Listening to a local program on Oregon Public Broadcasting yesterday called Think Out Loud. The subject matter was public planning in relation to creating more affordable housing, city planning, building more homeless shelters, etc. I won’t go into many details except to say I’m in full support of cities in this country doing some actual city planning that benefits everyone. The discussions, I believe, were occurring in Bend, Oregon, a city I knew from my childhood as the place my family would drive to to shop, watch movies, and go out to restaurants we didn’t have at home. Since that time the city has at least tripled in size. The word I would not use for this growth is “planned”. That’s the polite way to put it. The other way is to bluntly state the city is now an ugly, sprawling, concrete hellscape. I couldn’t imagine being on the lower rungs of the economic ladder and living there.
Anyway, during this show one of the things that was brought up was just how many community members freak out whenever the topic of more concentrated neighborhoods, better public transportation, and shelters came up. The general knee jerk reaction seems to be that it’ll cause home prices to plummet and bring in the riffraff. It’s an old trope I’ve heard all of my life; it’s tiring. Call me crazy, I think our cities should be planned for the benefit of the rich, the poor, for business and wildlife. I think cities should be organic, sustainable, easy to commute in via every method of transport, and yeah, beautiful. No reason we can’t all pull together and do that without fear mongering.
At the same time, I can empathize with home owners in at least one regard—and this may get me into trouble for those out there that don’t comprehend that it’s possible to hold one opinion while having seemingly contradictory ones. But yeah, I can empathize with home owners “riffraff” fears.
Let me explain.
I, like so many home owners, was once a renter. Indeed, for the decade or so I lived in Eugene it seemed I was going from place to place about once a year. As a university town that meant a lot of overpriced dumps. It also meant having a lot of late teen and twenty something neighbors that didn’t care that the walls were paper thin or the smoke from their BBQ filled your place on a sweltering hot summer day. So when I became a home owner one of the primary motivations for me was the strong desire to get away from the aspect of apartment living where the guy or girl on the other side of that paper thin wall, ceiling, or floor, could be anyone, and that anyone may simply not give a rats ass about the effect of their behavior on others (more likely than not the landlord didn’t care either as it wasn’t in their interest to). Moving to a house, for me, was in large part to get away from that chaos.
Side note: That’s not to say home owners can’t have shit hole neighbors too. For the first several years in my home the house just across the road was filled with college kids who frequently partied on the front lawn until 3 or 4am. It was the only time I had wished I was a member of a HOA (Home Owners Association).
I don’t have a lot more time to write, but I’ll conclude by saying I’m a YIMBY: Yes In My Back Yard. Yes to better public transportation in my back yard. Yes to better and more affordable housing in my back yard. Yes to shelters in my back yard. What I’m NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) regarding is loud, obnoxious, or otherwise disrespectful neighbors. I don’t care if you’re rich and need to speed your sports car with it’s overpriced insanely loud muffler past my place at 3am or a drunk puking in my flower bed: a jerk is a jerk and I don’t like jerks and I don’t want jerks in my neighborhood—I just don’t have this insane (in my humble opinion) idea that the “jerks” are people of another class or color or creed or sexual orientation, I think there are jerks of every stripe and I wish they’d really go anywhere else and let me sleep.