Down and Celibate in Beverly Hills (NIMBY Edition)
While I was trolling with my YIMBY to Alt-Right Pipeline article, the responses further expose the dynamics among the Left-NIMBY axis. The article was taken on face value, as this segment of leftists fail to understand the irony and humor, and it was used to further prove absurd allegations that YIMBYs have major alt-right ties. One left-NIMBY account posted handpicked images of the YIMBYs who criticized San Francisco’s DSA NIMBY Supervisor, Dean Preston’s, opposition to developing a downtown parking lot, implying that YIMBYS are all privileged young White males in tech. Another leftist responded “that’s what’s wrong with yimbys like you my dude. Kindly get off my page. I have no tolerance for white suprematists,” and another Tweeted that “Why are you invoking The Great Replacement, a white nationalist trope? A more blended country is better. Fewer kids mean tighter labor markets in the short-term, more resources for climate refugees from the Global South in the long-term.”
It is also insane that these left-NIMBYS don’t make the distinction between Silicon Valley neoliberal oligarchs and the Alt-Right. In DSA fantasyland Ronald Regan, Donald Trump, San Francisco YIMBY activists, Scott Weiner, Peter Thiel, and the Charlottesville attendees are all under the same banner of capitalism and White Supremacy.
Besides the YIMBY movement being falsely smeared as Alt-Right, Beverly Hills’ former mayor and sitting councilman, John Mirisch, has gone even further, implying that those who want to reform zoning to allow for more housing are involuntarily celibate. In response to a YIMBY tweet about how single family zoning is bad for families, Mirisch Tweeted that “This also assumes that incel WIMBY’s will actually have children. And that any kids they may actually have won’t rebel against their own unhappy childhoods in density by eventually moving to neighborhoods of homes with gardens…”
Councilman John Mirisch is a Republican but is aligned with the NIMBY left. For instance he often retweets the leftwing NIMBY, anti-gentrification activist, Damien Goodman, and even appealed to woke rhetoric, stating that it is “Fairly ironic that it is the WIMBY’s themselves who are constantly invoking “racism” and “exclusion” in their efforts to fuel the further commodification of housing, abet gentrification, force density, and suppress homeownership, including increased BIPOC homeownership, innit?” Mirisch further echoes woke anti-gentrification propaganda, by endorsing the statement that “Yimbyism is ‘White Supremacy in My Back-Yard. Yimbys are colonizers.”
In an earlier tweet, Mirisch pushed back against implications that Beverly Hills is ultra-exclusive, stating that “Let’s also be clear on one thing: there is no exclusionary housing policy in BH, a majority-minority city, which has successfully overcome a legacy of restrictive covenants, with over 50% of residents renters and with robust rent stabilization policies (welcome to the club, CC).” Despite the high proportion of renters, Beverly Hill has a very high cost of living with an average home price of $3,884,058. Census data shows that Beverly Hills is 81.9% White and Mirisch’s implication that the City’s Jewish and Iranian residents are not-counted as White was perceived as trolling.
Mirisch has a history of trolling the YIMBY cause, such as comparing the right to single family zoning to the struggle for gay rights, comparing YIMBY politicians such as Scott Weiner, who happens to be Jewish, to the antisemitic villain of the Jewish holiday of Purim, and his new schtick is challenging the sexual virility of those who want to go vertical. Of Southern California’s many NIMBY local politicians, most our stodgy like Santa Barbara’s mayor elect Randy Rowse or Redondo Beach mayor Bill Brand. However, Mirisch who is from an old Hollywood family and began his career at 20th Century Fox, at least has put entertainment value into the zoning wars. The Twitter interactions between Mirisch and YIMBYs could be right out of the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry David gets caught up in Santa Monica’s local politics.
Being an LA native, I understand all the intricate nuances of local politics. While Santa Monica may epitomize a cliché of California limousine liberalism, Beverly Hills is a more moderate to conservative enclave in an ultra-liberal region. For instance the City is generally very conservative on the homeless issue and petty crime, and was Trump’s best electoral performance in the core of the LA metro. Councilman Mirisch has a reputation as a moderate republican, who is socially liberal, though not a fan of Trump, and fairly pro-business, except when it comes to new developments.
Despite catering to a constituency of older affluent NIMBYs, Mirisch has adopted the rhetoric of the populist left. For instance he has alleged that YIMBYism is neoliberalism, and that YIMBYs are pro- Blackrock, in that zoning reform primarily benefits developers and Wall Street, and leads to the financialization of the housing market. These speculators and corporate landholders’ impact on the housing market are a legitimate concern but are also used as an excuse by NIMBYs to not build, implying that there is no supply issue. Mirisch is also a sprawl apologist, tweeting that “Except that in most cases it’s growth itself that is bad for the climate, with “sprawl” serving as a convenient red herring.”
As far as Mirisch’s policies on housing, as mayor he established a “Rent Stabilization Ordinance and Rent Stabilization Commission” and “expanded on the city’s plan to develop additional senior supportive affordable housing and create a robust inclusionary housing program with linkage fees.” These housing policies of allowing for some rental protections and a modest number of affordable units, that are only allocated for senior citizens, sounds good on paper, but amounts to virtue signaling, if there is an inadequate amount of new construction.
Mirisch wrote an op-ed opposing a proposed high-rise next to the Beverly Hilton Hotel for being too tall, playing off populist rhetoric by dissing the Hilton family and implying that the project was “the Skyscraper of Greed.” Instead of virtue signaling with symbolic, faux populist gestures against greedy developers and non-existent gentrification, Beverly Hills should be honest that it will be a city for the very wealthy, for the foreseeable future. However, if the City were to massively increase its housing supply, including building a lot more luxury high-rises, it would ease the demand for middle income housing in LA’s Mid-City and West LA, and Culver City. For instance the One Beverly Hills Project, next to the Beverly Hilton, was approved by the city council with Mirisch as the one dissenting vote. Besides the project being an aesthetically dynamic, futuristic vertical development, that one could envision in Singapore, it will create a massive amount of new units. Also the developer has pledged to fund affordable housing projects.
As far as urbanism goes, Beverly Hills isn’t all that bad in comparison to the rest of the Westside. For instance Rodeo Drive is one of the few locations on the Westside that is truly walkable. An overall problem with LA, is that the wealthiest areas tend to be too suburban while the densest and most urban areas tend to be lower income. LA would benefit from having more neighborhoods that are both dense and high end, comparable to Midtown and Uptown Manhattan in New York City or Miami Beach and Brickell in Miami.
In 2015, as councilman, Mirisch was a proponent of regulations to prevent the McMansionization of Beverly Hills, stating that “If Beverly Hills becomes a city of McMansions, that would have negative results on property values. We would lose what makes the city special.” There has been controversy over these large homes, that have been dubbed “Persian Palaces” on LA’s Westside. The debate over whether to allow these McMansions brings up issues of historic preservation ordinances, how different demographic groups have different aesthetic and cultural preferences, and how communities adapt to California’s inevitable future of pan-enclavism. However, a major reason for these homes’ popularity is that the Westside’s Persian Jewish community tends to have larger families and more multigenerational households, than the Anglo and Ashkenazi Jewish residents, who tend to have smaller families and ageing populations. Beverly Hills is generally more family oriented than the rest of the Westside, due to the family oriented Persian community and having much higher scoring schools than affluent parts of neighboring LA.
Mirisch’s Tweet implying that YIMBYs are incel also pushes a false narrative that only single family zoning is desirable for families with children. While the recent census shows that Beverly Hills’ population declined by 4.1% from 2010-2020, YIMBY Darrell Owens’ interactive census map shows that Beverly Hills’ population decline was primarily in the area of single family estates, in the northern portion of the City, while there was stability or very modest decline in the southern portion of the City, which has more apartments and condos.
Obviously the middle class, working class, and poor are the most impacted by the extreme housing shortage but the census data shows that even the wealthy have been negatively impacted. Even if the LA Metro’s upper class are doing well economically, they are still suffering from population decline. The policy factors that matter for family formation are building enough adequately sized housing units, and access to good schools and decent recreational amenities such as parks. These factors are not exclusive to single family housing and there are a wider range of architectural models beyond just single family homes and small apartments, when it comes to what is good for families. In response to Mirisch’s Tweet, urban advocate Jordan Grimes, stated that “Earth to Beverly Hills: kids all over the world (including the U.S.) grow up in dense environments and have very happy childhoods. American-style suburban sprawl is the exception, not the norm, and it makes many people absolutely miserable!”
There is nothing wrong with living in single family housing, or even setting aside a portion of single family homes for historic preservation. What is insane, is the vast mass of LA Metro’s core that was zoned exclusively for single family housing, prior to the recently passed SB9, that allows homeowners to split their lots. We need a wide variety of models that can serve a wide range of demographics, class brackets, and family structures. Certainly different urban models can accommodate families, and denser developments can have quality communal spaces, such as pools, gardens, courtyards, and paseos. With SB9, Beverly Hills will have the opportunity to retrofit large properties with underutilized space, into some very desirable and aesthetically pleasing duplex and fourplex complexes. SB9 is a free market solution to redistribute wealth and ease income inequality.
The YIMBYs have been dubbed the sexual urbanists, with Bay Area YIMBY Darrel Owens commenting that “We need to get the housing crisis resolved and the rents down so that more women can live here. It’s getting ridiculous”, and urbanist Nolan Gray commented that “a land value tax would solve” the male virginity crisis.
More housing supply means access to more people, including prospective romantic partners. Even though New York City is hyper competitive for wealth and status, it has a reputation of being better for dating, than LA or the Bay Area, due to less skewed gender ratios and more pedestrian friendly public spaces. Zoning restrictions have an impact on gender imbalances in metros that have more male centric workforces, and a greater supply of housing would likely attract more young women to metros that have severe gender imbalances.
The incel issue is part of a broader crisis of social atomization, referenced in Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. LA is very socially atomized due to being geographically spread out, auto-centric, with people spending most of their time indoors, at home or work, or commuting in traffic. Urban policies that encourage pedestrian oriented development, and quality public spaces, are needed to increase social capital.
There is truth to the argument that YIMBYism is a subconscious motive to fulfil a biological imperative. We need to get really Freudian and embrace Skyscrapers as phallic symbols and accept that construction, social capital, sex, and reproduction are all under the same umbrella of virility and the creation of life. A recent LA Times poll shows that the YIMBY position is very popular among most in LA so just YIMBYmaxx brah.
From a branding and aesthetic perspective, perhaps YIMBY should embrace Leon-Krier inspired missing middle (2-5 story) design. Emphasizing the equity benefits of this type of medium density housing might also counter the (mistaken) perception that YIMBY is nothing but a front to build tech bro luxury towers that gentrify surrounding apartments.