Some of America’s once-great cities are becoming hellholes.
In a surprising and must-read column for the New York Times, Fahrad Manjoo, a liberal, fingers the culprits: rich progressives who espouse policies that turn out to be destructive, but who are so rich that they can isolate themselves from some of the grimmer results of their policies.
Thanks to John Sexton of Hot Air for calling my attention to Manjoo’s column.
The urban centers in question are dominated by progressives. Manjoo describes what is happening to them:
The basic problem is the steady collapse of livability. Across my home state, traffic and transportation is a developing-world nightmare. Child care and education seem impossible for all but the wealthiest. The problems of affordable housing and homelessness have surpassed all superlatives — what was a crisis is now an emergency that feels like a dystopian showcase of American inequality.
Just look at San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi’s city. One of every 11,600 residents is a billionaire, and the annual household income necessary to buy a median-priced home now tops $320,000. Yet the streets there are a plague of garbage and needles and feces and every morning brings fresh horror stories from a “Black Mirror” hellscape: Homeless veterans are surviving on an economy of trash from billionaires’ mansions. Wealthy homeowners are crowdfunding a legal effort arguing that a proposed homeless shelter is an environmental hazard. A public-school teacher suffering from cancer is forced to pay for her own substitute.
It was another chapter in a dismal saga of Nimbyist urban mismanagement that is crushing American cities. Not-in-my-backyardism is a bipartisan sentiment, but because the largest American cities are populated and run by Democrats — many in states under complete Democratic control — this sort of nakedly exclusionary urban restrictionism is a particular shame of the left.
There is a lot of hypocirsy in this blue Nimbyist mindset:
Where progressives argue for openness and inclusion as a cudgel against President Trump, they abandon it on Nob Hill and in Beverly Hills. This explains the opposition to SB 50, which aimed to address the housing shortage in a very straightforward way: by building more housing. The bill would have erased single-family zoning in populous areas near transit locations. Areas zoned for homes housing a handful of people could have been redeveloped to include duplexes and apartment buildings that housed hundreds…
Reading opposition to SB 50 and other efforts at increasing density, I’m struck by an unsettling thought: What Republicans want to do with I.C.E. and border walls, wealthy progressive Democrats are doing with zoning and Nimbyism. Preserving “local character,” maintaining “local control,” keeping housing scarce and inaccessible — the goals of both sides are really the same: to keep people out.
“We’re saying we welcome immigration, we welcome refugees, we welcome outsiders — but you’ve got to have a $2 million entrance fee to live here, otherwise you can use this part of a sidewalk for a tent,” said Brian Hanlon, president of the pro-density group California Yimby. “That to me is not being very welcoming. It’s not being very neighborly.”
Ironically, Manjoo seems to think that the solution to this problem is . . . more power for progressive areas.
Noting that twice as many people live in Santa Clara County as the entire state of North Dakota, Manjoo laments that the “Senate and the Supreme Court are all constitutionally tilted in favor of places where no one lives.”
Places where no one lives?
Perhaps what Manjoo should be saying is, “Thank heaven for places like North Dakota,” where all the "no ones" are not adopting policies that turn cities into hellholes.
Still, kudos that he was willing to place blame where it belongs.