‘Todd Gloria Educated Me on What YIMBY Means’

by on October 30, 2020 · 5 comments

in Election, San Diego

By Roy McMakin

My husband and I were fortunate to able to put down roots in Bankers Hill when we returned to San Diego 8 years ago. The charms of the neighborhood are clear, but a key reason we have felt so comfortable is that the community clearly wasn’t locked in time.

While I personally mourn the absence of the Irving Gill masterpieces that were lost for growth, I also celebrate the enthusiasm with which the current residents accepted progress. During my time here the Bankers Hill community supported new luxury condo mid rises, affordable housing, new SROs, bike lanes, traffic calming/ slowing improvements and more. Essentially Bankers Hill said yes to all things in their front and back yards.

My education on what YIMBY means (Yes In My Back Yard) and YIMBY-ism is came when the community exercised their codified right to have input into the design of a luxury high rise rental on 6th Avenue. Our then Councilmember Todd Gloria had set the stage (as he was leaving his council role)  for this lesson by doing a last minute community-input-less switcheroo on the Community Plan Update, which had been many years in the works.  His unilateral changes included replacing the 150 foot height limit with an arcane provision in his substitute plan that he assured us was basically maintaining the height limit.

What the community didn’t realize was that Gloria and his successor, Chris Ward, knew that YIMBYs of San Diego (started by a developer lobbyist) would be there to provide an alternative ersatz community to provide cover for approving whatever the developer wanted to build. I experienced a group of smart, reasonable, and developer-friendly folks who were called variations of old, greedy, climate change deniers etc. This was even being said by members of Chris Ward’s YIMBY-friendly staff. These astro-turfing YIMBYs provided the cover for Ward to get the project approved with no changes.

YIMBYs are a group of self-identified people with a specific, albeit evolving, agenda. To them, NIMBY is simply an amorphous slur YIMBYs direct at people that aren’t in lockstep.  The initial philosophy of YIMBY-ism was contained in a single sentence:  build any and all housing anywhere and everywhere.  Their idea was a simplistic supply-side concept.

The fact that we have lived through the failures of supply side policies of all kinds for decades wasn’t to be bothered with. And to facilitate this they encouraged a familiar mix of eliminating regulations (including environmental ones) and adding developer friendly incentives.

Of course this is an attractive cocktail for our elected officials. It allows Democrats, such as Gloria and Ward, to do things they historically would have had a hard time getting their base to stomach. Even our Republican mayor tried a YIMBY t-shirt on to see how it fit, hoping it would make him seem a little more like brand-Dem in these Dem-friendly times for our city.

Recently, a well-connected player in our monopoly-game-city suggested Gloria was her choice for mayor over Bry because of his YIMBY affiliation.  She also attempted to slur Bry by calling her a NIMBY. Key to her argument was the oft-used but tenuous suggestion that anyone who isn’t a card carrying YIMBY is a climate change denier.

However, a thoughtful comparison of the Bry and Gloria reveals something different.

Basically all Bry is saying is that communities should have a meaningful voice in land use issues. Bry realizes that is both how democracy works, and that community members have unique and valuable insights into the place they live.

Gloria however has a messy record on all this. He has consistently been developer friendly, except when he’s campaigning in neighborhoods where he knows it won’t play well.

During his time on city council he enthusiastically oversaw the destruction of hundreds of single room occupancy (SRO) units and their replacement with luxury high rise condo buildings. I suppose he can argue that makes him pro-housing, but the folks whom he displaced, and who are perhaps living on the streets might see it differently.

More recently, Gloria worked hard as an assemblyman in Sacramento to attempt total removal of local control of our land use decisions. Since he’s been back in town campaigning, he’s been both denying he did what he did, and then at other times admitting he did it, but claims it was because other cities aren’t as housing friendly as San Diego, so he had to remove our say because of their bad behavior.  Yes, he said that.

My assumption is that Gloria is realizing campaigning as a YIMBY doesn’t always play well, so he’s decided to be a YIMBY for those who want to be that, and not for others. That’s consistent with his history of skipping votes on controversial projects that he doesn’t to be on the record for supporting or opposing.

Regarding the project in Bankers Hill, Bry voted in favor of it, but asked the only substantive question of the developer. In fact Bry almost always votes in favor of projects that come before City Council.

But the reason the monopoly-players of our city can’t support her is that she is an independent thinker. In fact, that is essentially the entire difference between our two mayoral candidates.  Based on their stated policy goals, I’m pretty sure they feel the same way about the need to address climate change, social justice issues, the need for more affordable housing etc.

The difference between the two is exactly what Bry has been saying since the start of her campaign: she is an outsider to the workings of the city, saw behind the curtain when she became a council member, and felt the city would benefit from her experience as a strong business builder and leader.

Bry is no NIMBY, as her record clearly shows, but is a voice for restoring representation of voters, rather than just donors. But its fair to also say Gloria isn’t really a YIMBY, he just says he is when its helpful.  What both candidates know is that the polarizing, tribalistic, simplistic and divisive rhetoric of YIMBY/ NIMBY discussions are of no value in our local politics.  The circumstances of land use are way too complicated to fit into such a destructively simple dichotomy.

As I see it, Bry is offering her applicable life experience and her place as an almost outsider in City politics to consider as you vote. Gloria’s campaign has been trying to say he has an exciting new vision for the city, despite having long been a part of the not-so-exciting old vision for the city.  That’s why I support Bry.







{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

will October 31, 2020 at 6:58 am

Respectfully….this article is written in such a way that it’s hard to understand. It’s a missed opportunity to inform those of us who have an interest in land use issues.


Erik October 31, 2020 at 8:19 am

Will: respectfully, the essay was cleverly written to pull the reader into the article to find out who the author would support. If he had stated its conclusion in the first paragraph, the 46% who i tended to vote for Gloria would have shut down and stopped reading right then. He is a smart enough man to know that most of what is written about politics lately is just consumed by one side of the population.


will October 31, 2020 at 8:36 am

Erik….good point, but at 65 years old I don’t have the energy or the time to treat an article like this as an academic exercise. But I’ll take a shot at it again and see if it makes more sense to me the second time around. And yes, most of what is written about politics is one sided, that’s why I read the Rag, plus a broad spectrum of other opinions.


Erik October 31, 2020 at 9:34 am

Will: Roy’s Wikipedia pages says he is 64, and I’m 61 1/2, so it’s not really an age thing.


Chris November 2, 2020 at 9:47 am

The whole NIMBY/YIMBY thing is kind of ridiculous. The truth is, all people can be either depending on the circumstances. Speaking for myself, If a bunch of high rise/high end apartment/condo complexes were being proposed in my neighborhood (more than have already gone up) I would very much be a NIMBY. Likewise if a skate park were to go into my area I would be a YIMBY. Others my feel the polar opposite which would still make them both case by case.


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