A mischievous Katherine Gregor posted this piece about Berkeley’s environmentalist NIMBYs on the ANC listserve just before the 4th of July weekend. The debate over there is just now petering out.
The point of the piece was not that all environmentalists are NIMBYs. Just the opposite, in fact. Berkeley activists have blocked new housing and development for many years using environmentalist and affordability rhetoric. It finally occurred to the more thoughtful environmentalists in the area -- the sort of people who, you know, actually worry about the environment -- that if Berkeley doesn’t make room for newcomers, those turned away will not teleport into another dimension but instead will find some other place to live. Probably in distant suburbs where they will eat a lot of green space and burn a lot of gasoline. It nicely illustrates the principle that you should watch what people do, not what they say. If you are a green then you will fight for denser infill development at least some of the time. If you claim you are a green but fight infill density tooth and claw, then you are not a green; you are merely anti-growth.
We don’t normally see environmentalist rhetoric deployed in small, garden-variety neighborhood spats. Homeowners in those kinds of disputes are likely to be perfectly honest about the fact that they don’t want new people or a different class of people in their neighborhood, or that they like things just the way they are, or that they’re worried about their property values. It’s not always pretty, but at least it’s honest.