Have we reached peak YIMBY v. AHIMBY ad hominem yet? Can we go back to discussing the issues soon?

Because I am bored and sick of watching good people hurt each other.

Here’s the deal: nobody really owns the justice high ground on SB827–not yet–because nobody really knows for certain what is going to happen to lower income renters in the spaces the legislation effects. Lots of people think they know. Whether that’s real insight or simple hubris is a pretty big question.

The pro people think that they are on the housing justice high ground because they believe that rents are going to stabilize with additional housing projects, and they (rightly) argue that inaction and undersupply hurts poor renters right now.* Oh, and all the developers will go to rich neighborhoods to build first so gentrification should lessen, not worsen.

The anti people think new projects in existing neighborhoods, no matter how well-intended– are going to accelerate rent increases for poor people who live there.** Zoning, for all its many, many ills, provides stability, and people who are impoverished often seek that stability for entirely understandable reasons, even if that status quo isn’t good.

The kicker is, all y’all are probably right. The pro side tends to focus on the long-term, regional market effects; the anti side on short-term, local market effects.

Literally, the problem is this:

One side thinks new units are the biggest priority, and that rental protections can come later or are less important. The other side thinks protections for existing renters should come first, and then (only then) should new stuff come in.

That’s the heart of the conflict. And yeah,I suspect everybody is right here.

Yesterday undies got into a bunch because the California Democratic Socialist Alliances and multiple housing justice groups issued their statement on Prop 827, and it wasn’t favorable. It stuck a pin in the elation that people felt in days prior from the boost the S827 got from a open letter signed by 22 California urban experts in favor of the bill.

YIMBY-PHYMBY-AHIMY Twitter is always a minefield because these issues are very important to people. But this crossed my feed yesterday:

Screenshot 3 23 18 8 11 AM

Can we really, really not? I’m picking on SF NIMBY WATCH here, but honestly, let’s not. I get accused of “not wanting men to participate in politics” because of my feminism all the time. No. I just want some of them to stop acting like bullying, know-it-all twats. Wealthy people get to participate in politics, too. As a matter of a fact, their participation is pretty damn important, as they have money, and if the socialists only allowed poor people to hold socialist positions, they likely wouldn’t get very damn far.

Bernie Sanders made nearly a million off book royalties last year. Does that mean his liberal bona fides are now in the toilet?

This stuff has been building for weeks, right up from the recent spate of liberal purity tests that tell people you aren’t a real progressive if you do X or Y or believe Q or R:

You Are Not A Progressive If You Are A NIMBY

Ok, sure, but not everybody who is worried about the location of large new projects, or the effects of SB827, is a NIMBY. And BTW, I ‘d really really like it if we maybe didn’t make whether you support housing and development into a “liberal thing” because I dunno if you have noticed, but as soon as that happens, conservatives line up against it on the principle that anything that makes a liberal happy must be destroyed.

So there. All of the 22 professors that signed up are good people (at least the ones I know are). I don’t agree with them that upzoning is more important than taking care of renters right now. I think we are too far into the hole for new supply to stabilize rents any time soon, and in the interim, we will hurt people with new projects even as we try to help with new units.

Do I know this for sure? Nope.

I think SB827 is better than nothing, but the handmade “I’m being evicted” signs lining up along the Expo Line on my morning train ride make my stomach turn with fear and sadness for the people putting them up.

All y’all that want to jump down my throat and ‘splain that new supply will fix that–spare me. You don’t know for sure it will and more important, you don’t know when it will even if it does. You probably don’t know the social science or the urban economics better than I do–and the professors lining up to endorse the bill know all the same stuff that I do. They just add up what they see as the pros and cons differently than I do. They could be right, and I could be wrong. Or vice versa.

But with future conditions, we are all looking through a glass, darkly. Failure to think about consequences in public policy is irresponsible. Assuming you know for sure what those consequences are is arrogant. Both are things to be avoided.

We can hurt impoverished people in so many ways with public policy because they are vulnerable not just to the content but also the timing and geography of change.

Be decent to each other, people. There’s enough sadness in the world as it is.

*We have ample evidence here.

**The anti people who just want to keep their exclusive enclaves exclusive are wrong to do so. That is clear. Go after them all you want. But stop taking cheap shots among people who do genuinely care about poor people–especially when it’s in a Twitter war and the only REAL result of cheap shot exchanges is to gratify the egos of the person who won and his (usually his) peanut gallery.

Good public judgment is more important than anybody’s ego, including mine, though mine is pretty important.

3 thoughts on “Have we reached peak YIMBY v. AHIMBY ad hominem yet? Can we go back to discussing the issues soon?

  1. We know what ending supply restrictions will do to prices. We also know that if we don’t increase supply, those renters you claim to care so much about will get Ellis-Act evicted by people with lots of money who still can’t afford a place to live.

    I live in a rapidly gentrifying part of Berkeley because it is the only place in the city I can afford. The people who are represented in the land use process are wealthy tech homeowners who use affordability concerns to derail projects, and organizations that depend on payoffs from developers as part of their budgets. The poor renters that used to live here are barely represented, and almost none of them could afford another place if they were to move because of the pernicious combination of rent control and no supply. All the bad things are already happening.

    This is ignoring of course that in many cities the poor neighborhoods have the most liberal zoning already and the rich ones the most restrictive. SB 827 doesn’t affect Fruitvale, because Fruitvale is already zoned for 8 stories.

    What studies do you have that show new construction raises prices nearby? I’ve never seen these despite looking for them.

  2. The renter displacement and related amendments to SB 827 start to address the issues you raise. I want to propose a scenario that might work. If we upzone at a roughly six to one increase over density today, requiring developers to provide one in every six units they build to a displaced tenant would house everyone relocated. That ratio of one to six is close to the 15% ratio for affordable housing required today in most municipalities. I would also discourage in-lieu fees in favor of requiring housing people where they lived before. Of course we need some iron clad guidelines and closing of loopholes to write a good bill, but if we can agree to both more building and tenant protection, we can start to unlock our potential.

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