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Seattle’s NIMBY-ism Problem

NIMBYSeattle has become almost obsessive in it's NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) attitude. This is actually developed over time from a good thing – community activism, to a bad thing – selfishness political correctness. There is definitely a place for urban planning and people who strive to restrict growth have good intentions. But sometimes their own self -interests over shadow the bigger picture and perhaps deny of the harsh realities of an expending population.

Arial of Freeway bridge under constructionThings have changed a lot since the Seattle-Everett portion of Interstate-5 freeway opened in 1962. It took up 6,600 parcels of land, 4,500 of which were in Seattle. In 1958-59, the Washington State Highway Department paid homeowners fair market value for their homes, then auctioned the buildings for either removal or salvage. Imagine the uproar this created in all of these communities. Block-after-block of beautiful homes on quiet streets forced to suddenly be located right on top of a busy noisy freeway. One wonders if this could even be accomplished these days, regardless of imminent domain laws.

There have been several high-profile projects or developments that have surfaced recently that come to mind that highlight how much this is affecting what we do and do not do in Seattle.

Where shall we put Seattle's jailhouses?

More Seattle Streetcars?

Mapleleaf townhouse project

A classic example of where NIMBY-ism has run amuck is the Ballard Denny's fiasco. Citizens have gotten all up in arms over the planned demolition of a run-down out of date eyesore. Neighbors complained loud enough until the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board caved in and granted it historical landmark status. It appears that finally some sanity has returned and they may allow the developer to demolish it anyway. But not without a lot of teeth sucking.

There are very valid concerns and reasons to say – “hey, that just doesn't belong here.” and we can all benefit from discussions that help us make the best decisions about what's appropriate. And lack of community input can lead to anger and a feeling of betrayal, as was the case of the overshadowing office building that is being built 18 feet from the Cosmopolitan, without notifying homeowners of the details.

To be sure, the internet and blogs have had a profound affect in this area because of the amount of information and the speed of which it is shared. Many citizens who had not been involved before are openly sharing their thoughts and feelings, and masses of people are listening. This democratization of the internet has changed the world as we know it. Mass collaboration through social networks has made it possible for anyone who wants to to participate in the discussion to be heard. There are many local blogs out there that take a position and have an agenda to promote, and a number who try to take a more journalistic “fair-and-balanced” approach. If you look you can easily find them. Let's just use our new-found mouthpiece of the internet to enhance our growth and development plans with better decisions, not sabotage the process with shrill NIMBY-ism