Regular readers of Rent Check or those familiar with the landscape of land-use and zoning regulations know the term NIMBY—which stands for “not in my backyard.”
It’s a derogatory term for those who oppose new developments in their neighborhoods. It’s usually motivated by some combination of bad economic thinking, misplaced environmental concerns, a desire to preserve “neighborhood character,” or naked self-interest by homeowners, but the outcome is the same: development is prevented through government action.
A more amusing term to describe this sentiment, however, is BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). They’re often used interchangeably, but it’s probably useful to differentiate the two. A NIMBY may not want a new apartment building in their single-family zoned neighborhood, but may be indifferent to development elsewhere.
BANANAs, on the other hand, go the extra mile by preventing development miles away from them, as in the case of Washington, DC’s Bloomingdale neighborhood’s recent designation as a historic district.
Nick Sementelli explains in Greater Greater Washington.
The Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to designate Bloomingdale a historic district two weeks ago at its July 26 meeting. This went against the opinion of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), which voted 8-1 against the proposal, and a neighborhood poll paid for by the Bloomingdale Civic Association in which 55% of the respondents were against becoming a historic district (the civic association ultimately voted in favor).
The designation comes after a long period of robust debate in the neighborhood. That intensity was on display in the hearing, where neighbors both in support and opposed testified for five hours. Proponents emphasized their desire to recognize the area’s history and to limit the types of development that can happen in the neighborhood. Opponents expressed concern about the added cost and hassle of making repairs and renovations in a historic district, as well as the impact it would have on housing affordability…
Bloomingdale becomes the second historic district designated over neighborhood opposition this year — a marked departure from past precedent in which broad community support was necessary for an application to proceed.
To be fair, the Review Board is bound by D.C. law to make designations based on historical significance and not consider economic effects. Regardless, the ability of a board to override the wishes of residents most affected by a policy is alarming.
For a more egregious example of BANANAism, read this piece from Bob Coomber, Advisory Neighborhood Commission member for the recently designated historic district Kingman Park, explaining how applicants for historic district status in his neighborhood solicited help from across the country.
[T]he applicants did little or no outreach to neighbors. Instead they solicited support from people they knew, many of whom do not even live in the neighborhood anymore. Comments of support came in from people who live in Maryland and even California.
You can read more about historic preservation districts in our reference library.