85°Mostly Cloudy

Friday Question of the Day – Does NIMBYism Get a Bad Rap? (reader submitted)

by Prince Of Petworth July 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm 97 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

“Dear PoPville,

I think NIMBYism is getting a bad rap!

At one time, people celebrated the ability of local people to join together to pursue the good of the community. It’s said that we’ve loss this sense of community, that people are selfish, self-centered, and uninterested in the lives of others around them.

But most cases of NIMBYism are active residents fighting big, powerful corporations, developers or City Hall who are looking for short-sighted, quick profit, or political gain at the expense of unorganized, politically weak communities. Most NIMBY fights are against things you really shouldn’t want in your back yard – liquor stores, demolition of historic properties, strip clubs, and dumping of pollution, noise, etc. It’s like people forgot the concept of zoning!?!”

Do you think NIMBYism is getting a bad rap? If so why and what will it take to allow for “local people to join together to pursue the good of the community”?

  • Michael

    Actually, most NIMBYism, particularly when the term is properly applied, is a small group of people uniting to promote their interests against the interests of society at large. Overcoming the interests of a few so that society as a whole can benefit is one of the key roles of government, which is why governments have eminent domain authority. Of course, people can argue about what are the interests of society as a whole, but effective government is supposed to be able to sort that out too.

    • Anonymous

      Spot on.

    • Bongo

      + 1
      See the Wallmart issue in DC.

    • anon

      I’d agree, but in most cases it’s not correctly applied. It’s a term often used by a majority to stiffle a minority position of differing interests

    • A


    • Anonymous

      I’d add that NIMBYism is when people WANT something but they don’t want it NEAR them. It comes up all the time with electricity generation, when people want clean energy but they don’t want wind turbines spoiling the view. Or they want cheap electricity, but want the coal plant in someone else’s neighborhood.

      I think the key is the “M”. They want something in someone’s backyard, just not in theirs.

      So trying to protect a historic building is NOT NIMBYism. But wanting to be able to drive to a Wal-Mart and get cheap crap but not wanting it in your ‘hood is.

      • Anonymous

        Interesting… but if everybody wants “something”, but most everyone doesn’t want it near them, then maybe there is something about this “something” isn’t really all that good…

        Example: let’s find a place to dump the nuclear waste… but no one wants it in their back yard. Maybe we should reconsider the real societial good – or costs of generating nuclear waste in the first place!

  • Enos

    I used to live in Old Town Alexandria. The residents fought development at Potomac Yards for years. Each time new real estate moguls came in with proposals, development got more dense and created more traffic. All things the NIMBYs said they didn’t want. If they had just accepted the Redskins stadium that Jack Kent Cook was going to pay for on his own, they would have bad traffic 8 times a year as opposed to every day. I do like the Target though.

    • ET

      That has always baffled me as well. Maybe they felt that if something annoying was going to be there they would rather something they could take advantage of on a regular basis??

    • Anonymous

      I used to live in Old Town too. Lots of old rich retired people= NIMBY power to the extreme.

  • victoria

    Is cheese good? Are there flies in heaven? Why is there dust? At one time, it’s said that in most cases, people ask stupid questions.

    • photodork

      This gave me a laugh, thanks.

      Remember that the Friday Question of the Day is almost always either a stupid question or a controversial topic to increase page views and drive up the comments…this site runs on advertising.

      • Anonymous

        heaven forbid he posts something that people like talking about.

  • D

    The problem with NIMBYism, which by the way has not diminished much in this town, is that often a small group of ideologically disposed antis will hold up projects against the wishes of the quieter majority, who don’t have the time or patience to counter every one of their sometimes irrational demands. In it’s worst form, NIMBYism can be the opposite of good faith negotiating. It’s more like hostage taking, which is generally not good for democracy, as evidenced elsewhere by the children staking out ideological positions on the debt ceiling.

    • Denizen

      Thanks, couldn’t have put it better.

  • anon

    Here in Ward 5, the local NIMBY group is basically an arm of the keep-it-ghetto crowd. They take every opportunity to take a massive dump on the idea of a moderate density mixed-use development at the metro station, but do nothing about the shady strip clubs and night clubs. Why? Because the politicians they back are on the take from the strip clubs.

    The majority of residents here, who don’t care for crooked pols or strip clubs, but would like to be able to walk to a restaurant or grocery store, have been told that we can go pound sand. They have the NIMBY crowd on their side. They can pack every goofball ANC meeting or zoning hearing with their unemployed or elderly constituents, while those of us with jobs, school, kids, etc. get no representation.

    That’s why I don’t like NIMBYs.

    • Anon7

      While I agree with mostly everything you said, I don’t agree with your failure to participate. People who have jobs, school, kids, etc. get no representation because they don’t show up. No one is going to protect your interests better than you. If you fail to volunteer to participate in the process, it’s your own fault. Freedom isn’t free. If you don’t vote with your ballot or your voice then you can’t complain about the outcome.

      • Anotheranon

        For a town that seemingly builds citizen participation into the process, here’s my issue: there’s no recognition that the fora provided for that participation can effectively exclude a lot of folks. My old ANC meetings used to take place at like 6 on Tuesdays. You know how often I’ve left the office before 6 in the last 8 years? I might be able to count on both hands.

    • Anonymous

      It sounds like the NIMBYs in your neighborhood are against development and density (based on your explanation). That is not the same as “keep-it-ghetto”, whatever the hell that even means.
      Plenty of NIMBYs in other neighborhoods are also against (or seemingly against) development and density.
      See: Hine Jr High or 14th & Wallach or Georgia Ave Wal-mart
      Surely you can make your point – that you are for development, as am I – without loaded references to a “ghetto” that just make you look ignorant.

      • steve

        in a ghetto city, being against development is being pro-ghetto

  • Tres

    Okay, here’s a more concrete example. In my neighborhood, people fought a group that wanted to renovate a building to create dedicated Section 8 housing. We said, “We already have more Section 8 and social services concentrated in our neighborhood than anywhere else in NW. It creates an disproportionate burden — and wasn’t the model of concentrated poverty debunked years ago?”

    GGW judged us a little after the fact. Lydia DePillis at the CP called our residents “NIMBYs”, which raised the ire of the commentariat. (She backpedaled later, saying there was no negative connotation to the term. Riiiight.) Richard Layman was more or less on our side.

    I mean, it’s kind of fun to joke about pooping hobos, but let’s say you lived in a neighborhood rife with pooping hobos. Is it NIMBY to be against that? Some people judge you for being the poopee, as it were, and cast no aspersions on the pooper. What would you call someone who’s judgy like that?

    • Marcus Aurelius

      You make a good point. But if you take what you wrote and replace “Section 8 and social services” with “bars, clubs and/or restaurants”, that’s pretty much ALWAYS considered NIMBYism, at least by most people on these threads.
      Let’s say you lived in a neighborhood “rife with [bars, clubs, and/or restaurants]”, why is it always NIMBYism to be against adding more of these to the mix?
      To me, it’s like everything else – if I’m against it it’s not NIMBYism because . . . well, because I’m against it and I’m right.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like most NIMBY folk when their activism crosses the line of just getting their noses in other people’s business excessively for personal reasons of empowerment or self aggrandizement or just because they have nothing better to do than to make life miserable to a new comer.

    If we are to believe that government exists to do what citizens cannot do for themselves than the enforcement of zoning and land use regulations especially in an urban area that’s densely populated is justified and necessary.

    Take for instance the current situation with this property on Florida Avenue and Champlain Street (1711 Florida Avenue, NW):


    It’s currently a three level parking garage.

    The owners propose to build a seven story 80 foot residential structure that goes well beyond the height limit of 40 feet that’s imposed by the DC Zoning and within the Reed-Cooke Overlay district which restricts height for all properties within the residential Reed-Cooke subdivision in Adams Morgan.

    Directing across from this proposed high rise project are two and three story row houses on V Street, Seaton, and Florida Avenue that would be dwarfed by such a structure that would obviously be non-conducive to the existing neighborhood.

    Residents have formed their own group “Square 150”. They will be called NIMBY’s for simply objecting to the height of this development when they and their properties were there first.

    These residents have no other recourse than to local government and elected officials to simply enforce the zoning laws that restrict everybody within Reed-Cooke. In other words, simply having everybody play by the same rules on the same playing field.

    The developer will try to induce local officials to approve their project with certain community benefits within their project even though it is detrimental to the neighbors. The loss of the parking garage is a huge loss to a neighborhood that needs parking and there should be no other community losses allowed regarding the future of this property.

    The NIMBY’s in this case are right and should prevail limiting this development to the same height restriction of four stories as all other newly developed properties in Reed-Cooke have been built and are restricted to.

    The developer should simply build matter of right and not be allowed an additional three stories by the Zoning Board as it is detrimental to existing residential row houses immediately around the same block.

    In this case I’m entirely with the NIMBY’s.

    I’m not with the NIMBY’s when they start telling matter of right developers who respectfully work by the rules how they should develop and build their own property matter of right and to whom they can rent or sell their units to and for how much with all this social engineering crap with no regard to the current market, the very high cost of urban construction in 2011 and the essential risk taking which most NIMBY’s know nothing about. That’s when NIMBY’s cross the line of acceptance in their efforts and take away the rights of real property owners and stifle private sector progress against blight in their own neighborhood.

    One single height for all, a fair playing field for all property owners is the proper role of government zoning boards and elected officials doing again what citizens cannot do for themselves.

    The Intowner wrote about this in more detail:


    Nimbyism has its place, and it’s good, so long as it stays in its place without getting so involved in someone else’s private business or their livelihood.

    • “The developer should simply build matter of right and not be allowed an additional three stories by the Zoning Board as it is detrimental to existing residential row houses immediately around the same block.”

      How is that “detrimental” to surrounding rowhouses? There are plenty of rowhouses in the city, and in other cities around the world, with rowhouses adjecent to much taller buildings. This is exactly the kind of bad NIMBYism that gets people riled up. Density within walking distance of Metro, bus and bikeshare is a GOOD thing, and I’d hardly call a SEVEN story building particularly dense in urban terms. Do you realize the population of the world is up to 7 billion now? If more residential units aren’t created in cities, near existing infrastructure, the result will be more units in the exurbs, destroying farmland and contributing to global warming. All because what, a slightly bigger shadow would have fallen on your rowhouse than that cast by an ugly, anti-urban parking garage? NIMBYism indeed…

      • Anonymous

        “If more residential units aren’t created in cities, near existing infrastructure, the result will be more units in the exurbs, destroying farmland and contributing to global warming.”

        Sorry, but that’s a BS statement.

        Your view of the physical world is very myopic with relationship to its inhabitants.

        Every human on Earth, all 7 billion, if gathered all together with an arm’s length of each other could stand all of us together within the city of Jacksonville, Florida.

        The Earth is vastly greater than us.

        • Anotheranon

          Ha ha. I have no idea if it’s true, but the thought of all the world’s people standing arm’s length from each other in Jax is blowing my mind. First of all, that many people, all at once would realize “My lord, does this town suck?” Second of all, there’d still probably be a crowd around Tim Tebow. And third of all, what if they all coordinated and jumped at the exact same time? Would the impact change the course of the Earth’s orbit???

          I’m going to get no work done today now.

        • That’s impossible, assuming each person takes up a couple of square feet of space standing bolt upright, x 7 billion…. but more realistically think about how much land is used to support each person, the living space, parking space, working space, and when you put it that way, we have no choice but to live in dense cities unless we want to encroach further on the environment.

        • MSF

          That’s not even remotely true. Average height of a human is 5’6″ (5’4″ for females, 5’8″ for males). Wingspan is generally equal to height, on average. Even if you want to say that it’s one person’s arm length, and not both, everyone is 33″ apart. 33 x 7 billion is 231 billion inches. 63360 inches in a mile. 231 billion inches divided by 63360 inches give us 3,645,833 miles of people + space. The square mileage of Jacksonville, Florida is 885 sq miles which would be a hair under a 30 mi by 30 mi square. My math skills might not be what they once were, but if I divide 3,645,833 miles of people by the square mileage of Jacksonville (885), I find that the population of the Earth would fill the space of 4119.585 Jacksonville, Floridas. AAAnd Boom Goes the Dynamite!

          For any other interested souls out there, the circumference of the Earth is about 25,000 miles at the Equator. As such, the entire population of the earth, standing arm’s length apart where arm’s length is assumed to be 33″, would circle the Earth 145.833333 times.

        • The Heights

          Maybe the Jaguars could finally sell out a home game.

          • Anonymous

            Marilyn vos Savant of Parade Magazine fame put this “fact” in her column somtime in the early nineties (if I was reading Parade then I was still living at home). Even if it was true then, it can’t possibly be true now.

        • Anonymous

          Can every human in the world fit in the city limits of Jacksonville, Florida ?

          The area of Jacksonville, FL is 767 square miles.

          This converts to 21,382,732,800 square feet.

          There are 6,692,030,000 people in the world.

          I would consider a footprint of about 2 square feet.

          Giving this information … all the people in the world would fit into an area of 13,384,060,000.

          So yes, all the people in the world would fit in the city of Jacksonville, Florida.


        • Anonymous
      • styglan1

        not to mention the fact that the houses “across the street” are actually three streets width distance from the building, the building sits on a slight include already (meaning it already “dwarfs” the others) and currently creates a complete dead zone in that area. There is the dog place, a parking garage (that should NOT be saved – we don’t need to encourage more parking and that is NOT in the city long term planning documents) and a storage facility.

      • “How is that “detrimental” to surrounding rowhouses?”

        Hmmm…let me see. It blocks the view, it blocks sunlight, it blocks airflow, you lose privacy, you lose parking spaces, brings more people, more garbage, more noise….

        Should I go on?

        • Whoa_now

          you had me until, less parking, people, garbage, noise. This is a city. I know that sounds like a half argument. You bought your house not knowing the parking lot may change. But in a city things do change, and you should know that most of the time the change will bring all of the “downside” you mentioned. I will agree they should be required to build to the current zone, but not because of more people, trash, noise and parking.

        • The Heights

          Unfortunately, the townhomes probably do not have a right to sunlight, airflow, etc. outside of whatever the zoning laws say. I don’t know DC’s law regarding this, but that’s generally the rule.

        • steve

          airflow? really?

          • Really.

          • The Heights

            Fontainebleau Hotel Corp. v. Forty-Five Twenty Five, Inc.
            Citation. 114 So. 2d 357, 1959 Fla. App.

            Summary. The construction of a new addition to a hotel will block sunlight from another hotel’s pool.

            Synopsis of Rule of Law. A landowner does not have a legal right to the free flow of light and air across the adjoining land of his neighbor.

      • A

        THANK YOU. Seriously, the lack of perspective by so many in this town sometimes is galling.

      • Anotheranon

        Mr. T — You presume your conclusion: that population density is a good thing. People who live in rowhomes might disagree and may have bought homes because they liked the density as it was when they bought and intentionally didn’t locate around 7-story, 80-unit apartment buildings. I’m sure you can cite chapter, book, and verse from some urban planning tome about why that’s right, but just saying something is good doesn’t make it so for everybody. For whom (the city as a whole, or the residents of a 20-block area)? On what basis? What values would be advanced? To quote the Dude, “yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like your opinion … man.”

        Of course, on a broader level, that’s the whole point of this QOTD.

      • Anonymous

        Nope, there are more habitable houses in the US than households.

        The environmentally correct thing would be to move people out of the cities to the already constructed, but abandoned cities and houses in the US –especially the people who have no interest in working to support themselves.

        The environment can absorb pollution much more quickly when it’s dispersed.

        • A

          Good idea, now we just need to figure out how all the people who moved to the abandoned houses in Detroit can earn a living.

    • Jacques

      While mentioning that there are rowhouses across the street, you neglect to mention that the same side of the street features a 6-story rowhouse, a 40-foot wall, and a power/phone substation.

      I don’t have a problem with everyone’s input being put into the process, and a judgment being made by the zoning commission on whether this project should be granted an exception. But the way you describe the project makes it sound like the building will be completely out of scale with its surroundings, which is not the case, at least on the North side of the street. Taller? Yes, but not by a lot.

  • Reflexive

    i immediately lose respect for anyone that uses NIMBY simply to insult another. It’s a method of destroying their argument without arguing. It’s a word that holds no substance as all of us that care about where we live want some things and do not want other things. yet NIMBY implies intolerance, backwardness, and ignorance. it’s like calling someone a dick while you’re trying to have a conversation with them. it only serves as a slur and is therefore a word used by the disrespectful or those attempting to further their agenda.

    • ET


    • The Heights

      Great point.

    • caballero

      I agree. It’s like calling somebody a misogynist or a racist. When I hear that, I know I’m dealing with somebody who doesn’t understand, or is unwilling to engage in, honest debate.

      Women are particularly good at this :) (that’s a joke….kind of)

      • another guy named Chris

        NO. There is a flaw in your logic. Its not like misogyny or racism. Those are actually bad things to be. Everybody is a NIMBY, not everyone is a racist or misogynist.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, but only a small portion of the people that are labelled with those terms actually fit the definition –which is the point of what caballero is making.

          The words are overused in the wrong situations so they lose their meaning over time.

          • Kenyon Street

            Actually, far more people fit those descriptions than are labelled with those terms.

    • Tres


  • NIMBYism was slow off the mark in the 1950s and 60s when it was actually a positive force. In those days, NIMBY activists were fighting the goos fight, against highways being rammed through residential neighborhoods, against wholesale urban renewal projects like the ones that bulldozed most of SW DC. They were fighting against Robert Moses and the Le Corbusier-style of redevelopment, which would have had our cities torn down and replaced with auto-centric towers surrounded by acres of parking, connected by 12 lane superhighways.
    Today, NIMBYs still think they are fighting that fight, even if they’re just opposing a wine bar on the corner, or an 8 story building near a Metro station, or a renovated library, which is totally misguided. NIMBYism has gone from being a noble force, to being a counterproductive pain in the ass.

    • Anonymous

      that kind of blanket statement about NIMBYism being counterproductive is inaccurate.

      “NIMBY’s” in my neighborhood have opposed curb cuts, a meth clinic, an affordable housing project built on the only nearby parkspace. all helping to keep the neighborhood growing in a healthy and positie way.

      not all plans are good, and many should be flat out opposed.
      but NIMBY’s are always the other guy, right?

      • Someone seriously planned to build a housing project on parkland?! Where was this? Remember, NIMBYs in Ward 3 and other affluent areas who won’t tolerate affordable housing projects are responsible for the overconcentration of subsidized housing on 14th Street south of Columbia Road. You have to look to the greater good, and the larger NIMBYverse. The reason someone wanted to build a meth clinic near you was because other neighborhoods have even stronger NIMBY traditions. So, overall I still think the whol NIMBY movement is bad, even though in your particular case it may have worked well. Don’t forget NIMBY opposition to:
        1. plans to renovate the Giant on Newark Street
        2. plans to increase density around the Takoma and Brookland metro stations
        3. building of a Metro stop in Georgetown
        4. remember the crazy Mt. Pleasant library expansion opponents
        5. any new bar, nightclub or restaurant opening anywhere held hostage to ANCs with cries of “not another Adams Morgan”
        It’s not all about heroic curb cut opposition. ;)

        • Anonymous

          3. building of a Metro stop in Georgetown

          Come on, man, this myth has been debunked about 1,000 times.

          • No, I’m fully aware of the history of Metro, I read the book, etc, but regardless of the technical challenges to building a station there, if the affluent residents of Georgetown lobbied heavily in favor of such a station, they would have gotten one somewhere closer than Foggy Bottom. From The Great Society Subway:

            “In fact, although Georgetown residents did oppose a transit station, their attitude was essentially irrelevant, for a Georgetown station was never seriously considered. While it would have been possible to build a subway line to Georgetown, it would have been difficult.”

            So, residents DID oppose a station, and they COULD have built one despite difficulties.

        • I would be careful not to over generalize. Example with your comment about increasing density around the Brookland metro. There are many flavors of it. Very few were straight out opposed to all the development there, (ABDO, 901 Monroe, Brookland Small Area Plan etc)

          A number of folks that are labeled as Nimby’s wanted some of these plans tweaked. Nothing wrong with that. The 200 footers next to 901 Monroe have some valid concerns. As part of a PUD process the developer needs to work with the community and nearby residents to mitigate issues since it is not matter of right development.

          I think painting all opposition or concerns to a project with a wide brush of anti-development nimbyism does all affected a disservice.

          IMO it is often used to shutdown discussion of opposition view points and is a lazy way to deal another perspective or concerns.

          In case it matters I am for more residents around the Brookland metro, however there are often issues that need to be addressed. But I am not for giving every developer card blanch to “do it their way”

        • Reflexive
    • Anonymous

      Yeah??? NIMBYism is always a “counterproductive pain in the ass”???

      Wait until it’s your backyard and you honestly think the given development is bad for you, the neigborhood and just enriching some scumbag from Virginia who wants to open a 24 hour, payday loaning liquor store!

  • I’m an active resident fighting big, powerful corporations, developers or City Hall who are looking for short-sighted, quick profit, or political gain at the expense of unorganized, politically weak communities. Everybody ELSE is a NIMBY.

    It’s kinda like how what I enjoy is “erotica.” What everybody ELSE is into is godawful porn.

  • Anonymous

    OP described my little part of GA AVE to a T. How can I get that out of my back yard?

  • nathaniel

    When I think of NIMBYs I think of people who are opposing things that are legitimate, but they just want them somewhere else but their back yard. To use an extreme example, everyone understands DC has to have a jail, but no one wants that near them. Some place in the city is the best place for this jail, but to me a NIMBY is someone who argues simply against putting the jail there, but doesn’t say where is a better place to put it. I think the key trait of a NIMBY is someone who isn’t willing to make sacrifices for the greatest good.

    Someone mentioned NIMBYs being positive becuase they argued against curb cuts. To me that is not a NIMBY because in my opinion there is rarely a legitimate need for these things, so the arguement wasn’t, not in my back yard, it was simply, not ever.

    a NIMBY and a community arguing against something are too completely seperate things

    • C3PO

      Your argument is naive at best, ludicrous at worst. You honestly think people should simply be willing to roll over an accept a sacrifice that will significantly impair their children’s safety, their ability to enjoy their life, their main source of personal wealth (house – as in property value)? Their unwillingness to simply throw these precious factors to the wind because the community needs a jail (or whatever other facility) makes them a NIMBY, with all of the inherent negative qualities?

      • Helen Lovejoy

        Won’t somebody think of the children?!?!

      • Anonymous

        Its not like the escapees are going to try to move in or anything. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the last place they want to be.

      • nathaniel

        That is a perfect NIMBY arguement. I didn’t say put a jail, as an example, in the middle of a dense residential area, but it does have to go somewhere and as DC is only a city and has no rural parts, inevetiably someone will live near it. They are absolutely free to argue that a residential area with children is not the ideal place to put a jail, but I think it is also their resposniblity to find a reason why somewhere else would be better. NIMBYs just say no, they don’t try to find solutions.

        • nathaniel

          Ignore my comment above, Look at Elza below. That is essentially what I was trying to say, but Elza did a much better job of it then me.

  • NearShaw

    There are two distinct questions:

    1. Is the term NIMBY good or bad and
    2. Is the act of opposing something you don’t want in your neighborhood good or bad?

    Personally, I don’t like being called a NIMBY because it implies greed or ignorance. However, I’ll gladly embrace NIMBYism if it means keeping another liquor store, public housing project, check-cashing place or cheap Chinese restaurant out of my neighborhood. And if you love these things and think I’m a NIMBY, you should fight hard to lure them to YOUR neighborhood rather than oppose my NIMBYism.

    Maybe we need a term for people who want the stuff (supposedly) NIMBY’s don’t want. GIVME?

  • Elza

    When I think of NIMBYism, I think of people who DO want a certain service or business to exist (power plants, homeless shelters, bars, big box stores), but are not willing to contribute part of their neighborhood to that service.

    For example, someone may go around saying how she supports affordable housing for low-income people, but freak out at the notion of said affordable housing being in HER own part of town. Same with, say, a Wal-Mart – someone might complain about it ruining his neighborhood with traffic, but then frequently shop there and cause traffic when it opens somewhere else.

    I think the hypocrisy of NIMBYism part of its definition and what gives it a bad rap. Opposing a 24-hour strip club down the street? That’s not really NIMBYism, because unless you’re a strip club regular, you wouldn’t exactly be supporting it opening ANYWHERE, not just your neighborhood.

    • RnR

      Yeah, this person gets what NIMBY is. It’s not just being an activist, it’s about being a hypocrit.

      There are lots of people, especially in cities, who have all these high ideals about housing justice and immigrant rights and homeless rights and hate big corporations, but are unwilling to sacrifice their standard of living or children’s safety. It’s normal to not want to live next to a nuclear waste plant or a homeless shelter, but don’t tell other people they have to put up with it beacase YOU want to stop burning fossil fuels or want to get people off the streets. If you believe in stuff, you have to be willing to deal with the consequences of these beliefs.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, but how do we or anyone know if a NIMBY group actually holds these beliefs? Do we all just assume everyone must be for affordable housing? All night nightclubs, etc…

        • Anonymous

          Can’t you also be for something, but for it if it is in a specific location? E.g. you’re for housing the homeless, but you feel a high concentration of homelss people should not be in a resident neighborhood, but rather a place like downtown?

          How does it make you a hypocrite? There’s not contradiction if you oppose one going in near your residential neighborhood.

    • Dartagnan

      I echo this comment exactly. You are not a NIMBY if you do not want something at all, but you are a NIMBY if you support a specific project as long as its somewhere else. Ive heard it all the time, “Oh can’t they just build it over there”.

    • Anonymous

      +1. I responded to a comment above with a similar sentiment but you said it better than me. This is exactly what NIMBYism is.

  • Tim

    In my opinion, NIMBYism is about more than “not in my back yard.” It’s actually about “not in my back yard, but in someone else’s.”

    If you truly think a particular highway shouldn’t be built anywhere, fine, that could be valid. But if you think the alignment of it should be moved from your neighborhood to the poorer one a half-mile away, what you’re really saying is that you want to experience the benefits of it without experiencing the drawbacks. Furthermore, someone will experience the drawbacks, since it will be in someone’s back yard.

    With the Cleveland Park Giant, for example, the NIMBYs love huge supermarkets. They don’t really want to be stuck going to a tiny-ass, shitty grocery store. But the huge supermarkets should go somewhere else. Anywhere else. Just, like, not there.

  • NearShaw

    People get gassed up about housing projects, particularly when people don’t want them in their neighborhood. However, ghettoizing people was discredited years ago, and we only do it cause we’re too cheap to subsidize rent in regular housing. I completely understand why someone would oppose a project in their neighborhood, and I don’t know anyone who is actively trying to live near one or court them. NIMBY-accusers are wrong to assume that anti-project = anti-poor or heartless. And telling responsible home owners that they are corporate-bigot-tools for not wanting one across the street from them makes them look like the left’s version of the Tea Party wing nuts.

    • Elza

      Oh, I agree. Public housing maybe wasn’t the best example. If you oppose housing projects in general, which I think a lot of us do, then you’re not a NIMBY for not wanting one built around you.

      A better example would be a homeless shelter, a youth home, or a free clinic. Most people would agree that those things are beneficial and would want one in their city, but would be unsettled by having one near THEM.

  • Hypocrite

    That is why there is ZONING, you can change it but know what is is before you move or complain…i.e. Margot’s Chair (new Tryst) on 11th. It is a zoned commercial area, welcome the increased foot traffic making the neighborhood safer!

    • ZZinDC

      I agree. You need to know what’s going on in the neighborhood before it happens, and Zoning and land use plans tell you what could happen; the information is there but most people don’t get involved in the planning process. Yes, it can be boring but these things are much easier to change before the plan and the zoning are adopted. Once the developer has bought the land and is going through the permit process, people realize that something they don’t like is about to happen and then they get involved. Often the problem is that they end up trying to change the rules late in the game which is disruptive to everyone; early invovlement in the planning & zoning process can prevent (many of) the unwanted uses from appearing in the first place. Developers aren’t (necesarily) evil, but they are businesses in it to make money – delays in the process costs them money. I think part of what gives NIMBYs (or what ever you call them) a bad reputation is that they so often seem to appear very late in the game. Learn about, and change if necessary, the zoning and Comprehensive plan for your neighborhood (including any historical/special overlays)and what they allow BEFORE the construction trucks arrive and it will be much easier to guide change to what you want, when it does arrive. (So much for a planner’s $0.02!)

  • RnR

    A perfect example is wind energy. Lots of people think wind energy is a good idea. They will probably go protest and lobby to get more use of wind energy in the US. But if someone in government tells them that a giant, ugly noisy windmill is going to be built next to their expensive beach house, a NIMBY will flip out and do everything in their power to move it. The NIMBY wants SOMEONE to have to deal with the noise and ugliness of it “for the greater good”, but they don’t want to even though they think it’s necessary.

    Someone who is against windmills everywhere because they hurt birds and protests the new windmill is not a NIMBY.

    • A

      Agree. The anti- Cape Wind people are some of the worst offenders of this, and some of them would consider themselves environmentalists.

    • Anonymous

      But maybe we should all take pause if windmills are actually that bad. Isn’t this a verion of NIMBYism – just being practiced by the majority???

      “We” like the idea windpower, and because we know only a small minority of us will ever have to suffer lising next to one we’re still for it.

      If the majority had to live next to one, would the majority still support it?

  • Eckingtonite

    NIMBYism is fine in other parts of the city, but I don’t want it in my neighborhood.

    • Dan

      Well put.

  • Andy(2)

    If NIBYism entails people protesting the location of useful infrastructure, commercial or residential development or other change simply based on the fact that its in their neighborhood and then turn around and utilize that same infrastructure in another neighborhood then yes I am against it.

    If on the other hand its historical preservation or smart, informed citizen response to changes in our city that requires a dialogue between all involved parties then I’m for it.

    Too often its the former and not the later. It is like the folks against Wal-mart in the district then partronize outles on Route 1 or in PG County.

  • Anonymous

    NIMBYs put way too much energy on moving social services and development out of their neighborhood instead of focusing that energy into improving the efficacy of those social services and development.

  • PetworthRes

    I usually think of NIMBY as a term used to people who oppose not only negative development but often all development, including restaurants, bars and other businesses. Some activism is good, but there are also many neighborhoods that have had practically no new business development because there’s so much opposition to every proposal (I’m thinking of Mt. Pleasant and Takoma Park here). I’m happy that there’s more IMBY than NIMBY in Petworth and that our neighborhood is much friendlier to new development than most (example: rallying to get a beer/wine license for the Yes Organic Market so they could open here, not to mention the letter writing campaign that brought them here in the first place).

    • Kyle W

      Totally agree. I love that my neighborhood seems quite IMBY. I am in favor of virtually all new development. Definitely don’t need any more churches (already have plenty!) but yes, pretty much anything else that wants to come, you have my support, and willingness to go to ANC meetings etc.

      Want to put Mcfaddens on GA Ave and New Hampshire? I am in, lets get it done.

  • C3PO

    Everybody dislikes NIMBYism until it’s their community that will contain the unwanted element. Be it a homeless shelter (homeless people crapping in your front yard), a Walmart (kill small business), a giant church (no parking on Sundays, plus Bible-thumpers to boot), or a huge police precinct (the man)… there’s something for everyone to despise and fear, soccer mom to skinny-jean wearing hipster. When an element unwanted enough comes to their hood, everyone on this post who’s crying NIMBY! will change their tune.

    Of course, they might couch it in more favorable terms that aligns with their educated liberal yuppie vocabulary, but it will still be the same.

  • quincycyclist

    Blocks the view – of an AWESOME SCENIC Pepco power station!

    Blocks sunlight – the building in question is to the NORTH of the rowhouses so it won’t block anyone’s sunlight, except for the aforementioned power station.

    Lose parking – this is in the middle of an extremely transit-accessible area AND the new building includes parking.

    People, noise, etc. – these are concerns BUT cities are constantly changing, you can’t buy someplace and assume that nothing will ever change around you. And why is “more people” a bad thing? More foot traffic makes areas safer.

  • Logan Res

    I’ve seen some comments suggesting NIMBYs can be good if they are fighting a strip club, nightclub, etc. opening in a residential area but when have we seen this happen in the last decade? The NIMBYism that we all see these days is the small group opposing legitimate businesses, restaurants, and buildings going in that are perfectly legit. Remember the NIMBYs that almost kept Hank’s Oyster Bar from expanding into the empty space next door. The NIMBYs complained about more noise but they didn’t even live on the block where Hank’s is located. The owner almost pulled out completely. Who wins if she pulls out? Nobody..we all lose. Then there’s the Wallach NIMBYs who are citing bad design for the building proposed for a commercial, transit corridor yet we all know and they’ve even spilled it in error themselves that it’s all because they don’t want more people, cars, noise, more trash collection, etc. in their neighborhood. Again, who wins if this people doesn’t happen? Nobody…we all lose. The city loses more tax revenue. The residents lose more density which attracts more retail and services. People lose the ability to live closer to where they work and to metro and transit services. My opinion of the NIMBYs we see today in DC are that they are basically like the tea party protestors we saw in the political scene two years ago. They have no knowledge, skills, or education on urban planning, smart growth, transit planning, etc. but they believe that they should be the ones who decide how and what gets approved/built which reflects only their view with no regard to the greater community.

  • Whoa_now

    Lets talk about the Hines Project at Eastern Market. The developers have had to go back to the drawing board a couple of times because a few people have said the design didn’t fit the neighborhood, the height and a few other reasons. Now they aren’t arguing not in my backyard. They are arguing not that high in my backyard, not that style of brick, not that that close to the sidewalk.

    The completion of Hines has now been delayed for a year-and I’m sure this has caused the developer alot of pain/money/business(shakespeare, tw, etc). But I actually like the design better now than at first. And while i argued against the NIMBYism, and am upset at the delay I think they’ve come to agreement.

    Now don’t get me started about the Hill Center.

  • Jay’O

    It would be fascinating to see how many posters are home owners, vs. relatively recent renters.

    Seems to me it is easy to accuse people of being NIMBY when you’re renting, and aren’t as invested in a neighborhood (at least long-term).

    So, is it easier to say “hey, a strip club is kinda wacky, go for it” as a transient renter… It’s harder to say that when you own a nearby home and you’re thinking about rasing a family, hoping development will make the neighborhood a “nice” place to live for the next 10-20 yrs.

  • anon

    I was born here. I own my house. The Brookland NIMBYs insulted my ethnicity, my religion, and my education at the local university.

    They schedule their meetings at times that are meant to intentionally exclude those of us who have jobs, school, and families. It is truly disgusting.


Subscribe to our mailing list