In the comments, Ben Ross directs us to a piece he wrote a few years ago on the roots of NIMBYism. Check it out.
As much time as I’ve spent arguing in favor of better development policies, I think we probably need to look at infill development in the same way as we do climate change legislation. It would be great if we could go to everyone individually, make the case in favor of emission reductions, and win their support and cooperation, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, what’s needed is a policy that assesses the social cost of community actions and then ensures that we all pay our fair share of that cost (based on how much we contribute to the problem).
In the same way, I don’t think we can count on our ability to convince residents in neighborhoods all over the city that they need to be held responsible for the costs they impose on other Washingtonians, the city, and the environment. Instead, we need policies that ensure that those who really, really want to stop development can do so, so long as they’re willing to pay for that privilege. But we can’t allow our neighbors to costlessly reduce the potential of this city.