September 12, 2019 | NIMBY
NIMBYs have their role in city living. In Toronto, they often see themselves as the guardians of the galaxy. And by “galaxy,” I mean “neighbourhood”. They keep development in check, sometimes saving a given neighbourhood from a reckless builder. They work with their neighbours to reduce the speed of automobiles through the streets in their neighbourhood. They pass out “slow down for the children” signs on careless driving streets.
They’re not all bad. But they’re not all good either. In case you need a reminder, NIMBY stands for Not In My BackYard. A NIMBY is generally an individual or a group that does not not want their neighbourhood to change. In this day and age, NIMBYism tends to be much more common among the folks who have lived in a neighbourhood for a long time. They are often pitted against Millennials who push for, and need, better housing options. NIMBYs are generally characterized as cranks who says no to everything. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is their moto.
And I have witnessed over and over again, NIMBYs on a mission, shutting things down, complaining about any new development, dog parks, even kid’s parks or anything that causes noise or interferes with their daily habits. And to be fair, individuals who step up to resident associations to help improve their community are important and impressive. To be involved with your community does not make you a NIMBY. In fact, many resident associations are involved with helping guide their neighbourhoods to better futures. So let’s look at three ways NIMBYs can ditch their cranky ways, and work with growth, while still staying true to keeping their neighbourhoods great places to live.
ENCOURAGE THE RIGHT KINDS OF DEVELOPMENT
We live in a city that is growing and has great housing needs. It is not realistic to think that your neighbourhood should be off limits to all development. You can’t be angry and say not to everything. The key is keep builders/developers accountable, and make sure any new development is suitable for your neighbourhood. Yes, more density may bring more traffic, but it will also improve any local businesses by bringing in more customers. It may also bring in brand new businesses. I don’t think you have to agree to an 80 storey condo beside your house, but lowrise and midrise housing for low density neighbourhoods is not unreasonable. With the majority of Toronto’s land in the Yellow Belt where you have low density housing, we will need more options on how to use this land better to allow for more housing. We should be pressuring the city to make these areas ready for development.
MAKE STUFF HAPPEN
I’ve been to resident association meeting where everyone just sat around and complained for the entire time together. They complained about noise of construction. They complained about cars going too fast through the neighbourhood. They complained about traffic. I’m not saying there is no place in a residents’ meeting to vent and address issues around traffic and noise, but leave some space for planning events. Neighbourhoods do much better when people are working toward something. In the Junction, I know there has been a lot of work around turning a old police station into a community centre. It’s a great idea! And it helps to improve the community for everyone – seniors, kids, Torontonians learning English. But there’s other great things community groups to make a neighbourhood better. Many have brought in a farmer’s market, created an event (art, food, no reason) to shut down the street and bring out the residents to socialize.
TRANSIT THROUGH YOUR HOOD
I drive all the time. I find it necessary for my job. I won’t lie: Driving and parking has become more difficult over the years here in Toronto. But everyone can’t drive in a city this big. In order for Toronto to work, we do need to support better transit, and we’re way behind. It’s promising to know that there are new projects in the works like the Eglinton Crosstown or the Relief (Ontario) Line, but we need more. So, instead of trying to stop the new transit line from going through your neighbourhood, make the transit folk do it right. They can get it wrong sometimes, even with community pressure – Think the elevated train tracks coming to the Junction Triangle – but with future transit lines on the way, it’s better to work toward a solution to get the transit that best suits the neighbourhood than to complain it shouldn’t come at all.
Toronto is going to change whether you like it or not. So, saying no to everything is not going to make for a better future. Saying yes is more likely to lead to a positive change for everyone. Sure, there will be times when you need to be the crank and pressure a given government organization to get rid of or re-imagine some of their bad ideas. There will be more be more traffic and less privacy, but denser neighbourhoods have more activity and local businesses thrive. There are also more taxpayers to help fund the infrastructure that will need updating in the years to come. So, not bad on your wallet!