The YIMBY movement is not just a San Francisco thing, and this weekend in Oakland, self-described YIMBYs are gathering in Oakland for the second annual YIMBYtown conference, sharing ideas about how to get cities to build more and denser housing.
YIMBY (Yes in my backyard) became a thing here in the last few years, most notably with figures like 2015 mayoral candidate Amy Farah Weiss and the pro-development Bay Area Renters Federation (BARF), whose outspoken leader Sonja Trauss recently announced her candidacy for District 6 Supervisor in 2018. Their position is essentially to try to counter arguments against housing development, push for higher height limits, and run a counter-offense to the NIMBYism that some see as having hindered development and consequently driven SF rents to skyrocket over the last two decades. Trauss herself will be the closing speaker at YIMBYtown on Sunday, and former supervisor now state senator Scott Wiener will be addressing the conference as well.
The New York Times reports that about 200 people are expected to attend YIMBYtown, which kicked off Thursday night with a social mixer and gets rolling today with breakout sessions titled "What’s the matter with San Francisco? Redistribution and Support for Housing Growth" and "Open Neighborhoods: How YIMBY land-use policy can connect with anti-segregation policy."
Former Boulder, Colorado mayor Will Toor, whose city sponsored the first YIMBYtown conference last year, tells the Times in a statement, "It is great to see a second national Yimby conference bringing together activists from this burgeoning movement. It is clearer than ever that if we really care about solving big national issues like inequality and climate change, tackling the lack of housing in thriving urban areas, caused largely by local zoning restrictions, is key."
SF neighborhood groups and many activists on the left have come to hate Trauss for her political position, which they would describe as "more housing at all costs." And as anyone who's been around the city for any length of time knows, there is a lot of tension over gentrification, shadows being cast by tall buildings, and out-of-scale or simply dense development taking over previously less dense neighborhoods.
But in terms of the supply-and-demand argument, the YIMBYs would say that the relative glut of new market-rate housing that's been completed in the last few years, albeit mostly quite expensive, has had the effect of stabilizing and in some cases pushing rents slightly down though YIMBY foes, be they NIMBY or otherwise, are going to say that we should be building affordable housing only, because SF has enough luxury housing for the tech elite.
And so it goes.