Commentary, Local Commentary

Editorial: NIMBYs & F.C.’s T-Zones

The cover story for the May/June 2023 issue of the notoriously progressive magazine, Mother Jones, is by Bill McKibben and entitled, “Yes In Our Backyards.” The story is a reasoned denunciation of the famous anti-development mantra, “Not in My Backyard (NIMBY),” a phrase uttered countless times in the Little City of Falls Church over the years. It is back again among those opposed to proposed changes to the City’s transitional zone policy, changes designed to add to the diversity of the City’s housing stock as the region and the nation face a critical shortage of housing, especially of the more affordable kind.

The Mother Jones feature is accompanied by an editorial from the magazine’s editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery entitled, “Build Locally, Act Globally: How Can We Transform the Economy If We Can’t Even Create Enough Housing.” Jeffery writes that NIMBYs “come in a variety of forms, but the most confounding are those who call themselves progressive yet abuse laws conceived to protect the environment, or foster good government, to block desperately needed housing, driving up costs and fueling homelessness.” Such policies in the magazine’s hometown of San Francisco, have led, she writes, to that city “being 82,000 units shy of where the state housing targets say we must be by 2031.”

So, yes, this is hardly confined to our area where the current rise of NIMBYism in neighboring Arlington’ has taken the form of objection, including in the form of legal action, to its county board’s action to allow a diversity of “missing middle” housing options in its single family home sections, and where in the case of Falls Church, a noisy opposition has arisen to the plan to modify transitional zone statutes to permit a handful of less expensive housing options.

What makes this month’s Mother Jones coverage interesting is that it is a sharp departure from what is too often considered progressive “religion,” that defines developers and development as inherently bad. That’s the short version of what the t-zone change opponents who have been speaking up so loudly in F.C, including at this Monday’s City Council meeting have by and large been saying. But editor Jeffrey points out in her editorial, the enormous tasks ahead “will require progressives to shed some old habits and challenge some assumptions.”

The News-Press has been outspoken in support of good development in Falls Church over all its 33+  years, and thus has helped the City and developers to enjoy a “win-win” environment we expect will continue. Falls Church has been down the NIMBY road many times before, and wiser minds have prevailed over and over again. This City knows to expect development to continue not in a hostile context with developers, but in exactly the opposite way. Anybody who tries to argue that the t-zone issue is not about housing, but only money, is out of step from where this City has come over many years.