So… What’s a YIMBY?

By Rita Mahoney, ColRich, BIA Board of Directors

When Mayor Kevin Faulconer declared himself to be California’s first YIMBY mayor in his January 2019 State of the City speech, there were a lot of people wondering, “What’s a YIMBY?”

Conceived as a countervailing force to the anti-development crowds that often show up to hearings to oppose housing projects, the Yes in My Back Yard (YIMBY) movement is growing in California and other areas, such as Boston and Boulder, Colo., where constrained building has pushed housing costs well past affordability. San Diego’s YIMBY movement began forming around the time that consideration of allowing greater densities in uptown and near the new Midcoast Trolley line in Bay Park generated community blowback of such force that planners and politicians retreated from the initiatives. At that same time, mixed-use infill projects such as One Paseo were the subject of lengthy, contentious hearings driven by NIMBY opposition.

After finding each other mainly on social media, younger urbanists who share a vision not only for more housing but also walkable and bikeable neighborhoods began to discuss how they could amass the kind of political strength that would merit consideration of their viewpoint. They began to stand for election for seats on community planning boards, and a few leaders in the growing YIMBY movement formally joined forces to form a network to push for political acceptance of housing and pro-housing planning initiatives and legislation. One group of YIMBYs from Hillcrest and Bankers Hill formed a coalition called Rise UpTown that ran as a pro-housing slate for the Uptown Community Planning Group, taking over the notoriously NIMBY-filled board this past spring.

In early 2018, a group that included planners, economic researchers, climate activists, small-scale developers and political consultants formed the YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County, a Political Action Committee that endorses and assists campaigns of their candidates. They also mobilize their 250 members to support individual infill projects, density in community plans and pro-housing legislation such as SB 50.

The YIMBY arrival on the scene has not gone unnoticed by political campaigns; it’s become a central issue in San Diego’s mayoral race. Our region’s housing future is likely to become a major issue elsewhere in San Diego County 2020 candidate races, while smaller battles continue to rage over individual projects.

What’s heartening is that now, even progressive leaders — who once had a knee-jerk anti-development stance — are now recognizing the consequences of under-supplying houses and willing to engage with builders to work toward solutions.

YIMBY activism should be encouraged!