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Housing Law Failures and YIMBY Bounty Hunters

The State of California’s “the punishments will continue until morale improves” approach to the affordable housing crisis continues to be a catastrophic failure. The more the state threatens and penalizes cities and counties (that do not and have never had the ability to build housing) the more civic balance sheets will be decimated, public services will diminish, and the less truly affordable housing will be built as a percentage of overall housing development.

This will not end well for the financial solvency of those cities and counties or for those most in need of affordable housing.

And then there is California YIMBY (Yes in my backyard).

The opportunistic YIMBY movement or the “WIMBYs,” as former LA County Supervisor Zal Yaroslovsky and former Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch call them, is now defined by a single-minded, litigious mantra that apparently hates everything and anything that is considered "normal" or constitutes the American Dream (following the example of their narcissistic leader, San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener).

The movement is primarily driven by a deep hatred (envy?) of suburbia (their parents?), property rights, financial security, social equity, individual choice, common sense, working middle-class families (the “bourgeoisie”), and people with children who cherish a small backyard where their kids and their dog can safely play and the family can have the most cherished thing of our time: privacy.

This is coupled with YIMBY's complete disregard for the blue-collar tradespeople and the plight of the urban poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly, immigrants, people of color, and others desperately in need of affordable housing, across the spectrum.

Meanwhile, the demand for homeless housing, group housing for the disabled, senior assisted housing, dementia care and nursing care facilities, and shared facilities co-housing and tiny home communities is rapidly increasing but none of these types of housing are recognized as counting toward a municipality's Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) housing quota by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Why isn't YIMBY CA fighting to change that?

YIMBY CA simply doesn't care.

There’s something disingenuous about the YIMBY party line. The American Dream is the gold standard for people around the world (it's not called the "World Dream"). If you want to end it, at least be honest about it, instead of trying to shame and blame people for their inherent human nature or trying to convince them that they’re racists or worse (people have been competing for the best cave in the hillside for millions of years).

If this is not the case, then why has YIMBY CA lobbied so hard for subsidies, waivers, and concessions to build more market-rate housing and against inclusionary requirements to build more truly affordable housing for these and other disadvantaged groups? And, how do they explain why there aren't YIMBY supporters from South Central Los Angeles or places like the impoverished Canal District in Marin County and in other disadvantaged communities that are fighting against all the state housing laws YIMBYs have promoted?

Is it because despite all their rhetoric, underneath the YIMBY’s flash mob petulance is the conceit that they are somehow entitled to live anywhere they wish without having the financial wherewithal to do so and having to settle for less in life like many of the rest of us have had to do? It would probably shock YIMBYs to know that the vast majority of middle-class homeowners in the San Francisco Bay Area have worked very hard to be able to buy a home and are still working very hard to be able to maintain it.

I don't know what YIMBYs are thinking. But what I do know is that there comes a point where the unquestionably inequitable and structurally dysfunctional aspects of our socioeconomic system can’t be used as an excuse for everything that makes life feel “unfair.”


YIMBYs have essentially become America’s “Red Guard” who will not be satisfied until they have outed and shamed and sued everyone who, in their opinion, needs “re-education” or fails to offer obligatory capitulation to their myopic demands and naive disregard for city planning and zoning laws.

The latest manifestation (malignancy?) of this is the Bounty (hunter) Program, (a disturbing, dog-whistle title) offering financial rewards to anyone who can produce data or information that can help them sue and seek monetary retribution from locally elected governments (or individuals based on their voting record).

YIMBY is a movement that is heavily financed by tech moguls and Astroturf “nonprofits,” fronting for real estate interests (most prominently the California Association of Realtors - which may be the most well-heeled lobbying group in the state - who are more than happy to have YIMBY shock troops take all the flak on the front lines, while they laugh all the way to the bank.)

But, the greatest irony of the YIMBY movement's so-called progressive philosophy is it is based on an unquestioned faith in the most fundamental tenet of conservative, right-wing, Republican politics: Reaganomics and the Laffer Curve theory of trickle-down economics.

So much for social equity.

It's time to stop this nonsense and get some grownups in the room. Being a trendy rebel is fun. Governing wisely is hard work.

Bob Silvestri is a Marin County resident, the Editor of the Marin Post, and the founder and president of Community Venture Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization funded by individuals and nonprofit donors. Please consider DONATING TO THE MARIN POST AND CVP to enable us to continue to work on behalf of all California residents.