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Turning NIMBYs into YIMBYs

Back in June some residents of Wallach Place worked themselves up into a NIMBY tizzy over a proposal to replace the one-story Yum’s building with a residential midrise. After a redesign by the project architect and some counter-pushback from the blogosphere, the Wallach neighbors seem satisfied.

LEFT: Original proposal for Wallach/14th midrise.
RIGHT: Updated proposal, having responded to criticism from the Historic
Preservation Review Board and neighbors.

The neighbors’ original criticism of the building can only be described as classic NIMBYism. They nicknamed the building “WallachZilla,” they said the proposal caught them off guard, they called it too tall and too hulking, they complained about shadows, and increased traffic, and said it doesn’t have enough parking. They implied the developers were slimy and cheap. And worst of all, they wondered why their neighborhood “needs” more housing in the first place. They also said they didn’t like its design, which was more of a fair comment.

The DC Historic Preservation Review Board agreed with the design criticism, saying the proposal was plain and lacked creativity. They asked the developer to come back with a modified, more interesting design.

Meanwhile, the Wallach neighbors clearly didn’t like being called NIMBYs. They started claiming their opposition isn’t about density and that they aren’t opposed to new development. They got defensive towards GGW, and attacked NIMBYism as a “weathly, snooty, close-the-door” mentality. And, impressively, they changed their tone towards the developer to one of cordiality and respect.

When the new design came out, the Wallach neighbors responded basically reasonably. They cheered the new version, which is smaller and has a more broken-up mass. They seem to have abandoned complaints about more people moving into the neighborhood. And although they couldn’t help themselves but to complain about the narrowness of the alley, they seem supportive of the new proposal overall.

In short, they’ve become YIMBYs. Maybe the change happened because of the new design, or more friendly treatment from the developers. Or maybe it was the result of intellectual disdain for being called NIMBYs, and a desire to prove their critics wrong. Either way, opponents became supporters.

And yes, the new proposal does look better. It’s more thoughtful and visually appealing. It definitely blends with its surroundings more harmoniously. The color scheme is softer, and the setbacks are more nuanced. These are good things. Unfortunately, the building is also 10 units smaller, which means at least 10 fewer people will be able to live in the neighborhood. The Wallach people haven’t addressed that, and presumably don’t care.

I wonder how they’d respond to a request for one additional floor in order to make up the difference. If it were set back and looked good, would they support the idea?

August 9th, 2011 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, development



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