24 Sep

Nimby, Notes and Bananas

Most of us have heard the term Nimby – not in my back yard. And most of us would like to believe we are more open-minded and welcoming than it suggests, even though we often live in towns with restrictive zoning rules. What struck me as ironic is the realization that many of us seek out zoning-free towns when we travel.

This occurred to me as I was working on a painting in my Portugal series (series being loosely defined as more than two paintings, since I bore easily.) This image of Lisbon, looking uphill towards the fort and the Alfama, is the fourth painting to come from our April trip. Whether built under Roman aqueducts like Evora, in the winding alleys of ancient hilltop towns like Obidos, or in cosmopolitan Porto and Lisbon, white-washed and tiled buildings are usually piled on top of each other. Retail on the bottom floor and housing above is common. I’ve seen the same throughout Europe and South America.

When traveling, we find this to be quaint, inviting and photo worthy. Ironically, this isn’t always true at home. Familiar with Nimby, I hadn’t heard of its companion terms for people who are against change, Notes (Not Over There, Either) and Bananas (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.) While understanding that some uses are incompatible with pedestrian and residential safety – factories and warehouses, perhaps – it seems that multifamily housing is often what people find objectionable.

This is a mystery to me. Assuming (big if) that it’s attractive and suitable in scale, multiple use buildings and multifamily residences add vibrancy and safety to a community with more eyes and more feet. They also cut back on pollution, making an area more walkable and decreasing large expanses of lawns (with their accompanying chemicals.) Mixed use also supports small businesses and the local economy. Who wouldn’t love to walk to a bakery, cheese shop, or cafe? 


  1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Amy! A planned community can certainly accomplish this if done well. My preference is more organic growth and diversity, but anything walkable is generally an improvement.

  2. I love that you pointed this out. In fact, it is in fact the bedrock of the planned community concept, which was carefully designed to be the best not only for society but also for happy living.

  3. They do indeed, Mark. I’m simply hoping people will give that a little more thought, rather than a knee-jerk reaction, if they consider what they enjoy elsewhere.

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