There is an interesting book on the phenomenon called NIMBY Wars: The Politics of Land Use. Written by a couple of Britishers and reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, it discusses a specific event here in California. One that involved the British supermarket giant Tesco and their chain of now ubiquitous "Fresh & Easy" stores. It also involved some endangered owls, a supermarket workers union, and a business organization funded by existing American supermarket chains. Long story short, the owls lost.
But what I find fascinating here are both the tactics that are used to counter local resistance to development, and to support it. In particular the acronyms. Here are my favorites:
NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard. You see this term used often on urbanist and green websites. Supporters of SB 375 find NIMBYism particularly abhorrent, and wave this term around like a club with a nail in it. Apparently such people are the scourge of the earth.
LULU - Local Unwanted Land Use. This is the term often used to counter the juju contained in the acronym NIMBY. The Downtown Specific Plan would be a fine example of a LULU. And those who would advocate such a thing are LULUs as well. In all possible senses of the word.
BANANA - Build Absolutely Nowhere Anywhere Near Anything. I can get behind this one. Since those supporting AB 32 want to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels (whatever they were, nobody really seems to know), maybe it is possible to also cut development in Sierra Madre back to 1990 levels as well?
CHIMP - Can't Help Imposing Megadevelopment Plans. If you got Bananas, it is probably because you have some Chimps around as well. These mischievous Chimps often inhabit City Halls where they work full time to push for the kinds of LULU development the taxpayers sustaining them hate. The reason being that because no planner ever enhanced their career trajectory listening to taxpayers, LULUs are where the action is really at.
UBOWS - You Build Or We Sue. Dorn Platz is a very good example of the UBOWS phenomenon in action. UBOWS can also be used by CHIMPs looking to build political capital for their LULUs. "If we don't let them build, they'll sue us!" being the plaintive wail of CHIMPs looking to secretly help the UBOWS build their LULUs. Of course, UBOWS will sue no matter what you do, so the argument is moot. As we later saw with One Carter, oftentimes it is all they are really capable of doing.
The authors of NIMBY Wars have now blessed the world with a handbook of "the dark arts of land-use politics," and an argument for the kind of consultancy these fellow do on a professional basis. Here is some of their advice courtesy of the LA Times review:
- Do not rely on a lawyer. Avoid the local political fixer, and forget about public relations.
- Because LULUs are decided by local politicians, planning is a question of whether or not they think giving a project the green light will lose votes.
- The local land-use permitting process is totally political and is thus controlled by those who control the ballot box.
- All battles must be conducted like a political campaign. If necessary, covertly organize a group of supporters to attend planning meetings.
- Keeping your own supporters in line may prove to be one of the hardest challenges.
- Use aliases when checking out planning applications. Also when driving around in a car use local license plates to prevent arousing suspicion. Don't use local photocopying companies.
Of course, there are some local variants that have been used around here that the authors of NIMBY Wars don't seem to have picked up on. Veterans of some of our own LULU conflagrations might even find some of this to be naive. But that the topic has now achieved a level justifying it having been turned into a general interest book does show how widespread the phenomenon is these days.
My advice? Keep your eyes on the CHIMPs.