It depends. Sometimes it really is NIMBYism, sometimes it isn t. If you support the urban village concept, and believe that no growth should occur outside it, then maybe you are a NIMBY. One of the first questions to ask is whether you want your neighborhood to be an urban village. If so, then chances are, you are a NIMBY. But I agree, labels like that are pretty much useless. To a certain extent, so what? So what if they are NIMBY? That makes their argument no less valid. They may have reasons to believe that their neighborhood is special. They may be right. It is hard not to think of sewage plants when you think of NIMBY. It is the classic example. Interestingly enough, Seattle had a very interesting case involving the expansion of the sewage system. There were several proposals, but one was for Discover Park, the other an industrial area in the Duwamish. A group called Friends of Discovery Park fought against putting it there. Many, if not most of the members, lived close by. So were they NIMBYs? Maybe. If the plant was going to go into Lincoln Park, they might have opposed it (for the same reasons) but not fought so hard. But either way, their logic was sound building an industrial plant on an unique piece of park land is really a bad idea.
When discussing zoning issues, there are several arguments made in support of the existing rules. One is preservation. If you relax the rules, then you will lose more houses. Fair enough. That is why in general I tend to use the term preservationists when arguing for change. I think the term is complimentary I think we can all relate to the desire for preservation (e. g. saving a house like this: http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2012/10/capitol-hill-house-standing-since-1890-wont-get-landmark-protection/). But I think that is just one concern. Another concern (that is really similar) is aesthetic. Not only will you lose a pretty house like that, but a really ugly one goes up in its place. I can certainly understand that argument. Another is the desire for parking. This contradicts the preservationist/aesthetic interest, although I m sure a lot of proponents don t understand why. First, you have a much better chance of preserving a house like that if it is really easy to convert it to an apartment. If you don t have to worry about parking, then things get much easier and cheaper. But if you need to add a lot more parking, then leveling starts making sense. Second, the ugliest structures we have built have largely been built around parking. I really can t think of an apartment that I would consider A+ design that has parking. While I can think of blocks and blocks of really ugly duplexes with concrete in front to hold the cars.
Finally, a lot of people have a fear of density. They don t want more people in the neighborhood or additional traffic. I would guess that a very large percentage of people who feel that way are NIMBYs. Those that don t are probably extremists (where, exactly, are renters supposed to live?). Balanced with all of this is the need for shelter (AKA the price of rent). As you might guess, I really have no sympathy for those who oppose density, or want parking mandates. But those that are interested in preservation or otherwise want buildings to look nice have a very good argument, in my opinion. This common interest (we all will end up looking at these buildings) should be balanced against the need for more places to live.
- ^ http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2012/10/capitol-hill-house-standing-since-1890-wont-get-landmark-protection/ (www.capitolhillseattle.com)