Recent YIMBY

On June 29, 2017 · Comments Off on Recent YIMBY

I posted an article called Recent NIMBY just before I left on my Heartland trip. It dealt with the "Not in My Back Yard" phenomenon. People often agreed with development until it came too close to their homes. They didn’t want anything that might negatively affect the value of their properties. Sometimes their arguments seemed justifiable and other times they seemed frivolous. The common thread involved organized, orchestrated efforts to keep something away that might change the character or value of their neighborhood.

The article got a comment suggesting that I should take a look at the opposite phenomenon. I’d heard of it although I didn’t know much about it. The movement took its inspiration from NIMBY with a twist. It went by YIMBY, for "Yes in my Back Yard." YIMBY expressed a frustration with the consequences of NIMBY behavior particularly as it related to housing. Adherents argued that locking-out development came with a social cost. It created acute housing shortages where only the wealthiest people could afford decent places to live. Blue collar workers, young professionals and public servants found few places where they could live while NIMBY forces blocked new housing. Naturally the movement gained the most traction in places like New York City, the Bay Area, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto; all places with income disparities and rapid gentrification.

I repeated the same exercise I used in the earlier article. This time, however, I searched for recent news articles mentioning YIMBY.


New York City


IMG_1831.JPG
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. Photo by pelcinary on Flickr (cc)

New York City served as the epicenter for the movement. Much of the recent press coverage I found came from a single source, the New York YIMBY website. I could have picked any of a hundred or more contemporary instances so I went with the most recent example from the site.

The city’s Brooklyn borough included a neighborhood called Greenpoint. It formed the northernmost corner of Brooklyn, bordering the East River just across from Manhattan. Greenpoint long served as a working class neighborhood with a large population of Polish immigrants. For decades they worked on the docks at the Port of New York, in local factories, or in mom-and-pop shops serving their immigrant community. However, and in the last decade in particular, Greenpoint began to change. Its proximity to Manhattan attracted a wealthier class of residents who started to displace the original inhabitants.

One of the properties tracked by New York YIMBY recently was 13 Greenpoint Avenue/26 Kent Street, Greenpoint. It would replace an old industrial site and warehouses with an 11-story mixed-use structure. This would provide another 77 housing units to an area desperate for more (map).


Toronto


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The Annex. Photo by Andrzej Wrotek on Flickr (cc)

The Annex area (map) of Toronto, Canada began as a streetcar suburb in the late Nineteenth Century. Eventually Toronto annexed the area into the city, and thus provided a name. Residents of The Annex tended to be better off financially than average, although it also included student areas near the University of Toronto. The Annex started to gentrify in recent years, becoming one of the most desirable communities in the city.

The Toronto Star recounted YIMBY efforts in The Annex recently. It cited "a generation increasingly frustrated by the rising cost of housing that shuts young professionals, less affluent residents and newcomers out of the city’s well-serviced, transit-connected neighbourhoods." They hoped to see denser development, subdivision of large houses into multiple apartments, and family-sized condos. These were things their NIMBY counterparts generally opposed. The story was positioned very much as a generational clash, with Millennials living in cramped apartments with sky-high rents while their Baby Boomer parents "rattling around in near-empty homes."

The clash continues.


Nashville


TTV-stich - San Judas Flea Market
San Judas Flea Market – Nolensville Pike. Photo by David Antis on Flickr (cc)

I wouldn’t have thought of Nashville, Tennessee as a place with a YIMBY movement. Nonetheless it grappled with housing issues and a lot of recent press attention focused there. Even the mayor got involved.

"We need YIMBY-ism in Nashville, and we need it now," [Mayor] Barry said at her State of Metro address… "It means yes, I want to live in a mixed-income neighborhood… Nashville desperately needs something we can rally behind that says we are not going to let our city be totally gentrified," she says."

The problem could be seen in several areas of Nashville including Nolensville Pike (map). Immigrants flocked to this affordable neighborhood as their initial foothold in the United States. They built businesses along the strip as they assimilated and pursued their dreams. However, as the fortunes of greater Nashville began to improve, rents started rising along Nolensville Pike. While not quite as stark or as urban as some of the other cities with a growing YIMBY presence, the conditions here followed a familiar pattern.

I admitted feeling a sense of déjà vu as I read these articles too. It seemed similar to what I’d seen in my close-in neighborhood just outside of Washington, DC. By pure luck, I found myself on the fortunate side of that equation, in a home I couldn’t possibly afford if I wanted to buy it today. However I had a lot of sympathy for those not so fortunate. I guess I’ve always been more of a YIMBY.

Select City Highpoints

On May 11, 2017 · 7 Comments

I’m not much of a highpointer, and a begrudging one at best, although I maintain a kinship with those who follow this pursuit. I like the concept of highpointing more than the actual climbing of summits. That’s why I find myself occasionally visiting sites like peakbagger.com and examining things like its Peak Lists. I admit, I lifted many of the ideas for today’s article from its Selected World City High Points, and I’d do it again. City highpoints never got much attention. They fell way down on the pecking order behind national, state and county highpoints. I decided to give a few city highpoints the attention they deserved. I ordered my list from lame to grand.

Unnamed


City of Toronto Highpoint
Toronto, Ontario Highpoint
via Google Maps 3D, 2017

Toronto didn’t appear on that peakbagger list. Nonetheless I felt I should take a look anyway. The Canadian city with its largest population certainly deserved some attention. A great city in a great nation undoubtedly marked its highest elevation with a spectacular monument. Well, no, not really. Toronto’s maximum elevation of 212 meters (696 feet) barely rose above the surrounding terrain. Trip reports described an underwhelming experience, essentially walking onto a field (map) directly across the road from York University. I did notice that a regular Twelve Mile Circle reader posted one of the trip reports so that was a nice bonus.

The generally flat field covered a large reservoir of underground oil tanks. It seemed odd, as I considered it, that sports fields would be built atop oil tanks, although I supposed it must have been safe or they wouldn’t have done it. The fields served as home base for the Toronto Azzurri Soccer Club, with the specific highpoint found on what they called the West Fields. I can never remember where people call the sport Soccer and where they call it Football. Apparently Canada went with the soccer variation, or at least one club in Toronto did. I’m sure the Canadian 12MC audience will correct me if I’m wrong.

I doubted that any kids kicking soccer balls across a field atop oil tanks appreciated their exalted location upon Toronto’s summit.


Chancery Lane at High Holborn


City (High Holborn, 22m)
City (High Holborn, 22m) Junction with Chancery Lane. Photo by diamond geezer on Flickr (cc)

Peakbagger suggested a highpoint for London, England although I disagreed. It focused on Greater London and I’ll get to that in a moment. I wanted the actual City of London, a very tiny area of barely more than a square mile. The possibility of an exciting highpoint within such a small urban footprint seemed remote. It met my paltry expectations and nothing more. The actual spot registered maybe a notch better than Toronto only because it fell within a fairly busy, seemingly dynamic area. The highpoint could be discerned on the eastern side of Chancery Lane near its junction with High Holborn (map). It registered a measly elevation of 22 m (72 ft).

People who "climbed" to the summit recorded some interesting trip reports. One person said, "I’d walked across this pavement summit several times whilst working in London, without realising it was a high point." Another offered a recommendation to future climbers, "Suggest you do this one from Chancery Lane tube station, then at least you walk slightly uphill to it." Everyone seemed rather unimpressed.

Westerham Heights appeared as the highpoint on the Peakbagger list (map), at 245 metres (804 ft). However, that applied to Greater London, comprised of all 32 London boroughs plus the City of London. It wasn’t much more spectacular either, at 245 m (804 ft), "A rather unpleasant high point opposite Westerham Heights Farm; on a blind bend, the verge of a fast dangerous road, the A233."


Mount Lukens


Mount Lukens, view from Beaudry Loop
Mount Lukens, view from Beaudry Loop. Photo by Vahe Martirosyan on Flickr (cc)

A similar situation appeared in Los Angeles, California although the highpoint was much more prominent. I didn’t want the Los Angeles county highpoint, Mount San Antonio (aka Mount Baldy) at an impressive 3,068 m (10,064 ft). I wanted the city highpoint. The summit of Mount Lukens (map) reached 1,547 m (5,074 feet). While it didn’t reach quite the same stature as Mount Baldy, it still hit a pretty good altitude. At least it was a real mountain, too. It sounded amazing.

Mount Lukens stands majestically above the Crescenta Valley as the western most peak of the San Gabriel Mountains front range… It’s western flank drops over 3,000 feet affording terrific views of the San Fernando Valley to the southwest and the Verdugo Mountains and the Los Angeles Basin to the south. On exceptional days both the south and west facing beaches can be seen.

That made Los Angeles the city with the highest elevation of the 50 largest cities in the United States.


Montmartre


Montmartre
Montmartre. Photo by heroesbed on Flickr (cc)

However, Montmartre, the highest point of elevation in Paris, France, impressed me the most (map). A highpoint should look like this. It actually fell outside of the city limits until 1860 when it was annexed to become part of the 18th arrondissement. While the summit climbed only 130 m (430 ft), French authorities took full advantage of the situation. What does one do with such a prominent peak? Stick a basilica atop it and make it look even taller! The Basilica of Sacré-Cœur, dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus, underwent construction on Montmartre between 1875 and 1914. What a lovely setting. No wonder artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet spent time on Montmartre.

Triangle

On November 17, 2016 · 3 Comments

With a name like Triangle, I expected some actual triangles. I pondered that possibility as I sat on Interstate 95 during heavy weekend traffic, returning from an overnight trip to Richmond. I found plenty of time to consider that notion too as I traveled through Triangle on the interminably slow route on a notoriously congested highway.


National Museum of the Marine Corps
National Museum of the Marine Corps. My own photo.

In truth, I already knew about Triangle although I never thought about its name before. It stood just beyond the gates of Marine Corps Base Quantico. The Marines built a wonderful museum bordering Triangle that I visited a couple of years ago. I guessed Triangle must have been roughly triangular. That seemed to be the case when I checked later (map). No online source confirmed it definitively, though. The source of this triangle remained a mystery.


Research Triangle Park, North Carolina



That didn’t keep me from finding other triangles. A famous one sat just one state farther south at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The triangle in question referenced three local cities anchored by three major universities: Raleigh (North Carolina State University), Durham (Duke University) and Chapel Hill (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The state government, local governments, the universities and private interests banded together in the 1950’s to create a research-friendly area managed by a non-profit organization. Their foresight worked spectacularly.

Today, we share our home with more than 200 companies and over 50,000 people with expertise in fields such as micro-electronics, telecommunications, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and environmental sciences. Industries invest more than $296 million in R&D at the region’s universities each year – double the average R&D investment for innovation clusters elsewhere in the nation.

Identifying triangles only got more difficult from there.


Junction Triangle, Ontario, Canada


Junction Triangle map
Junction Triangle map on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

Canada offered a recent example with Junction Triangle. It didn’t have much of a name nor much of a presence during most of its history, an isolated parcel on the western side of Toronto. Industry clustered there, and then so did immigrants that worked in the factories through much of the 20th Century. They came from places like Italy and Poland, and later from Portugal. The Portuguese came in such great abundance that soon they dominated the area. Factories declined precipitously and so did the neighbourhood as the century came to an end. However, conditions changed once again in recent years as young professionals began to covet its inexpensive, conveniently-located housing. The neighbourhood needed a fancy new name to match its changing fortune. A contest in 2010 resulted in hundreds of suggestions. The name Junction Triangle (map) won after officials tallied the votes.

Why Junction Triangle? Railroads hemmed the neighbourhood in on three well-defined sides. They formed a fairly decent approximation of a triangle.


Triangle, Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Sugar Cane Train. Photo by Ulrika on Flickr (cc)

Teasing out the triangle in Triangle, Zimbabwe took a great deal more effort (map). Nothing of roughly triangular shape could be discerned anywhere on the nearby landscape. The town existed solely to service a collocated sugar refinery operated by an agricultural conglomerate, Tongaat Hulett Sugar. It processed up to sixty thousand tonnes of white sugar per year along with related products such as molasses and fuel-grade alcohol. Sugar cane was grown there since the 1930’s on a large property called the Triangle Plantation. Logically, the name of the town derived from the name of the plantation.

I discovered the source of the plantation’s name from Murray MacDougall and the Story of Triangle. Murray MacDougall was a fixture in the area and was primarily responsible for developing the sugar industry there.

They named the property Triangle after the registered cattle brand which Mac purchased from a fellow farmer named Van Niekerk, as the poor chap was going out of business and had a very simple brand which almost defied alteration in a period when rustling and brand-changing was not uncommon. For a few pounds Mac purchased both the registered brand itself, in the shape of a simple triangle, and the branding irons to go with it.

MacDougall followed a number of agricultural pursuits including ranching before striking success with sugar. He used the name of the brand that he purchased for his property and retained the name as his enterprise grew.

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