Sunday, February 19, 2006

Why Kerry lost to Bush: Urban nimbyism?

Matt Smith is still trying to convince SF to build residential highrises, but he's taking a different tack this time. Instead of trying to enchant us with the unenchanting notion of creating a paradise for bike nuts by radically increasing the city's density with residential highrises next to Golden Gate Park, Smith is thinking nationally with a dubious interpretation of the 2004 election: He argues that Kerry lost the election because big city nimbys oppose housing projects that cities need for population growth ("Greening the Left," SF Weekly, Feb. 15-21, 2006). 

What's the relationship between population growth in the cities and Bush's victory? Cities vote more liberal than the suburbs and rural areas; if their populations grow, the liberal vote will be larger. If big city nimbys weren't so fussy in opposing new housing, Kerry would have won in 2004, because the progressive city vote nationwide would have been enough to make a difference. Hence, SF progressives should stop opposing housing projects and allow the city to grow a lot bigger, adding more progressive voters to counter the conservative hinterland.

It doesn't seem to occur to Smith that all the "cool" young progressives in SF actually came from somewhere else. They didn't grow up in SF and become "progressive" under the influence of the city's diversity and overall grooviness; they wanted to live in a liberal urban environment, so they moved to SF from other parts of the country.

In any event, there hasn't been much progressive opposition to housing development in SF. In fact, the opposite is the case. Take Rincon Hill, for example. It was pushed by the city's most left-leaning supervisor, Chris Daly, and endorsed by Supervisor Mirkarimi, the city's second most left-leaning supervisor. (When Smith wrote about Rincon Hill, the thing he didn't like about it was Daly's successful shakedown of the developers for extra fees to "mitigate" the destructive impact of the giant project/projects.) 

The reality: The city's We Need Housing movement consists of an alarming alliance of progressives, city government, and housing developers. The end result thus far: We get Rincon Towers---luxury condos for the rich---and the rezoning of eastern SF via the Planning Department's destructive program with the Orwellian name---"Better Neighborhoods."

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