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“NIMBY” Moniker Has Santa Monica Groups Up in Arms

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 28, 2013 -- Two Santa Monica community groups are calling for the dismissal of a City traffic consultant who wrote that NIMBYs had dominated Santa Monica politics for decades.

The North of Montana Association (NOMA) and the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) -- two groups that have fought what they perceive as unbridled development in the beachside city -- called for the dismissal of Nelson/Nygaard Consultant Jeff Tumlin after discovering the following sentence in his online resume.

“For decades, Santa Monica politics had been dominated by NIMBYs who used traffic fear as their primary tool for stopping development,” Tumlin wrote.

“The city’s award-winning 2011 Land Use and Circulation Element update, however, commits to no net increase in vehicle trips, by locating all future growth near transit, establishing new neighborhood retail centers, imposing a multimodal transportation impact fee, and enacting more robust Transportation Demand Management requirements,” his statement continues.

On Wednesday, the two groups began circulating a letter addressed to the City Council that calls for the termination of Tumlin's contract.

“Residents all over our city are calling for the dismissal of planning consultant Jeffrey Tumlin, who... has shown himself to be incapable of providing an objective analysis of our traffic and parking problems,” the letter reads

“While we are concerned by Mr. Tumlin's proposal to decrease the amount of parking required by new developments in our city-- this in spite of residents asking for MORE parking not less-- we are even more troubled by Mr. Tumlin's contemptuous attitude toward Santa Monicans,” the letter reads.

David Martin, Santa Monica's director of planning, told The Lookout Wednesday that Tumlin’s comments were “unfortunate” but added that the City has “full confidence” in the Nylson/Nygaard firm.

“We vigorously oppose any statement of our community being characterized as NIMBYs,” Martin said. “Mr. Tumlin alone is answerable for the unfortunate comments on the firm’s website.”

Tumlin could not be reached for comment.

Tumlin recently ruffled feathers when he, along with City staff, presented a plan to the Planning Commission that calls for a reduction of parking as a means of reducing traffic.

“While an adequate supply of parking is critical to Santa Monica’s economy and quality of life, too much parking can be as bad as too little,” Nelson/Nygaard's report said.

The argument is that building more parking--especially since certain parts of town already have more parking than is currently being used--only encourages people to drive more than necessary.

City officials said the City’s plan to combine different parking strategies has not been fully grasped.

“We think that the concept of shared parking has not been fully understood in the community and has worked in a number of areas of town and in other cities, but may require more refinement,” Martin said.

The two community groups circulating the letter have long called for scaling down development. SMCLC was the driving force behind Proposition T, a 2008 ballot measure that would have limited the amount of most commercial development in Santa Monica to 75,000 square feet a year.

NOMA members, along with SMCLC, have voiced their opposition to large developments such as the Mirarmar Redevelopment project and the Hines project at the Papermate site in the City's former industrial Bergamot area.

Though it may be true that there are many residents who are adamantly opposed to large developments in their back yards, the groups think the label NIMBY goes too far, saying that it “demonizes” residents opposed to development.

The letter to the Council claims that when Tumlin uses the word NIMBY, it “betrays his belief that all development is good.”

The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1980 Christian Science Monitor article about hazard waste dumping as the first use of the NIMBY acronym.

But over the years, NIMBY has attained an even broader meaning, often as a pejorative term, describing people who are reflexively opposed to development of any sort near their homes for a wide variety of reasons.

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