“Nimbyism” — the condition of taking a “not in my backyard” stance towards building — may be the biggest obstacle to housing development out there. So what better way to promote the construction of more housing units than to champion “Yimbyism” — the condition of viewing development through the lens of “yes in my backyard?”

  • Nimybism is anathema to development, so to push for development, the San Francisco Bay Area Renters' Federation is promoting Yimbyism.

SAN FRANCISCO — “Nimbyism” — the condition of taking a “not in my backyard” stance towards building — may be the biggest obstacle to housing development out there.

So what better way to promote the construction of more housing units than to champion  “Yimbyism” — the condition of viewing development through the lens of “yes in my backyard?”

That’s the aim of Sonja Trauss and the pro-development advocacy group she leads, known as the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation.

The guiding principle of the group’s platform is that any housing, whether subsidized or high-end, is always better than no housing, she said at a presentation at Inman Connect San Francisco.

Every condo that isn’t built in the San Francisco neighborhood of The Mission “is a high income person moving to West Oakland,” she said.

In a city like San Francisco, where green spaces are protected from development, building new housing means tearing down or converting other types of development — such as multi-story parking garages or commercial or industrial real estate.

That won’t sit well with some business interests, she said. Building new housing also can mean compromising the scenic views and dog paths enjoyed by some local residents, who often might be supportive of affordable housing in theory, just not in their backyards.

One way Trauss has helped lead the fight against these interests is by marshaling a takeover attempt of the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization.

While the chapter purportedly supports “compact development,” its opposition to development height-limit increases runs counter to that goal, Trauss contends.

Her organization helped sign up around 200 new club members to vote in a more pro-development administration for the club. (The coup attempt failed, but she’s hoping for better luck the next time around.)

The San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation is also spreading the gospel of Yimbyism — or at least battling its antithesis — by suing local governments and institutions, including Lafayette.

Some cities flagrantly violate a California state law that prohibits cities from blocking development that conforms to zoning rules, according to Trauss.

That’s because generally no one — both individual citizens and developers — wants to shell out $250,000 fighting a case that could go on for years, she said.

Trauss sees The San Francisco Bay Area Renters as stepping up to the plate by using the courts to hold cities accountable to state laws that should be protecting housing development in some cases.

Email Teke Wiggin.

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