Friday, June 11, 2010

NIMBYs versus LULUs

So much of what we discuss here at The Tattler has to do with development and how exactly we can keep it from overwhelming our little place in the sun. But this is hardly unique to Sierra Madre, and interesting terminology has come into existence throughout the many years of such battles. Some people want to turn the ambiance of small towns such as ours into highly profitable development, while the people already living in them more often than not just don't want it.

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.

51 comments:

  1. Yes, Sir Eric. I have noticed at least half a dozen CHIMPS hovering at the Planning counter perpetrating LULUS with the hope that they will be in a position in the future to say of other Sierra Madreans "oh those people are strictly NQOTD" (Not Quite Our Type, Dear).

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  2. CHIMPs often leave messes that others need to clean up. The current infestation downtown will take a major clean up in a couple of years, I'm afraid. Hopefully no LULUs will have come of it.

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  3. Monkeys on the CouncilJune 11, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    The King Cong Church is the biggest CHIMP in town. Get ready for their UBOW and arrows if they don't get their way.

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  4. Unfortunately, if you aren't part of the development "game", you may be hopelessly naive, and you have already lost it. Watts, who has been in it for over 30 years said before he even ran, "don't trust anyone elected to city council", even if you voted for them.
    Regardless, if they are "polite and nice people", they are in it for a reason. It's a question that never seems to be asked. Test to see if the answer seems reasonable, the answer will seem plausible. Beware of people who appear from out of knowhere, and run for office.
    All you have to do is look at the makeup of the current council. Moran, moved to town the day before he "decided" to run, Mosca, in town for less than a year, Buchanan, while here a little longer, arrives just before the the start of the DSP process.
    If you believe anything they tell you, including the importance of raising water rates, you need to stick your head into a hole in the ground.

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  5. SM dodged a bullet - so farJune 11, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    It is gratifying to see these wars articulated so well, both in this article and in this book.
    Development has turned into a scourge, and no amount of greenwash can hide the fact that developers are now actively harming the communities they prey on.

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  6. 8:17, the game is called "corporatism." Large corporations in league with government to further their aims without any involvement from the taxpayers. That we have two Councilmen who are both lawyers and employees of energy megaconglomerates is no coincidence.

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  7. Monkeys on the Council: Who is manning the biplanes? That is one big old CHIMP!

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  8. Gooney Bird, I agree with what you say with the exception of Moran being yet another JohnnyJoe comelately (and John Buchanan was on the council just in time to pronounce the death sentence on One Carter, as well as to husband the dsp). Moran is a local boy, notwithstanding his sojourns in Monrovia.

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  9. Bad Karma, isn't it really more like one and a half lawyers?

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  10. Which one would you save is the half?
    The publicist or the HR enforcer?

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  11. In all fairness, one of our best ever Mayors/Council Members Kurt Zimmerman was a local boy who moved away and returned JUST prior to running for City Council. It's the MOTIVES they have when they run for City Council that count - is it for personal gain or out of a sense of public service?

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  12. The state's own Housing and Community Development website (www.hcd.ca.gov) has some prepared PDF's to tell high density advocates how to battle NIMBY's. Gross.

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  13. Think of Moran as a brand name in Sierra Madre. Therefore no substance needed. People still state how long they have lived here and if some what of a newcomer, appologizing for only living here 10 years, 20 years. Egad! So, everything's hunky dorry in Sierra Madre? Not for long. Didn't Josh state in his councilmember report that the library read along was like "when we were kids?" I'm better than you, I've lived here longer. Who wants gum?

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  14. Josh has "the deepest roots in the community." All the way down to the septic tanks.

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  15. Thanks for that information True Freedom.
    It's very like the California Association of realtors handbook on fighting slow growth movements at the local level. Quite telling that these materials that delineate strategies to screw the average citizen are out there for everyone to see. The practicers of the Land Use Dark Arts are so confident of the lack of citizen participation and response that they don't even have to hide their machinations.

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  16. We must all be aware of the CHIMPS and UBOWS, but also keep a constant vigil over what the City Council is doing. They are the ones who ultimately are going to break us.

    And don't forget Josh's daily ride to Toy and Patio and other carefree activities growing up in this small town. This of course made him supremely qualified for City Council. This is opposed to Watts who actually spent time working and serving the city for so many years.

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  17. This is what so many Sierra Madre residents don't seem to get and/or care about: the decisions that effect all of us are made by that small group of people, some with egos far larger than their elections should mean, in the council chambers in city hall. Developers understand that the action is with that small group.

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  18. I remember Tonja Torres saying at a campaign forum when she was running for re-election that decisions were best left to the elected officials, after all, that's why they are elected.

    Yeah, right...

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  19. The wheels are already quietly in motion for the next election. One of the four slots has been filled.

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  20. Should we go the the new city council system and limit blog comments to 3 minutes?

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  21. 12:28, it's terrific that there's a potential candidate out there but a little early to say a slot has been filled, doncha think?

    And, I'm only guessing here, but are you implying this candidate is honest to God slow growth and Tattler friendly?

    Tell me where to send the campaign contribution!

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  22. Anyone who wants more information about LULUs should look at my Rutgers website, policy.rutgers.edu.faculty/popper. I invented the idea in my article, "Siting LULUs, Planning magazine, April 1981. The environmental-justice movement has used the idea a lot, as have lots of people involved in planning disputes. All best wishes,
    Frank Popper
    Rutgers and Princeton Universities
    fpopper@rci.rutgers.edu, fpopper@princeton.edu
    732-932-4009, X689

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  23. 9:01 I saw Zimmerman after several years in the dowtown in 2004. He told me he had just moved back to Sierra Madre. He was elected to the city council in 2006 --two years later.

    Joe Mosca, on the other hand, moved to Sierra Madre and filed to run for office a few weeks after he arrived.

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  24. Zimmerman's family has been living in Sierra Madre off and on since the 60s. Funny how Kurt was branded a carpetbagger and Mosca was referred to as a "long-term resident" by the DIRTS.

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  25. old as the hillsJune 11, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    12:43, I remember a rough time during the failed effort to protect the hillsides when the notorious council of 2004 wanted to set the speaker limit at two minutes. They did not want to hear the creative and intelligent solutions being offered to them. They wanted to cry out in alarm at the lawsuits that were coming if they didn't give in.
    Yep.
    We all know how that one turned out.

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  26. duck as a thread to yessterday's comments...I worked for a major corp with multiple locations. We sharred a HR person with 3 others. (750 full time associates). The key was that over 10 years ago most corps. changed HR from a hand holding function to one that administered corp policies and supervised managers who performed HR functions. Sierra Madre should have one Human Resource Executive who monitors the Supervisors in HR functions. There 15 years behind the times.

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  27. Professor Popper, many thanks for that information. We need it here in Sierra Madre!

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  28. Joe Mosca still seems to be having problems with people speaking during public comment. I think it might be because when people are not saying what he has been told is true by those he shills for, it makes his head hurt.

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  29. Free speech for all while we still canJune 11, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Joe Mosca's problem is that he's terrified of a repeat performance by the likes of those courageous women Shirely Moore, Fay Angus, Teryl Willis, Barbara Lee, Heather Allen, and all the other brave Sierra Madreans who remind him of what he's said in the past. He thinks he can silence them by limiting them to three minutes - wait until he turns off the microphones and asks Chief Diaz to remove them from the Council Chambers.

    Makes his head hurt? It gets his underwear in a bundle and loosens his bowels! Nanny Buchanan turns white when anyone of us stands up and walks down to the podium!

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  30. Free speech for allJune 11, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    Whoops! I forgot Carol Parker!

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  31. Wait'll he starts rolling out all his excuses about pushing for building condos downtown. He'll keep repeating, "I'm just following the law!"

    Just like the good little Sacramento aparatchik he is.

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  32. 1:06 Sorry this person would be gobbled up with your Hoover. Very dusty person. Not slow growth and will be supported by the head honcho himself.

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  33. Professor Popper is a friend to slow growth, and it's too bad he doesn't live in town.

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  34. You're right 4:35. What must Mayor Mosca have thought last week when Heather Allen stood up and walked to the podium! I giggle just thinking of his distress.

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  35. The mayor, with his eye on the clock, checking closely when it is time to say "30 seconds" cannot possibly be listening to the presentation at the podium, whether it is community communications or on an agendized item. He masks incompetence with this so-called meeting efficiency. More's the pity for Sierra Madre's future for many years to come.

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  36. I disagree 5:17. As part of the New Civility, Mosca has been effusive, even avuncular, in thanking one and all who come to the podium. Demonstrating his great sense of fairness, his new found security and his belief in open communication. Gone are the petty snarling responses, the ever higher in pitch whines, the aggrieved plaintive wails. Gotta new game.

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  37. He finally got what he wanted. No more snits.

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  38. The foolish naive voters along with the crooks in this town elected the three people who will guarantee the demise of Sierra Madre.
    Make no mistake about it, Sierra Madre......you f****d up. Big time.

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  39. Their crimes will not be without witnesses.

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  40. AMEN:10:00&10:21..wait till THEY get the bills,all of them!!!

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  41. My letter posted today to Elaine Aguliar and Joseph Mosca. Certified Mail to CM

    "I am attaching a copy of the Notification and Information processused by San Diego to solicit customer attendance at the hearing and protest form for a proposed water rate increase in 2009 if the customer was not happy with the prosed rate increase. Note: the rate increase amounted to 0.12 for a 5/8 inch meter size. That is less than 1%. Also the notification was clear and easy to understand. None of the "no response means yes" and confusion about future rears and most important, timing of the hearing on the same day the vote of Council was planned. If not illegal the process put forth by our City Council is ethically flawed.

    I have read and reread the 10% increase escalating to a ??? 40% perhaps 75% increase in 5 years and I can find no logic or reason to put such a burden on our residents. Who can tell between meter size, water pressure manipulated, rate for usage and lots of mystery about computing the water bill if there is any legitimacy to your proposal?

    I am a senior citizen on a fixed income. I will not get a 10% increase in income and certainly not a 40% increase over the next 5 years. You have become a cynical administration pursuing a ridiculous agenda. One percent a year maybe. 10% to 40% no way.

    What on earth are you thinking of? Who is benefiting from this usury?

    Please copy and share this letter with the remaining City Couincil Members.

    A Most Disgusted Resident of Sierra Madre (23 years)

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  42. 6:26

    Please read your letter at the next City ouncil meeting. There are still so many people that have no idea about the increase.

    The City Council wants to be able to say, "We gave the residents a chance to speak out and they did not object. BS

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  43. Be sure to get everyone you know in town to sign and send in the protest form. And have them do the same. The smug jerks at city hall don't think we can do it. They can't wait to take our money from us.

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  44. Very few people watch the City Council meetings. We are preaching to the choir. We need to get the word out, send email and letters to our friends in the city, talk to the merchants. The current City Council members with the exception of MaryAnn do not care what the citizens think. They will do what they want. Isn't that why they were elected? The citizens were duped. let them eat cake.

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  45. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  46. It looks like Anthony Adams could be succeeded in the California State Assembly by a tea party supported candidate named Tim Donnelly. A small business owner who ran with no big money lobbyist support, yet upset the Republican establishment candidate to take a narrow 650+ vote lead. Donnelly doesn't have it yet, but he is close. Only the provisional ballots remain to be counted, and they are hardly an establishment baliwick. I personally don't agree with a whole lot Mr. Donnelly has to say, but he sure is annoying all the right people. And honestly, how could he be any worse than the circus clowns and lobby puppets running Sacramento now?

    What is your take?

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  47. I hope he wins!
    Go Tea Party People!

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  48. 6:52 Again you don't need to like someone or their
    stands but it does no good to call names . Any new people coming to this blog for the first time to find out about it will not be impressed

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  49. It is absolutely true that very few people watch city council meetings. Heck, probably more people follow the Tattler!

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  50. Thats the tragedy of local government. Nobody gives a damn. Its why towns like ours ends up with councils made up of third rate liars.

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  51. Maybe some day we'll have to resort to rockets to defend our property from developers like this poor farmer in China:

    "Chinese Farmer Fends Off Property Developers with Homemade Rockets"

    http://gawker.com/5558843/chinese-farmer-fends-off-property-developers-with-homemade-rockets

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