The term NIMBY is an ecopolitical acronym for “Not in My Back Yard.” It has origins in the 1980s, when the Christian Science Monitor used it to refer to people who didn’t want to live near toxic waste dumps. The Los Angeles Metro Area is experiencing a building and development boom reminiscent of a decade ago, when L.A. prospered in commercial and residential real estate, and complimentary civic infrastructure project expansions. All of these expansions can be threatened by petty personal and public NIMBY complaints from community groups, neighborhood and city councils, homeowners associations and myopic individuals in a gratuitous kind of power to stop things. (L.A. Weekly, August 6, 2015)
Moreover, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has become a common tool exploited by obstructionist NIMBYs. CEQA is a 1975 law used (and abused) to publically review, document and mitigate “significant” environmental impacts of new private and public development projects. CEQA discloses such impacts in an “environmental impact report” (EIR) and related impact-correcting commitments. Almost anyone can file (or threaten to file) a NIMBY CEQA lawsuit against a new development they dislike.
Los Angeles could be seen as a city of NIMBYs. The L.A. Weekly has compiled a list of L.A. NIMBYs:
• Density NIMBYs — The Density NIMBYs are the result of L.A.’s famed slow-growth movement, which succeeded in cutting Los Angeles’ housing capacity from 10 million in 1960 to around 4.3 million today. Their once-potent influence appears to be waning, thanks to the rise of transit-oriented housing advocates, the housing shortage and sky-high rental prices.
• Bike Lane NIMBYs — Los Angeles has around 6,500 miles of streets and we need every last inch for our cars. Take away our streets and you’re just causing more traffic.
• Beach NIMBYs — The state Constitution guarantees the public access to the coastline, and thanks to court rulings, a new path has opened to “Billionaires Beach,” Malibu.
• Hollywood Sign Access NIMBYs — The people who live below it, in the Beachwood Canyon area, want to stop tourist access. They’re sick of tourists clogging their streets, littering their lawns, gawking and hiking. They’d love to see access to the sign limited. However, trails leading up to the sign are public.
• Waze NIMBYs — A group of residents who think the on-line traffic advisory, Waze, is destroying neighborhoods by routing motorists looking to shave 30 seconds off their commutes by zipping through their tony, tree-lined streets.
• Gentrification NIMBYs — These people worry that an influx of white hipsters will raise their rents and cause their favorite local businesses to be replaced with things they can’t afford.
• Mega Mansion NIMBYs — Anti-mansionization NIMBYs have been known to leave angry spray-painted messages at new construction sites, or even leave bags of dog poop on their porches. These people see Los Angeles as a city of quaint, five-bedroom cottages just trying to live in peace.
• Halfway House NIMBYs — The classic NIMBY argument is: I know we need _____ but does it really need to be in my neighborhood? That’s what residents often say about halfway houses, sober living houses and any other supportive housing for addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill and the homeless.
• Liquor/Pot Shop License NIMBYs — Anyone who’s ever opened a restaurant knows that getting a “vice shop” license is difficult. Aside from the fact that it can take years, you have to suffer the indignity of going before your neighborhood council.
• Rail NIMBYs — Beverly Hills has long been the epicenter of anti-metro rail sentiment in Los Angeles. Its school district has spent $8 million of school construction money to fight Metro’s Purple Line extension. Rail NIMBYs can also be found, way off on the other side of L.A., near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, where a ragtag collection of horse riders, environmentalists and City of San Fernando residents are fighting rail expansion. And let’s not forget the Bus Riders Union, which says metro rail drains funds from the bus system, which better serves low-income people.