What does Nimby really mean?


By on Mon, October 2, 2006

Who are the real Nimbies?

People have been throwing around the word "Nimby" lately. On the Coastside, Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) is usually used to describe people who insist that developers follow the law.

Some folks will tell you that the people who insist on environmental impact reports, biological studies, preservation of endangered species habitat, or even permits before changing the use of a piece of land aren’t environmentalists. They’ll tell you that these people are Nimbies or no-growthers using environmental preservation as an excuse to prevent development in their back yard. That their concern for open space, public access, wetlands, and endangered species habit masks a darker, selfish purpose: to prevent all development on the Coastside.

What do you call someone who doesn’t want to preserve the environment in their back yard?

Why isn’t it Nimbyism to say, "I want to preserve the environment, but not at the expense of developing the Coastside"?  Perhaps you didn’t support the expansion of the Midpensinsula Open Space District to the Coastside. Or you think the Peninsula Open Space Trust is bad for the local economy.  Or that the Coastal Commission has too much control of Coastside development.  Or you don’t think there should be a process for changing the use of environmentally sensitive land. Or you’re quietly planning to vote for Proposition 90.

Why doesn’t that make you a Nimby?

Personally, I don’t find the label useful. But if you insist on using it, why must it be applied to opponents to one type of activity in one’s back yard (development) and not another (conservation)? When will we accept that every proposal must stand on its own merits—including its relationship to its environment—and that name-calling has no place in our community?