Comment of the Day: Don’t Let the Locals Get in the Way of Your Project

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DON’T LET THE LOCALS GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR PROJECT Peasant with Pitchfork“Good idea, let the Peasants with Pitchforks have an Illusion of Choice. Let them pretend to participate, let them vent some hot air, and then throw them a bone to the side so while they bark over that, you build what you were going to build in the first place. Don’t forget, they don’t have any legal standing in this matter, they’re merely a construction nuisance like graffiti or defecating raccoons, just to be handled as a normal course of business.” [commonsense, commenting on A New Sign of Future Development Appears on Heights Hike-and-Bike Trail Site] Illustration: Lulu

26 Comment

  • obvious troll is obvious troll

  • You chose this vile bullshit as the C of the Day? Why give him a platform for his nastiness and misanthropic rhetoric? I’ve actually had C of D’s published on here under a different email address, but it seems for whatever reason if it’s under Shannon at my regular email address it has no chance, I guess I’m just not hateful and vile enough under Shannon to get the blessing of Swamplot. This is an awful C of the D…like you care.

  • Oh, for Pete’s sake. Don’t encourage him.

  • The last sentence was pure poetry

  • The Houston city council demands that “Your liege” be said after everything. Liberal elitists!

  • If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were talking about american democracy.

  • You do know that a 8-9 story condo building planned for this site was stopped in large part by neighborhood opposition? Seems like a bit more than a nuisance to be shrugged off.

  • What a clueless statement. Back in the 1970s or ’80s, you might have been right, Commonsense. But today, things have changed. Today LAND USE POLITICS is as big a deal as LAND USE LAW. The days of just following the zoning ordinance (or in Houston, the confusing patchwork of deed restrictions and planning requirements) are over. Today developers are wise to do their due diligence, politically, around the neighborhood – just like the people with the Heights Hike and Bike Trail condos are.
    I urge you, them, and everyone else to read NIMBY Wars, the Politics of Land Use. It talks all about it. And it’s very sage advice for developers, and neighbors alike.

  • I don’t see my comment as hateful at all, simply a statement of logic.

    It’s almost unheard of opposition stopping projects in Houston, the ones that have been attributed to opposition can be traced back to not getting proper financing.

    The loudest and wealthiest opposition couldn’t stop Ashby highrise and still fighting it, and look at Hines by River Oaks, they just snuck it in speaking softly while carrying a “big stick” of money and lawyers. (Almost the way I described above)

  • Swamplot, is this all part of your plan to foment irony, pasting the turgid screed of somebody impersonating “commonsense” who tilts at windmills by casting aspersions on some imaginary “Peasants with Pitchforks”? If so, job well done Swamplot.

  • He should put his mouth where his money is and post under his real name.

  • I knew this would tick Shannon off. And somehow he spent his whole post talking about him and how he ‘supposedly’ got one too once. Thanks for the laughs Swamplot. Always nice to see how invested people are in commenting on this site.

  • Just more spew from the resident nasty troll. I skim over his comments as they make me want to projectile vomit. God I loathe that “person”.

  • Shannon: And yet Swamplot still felt it okay to post your reply.

  • And if recent events surrounding Wendy’s have shown us anything, there is a portion of the business-minded non-peasant population that believes the law “has no legal standing” either.

  • I can’t give him any points for diplomacy, but he’s essentially correct and I give him points for calling it as he sees it and for giving no quarter on the issue.

    A great deal of NIMBY neighborhood activism (although certainly not all) is petty and contrived to begin with, driven by self-centered individuals’ base and ignoble fears. Justice, to these people, is to achieve a public taking from an outsider’s bought-and-paid-for bundle of rights without compensation, making their neighborhood into a sort of banana republic, entered into only with great trepidation. These people exist on both sides of the political spectrum and both in the city and the suburbs; although they’ll believe themselves virtuous and attempt to present themselves as such, that is an easy feat when one’s desire or ability to be morally consistent does not exist. When successful, it is often a coup of justice accomplished by idiots and led by sociopaths.

    Neither the development community or any given crop of elected officials are entirely without blame, either. Their response (if they’re smart about it) is to be diplomatic toward the community, to make concessions, to manipulate all the fools with trinkets and beads, and this is also a self-serving injustice. Doing so validates the NIMBYs a sense of relevancy and encourages the behavior. But of course…if a developer can get past them, then he becomes one of the entrenched interests in the neighborhood too, and perhaps he should want it that way to put up a barrier to entry.

    Of course, there’s a caveat. These NIMBYs are participants in the housing market. Their concerns represent only the most shameless of consumers with their set of preferences, but those preferences are prolific and shape the demography and economic geography of every major American city. As much as I dislike these attitudes, their concerns are only baseless in reason — but the consumer market for housing is very often not driven by reason. This means that yes, the NIMBYs actually might stand to lose something if enough people consider it a loss even if it isn’t actually a loss. It becomes a loss because NIMBYs active in the market have decided that its a loss. They’re their own worse enemy. Their base fears are the snake that eats its own tail.

    And this, unfortunately, seems to be ordinary human behavior. I don’t think that it can be changed or escaped from.

  • Good points, Niche. I’d like to drive home what you said about being diplomatic and making concessions. Not only that, but developers need to do RESEARCH. Just like they would research the local zoning ordinances before buying a site in another citiy, here in Houston they should research the history of their site and the attitudes of the surrounding neighborhood. Once they’ve done that, they and their architects can make common sense decisions on what and how to build, and avoid most if not all NIMBY concerns.
    Contrary to what developers (and architects) think, neighbors are usually pretty reasonable people. They get riled up and become NIMBYs when things seem inevitable, or when they’re surprised at the last minute with unwanted developments. Unfortunately, here in Houston post Ashby, developers and their architects have taken to playing close to the vest until. They keep their projects secret until they have the foundation poured. That way nobody can make them change it. Then they wonder why there’s such mistrust and, paradoxically, so many NIMBYs.

  • The visual Commonsense portrays is both insulting and too real in Houston…..

    Can’t let TheNiche have the last “400” words on the topic….

  • @ ZAW: Whether it is actually the case or not, the vast majority of people believe themselves to be absolutely reasonable (and we all carry on from day-to-day for lack of a better alternative as though we are reasonable). In fact, nobody is perfectly reasonable and the person that comes closest is the person that believes themselves somewhat fallible or somewhat ignorant. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Whether we obscure our worldview behind lofty, polite, or placating rhetoric or make that rhetoric noxious — or even if nothing is said at all — there is a gulf of distance in terms of the ability of the layman property owner, an elected official, and a developer to all understand one another’s interests.

    I tend to think that NIMBYs wouldn’t usually be tolerated by local leaders except that they’re hung out there as a threat to business interests in order for the business community to have an incentive to make generous campaign contributions (and other forms of persuasion, pecuniary or otherwise). That seems to be a common model in all of the major Texas cities, as far as I’ve been able to observe. In the end, developers almost always get their site (although project financing is another matter) and NIMBYs (which were never able to coherently explain themselves in the first place and never really had much influence, unless they were incredibly wealthy, anyhow) get a big fake smile and a strong handshake and some wampum for their troubles so that they perceive that justice has been meted out. Of course, NIMBYs rarely know anything about justice (or care, actually), so justice is for most people what they’re told to think that it is.

  • I said “pretty reasonable.” I was not talking in absolutes. Neighbors, if approached the right way, are no less reasonable on the whole than developers, or architects. Actually they’re probably more reasonable than architects, at least the black turtle neck wearing designers…. That’s all I was saying.
    As far as officials listening to NIMBYs. Of course they will. NIMBYs are voters.

  • You developer/libertarian types – “NIMBY means a person is ok with the development, unless it is in his or her own backyard. You all are incorrectly using “NIMBY” to describe people that not only don’t want the develoment in their own backyard, but they also don’t want the bad development in the backyards of others, including those living in the Heights, River Oaks, Meyerland, the Fourth Ward, the galleria, or anywhere else. Don’t call me a “NIMBY,” call me a voter who has 311 on speed dial.

  • In a big city like Houston, if some random neighborhood (and really just an assortment of people within that neighborhood that are of like mind and sufficiently motivated to show up, which isn’t many) gets pissed off with the inaction of elected officials on some single issue like this, that’s pretty much okay for an incumbent councilmember. Give them some lip service, maybe do some song and dance to shut them up, ignore them, and if the project can’t get financing then take credit for victory over the evildoers. If they aren’t convinced and remember who you are and vote and haven’t moved out of your district and don’t vote for you again, it’s statistically not much of a problem because of all this attrition and that the people three blocks over probably were unaware of what went down. If its a rich neighborhood, thats different. Wealthy and politically-engaged individuals matter a lot. If that’s the case and you’re the official, then you should consider manipulating the situation, whipping up a frenzy, and engaging in all sorts of questionable legal maneuvering. Study Hitler’s speeches, copy them. Make everybody feel victimized or persecuted by outsiders; declare martyrdom on some little thing. Eventually the situation blows over and then you can revert back to ignoring most of the ignorant mouthbreathers that vote for you. This is the model suggested by game theory for Houston’s form of government. As far as I can tell, the model fits with observations pretty well.

  • Good point, Mel.
    If we’re going to pooh-pooh neighbors for being “NIMBYs,”. Then isn’t it also fair to chalk a lot of what’s said by developers up to sour grapes? “I bought the land,” their reasoning goes, “it’s mine to do with as I please. How dare some little people next door tell me they don’t like it!” (Never mind that here are always rules about what and how you can build on your land – even in Houston – so you’re never as free as they want to be.)
    Personally I’d like a plan ‘B’. No NIMBYs. No developers with sour grapes. We all work together for what’s best for the City and all it’s neighborhoods. Neighborhoods communicate eir wants and expectations up front. Developers use common sense to be good neighbors. I’ll be the first to admit this is an idealist goal. But it is a worthy goal to pursue.

  • There are very real consequences for having a NIMBY smashing attitude for developers. Yes, the developers usually get their way, but they often end up ruining it for the next guy. Ashby developers will get to build, but the next guy might not because of the high-rise buffering ordinance that passed in the wake of the Ashby uproar. 380 agreements flowed like a river to Walmart and Kroger, but community uproar has meant that only Costco has since been able to get a similar deal despite some healthy opposition in City council. And there has only been one 380 agreement in 2014 outside of the downtown urban living initiative (which does require first floor space to be retail ready). There are a whole host of development regulations that have their root in NIMBY activism: drainage detention, tree ordinance, and parking minimums, to name a few.

  • Okay – Lots to read to get to the Post-a-Comment box…
    But isn’t commonsense correct?
    don’t developers succeed in doing what they were going to do?
    It is right that the peasant picks up the pitchfork and speaks her/his mind – this is Democracy.
    But this town (and state) is pro-biz and most people want to align themselves with the power…

  • Wow, open your mind people. Is it possible for you people to read a bit of information without having a preconceived notion all because of its author? There is a good amount of sad truth to this CoD.