Guest Commentary: How ‘Not in My Backyard’ Became ‘Not in My Neighborhood’

Photo by Jimmy Conover on Unsplash

By Matt Williams

In 2018, in the New York Times, Emily Badger wrote a piece called, “How ‘Not in My Backyard’ Became ‘Not in My Neighborhood’.”

She argued: “The expectation that homeowners should be able to reach beyond their property lines has become deeply embedded.”

Here are a few key points from her column.

  • In Seattle, the neighbors don’t want apartments for formerly homeless seniors nearby. In Los Angeles, they don’t want more high-rises. In San Jose, Calif., they don’t want tiny homes. In Phoenix, they don’t want design that’s not midcentury modern.
  • Homeowners in each of these places share a common conviction: that owning a parcel of land gives them a right to shape the world beyond its boundaries.
  • The roots of this idea are as old as nuisance laws that have tried to limit how one property owner can harm another. Over the decades, though, homeowners have expanded their claim on the world beyond their lot lines. This means they look out for schools and streets in ways that are vital to American communities. But increasingly it also means the senior affordable housing, the high-rises and the tiny homes — also arguably vital to the larger community — are never built.

You can see the full article here:

About The Author

Matt Williams has been a resident of Davis/El Macero since 1998. Matt is a past member of the City's Utilities Commission, as well as a former Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), former member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee (DPAC), former member of the Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF), as well as Treasurer of Davis Community Network (DCN). He is a past Treasurer of the Senior Citizens of Davis, and past member of the Finance Committee of the Davis Art Center, the Editorial Board of the Davis Vanguard, Yolo County's South Davis General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, the Davis School District's 7-11 Committee for Nugget Fields, the Yolo County Health Council and the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and Natural Resources Commission. His undergraduate degree is from Cornell University and his MBA is from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent over 30 years planning, developing, delivering and leading bottom-line focused strategies in the management of healthcare practice, healthcare finance, and healthcare technology, as well municipal finance.

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  1. Richard_McCann

    There was another opinion piece in the last couple of weeks about how liberals enabling greater local control created the environment that blockades the goals of liberals. (I can’t find it right now.)

    Here’s a series of recent opinion pieces with similar observations.

    This is the essence of the problem. We’ve enabled people to act selfishly by allowing them to hide behind claims of “local governance” and “think globally, act locally” when in fact the global considerations are thrown out the window and only given lip service. That California is starting down the road of overriding local housing ordinances in the name of achieving broader statewide goals is a long needed development.

    1. Ron Oertel

      think globally, act locally

      Altneratively, wait for the “world gov’ment” to solve all of our problems.  Might as well drive a Hummer, in the meantime.

      That California is starting down the road of overriding local housing ordinances in the name of achieving broader statewide goals is a long needed development.

      What we have here are moneyed interests who aren’t happy that California is no longer growing.  All one has to do is to look at the financial support for YIMBYs and their politicians to see the reason that they’ve declared war on cities. These are NOT “grass root” campaigns.

      But residents have (also) been “asleep at the wheel” in regard to the impact of the continued pursuit of economic development in places like Silicon Valley. There are signs that folks are finally “connecting the dots” regarding that.

      Not to worry – the layoffs are occurring, housing prices are dropping, and California’s population has dropped by 500,000.

      The YIMBYs and the state politicians have their “work cut out” for themselves. It’s going to be fun to watch them continue their “taring and feathering” efforts, which aren’t going to result in their desired outcome, regardless.

      And if they (somehow) are partially-successful, they’re going to awaken already-seething anger that will result in an effort like Proposition 13. There’s already coordinated efforts regarding that.


  2. Walter Shwe

    Not in my backyard has expanded to Not in my neighborhood to now Not in my city. No one is given any guarantees that their neighbors, neighborhoods and cities won’t change over time. It’s the height of selfishness when NIMBYs block new housing and new city development in general. Falsely claiming that student housing noise is an environmental issue is the height of absurdity.

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