Wednesday, February 19, 2014

NIMBYs around SLC are making us fatter, poorer, and less productive

Sandy: Feeeel the history
In past posts I've alluded to the fact that there are forces inhibiting the market from efficiently deciding on city density. While city councils and the legislatures are surely playing a role, it’s also coming from the fact that property owners now seem to think that this ownership allows them to dictate what is and isn't allowed on neighboring property. These are the not-in-my-backyard folks (or NIMBYs). You probably have heard of these guys, and in the name of ample on-street parking, they’re making us fatter, poorer, and less productive. What do they do? They oppose new construction in their neighborhood (most often rejecting new tall buildings), such that their neighborhood doesn't experience increased traffic, noise, or parking problems. These guys, along with the historic preservationist crowd, want to freeze time in their neighborhood for the residents that are already living there (while benefits to potential future residents are summarily dismissed). While that's fine if that's their goal in life, the sizable downsides to such a policy are often ignored.

Consider the recent Missionary Training Center expansion proposed by the LDS Church (via the Trib):
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had proposed the nine-story MTC tower to replace five cramped classroom structures with antiquated plumbing and ventilation systems. The new building was expected to open in 2014 and appeared to meet existing zoning restrictions on height.
Friday's retreat was welcomed by residents of the adjoining Pleasant View neighborhood, who had argued the church was ramming the plan through without their blessing. Neighbors had alleged that the nine-story structure would have broken prior promises capping the height of MTC buildings.
So apparently the LDS Church, who own the property and are well within their zoning rights, are expected to get the “blessing” of the surrounding community to build a nine story building. Because the Pleasant View neighborhood was apparently cranky that week, the building doesn't get built.

Another example: The Sandy Club, which is an after school program for Boys and girls, recently purchased land in Sandy, UT. The club has been in its current (cramped) location since 1995 and wanted to start construction on a new building. The proposed building height? Thirty-four feet (three or four stories). Result: neighbors are passing out fliers in a campaign to stop its construction, saying that the proposed building doesn't fit with the “historic feel” of the neighborhood.

But so what if these buildings don’t get built? Why does it matter? No new tall buildings mean shorter buildings, which by necessity push construction out to the periphery of cities. Result: sprawl, longer commutes, fatter residents, poorer people, and a less productive workforce. All in the name of a good view or a sweet street-side parking spot.

No comments:

Post a Comment