A Comprehensive Guide to Every Kind of NIMBY in Los Angeles

A Comprehensive Guide to Every Kind of NIMBY in Los Angeles

One of Los Angeles' delightful little quirks is the power of community groups, neighborhood councils and homeowners associations. It's a weird kind of power, though, one that is most effectively used in a very specific way: to stop things. 

The term NIMBY – an acronym for Not in My Back Yard – dates to least 1980, when the Christian Science Monitor used it to refer to people who didn't want to live near toxic waste dumps. Those selfish pricks! The NIMBY has always been a complicated figure – fundamentally conservative, standing in the way of progress, but wholesome, middle-class, politically engaged. Who among us hasn't at one point or another complained about a new shopping mall, a new high-rise, an influx of tourists or another Starbucks moving in?

We are, one might say, a city of NIMBYs.

Here then, with all due respect to them, is a comprehensive list of every kind of NIMBY in Los Angeles:

10. Density NIMBYs
The famous quote about Los Angeles, often attributed to Dorothy Parker (probably wrongly), is that L.A. is 72 suburbs in search of a city. But often, it behaves more like 72 suburbs in search of a tax cut.

The Density NIMBYs are the remnants of L.A.'s famed slow-growth movement, which somehow succeeded in cutting Los Angeles' housing capacity from 10 million in 1960 to around 4.3 million today. They can still be seen suing various skyscraper developers, such as the ones behind the Hollywood Millennium twin towers, often through lawyer Robert Silverstein. Their once-considerable influence appears to be waning, thanks to the rise of transit-oriented housing advocates, the housing shortage and sky-high rental prices. 

9. Bike Lane NIMBYs
Los Angeles has around 6,500 miles of streets and we need every last inch for our cars! That's what these folks say. Take away our streets and you're just causing more traffic. Never mind that some people might actually stop driving and start riding their bikes. This ain't Copenhagen. This is L.A.! Where the car is king! 

This group recently has found some sympathetic ears on the Los Angeles City Council, including Paul Koretz, who's backing the anti-cyclists in dystopic Westwood, and Gil Cedillo, who opposed bike lanes on Figueroa Avenue in Highland Park, where a bicyclist was killed in a hit-and-run in June.  

See also: CivLAvia NIMBYs

8. Beach NIMBYs
The living embodiment of the famous line, "Stay out of Malibu, Lebowski!" can be found in richies like David Geffen and Hard Rock Cafe owner Peter Morton, who don't particularly care to wake up and see the great unwashed sunning themselves in their backyard. Too bad for them – the state Constitution guarantees the public access to the coastline, and thanks to a judge's ruling, a new path just opened to "Billionaires Beach."

7. Hollywood Sign Access NIMBYs
Who doesn't love a good Hollywood Sign selfie? The people who live below it, in the Beachwood Canyon area, that's who. They're sick of tourists clogging their streets, littering on their lawns, standing, gawking, posing, hiking and so forth. They'd love to see access to the sign limited. There's just one problem: Those trails that lead up to the sign are public. As former City Councilman Tom LaBonge said, in a rare moment of being intentionally funny, "When you live next to a public park, you have to expect one thing — the public." Of course, LaBonge is history and the guy who replaced him, David Ryu, may be more sympathetic to the canyon dwellers' plight. There's also a lawsuit making its way through the courts. 

6. Waze NIMBYs
A group of residents who think Waze is destroying America by routing motorists looking to shave 30 seconds off their commutes by zipping through their tony, tree-lined streets. They've had a rough go of it lately. Eric Garcetti is a mayor who likes an app or two, and the city just signed a deal with Waze to share traffic data.

See also: Airbnb Nimbys; Uber NIMBYs (aka taxi drivers)

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5. Gentrification NIMBYs
Finally, a group of NIMBYs who aren't old, white homeowners! These people worry that an influx of white hipsters will raise their rents and cause their favorite businesses to be evicted and replaced with things they can't afford. You'll find them in Highland Park, Boyle Heights, maybe in Echo Park, though that ship has largely sailed.

4. Mega Mansion NIMBYs
Who wins when the 2 percent battle it out with the 1 percent over how big a house can be? The rest of us, because we get to watch. Anti-mansionization NIMBYs have been known to leave angry spray-painted messages at new construction sites, or even leave bags of dog poop on their porches. These people see Los Angeles as a city of quaint, five-bedroom cottages just trying to make their way in the world. 

3. Halfway House NIMBYs
The classic NIMBY argument is: I know we need  _____ but does it really need to be in my neighborhood? That's what residents often say about halfway houses, sober living houses and any other supportive housing for addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill and the homeless. 

2. Liquor License NIMBYs
Anyone who's ever opened a restaurant knows that getting a liquor license is a pain in the ass. Aside from the fact that it can take years, you have to suffer the indignity of going before your neighborhood council, most of whom detest the idea of anyone selling booze or making noise after 8 p.m. or taking up a bunch of parking spaces. 

See also: Pot Shop NIMBYs

1. Rail NIMBYs
Beverly Hills has long been the epicenter of anti-rail sentiment in Los Angeles. Its school district has spent $8 million of school construction money to fight Metro's Purple Line extension, aka the Subway to the Westwood Veterans Administration Hospital, and the Beverly Hills Courier warned that the subway was vulnerable to an attack by ISIS(!). But rail NIMBYs can also be found, way off on the other side of L.A., near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, where a ragtag collection of horse riders, environmentalists and City of San Fernando residents are fighting a proposal (actually, it's not even a proposal, it's more like a discussion of a proposal) to route the California high-speed rail from Palmdale to Burbank. And let's not forget the Bus Riders Union, which says that light rail drains funds from the bus system, which better serves low-income people. 

See also: Freeway NIMBYs


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