>>Does turning zoning reform into a highly polarized issue of racial conflict make it more or less likely to happen?<<

This this this this this.

I'm a homeowner on the westside of LA and have been converted from NIMBY to YIMBY partly by Matt but more so by serving on my local homeowners association board. And one thing the latter has taught me is what *won't* work -- and that is the racial framing, whether you cite redlining from 1917 or describe it as some abstract form of "systemic racism." These are all good liberals and to basically call them racists is to immediately shut down all debate. (And why not? All minorities are welcome in our neighborhood, as long as they can cough up the >$2 million for a house.)

And these people are *powerful.* The excellent book "Neighborhood Defenders" (https://www.amazon.com/Neighborhood-Defenders-Participatory-Politics-Americas/dp/1108477275) nails this. Oh, and by the way, passing good state laws without these groups' buy-in is a losing proposition. Scott Weiner et al here in California have excellent laws, but whatever laws are passed have to be implemented locally. And no matter what the law says, there are *so* many ways to gum up the works in local implementation, and the state simply doesn't have the apparatus or scope (or probably political will) to police all the actions being taken locally.

So, one way or another, there has to be some buy-in by local homeowners. Vilifying them, and calling them racist, may make you feel better, but won't advance things.

This is a hard one, but the framing I would push is threefold: climate, your kids, and workforce. They believe in fighting climate change and don't take it as personally as being called racist. Convince them that density helps with this noble cause. Then tell them (gently) that *their* kids won't be able to afford to live anywhere, so why not do your part? Lastly, I find them somewhat amenable to the workforce argument, so hit that. In West Los Angeles terms, that means emphasizing that their kids' teachers are making the long, painful trek from Reseda, the police officers they love have to fight daily traffic from Simi Valley, and the firefighters from Van Nuys (and for the most woke, tell them about how their maids have to come from Pacoima).

And, finally, this is truly slow boring. Take small victories when and where you can, and don't expect that the NIMBY forces will collapse all at once, and a bright new day will dawn. This will take time.

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One of the problems with the trend towards framing everything in terms of race is it's caused a lot of people to lose sight of the difference between means and ends. Is the end a society where people are permanently and always classified on the basis of race, skin color or continent of ancestral origin? Or is the end a society where the continent you or your ancesters came from is a irrelevant as which European country people whose of European ancestry are from (which used to be considered pretty significant)? It's hard to tell anymore what the progressive end goal is.

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Another telling example of this phenomenon is that the only people that I’ve ever heard describe the Affordable Care Act as being a racial justice measure have been its opponents, who describe it as “reparations”. Not sure the origin of that meme or the role it plays in the larger racialization of the ACA debate but it’s certainly notable that the right sees casting race-neutral measures as racial justice measures as a beneficial move for them.

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For DC specifically, I am interested in why the DC Mayor and 11 of the 13 DC Councilmembers who aren't dedicated Ward 2 and Ward 3 CMs haven't pushed to upzone Wards 2 and 3 then use all the added tax revenue that generates for social services and other progressive things.

Is it just that affluent Ward 2 and 3 residents have a lot of political power citywide, plus the power of inertia and the status quo?

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I find a lot of this analysis both interesting and compelling. But when I look at the poll cited, my first reaction isn't, "aha, we as supporters of more housing should run with the +11 argument, not the +3 argument," it's "oh shit, *neither* argument is breaking 50 percent, even *without* including an argument against the position." I have no idea which argument would best hold up to message testing in that way, I can tell a story in which either does, but it seems like an area where it would be fruitful to get more research, and in any case, those initial numbers are... not great.

The splits among Democratic supporters are better, which I think is important since my sense is a lot of the necessary activity will be aimed at cities where they predominate, but even there you don't see two-thirds support, and again, I assume support would drop if you ask the question as something closer to, "Supporters of this say it will drive economic growth, opponents say it will increase traffic and make parking more difficult."

In fact, I'd be curious to see what happens to the Democratic number for economic growth if the poll tested it against the argument Yglesias pointed to as an interleft critique -- "opponents say increased development just enriches wealthy developers." Seems ripe for splitting the Democratic coalition with either the racial or the economic argument.

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This article makes me feel better.

I am annoyed by a rhetorical device that I see everywhere lately. The author will explain how some aspect of contemporary American life was shaped by overt racism the racist policies that flowed from it. They will then point to a group difference from a recent study and assert that it the direct result of said racism, ipso facto nothing has changed and anyone dissenting or suggesting any nuance is a racist.

I'm not sure if I am a progressive or not (how do I tell?) but I am both fascinated by all the ways modern society is shaped by past racism and put off by the lazy argumentation and dogmatic preemption of any further discussion of the topic. But if the purpose is really just to cajole people into acquiescing to good policy ideas, then I'm ok with that; if framing zoning regulations as racist brings the otherwise-NIMBY, but-what-about-my-property-value and the but-its-an-historic-neighborhood crowd into modernity, then the rhetoric serves a purpose... assuming it isn't overwhelmed by the "anti-anti" conservative backlash.

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This was the most offensive part of the article.

>There is a book called “Urban Planning and the African-American Community: In the Shadows” which I have not read because it’s for sale on Amazon for $83.

We know how many subscriptions you have, you can afford the book!

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It's worth making explicit a question that's implicit in this and other posts in the "elite nonprofit funders" corpus, which is: What is the (political) use of history?

To spell it out more, I think there's been a largely positive trend of more people taking interest in reading about some of our nation's pretty ugly racial history. I read many of these books and think that, for the most part, they are well-researched, interesting, and worth recommending to other people in my social circle. But there seem to be two errors that occur on the path of "learning about redlining" to "aggressively advocating for racially equitable housing policies."

One is along the lines of what's being argued in this post, which is that the majority of people don't find historically grounded arguments all that persuasive. It's true that many (perhaps a majority) of people in elite non-profit spaces are politically activated by this education, but that's not really politically scalable and the tactic only really works on people who are inclined to agree with your worldview in the first place.

The other mistake is what I'd call the "1619 project" error, which is that the fusion of history and politics has led many otherwise intelligent people to get out over their skis and interpret history in an overly deterministic manner. (In the case of the 1619 project, this is the argument that America became a racist nation from the moment the first slave ship landed.) As historians quip, "the past doesn't know its future," but much of the non-profit class you describe has really bought into the fact that no solution is effective unless it comes along with an exorcism to account for past historical wrongs. And they've come to that conclusion--I would argue--because they don't fully appreciate the limits of what history is able to tell us about our present.

My sense is that, because many people have made the second error, their response to an argument like the one made in this post (pointing out the first error) would be that an "economic growth" framing would be insufficient to address the past historical injustice that needs to be dealt with before meaningful change can occur. I don't think that's right (or at least it's extremely impractical), but I think it's worth being attentive to the second distinction because many elite actors have convinced themselves that the "historicist" approach to politics is superior to the "popularist" approach.

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Clearly Matt missed his chance to name this blog "Yglesiastopia."

I agree with most everything you've analyzed. I'd be very interested to see the first bar chart, with support for de-zoning in terms of how it's framed, with a breakout just for "NYT subscribers"-- I expect you'd see a very different distribution. Extremely progressive friends I have (who own multiple houses in heavily zoned, high cost cities) viscerally react to an "economic growth" framing as immoral. Economic growth = capitalism = white supremacy. Your challenge is almost as tough as "how do you convince Catholics that abortion is good because it lets families devote themselves to the moral upbringing of the children they already have?" Good luck. I think people who write arguments framed like this in the NYT like the idea that they are reaching a targeted audience, and Tucker Carlson also seems to think the only people who can hear him are on his side. In this age of media hyper-saturation, you're always speaking to everyone. It can be impossible to frame your argument in a way that resonates viscerally with anyone without setting off someone else. You're left with "milquetoast" middle ground "rationalism" that puts everyone to sleep. Except those of us here in Yglesisastopia trying to make neloiberalism great again ;)

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I haven’t read the book because it is $83. So relatable reminds me of college lol.

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"...an Yglesiastopia of land use."

Lemmestopia right there.

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It is also the case that this argument mostly doesn't work against actual NIMBYs,.even the kind you would expect it to most.

Here in Bloomington, the city is currently trying to do some upzoning of the richest downtown single family neighborhoods. They are populated by the kinds of highly educated white people who are supposedly motivated by appeals to racial justice. And they hate upzoning.

But when you point out the facts Matt mentions, for example in the form of that NYT oped, they are not persuaded. Instead they think you're calling them racist and get mad. This is true even of people who analogize upzoning for duplexes on corners to urban renewal!

Maybe it's persuasive to the broader group of people who are listening but not arguing, but we shall see what happens.

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One problem I see, which kind of parallels the "ethic of conviction" thing, is that a lot of people have made "speak truth to power" their guiding principle in life - i.e. not just something one should be *willing* to do when necessary, but a good thing in and of itself. When that's your starting principle, it isn't difficult to connect the dots and arrive at some really counterproductive ideas. In a democracy it's electoral majorities who have power (with caveats, of course - gerrymandering, etc) so "speaking truth to power" can very easily turn into an Ibsenesque "the majority is always wrong."

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The framing that racial equity is about pleasing donors and peers is really helpful to understanding the phenomenon. In addition to framing everything in racial justice terms, I think there's also pressure to make statements that are as uncompromising as possible. I find it so discouraging b/c, in addition to torpedoing real change, it moves the focus from tangible solutions to real problems to just having discussion groups

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>> effort to dupe progressive donors into caring about job creation and working-class people’s interests

This tells you so much about the nature of progressive politics!

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Why not emphasize the generational impact of these kinds of rules? Young people are having a hard time paying high rents and buying expensive houses. The rapid rise in property values is a redistribution of wealth from young people to older people. Emphasizing this seems like an approach that older folks with children (or grandchildren) could be sympathetic to.

Also, let's be honest, but the fact that crime is rising and people are talking about "defund/abolish the police" raises the level of fear among in many neighborhoods. This makes folks more hesitant to take a chance on changing their neighborhoods. If someone (or a party) advocates both zoning reform and reducing funds for law enforcement, that's doing to shut down the conversation for many people. Changing zoning rules is always hard but especially at this point in time.

And about that paper by Hsieh and Moretti...it's almost impossible for me to believe that residential zoning restrictions have reduced our national income by over one-third. I suspect there are more problems with that paper than just the math, but I appreciate the overall point.

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