From the Forum – Fighting NIMBYism

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Fighting NIMBYism

“I went to a civic association meeting last night, and it seemed like everybody there was universally opposed any dense development for fear that it’ll block people’s sunlight and/or increase traffic for residents (who apparently drive around their own neighborhood for some reason?). Simultaneously, they lament when businesses close because of high rent and lack of customers.

I believe dense development, if executed responsibly, is the key to getting people out of their cars, lowering real estate costs, and increasing customer- (and tax-) bases. The opposition is irrational and vitriolic. My wife and I want to be civically engaged, but I don’t think we want to make a habit of arguing with roomfulls of people that just aren’t going to get it.

Is there any organized force against the NIMBYism? Should we go it alone and just write dissents to our ANC, CM, and the zoning board? Is this an especially effective strategy? It’s a shame, because it’s easy to sit back and let the developers take on the fight themselves, but it seems like their buildings are constantly being trimmed down and scaled back because of community opposition, and we probably only have one chance to rebuild these neighborhoods!

I’m specifically talking about the Edgewood/Brentwood/Brookland/Langdon area, where there’s a lot of development activity, but I’d be happy to join a District-wide urbanism effort as well.”

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109 Comment

  • Check out In My Backyard DC –

    • No thanks. I’m pro-development 90% of the time, but if anti-regulation libertarians get their way D.C. will be just as crappy a place to live – if not worse – than if NIMBYs are allowed to run amok.

  • It is always interesting to me when people who get into a neighborhood early, buy a house (because they can afford a house there), then get really upset when others follow suit. And then more others to the point where demand exceeds supply for a neighborhood. I understand as a homeowner a desire to preserve some of what you liked about a neighborhood when you bought there. But I also recognized my buying and moving there itself also changed the face of the neighborhood I moved into. I’m a gentrifier. I get it. But I also don’t think my few years of living here gives me some authority on controlling everything that happens around me. Take Bloomingdale for example. People who live there love to complain about pop ups. And I get it, there are lots of terrible pop ups that are poorly constructed. But most of these people who complain have, despite that, seen large increases in property values and a surge in new restaurants and bars in their neighborhood they all agree that they love. I am always confused as to why they do not see the connection there. You cannot have it both ways. There has to be some logical and acceptable middle ground. Especially if DC is going to grow by another 100K residents in the 20 years.

    I’m a big supporter of thoughtful density. Let me know what you figure out. I’m with you!

    • There is also a dame in Bloomingdale who popped up her house but has been one of the most vocal opponents to pop-ups, including collecting signatures and testifying. The hypocrisy is infuriating.

      • And she tweets all.the.time using the Bloomingdale hashtag. I can’t stand that woman.

        • Wait, that woman has a popped up house? You’re kidding. I see her tweets all the time. Her and the guy who runs that blog for Bloomingale. They are rabid opponents and sure, they point out some really terrible pop up construction (which, honestly is more of a quality of construction issue than a problem with pop ups in theory and should be handled as such) and they make me crazy.

    • My favorite part is that they usually only moved here 3-5 years ago, are originally from some midwestern state, and form a semi-exploitative alliance with long-term residents for credibility (oftentimes speaking for them when they’re not even there).

  • west_egg

    While I sympathize with the OP’s frustration, I’m a little put off by people who describe their neighbors as “roomfulls of people that just aren’t going to get it.”
    “The opposition is irrational and vitriolic.” — Vitriolic: sometimes, yes. Irrational: Absolutely not. We’re talking about people’s homes. It’s perfectly rational to oppose what you see as radical and unfamiliar change. “Unreasonable” might be a better word choice here, though still subjective.
    “Is there any organized force against the NIMBYism?” — Check out Greater Greater Washington. They focus on these issues quite a bit, and call attention to organized channels through which to express your opinion.
    “buildings are constantly being trimmed down and scaled back because of community opposition” — It’s your neighbors’ community, too. Compromise is often a good thing.
    “we probably only have one chance to rebuild these neighborhoods!” — Perhaps a tad melodramatic. That’s the thing about neighborhoods that many of your neighbors seem to not understand — they’re constantly changing and evolving.
    To summarize: I would advise looking for ways to engage your neighbors rather than trying to get around them to railroad through “your” vision for your neighborhood, no matter how superior you believe it to be.

    • “It’s your neighbors’ community, too. Compromise is often a good thing.” – This is the same logic used by anti-vaxxers. People are entitled to an opinion, but when that opinion is wrong and makes public policy it’s a problem for all of us.
      “Perhaps a tad melodramatic. That’s the thing about neighborhoods that many of your neighbors seem to not understand — they’re constantly changing and evolving.” Sort of true. Although a staggering percentage of real estate is being built in this generation that has been vacant for 40 years. It’s true that neighborhoods change, but the development in the next 10 years will have a hugely disproportionate impact for the following 100.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I agree with that as far as it goes, but I believe there is more room for legitimate disagreement among people of good will in a debate about urban form than in a debate about vaccines against infectious diseases.

      • Anti-vaxxers are factually wrong. Neighbors who have a different vision for a neighborhood are not factually wrong, they have a different opinion. That opinion may or may not be well-informed but is in no way analogous to to anti -vaxxers. People unable to grasp nuance or understand opposing arguments — who make black and white judgments — tend to fall into the ill-informed (and insufferable) group.

      • Terrible metaphor. That’s a big ‘ol fail. ( <— see, that's an opinion!)

  • Scrillin

    Sometimes its appropriate to build, sometimes its not.

    Chances are, those folks at the ANC meetings are not organized by the NIMBY PAC or something, they just happen to be the people who care the most and bother to show up.

    If that’s all the ANC has to go on when they vote on a PUD, that’s just too bad for the developers.

    Who are you to unilaterally decide that these reduced or stymied developments you speak of were ‘responsible’ in their context?

  • Welcome to the battle, neighbor 🙂
    Neighbors Against Downzoning has a website. Look us up.
    Definitely go to ANC meetings and other public forums to voice your concerns. The typical ANC represents 15,000+ people yet the same small handful of anti-growth, anti-development, “save the neighborhood” activists / obstructionists show up regularly and monopolize the process.
    Keep an eye on what is happening at the BZA and the Zoning Commission (from the comfort of your desktop or smart phone — they stream meetings live and archive past meetings on the website). Submit your comments and concerns on individual cases as they arise, either in person or by filing a written statement through the case file.
    Get your facts straight but be aware that often the opposition to anything new is fueled by (1) Fear (2) Uncertainty and (3) Doubt. Otherwise known as FUD.
    Every new development is met with some opposition, but the large number of new projects in recent years has multiplied the FUD factor to a ridiculous level.

    • I’ve been following DCOZ case 14-18 closely (The redevelopment of Brookland Manor) and the FUD factor has been ridiculous!

      • I don’t know. Did you watch the hearing? I was really struck by how many existing residents SUPPORT the redevelopment. They’re just afraid that if the developer doesn’t follow through with the affordable housing promise, they’ll have nowhere else to go. There’s a small, very vocal, and totally unreasonable group opposing the PUD, but I think Zoning can see through that.

        • I watched all of them. I was talking about the FUD factor that Ronald was mentioning.

          • Right. I wasn’t disagreeing that there’s a FUD factor. Just that I don’t think it’s ridiculous for people to worry about being displaced. Whether or not you like the idea of subsidized housing, there are real human impacts at stake.

    • Suggesting people who show up to voice their opinions are ‘monopolizing the process’ is strongly misleading regardless of what side of any issue you are on. Those voicing opinions are not preventing others from attending and doing the same.

      • Apparently my comment hit a nerve. 🙂
        People don’t like it when they believe their motivations or actions are mischaracterized by others.
        People quite often have different opinions, especially about other people’s opinions.
        Are there any so-called “nimbys” who will admit to it? If no one will embrace the label, does that mean “nimbyism” doesn’t exist?

  • I want to be sympathetic but the tone of this is so incredibly condescending– “who apparently drive around their own neighborhood for some reason” — more traffic is detrimental to quality of life in general, whether you drive or not. Some people just don’t want busier streets, and I think that’s completely understandable.

    • justinbc

      +1, condemning others’ vitriolic nature with a note like this is a bit ironic.

    • Yup, the traffic in New York and LA is so bad that no one wants to live there.

      Cities without traffic are dying cities.

    • Traffic is a fact of life when roads are free and you live somewhere people want to be. There really isn’t a tenable way around traffic if you also want neighborhoods to be walkable, because cars take up a lot of space and balloon everything else out if they’re catered to. Walkable neighborhoods generally also require storefronts that aren’t shuttered, which means there have to be customers, which brings us back to being where people want to be.

  • Fight NIMBYism all you want, just don’t do it here please. 😉

  • Wow. Have you ever considered that blanketing people’s differing opinions from your own with the pejorative term, NIMBY, is utterly dismissive? Someone on these pages, I think, said that rather than referring to something as NIMBY, he thought of them as local determination. It really depends on how you see something. I have absolutely no problem with people wanting to shape things a certain way in their own freakin’ neighborhood. They have the right to complain/discuss/negotiate. You favor increased density; Bob doesn’t. Guess what- you don’t have the higher moral ground here. By accepting that we live in a vibrant and hopefully involved community, it means you need to accept that not all of us agree. Blanketing your opponents with “NIMBY” reveals a lack of understanding/empathy for those with whom you disagree. Just my two cents!

    • The problem with this logic is that the ANC and BZA explicitly favor home-owners, who are not the only residents of neighborhoods, and not the only stakeholders in the future of the city. Zoning laws exact large wealth transfers from renters to owners by restricting supply. There is a lot of economic evidence on this. For a summary:

      These NIMBY decisions carry external costs, and those costs are borne by people who have no voice.

    • Your two cents are ridiculous. You make not clear argument about why the complaints described by the OP are no NIMBYism, you just tell OP he shouldn’t be telling other people they’re wrong.
      It’s completely unreasonable to move miles from the city center, expect there to be nice restaurants and services, but no high density housing or traffic. These people are NIMBYs because they want the amenities of the city, just not in their immediate proximity.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Way to have a civilized debate, buddy.

        • I gave a specific reason why the folks cited by OP are in fact NIMBYs and are unreasonable in their opposition to density. You and “anon” above are making ad hominem attacks? Do you find logical disagreement unreasonable or is that simply the only retort when realizing you are wrong?

          • HaileUnlikely

            Your specific reason contained numerous unsubstantiated assumptions and no facts.

          • Dude, “your two cents are ridiculous,” is, by definition, an ad hominem attack. I fail to see why your argument for density is more legitimate or morally righteous over another person’s opposition to density/opinion to stay with the status quo. It all depends on where you sit- you obviously want it one way, and your “NIMBY” people want it another way.

          • Actually, that is not an ad hominem attack. Rude, maybe? An ad hominem attack would be, you are ridiculous. Not that your opinion is ridiculous.

        • I’m not your buddy, pal. I’m not your pal, friend. I’m not your friend, guy.

      • there is plenty of density in these neighborhoods. pop-ups are not going to solve the city’s affordable housing crisis.

        • Pop-ups won’t solve the city’s affordable housing crisis so therefore no pop-ups should be allowed?
          Even if the zoning law allows it as a matter of right? No variance, no special exception, just maximizing living space in an existing property in accordance with existing property rights?
          Have to disagree with your comment, if that is what you are implying.

        • “There is plenty of density in these neighborhoods.”

          You understand that is a meaningless sentence right? What is plenty? Because, and I’m sorry, but there isn’t really enough supply to meet the demand for most neighborhoods where these conversations seem to be what drives most of the neighborhood meetings.

          There is also a big difference in providing affordable housing and just housing. Presumably if real estate is being purchased, it is affordable to the person who purchased it. And sorry again, but if you can add supply where demand is high, it does lower prices, or at the very least slows the increase in prices.

    • Those NIMBYs are making the public policy that’s driving people like me out of DC, and you sympathize with them because someone said some mean words?

    • The problem with terms like “local determination” is that the anti-development folks don’t want that either. Not if most locals want increased development.
      If you object to the term NIMBY, fine. But let’s not put a positive spin on a position that is completely and utterly unreasonable. D.C. is growing. While some of the changes aren’t to everyone’s liking, this has largely been a good thing for quality of life in the city. The developments in Brookland (at least those containing more than a few dozen units), are concentrated near the only two Metro stations (out of 40+ in D.C.) in Ward 5 – which is the east-of-the-river ward with the most underutilized (often industrial) land. Yet these objectors, at least, call for NO development or next to no development. So I don’t think OP is out of bounds to be frustrated, and I think at a minimum you ought to call these people what they are: anti-development, anti-urban, and against maximizing use of public transit. Period.

  • “but I don’t think we want to make a habit of arguing with roomfulls of people that just aren’t going to get it” …get what? YOUR opinion? It appears you’re labeling the “NIMBYS” as people who simply have differing views of your own. It seems like you and your wife aren’t actually interested in working with your community to advance your neighborhood.

    • What are we supposed to do, when those neighbors make very clear they want us out?

    • Have you actually attended any meetings in the neighborhoods in question? It is one thing to have a differing opinion, and quite another to advocate that nothing around you ever change. Every time I go to one of these meetings, multiple people suggest things like: 1) Don’t build an apartment building here a block from the Metro, just build SFHs; 2) Don’t build anything on that land that you paid $5M for, turn it into a public park; 3) I’m happy having a chop shop behind me, don’t build anything – ever! Etc.
      Based on discussions with my own neighbors, I think the really unreasonable people are in the minority. But it sure doesn’t feel like it when they make 75% of the comments at meetings.

    • I think the OP clarified what it means – people who are opposed to changing anything in their neighborhood. Density, development, etc. He means literally the people saying, Not in My Backyard. Attend an ANC meeting. You’ll know exactly what he’s talking about.

  • I wouldn’t really call a lot of density opponents NIMBYs. Not-in-my-backyard is more along the lines of “I want this for the city, but not in my neighborhood.” I don’t know that the folks using the typical “too much traffic” and “blockin’ mah sunlight” smokescreens are that interested in additional services, housing, and retail throughout the city; they just don’t want more people moving into or visiting their neighborhoods.

    • If they didn’t want the amenities of a city, they would’ve moved to the exurbs by now. They want a little enclave with all the benefits and none of the cost. Not sure what else you call that.

  • Coalition for Smarter Growth is pro-density, anti-mandatory parking, etc.

  • Yeah, anyone with a different opinion is a “nimby.” You’re sure to get far by smearing your neighbors with pejoratives.

    • I wish my neighbors were only smearing me with pejoratives! Instead they’re artificially restricting housing supply in DC to enrich themselves at my expense.

      • Why should I impoverish myself by supporting zoning that diminishes the value of my home? Why are your needs more important than mine? I have kids to put through college, potentially parents to take care of and my own retirement to think of. And, I got all that lovely home equity by taking a chance on a dangerous neighborhood when there were no trendy bars, decent restaurants or farmers markets — I got it by making it safe for you.
        (OK — playing Devil’s Advocate here, but see how it works when we start with the moral judgment?)

        • HaileUnlikely

          Similarly and in my opinion more legitimately: when I express dislike for tall buildings and noisy crowds, people told me to move to the suburbs. So I did (in effect). They were happy and so was I. And now those same people want to effectively annex the place that I moved to, so that they can make it into what they want instead of what.

          • HaileUnlikely

            …instead of what I want. (sorry, posted too soon)

          • So you cash out on your appreciated home and move again? Or you don’t, and you live with the development. I don’t understand how you can advocate for the alternative: that you buy not only your home, but your neighborhood, frozen in time with government-facilitated protection against all market forces.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I’m not claiming that I should be entitled to exercise my will over you by force of law, only that what I value and what you value are different, and that there is no objective criteria by which your values trump mine nor that mine trump yours. It is a legitimate difference of opinions and values, not a battle of good (you) vs. evil (me).

        • This city runs on an army of ambitious, hard-working, underpaid 20somethings–staffing congressional offices and non-profits and advocacy groups and communications firms. What happens when they can’t afford to live here anymore? If you keep getting your way, we’re about to find out. I won’t be here: I’m leaving DC next month, because where in DC can a grad student reasonably afford? In the city I’m moving to, I can literally get twice the space for half the price–and a better education as well.

          • One of my friends was homeless for a month last year, because he couldn’t afford to pay his grad school loans and DC rent. What do you have to say to him?

          • Paris seems to be thriving, and they move poor people to the suburbs as a matter of policy. If hard-working, underpaid 20-somethings move out, they’ll be replaced by hard-working 30, 40 and 50-somethings who have more disposable income to support amenities and pay taxes and a stake in the school system. I feel bad your friend but the inability of highly degrees individuals to make rent is not necessarily a basis for an appropriate development policy.
            I’m not unsympathetic — my own son is dealing with the cost of housing in DC as a hard-working 20-something. And I’m overstating my case to make the point that the “this is good for me” argument cuts both ways. Screaming “NIMBY” and whining about your personal inability to live in the trendy neighborhood you want to live in is a bad persuasion strategy.

          • Honestly? The cost of education and low wages are the problem more than the cost of housing. Building more apartment buildings isn’t going to decrease the cost of housing, because it invites more amenities and makes those neighborhoods more attractive places to live. Affordable/subsidized housing is just a band-aid for some much deeper problems.

          • What do I say to your friend? Honestly? I would go into default for my student loans any day of the week before I would be homeless. That’s the choice he made.

          • Terrible solution. You know that student loans aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy, right? If you default, they’ll grow and grow due to interest and late fees, and any pay you earn in the future could be garnished. In fact, if you have federal student loans, even your social security can be garnished.
            Also, people may “choose” to take on student debt – but if they do so based on a lifetime of false promises from society (“education is ALWAYS a great invesment”/”it’s GOOD debt!”) and serious misrepresentations from schools about employment prospects, you’re pretty callous if you think there shouldn’t be any recourse.

          • @IrvingStreet Paris is many times as dense as DC, because Paris has decided to allow grand old buildings to be subdivided into tiny units, because Paris has decided people are more important than cars.
            yes, Paris is thriving. It’s thriving partially because density fosters productivity.

        • Building things in a neighborhood decreases property value? Is that even currently true? If you bought something in Logan Circle 30 condo buildings ago, you’re doing alright for yourself. You could argue that your property taxes is getting too high and that’s making your life harder as your property value grows, but that’s like complaining that your penis has gotten too big to ride a bicycle.

        • Do you feel that way when your neighbor wants to sell his/her property to a developer to maximize his/her value? No, you don’t. It is strange to me you’re very quick to support telling others what to do with their property by arguing that you should be okay doing that because it protects your own interest. Do you see the…I don’t know, hypocrisy there?

          • I don’t understand this comment at all. Do you know any of these people? How do you know what they’d say if a pop up moved in next door?

          • Nevermind, I get it. You were talking to the hypocrisy embodied in IrvingStreet’s devils-advocacy 🙂

  • Number one way to fix this: eliminate the anc. At best the ANC does nothing. The worst of them actively Block businesses and development and create rancor among neighbors. Some are nice people with good intentions, but most reps are neighborhood petty tyrants.
    And for god sakes stop Anita bonds insane quest to strengthen the ANC.
    In the meantime attend meetings. Blog about them if you can. I think recently the increased attention paid to the ANC insanity has helped attract more residents to come to meetings as a voice of reason.

    • clevelanddave

      So says the anonymous contributor to a blog who probably does not participate in the ANC process.

      • I don’t just say it, it’s a fact. Read the ANC1D listserv. A previous commissioner once proposed a race-based parking scheme. They’ve railroaded tons of developers out of the neighborhood by strategically objecting to proposals for reasons that completely misrepresent their actual opposition. Or ANC 5D. Where one commissioner slandered a local business owner for years, ultimately resulting in a civil court judgement against the commissioner that required the marshals to forcibly empty and auction a condo. Or one of the many ANCs with financial improprieties. Our experiments in local “democracy”, it turns out, is even more dysfunctional than our national one. I see little to no upside of the ANC system.

  • OP – I live in Brookland and totally sympathize with you on the “we want services but no people” thing. It’s a constant theme any time anyone wants to build something other than SFHs in the neighborhood, and it is completely unrealistic.
    In my opinion, the only solution to this is to show up and make your voice (POLITELY!) heard. And bring like-minded people along. You can be assured that people who are against development will. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking up, express your views to your elected representatives in private. You can talk to the developers themselves, too – my experience is that they often listen, especially to people who support their projects overall.

    • I was afraid that was the best answer I’d get. I am probably going to do that, but I guess I selfishly wanted my own echochamber committee to attend, since that’s what they all appear to have. Attending every ANC/ZC/ABRA hearing would be difficult. With an organization, one can just send representatives. As it stands, attending these neighborhood meetings invariably means investing time and effort into increasing the claimed attendance of a group that will invariably represent the opposite view when I’m not there.
      But I guess neighborhood organizing has a NIMBY bias.

      • All organizing has a bias for those who show up. There are no magical solutions. I find that it’s pretty easy to cherry pick which meetings will address items of interest, given that agendas are usually posted in advance. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to create a group to trade off on attending meetings, but personally I don’t like letting others speak for me. Especially since there seems to be a lot of tone-deafness among the pro-development set.
        As far as “echo chamber” groups, I’m not sure I know what you mean. I have occasionally see people claim that they also speak for a few of their close neighbors, but aside from the “turn McMillan into a creepy drug park” people I don’t think that anyone is terribly organized.

        • Fair points. I’ve spent a lot of time tonight reading transcripts of actual hearings, and it doesn’t seem like community organizations get much weight beyond the members who show up.
          At the few meetings I’ve been to, people invariably come in with a stance they already share and unabashedly reassure each other of it. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck. Definitely I should stop going to those meetings.

          • Blithe

            Let’s see if I’ve got this. You went to a meeting. Other people at the meeting did not share your opinions, values, and priorities. You feel that you were in the minority in the midst of people who — in your words “invariably come in with a stance they already share and unabashedly reassure each other of it.” You, though, have your own “stance” which you seem to be unabashedly firm about. And you’ve written to PoP in the hope that you’ll be directed to some “organized force” that supports your view — perhaps also allowing you and your “organized force” to “unabashedly reassure each other” of the correctness of the stance that you and your “organized force” already share. Um, yeah.

            -What do you think might happen if you actually listened to your neighbors, tried to understand their various viewpoints and priorities, and tried to explain your own? Isn’t that how civic engagement is supposed to work?

          • I’m pretty clearly still figuring out how any of this works. For what its worth, I posted in the forum; I didn’t ask PoP to share.

          • Blithe

            How what works? Are you trying to find an organization of like-minded people to join you at the meetings? Are you trying to figure out how meetings “work” when you have what you feel is a minority viewpoint? Are you trying to figure out how to persuade people with very different viewpoints — and perhaps very different priorities and values — to your side? Or something else?

      • west_egg

        I’m sorry — am I misreading this, or are you saying you’re disappointed because it sounds like to get what you want you’ll actually have to invest/sacrifice something yourself, as opposed to relying on a delegation? Because that’s what it sounds like.

  • It really kills me how people bring up DC’s lack of affordable housing in every pop-up debate, and yet totally disregard the large portion of our city covered in detached single family homes. maybe you could start your crusade for higher density there. in an already dense neighborhood of mixed apartments/condos and row homes, a couple of new popups aren’t going to have a significant effect on density. they WILL however, have a big effect on their next door neighbors, who shouldn’t have to lose out. land lets be honest – we don’t actually care about density. the people in favor of pop-ups just want to be able to sell their land to developers for more money, and density and housing are the excuses they use.

    • Or you know, maybe they like pop-ups because they were able to afford something nice in a nice neighborhood where they couldn’t afford a similar SFH.

    • So we’re suggesting that we rid the city of detached, single family homes?
      These are the more sparsely populated parts of town and are residential – people raise their families and create a life there!

      Sometimes I think the problem is that in all of these hot property zones there is such a mix in the agenda of all the owners. You have the (1) young professionals that have made the decision to buy a home and start a family. Incredibly liable to sell their $600,000+ property when things there get too raucous for them/have aged and matured past remembering when they were making the noise. (2) DIY flipper, that can give zero EFFs. (3) Architectural Developers that want to come and sprinkle some magic on a basic ass row house to give the illusion to folks that haven’t lived the metropolitan life that leasing aesthetics is the tits. (4) The residents that have seen them all come and go and become jaded with the fluctuation of interest and investment in their neighborhood.

      • Eventually, density prob will eliminate a lot of SFHs, as current owners age out of them, developers will come in and build something on their land if the market wants it (if zoning and neighborhood complainers allow, anyway).
        It’s a long process that doesn’t need to be forced. Just like nobody’s mandating pop-ups either. We just need to allow it.
        As far as the argument that people NEED (or even deserve) SFHs to raise a family, that’s both untrue and classist.

        • And parent-ist! Are you aware that fewer than 15 percent of households in the districts have children under 18?

          • I hear you, but IF it were necessary to have SFHs in the city to support the existence of families in the city, then it /might/ be in the public interest to preserve some SFHs. I mean, maybe. Do we want a city where it’s impossible to procreate?
            I mean, maybe we wouldn’t care enough to intervene in the market in that case. Luckily, because SFHs are a luxury and not a necessity, so we don’t really have to decide.

      • Actually today, most people are not raising their families in some of these neighborhoods. They have kids and move out because there are no resources for their children. Resources that would exist were there….DENSITY.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Huh? The people who lived in DC before children but moved out in the interest of having the resources that they desire for their children move to places that are less dense, not more dense, than the places that they left, and within the city, the least dense places seem to be about the only ones that people deliberately move to or stay in when starting families.
          I realize that correlation is not causation and that low density is not necessarily the cause of these places’ appeal to families, but you are stretching the imagination very far in arguing that more families would stay in the neighborhoods they are leaving if only those neighborhoods were denser.

          • Sorry, denser with other families. These people may be moving to lower density neighborhoods, but they are moving to higher density neighborhoods in terms of children.

            I was only noting that the person above arguing people are raising families there is talking about a different neighborhood than the ones fraught with these debates over density. I don’ think the ANCs in Chevy Chase are having conversations about pop ups.

            There just aren’t frankly enough people with children in neighborhoods like Bloomingdale for that argument to really matter very much. Many couples in Bloomingdale have kids and find themselves moving out because the resources for families with children just aren’t there like they are in, say, Chevy Chase. I see my coworkers going through this all the time, moving to Arlington and Chevy Chase because they had kids and need to be near other people with kids.

            I just think the argument of preserving this housing for people who might have families is kind of moot. The demand is not for that in most of these neighborhoods…it’s for 1-3 bedroom condos.

  • clevelanddave

    I would note that when you call all the opposition irrational and vitriolic you do not come across as a rational and fair minded actor, nor as someone that contributes to thoughtful dialogue. There are of course merits to what the OP writes, but there is also good reason to limit development. As a result my reaction, as well as those who hold differing views probably cannot take the OP’s criticism too terribly seriously.

    • Spare me. “NIMBY” “irrational” and “vitriolic” pales in comparison to what I’ve heard pro-development neighbors called.

  • If all politics is local, all zoning discussion is hyper-local. Painting anybody on either side with a broad brush is disingenuous, and it IS possible to hold disparate views on density. Taking Bloomingdale for instance. You can be PRO McMillan development (lots of added density) but ANTI allowing somebody to pop up and back 30′ depriving your home of a majority of it’s natural light (see: 42 W St). The thing is, I don’t see much of that compromise on the pro-development (or pro-developER side). It seems to be mostly “don’t restrict anything and let us build whatever we want for maximum profit, or else you’ll be priced out forever!”. Contrary to popular belief there are a lot of parcels available to add density even on the west side of the river (large swaths of NE). It’s completely condescending to call people names because they want to have a say in how their lives would be affected by changes that would directly impact their existing homes and quality of life.

    • You bought a house. You didn’t buy a cone of sky around it. They (developer, owner, whatever) bought a house. They did buy a reasonable amount of sky above it. It’s what it is.

    • Except in many, many, many of these instances, you bought a house assuming (unfairly and based on nothing legally binding) that your neighbor’s house would never change. Most of these pop backs are perfectly within the zoning allowances (ignoring the one everyone in Bloomingdale cites that you cited that is a monstrosity by even pro-pop up standards). What kills me are the people who “demand” their neighbors’ houses don’t take full advantage of the property they sit on. Property YOU do not own.

      A good way to the madness is for people to not assume when they buy a house that the house on either side of them is going to always look that way.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Nothing to argue with from a legal standpoint, but let’s be serious: nobody who bought more than 10 years ago would have had any reason whatsoever to even dream that the house next door might get taller, or get more than maybe 6-10 feet deeper. Pop-ups, and pop-backs beyond the scope of small rear additions, were very uncommon until quite recently. Some of these (middle finger of V St, that ridiculous pop-up-and-back on the unit block of W St) are more or less the urban equivalent of the suburban McMansions that everybody loves to deride. Sure, I don’t expect the government to prohibit my neighbor from exercising his rights with his property, but I can still think that a developer who buys a normal house and turns it into one of those monstrosities is a jerk.

        • Sure. But thinking he’s a jerk and pushign the city to legislate to prevent it because you didn’t anticipate the trend isn’t the same thing.

          10 years ago the trend was developers buying rowhomes in Logan Circle that were otherwise historically preserved and carving them up into multiple units. And the neighbors then hated that as much as the neighbors today hate pop ups for many of the same reasons cited today (too much density, not enough parking, changing demographics, etc.). Look at Logan Circle today compared to 10 years ago (when I lived there). The sheer number of people in that area has exploded. It’s not for everyone, but you don’t get to assume your neighborhood is going to stay exactly like it is for the rest of you life. That just isn’t how things work.

        • I’m pretty sure people hate McMansions because they’re mass-produced and the architecture is uninteresting. Hence the comparison to fast food?
          Pop-ups increase architectural diversity. Usually, people’s problem with them is that they look /too/ dissimilar from the surrounding rowhomes (which, oftentimes, were all churned out around the same time and look mostly the same, like McMansions). Since the same developer is not likely to buy out a row of these rowhouses at the same time to pop them up (if they were doing that, they’d prob knock them down and build a large wide building instead), these dull-looking rows of similar houses could, ideally, become and interesting mashup of different architectural styles (admittedly, some better than others).

          • HaileUnlikely

            Speaking for myself, I dislike houses that tower over and dwarf their neighbors because they tower over and dwarf their neighbors, which I find obnoxious in and of itself, irrespective of their architectural characteristics.

  • Hot take: yikes, this is a really tough issue to discuss!

    1) Off the bat, I am pro-density and pro-development. I believe a combination of more development, up-zoning, and increased density will make my neighborhood a place where people with different amounts of wealth can all afford to live and thrive.

    2) The vitriol in the community on this issue, particularly when I’ve seen it discussed on popville, is extremely disappointing. I would never call my neighbor an idiot for trying to prevent development and I hope my neighbor would never call me (or anyone else) greedy for trying to increase density. Given the lack of civility, I feel uncomfortable discussing this in a public forum, and that makes me sad because I like talking to my neighbors about issues that are important and I like hearing their polite, well thought-out positions.

    3) OP – I second west_egg’s suggestion to check out Greater Greater Washington. I think you’ll find a reasonable, policy-focused discussion on most issues, including “development,” as well as the names of people/groups to reach out to. If you’re looking for a more direct approach (i.e. more action and less talk), I don’t see how you can avoid political machinations: reach out to your ANCs, DC Zoning, and your council member. Take a friend to make attending the meetings more fun?

  • Glad to have kicked off this intense comment thread. I posted this to the forum a while ago and it didn’t get much response. By the time I found out it was shared here, it was already at over 60 comments!
    I could have worded the post better. Some of those people may “get it,” they just don’t want to behave any differently as a result of getting it. For those, attempting to limit the capacity of a neighborhood (and, by extension, the city) is not necessarily irrational; just somewhere on the spectrum of selfish to straight-up malicious.

  • So, who wants to start a pro-urbanicity community association for the Brookland/Woodridge/Langdon area? We can support development while also encouraging less parking, more ground floor retail, etc in new developments. That way, we can go to the ANC meetings and say things like, “As a representative of the Bungalowlands Advocates for Density, I represent 20 people who think…”

  • Let me guess. We’ll have another community meeting. Sick of this crap. Bowser needs to show some results on crime.

  • I think this piece is odd–I really thoughtfully consider developments that are proposed at ANC meetings, and I do not embrace each and everyone of them. Why? Because developers often do not have astute urban planners (who understand new urbanist ideas) as part of their teams.

    The author of this piece assumedly would dub me a NIMBY since I do not give a carte blanche to all developers’ plans. I support those that are sensible and add to the allure and livability of the neighborhood, and oppose those that detract from it. I support smart density and ecological measures such as storm water retention and filtering on site, solar panels and electric car charging stations, as well as native plants in landscaping. Height restrictions are important for the urban fabric, actually–I would not want to live in a place with cold, towering, impersonal structures–there are ample choices across the river in Virginia. I love the beautifully constructed three or four story apartment buildings around Brookland, however. Localized high density, around the metro, at the new Brookland Manor, etc., is all excellent. But interspersing random high density housing in a neighborhood is utterly destructive to community. Read up on urbanism. Density in the right place is important, but so is neighborhood fabric, community, and a sense of place and ownership. This is about balance. So come to the ANC meetings in Brookland. I don’t think you’ll find people opposed to smart and positive development.

    • I’m not sure anyone is saying developers should have free rein. I certainly don’t feel that way. Rhode Island Row is atrocious and it’s unbelievable to me that it was ever approved. Still, I’m not aware of any “random high-density housing” in Brookland. In fact, even most of what is being built/proposed around the Brookland and RI Ave Metros doesn’t really qualify as high-density even by the standards of other low-rise cities (e.g. London, Paris, Barcelona). Look at places like Montmartre, far from the center of Paris – 7-8 story buildings are extremely common. Same with the Eixample in Barcelona. And the streets are much narrower in both places, meaning more land is actually devoted to buildings, not cars. Thus, more density. So why are people suing over FIVE story buildings proposed across the street from the Brookland Metro? There is no reasoning with such people.

      • This. It is this kind of discussion that drives me bonkers. Across from metros is exactly where density should be. And you know who should be most in favor? People who like actually driving and not sitting in traffic. Because density near public transportation means fewer cars on the road. It boggles my mind that the biggest opponents to this type of development cite traffic. Do you think the people who would live there will just evaporate if you don’t put housing there? The farther away from public transportation the average person in the metro area lives, the more cars there will be on the road.

        • Yes, yes, yes! I do not own a car, gave it up several years back. When I was looking to buy, I thought hard about neighborhoods like Brightwood or Brookland and quickly realized that unless somehow I could find a house near the metro (impossible in my budget), I would need to buy a car. I finally got lucky and found something I wanted nearer to public transportation and continue to be car-less. It’s great. It’s just a shame I have to sit on the Metro bus for so long on RIA because others can’t find the same (for the reasons you cite – lack of housing near public transportation). Sure, there will always be people who cannot give up the car. I get it. It was not easy for me. But everything sitting near the Metro stations should be built up as much as possible.

    • Thoughts on 901 Evarts?

  • OP–Count me in. Would love to bring together more like-minded people so we can effectively represent ourselves at meetings. How do we make this happen?

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