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Deconstructing the NIMBY Myth


MY TOWN--The great advantage of buzz words is that people get to emote without thinking. That’s why many people love to hurl the invective NIMBY at others. 

NIMBY stands for “Not In My Back Yard” and refers to a person who objects to the building something unpleasant or potentially dangerous in their own neighborhood, such as a landfill or hazardous waste facility, especially while raising no such objections to similar developments elsewhere. 

Thus, if we stop and think, we see that NIMBYS want to prevent something unpleasant or potentially dangerous, like the Aliso Gas Fields near a community like Porter Ranch.  

Here’s the alleged bad part of NIMBYS; they do not object to the unpleasant or potentially dangerous thing being constructed elsewhere. Let’s stop again and think some more. Don’t we have a buzz word for people who tell other people how to live their lives? Butinsky is a too-common term. 

So, the good part of NIMBIES is that they would stop the Aliso Gas Fields and the bad part is that they are not Butinskies who should follow the gas company throughout California and always object. Sounds foolish, doesn’t it? If someone wants to build a freeway through my home in South Pasadena, I am a NIMBY because I don’t also object the 210 Freeway through Pasadena?


There is the charade that NIMBYS have stopped the Target Store from being constructed on the south west corner of Sunset and Western in Hollywood. A prime complaint is that the two groups that sued the City, La Mirada Neighborhood Association and Citizen Coalition Los Angeles (CCLA), do not live in the neighborhood and are outsiders.   Thus, these NIMBIES are actually Butinskies. Yes, it is an oxymoron to label a NIMBY a Butinsky. 

Where is La Mirada? La Mirada is one of the closest neighborhoods to the major intersection of Sunset and Western. It is within easy walking distance of the proposed Target. So maybe La Mirada is a NIMBY since this commercial area is contiguous to it. 

Did La Mirada say, “Do not build here?” No. La Mirada said, “Welcome Target. Yes, a Target would be a fine addition to our neighborhood.” CCLA said the same thing.   

It’s defamatory to call someone a NIMBY because they welcome a project. Myths, however, are great fun as facts play no role. It’s easier to engage in name calling than it is in fact checking. 

As it turns out, Target had no objection to building a legal 35 foot store. It was then Councilmember Garcetti who wanted Target to violate the zoning height limitation. The Specific Plan limited stores to only 35 feet and Garcetti wanted 75 feet. That was more than double the maximum height. 

Had Target been allowed to follow the law, the store would have been opened by 2010. That’s right, without Garcetti’s interference, we’d be in our 7th year of a shopping at Target, and Target would be approaching a billion dollars in sales? 

Does anyone think that Target preferred to have this protracted legal battle when they could have had a completed store before 2010? 

So who’s the real NIMBY? It’s Garcetti. The Court gave Target the go ahead to construct its store two years ago. La Mirada and CCLA are not stopping Target. The court is not stopping Target. The person who is stopping Target is Garcetti. If the City had issued a permit for a legal store two years ago, we’d have a Target by now.  


Hollywood has a Community Plan. Community plans are supposed to set down the path for a community’s future. Community plans select a “Base Year Population” and from that population they determine how many fire stations, how many paramedics, how many parks, how wide the streets, how much housing, etc. we will need in the upcoming decades. 

Crucial to deciding all these things for the future is how rapidly the community is growing or declining. One does not need more apartments in a community when people are moving away. In 2010, Garcetti selected the Base Year of 2005 and said that Hollywood had 224,426 people, which was an increase of about 14,000 people over 2000. Quite an increase. Thus, he wanted Hollywood to add enough housing for 250,000 people by the year 2030. 

Hollywood did not have 224,426 people in 2005 and the population was not increasing, it was declining from a high of 213,912 in 1990 to only 1998,228 2010. Thus, no new apartments were justified, and planning on 250,000 by year 2030, was absurd. 

Five groups sued the City. None were NIMBYS, but all were called NIMBYS. None of them said, “not in my back yard.” None said, “We do not want a Community Plan.” The motto was “Garbage in, Garbage out.” The five groups merely asked Mayor Garcetti for a Community Plan that was based on facts and not on disinformation. 

The court rejected Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan because it was based on “fatally flawed data” and “wishful thinking.” None of the five groups were NIMBYS – they were citizens who devoted years of their lives to have the City tell the truth and make future plans based on facts and not on Garcetti’s pipe dream to Manhattanize Hollywood. 

Why dredge up the rejected Hollywood Community Plan? Because it’s back-filled with the same “Garbage in, Garbage out” data. Yes, the NIMBYS are alert and they’ve already discovered that there is no reliable data behind the new update to the Hollywood Community Plan. These NIMBYS should be re-named Fact Checkers. 

Here’s what the NIMBYS have found. The population estimates are based on the projects which Garcetti wants to build. Then, the City pretends that the apartments will be filled and that becomes the “population increase.” It’s circular reasoning. One cannot assume the conclusion in the premise. That’s Garbage in, Garbage out. The demographic data shows that Hollywood’s population is more likely to decline. 

When you hear the cry, NIMBY, you should be alert. NIMBY means that something bad or dangerous is happening. So, listen to the warnings of people who are fighting to protect the citizenry from bad government. If we had good government, there would be no need for NIMBYS.


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)