Are you a Californian looking out for a New 12 months’s resolution? You is prone to be enthusiastic about giving up sweets or going to the gymnasium additional. Nevertheless, for the good of your state, the easiest issue you’ll do is swear off this phrase: “We want to defend the character of the group.”
The expressed must defend group character is a staple of California conversations. It’s routinely geared towards builders, planners, or anyone with an enormous, transformational imaginative and prescient. Nevertheless in a state struggling to take care of up with modifications in housing, financial system and setting, there may be no additional damaging set of phrases.
The phrase is very efficient precisely resulting from its imprecision. Obscure adequate to be unsuitable in some methods, it is the ultimate dodge, just about meaningless, the NIMBY equal of “Yadda, yadda, yadda” from the well-known Seinfeld episode.
Nevertheless, in a single different, perverse sense, “defend the character of our group” is the phrase that unites us all. It might be used to oppose one thing: additional housing, additional renewable vitality, additional immigrants. It is utilized by poor people protesting gentrification that will carry richer people to their neighborhoods, and it’s utilized by rich people fearful that moderately priced housing or homeless firms could carry poorer people to their neighborhoods. It’s been used to throttle initiatives that promote sprawl and driving, and individuals who promote density and transit.
The safety of group character is a terrible argument in common events, because of neither character nor group is static. People don’t maintain the similar—they’ve youngsters, change jobs, research new points, relocate, and, most of all, they age. And in so doing, they alter the character of their communities, because of what they need from their setting — every bodily and social — modifications.
And in troublesome events like our private, the “protect-community-character” argument verges on treason to California and its beliefs.
California faces two massive courses of challenges. The first is to atone for meeting the state’s current needs — notably for infrastructure, transportation and housing. Housing is managed on the native authorities stage, the place “the character of the group” argument is strongest. The outcomes have meant disaster for the state. California housing costs 2.5 events the nationwide widespread, and the state has the nation’s longest and unhealthiest commutes.
As harmful as proper now’s housing catastrophe is, it pales in comparison with the dangers that the group security racket poses for California’s future. The specter of native climate change, particularly, would require transformation in how and the place we reside, which by definition will change group character. And the state needs to invest massively in transit so that we drive a lot much less and burn fewer fossil fuels. No accountable group in California must maintain the similar in such a time.
Actually, change in California communities is prolonged overdue. For 40 years now, given that passage of Prop 13, California has prioritized group stability — holding down property taxes to study current homeowners and corporations — on the expense of schools, effectively being care, enterprise enchancment and native firms. It’s time for that interval to complete.
Nevertheless that will require that we stop singing the praises of group character and start realizing that it’s truly the anthem of California’s religion of obstruction. It gained’t be a simple shift to make. Of their never-ending efforts to dam progress, the character protectors have too many devices at their disposal — zoning, design and environmental evaluations that closing eons; the California Environmental Prime quality Act; slow-moving licensing processes; and infinite litigation in our clogged courts.
The darkish political genius of “defending the character of the group” argument is that it permits people who make use of it to avoid obligation for his or her obstructionism. They portray themselves as “stakeholders” merely making an attempt to take care of their neighborhood from getting harm. Even worse, at a time that celebrates activism, a lot of these community-character protectors pose as righteous neighborhood activists.
Please. They’re the extremely efficient, not the powerless. They’re victimizers, not victims. They normally’ve been getting away with the crime of shutting their communities off from change, and inserting huge points onto the youthful, poorer, additional numerous generations of Californians. It’s no accident that youthful residents have been leaving the state in such extreme numbers; higher than two-thirds of people who departed California so far decade had annual incomes of decrease than $50,000.
This New 12 months’s, it’s time for Californians who care regarding the future, the setting, and our neighbors to banish this noxious phrase from our vocabulary. And after we hear others use the phrase, we should at all times degree out what it truly means: I acquired mine, and who cares about anyone else?
And in case your fellow Californians nonetheless persist in claiming they want to “defend the character of our group,” please be at liberty to start questioning their character.