presentation by a planner named Gary Weber Rose in San Diego. He gave a really amusing and well prepared powerpoint chronicling his career. In it he had a slide with his definition of NIMBYism.

NIMBY - a local resident with a vested financial interest engaging fully in the democratic process.

Whenever I feel too bleak I always remember that version of it.

Hopefully in the case above Mr. Duane and the others can be convinced to tour some other HFH houses in neighboring counties. If they still have their opinion after that exercise at least they have been informed. On their part one hopes that HFH has considered other parcels, that like Charles has pointed might be closer to transportation (though there isn't that much of that in Marin.

NIMBYs and the Private Market

NIMBYism is the opposite of the market working? Pffftttt. Where I live--a growing State capital in a certain large southern state surrounded by ocean on at least three sides--the market, which has been building behemoths for years, is also in smaller, more affordable places, but the established neighborhoods (mostly conservatives and libertarians) fight it like Sunnis fighting Shia (or vice-versa), fearing lowered property values, congestion, etc. We also have an inclusionary housing ordinance locally in an attempt to force developers to build a modicum of affordable units, but it's being fought against by the same private market actors, who basically just don't want to be told what to do! And if you've worked in the trenches at all, you'd know that the reason many individual homeowners are NIMBYists is that they don't want to be swamped by sprawl and congestion and all the fun the private market brings, like gas stations, strip malls, fry pits, traffic noise, etc.

Extraordinary housing prices exist even in very densely populated San Francisco, so I don't think low density automatically leads to high housing prices, nor does NIMBYism, at least by itself. It's mostly simple supply and demand, notwithstanding the dumping of investment dollars into real estate following the market correction of 2000-2001.

A reasonable interpretation of the article is that even some wealthy liberals are frightened of anything different around their primary dwelling. As the young say, duh. However, based on my professional experiences, it's a certain class of wealth that is freaked out by anything "affordable," the folks too wealthy not to simply take whatever is built, but not wealthy enough to be able to vote with their feet. They have a lot to lose, so they blast anything that threatens their treasure.

Kind of breaking your own rule

Saying a few alleged libertarians or conservatives tried to get favorable treatment is not much different from the pigeonholing comments about liberals earlier. Just because, for example, Ron Paul or Mitt Romney would act as a NIMBY once in a while doesn't make it a market activity. Clearly, their actions are different from their stated philosophy - much like those groups you are speaking of. NIMBYism is certainly not a market outcome. Ask a new urbanist developer who gets a project shot down by NIMBYs if they think it's a market activity.

In terms of Marin County, it is not necessarily about density. My point (if you reread above) is that they have resisted new supply through NIMBYism and that has in part, caused housing prices to rise.

I hope 17 years in planning, policy, and real estate qualifies me as someone who has "been in the trenches", as you say. You might examine your own background "in the trenches" to see that it is varied and extensive enough to provide an accurate depiction of what is happening. I understand people oppose projects for good personal reason, but all the stuff they oppose ends up getting built, just somewhere else. And, on top of it all, consequences result like unnecessary development of open space, increased housing prices (which to them is good), more traffic, more sprawl, etc. So, while I understand why it occurs, I think overall it is a detriment to land use policy and development because everything becomes project based and not rule based and the more powerful manipulate the process to make things worse for those who can't. Just my opinion.

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