My dad, Isaac, wrote this post.
Faithful readers will know that Jake is fairly obsessed with the impact of NIMBYs on increasing the cost of housing and generally mucking up urban development, no matter how beneficial new housing/development is to the community. Years ago, in a former life as a community development director for several California cities, I had plenty of experience running public hearings in which the Citizens United Against Everything would show up with pitchforks and torches to oppose anything new. Admittedly there were no literal pitchforks and torches, but they definitely had ever-present attorneys and demands for Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs). I agree with Jake that the whole NIMBY stuff is not only counter-productive but also gets tiresome quickly.
These days I find myself trolling Match.com and JDate in search of yet another “new life partner,” as those of us of a certain age say about the singles world. Most of my bad date experiences are typical of the online dating process and not worthy of your time to read about. One, though, shows the incredible hypocrisy of the NIMBY phenomenon.
I met my date, a banking executive, at a Beverly Hills wine bar. She was reasonably attractive and interesting, and the date was going pretty well until the conversation shifted beyond standard first date interview questions (like, “How is it that all three of your ex-husbands died suddenly?” or “I’m curious as to how it is that you remember watching the Liston/Ali fight if you’re actually 51?”).
My date said she owned a house in the Beverlywood adjacent* neighborhood, and for years she’s led neighborhood opposition to various development projects like group homes** and, of all things, the Museum of Tolerance (MOT), which was built a few years a years ago near her neighborhood. The MOT is affiliated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an internationally renowned Jewish human rights organization, and it’s dedicated to helping visitors understand the Holocaust.
I was amazed when my date told me proudly that she led her neighborhood group in opposing construction of MOT and held up the project for three years at a cost of $3,000,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Given Mr. Wiesenthal’s work as perhaps the most dedicated Nazi hunter, it’s hard to think of an organization or project that deserves more support, rather than roadblocks, than MOT, particularly in a largely Jewish neighborhood. The date began to go downhill when I pointed out to her that her opposition to MOT made her “intolerant of tolerance” (and guilty of wasting good money).
I soldiered on, as I was increasingly fascinated by her amazingly strong NIMBY convictions. I ordered a second glass of wine so I could listen to more. Her current NIMBY passion is several nearby houses that are being rented out on Airbnb. In Beverlywood adjacent, like much of prime LA, the relatively modest post-WWII houses in her neighborhood are being torn down and replaced by McMansions, which means lots of empty bedrooms and huge mortgage payments. Since Beverlywood adjacent is handy to Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, UCLA and Santa Monica, and hotel rooms in the area can easily top $500/night, it’s a natural habitat for Airbnb, from both owner and renter perspectives. This somehow offends her and she’s trying to use the City of LA regulations to put a stop to the moral outrage that is Airbnb. So far she’s had no success in this curious crusade, which just makes her more angry in the finest NIMBY tradition.
While my date was busy complaining about Airbnb in her neighborhood, she also offhandedly said that she often uses Airbnb herself when she travels! The date ended quickly when I pointed out the inherent irony/hypocrisy of this absurd juxtaposition, which she’d apparently never recognized. But NIMBYs are rarely actually interested in the greater good—they want their neighborhood/city frozen in time like a bee in amber. This odd aspect of NIMBYs is true even if they moved into the neighborhood last week, as they invariably want to be the last one across the drawbridge before it’s raised.
* In LaLA land, it’s not usual for relatively modest neighborhoods to seek added cachet by adding “adjacent,” as in Beverlywood adjacent, Bel Air adjacent, Santa Monica adjacent and so on. This is often used in real estate listings, even if the property is miles away from the actual glittering neighborhood.
** Since I’m a former community development director, it was my sad duty to tell my date that group homes can be placed in any residential neighborhood in California, without any special permits, as long as the home has no more than six beds. The one she was concerned about is “sober living home” for recovering alcoholics, but it could just as easily be a half-way house for convicted murderers. She should count her blessings.