Debunking the Politics of Progressive NIMBYism

March 2, 2018, 10am PST by James Brasuell
An op-ed raises a damaging point to counter the California-style progressivism that opposes new housing development: "local control is actually bedrock conservatism."

Robert Gammon provides a scathing op-ed on the subject of the East San Francisco Bay Area's liberal bonafides. A corner of the Bay Area home to cities like Berkeley and Oakland is famous for passionate support of progressive causes, but Gammon argues that a critical hypocrisy is revealed when it comes to housing and development policy.

"Here in the liberal East Bay, we're proud of our inclusiveness and openness," writes Gammon to open the article. "But when it comes to welcoming newcomers to our own neighborhoods, our inclusiveness has a definite limit."

Gammon thinks most East Bay residents are aware of the regional housing crisis, which manifests in sky-high housing prices and the creep of homelessness into new encampments and into parked cars on streets, and would agree that the region needs to build more housing. "Polls have repeatedly shown that supermajorities of area residents agree that we need to build more," according to Gammon. "But that support turns into opposition if the new housing directly impacts our 'quality of life,' our ability to nab a parking spot or avoid traffic."

With that context in place, Gammon points out the hypocrisies of the NIMBY position when imposed in the name of liberal progressivism. Gammon compares the tight zoning restrictions of cities like Berkeley to Trump's proposed border wall, and also raises the point that the local control cherished by NIMBYs over matters of land use and development can be compared to the racist causes of the 20th century—they could only be overcome by a higher level of government.

"We cherish the fact that local governments can no longer discriminate against same-sex marriage. We celebrate the fact that, through the power of the federal government, Obamacare gave health care coverage to millions of Americans. Indeed, the list of liberal Big Government victories over conservative 'local control' is long," writes Gammon. "So, the idea that we need 'local control' to protect us from Big Liberal Government in Sacramento so we can be free to block newcomers from moving into our neighborhoods is beyond absurd."

This discussion is raised by the political debate surrounding SB 827, proposed by state senators Scott Wiener and Nancy Skinner. The law would mandate substantial upzoning on transit corridors around the state, much to the ire of some East Bay political leaders, headlined by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.

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Published on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 in East Bay Express