CAVE People

CAVE People (an initialism for Citizens Against Virtually Everything) is a pejorative acronym for citizen activists who regularly oppose any changes within a community. The phenomenon is linked to the so-called NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomenon in which residents oppose a development as being inappropriate for their local area. (via sleevia)


Life in the gilded 21C

In Los Angeles, affluent residents of some of the most expensive neighborhoods in the country are restive as their space gets cramped by richer new neighbors—global oligarch class billionaires building houses as big as 90,000 square feet.  In one neighborhood they have been smart mobbing open houses and going after new construction with spray paint and bags of dog poop.  

NYT: In Los Angeles, a Nimby Battle Pits Millionaires vs. Billionaires

Curbed: The Biggest House in Los Angeles is Now Underway in Bel Air

Los Angeles Times: Neighborhood frustration grows as mansionization continues in L.A.

Los Angeles Building and Safety Commissioner: Permit to remove 39,805 cubic yards of earth for a single-family residence.

I hate people some days. Stigma, and how we're all guilty.

So, two things happened yesterday.

One, a very ill sex worker in the US had her entire world put on its head because WePay cancelled her medical bill fundraiser because of a no-porn policy, and our city councillor/mayoral enabler Doug Ford was shocked that mentally ill/developmentally disabled kids in a group home are allowed outdoors.

There is a commonality here - and it’s stigma. And we’re all guilty.

The sex worker - well, she got a rash from some new medication, and the medication information sheet said she should go to the doctor immediately if she got a rash because it could be life threatening. And the doctor thought it was, you know, just a rash she picked up from being a sex worker. And it wasn’t - it was the super dangerous drug reaction - and she fell into a coma with organ failure. Somehow she survived, but too sick to work and with a pile of bills - she did what a lot of people do, and crowdfunded. But her crowd is in the adult entertainment industry - and some well-meaning friends offered perks, like clips and site memberships, for matching donations. And boom. Cancelled. Because eeek. Sex.

The kids in the group home - there are three of them. They’re going to be tough cases. I have a friend with a heart of gold who is a foster parent to kids like this. They don’t have one issue, they’ve got lots. And the police have been by this group home - because sometimes these kids are a danger to themselves - and the suburban neighborhood is up in arms. Enter Doug Ford, saying when he approved the project he didn’t think the kids would go outside. Because eeeek. Crazy.

And then he went on to ask police if the kids were sex offenders.

(And now he’s saying if you think it’s fine, to give him your address and he’ll move the home next door to you. After the ridiculous party my next door neighbors threw last night, you can add me to the list, but I digress….)

Considering that his brother The Mayor is in rehab for being a drunk, has driven drunk, has been surveilled by the police, has been photographed with a crack pipe and has admitted to using crack… well, I’m wondering how many police calls there have been to Casa Del Ford and how those neighbors feel about their personal safety.

People are not disposable. Sex workers are not things you throw away like tissues when you’re done with them. Kids with developmental and mental disabilities shouldn’t be locked away on a compound in the middle of nowhere.

(My city, for the record, is fantastic at NIMBYism. We stuck a homeless shelter in the middle of the entertainment district so no neighborhood or business would freak out. Yeah. We put a bunch of vulnerable people with addiction issues in the middle of the booze and drug epicentre of Canada -and in a neighborhood that is one of the most violent in the GTA - so we didn’t have to live “next door” to them or see them in daylight. Our comfort won over their health and their safety. And that particular location decision was made by one Olivia Chow, when she was a city councillor, and carried through by Adam Vaughan. So your political leanings and hating The Fords won’t get you out of jail on this one.)

What is wrong with us? We like to think we’ve come so far, but there we are, leaving a fallen woman to suffer for her sins and wanting crazy kids locked up somewhere out of sight so that we don’t have to deal with them. It’s a Victorian nightmare.

You can donate to Erin Alexander here…. and to Griffin House here. 

Happy update: GiveForward, the WePay site that suspended Erin’s fundraiser has donated the total raised before they cancelled the campaign. Maybe this will change how they do business.


The Los Angeles-Santa Ana-Long Beach Metro Area is now, by one measure, the most expensive big-city region in the country in which to buy a home; the average home price is nine times the average income. The vacancy rate for apartments in Los Angeles County, with 10 million people the nation’s largest, is now 3.3 percent — lower than in New York City. The tightest of these concentric circles, the City of Los Angeles, is about to hit its development limit. According to planner Greg Morrow, the city is now zoned to house at most 4.2 million people. The current population is 3.9 million.

Los Angeles used to be the promised land for America’s homeowners. Now it’s tearing at the seams

Are Wind Turbines Safe and Reliable?

NIMBYs have one more argument against wind turbines: reliability. According to this scary-ass article by Spiegel, “thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents hav(e) been reported in recent years…”.  Spiegel, by the way, was once deemed by Columbia U as employing the most fact checkers of any news zine, so I don’t have much reason to think this is a hit piece.

We’ve all heard stories about NIMBY neighbors and their skittishness towards wind turbines. They kill birds, cause too much noise, ruin views, and they even attract alien attacks (an obvious nuisance). But, if Spiegel is correct, that new turbines are demonstrably less reliable than previously thought, how can cities guarantee safety?

With people already nervous about the impacts on property values, a lingering folk story about “the turbine the blew up papa’s barn” certainly doesn’t help the industry. How can fears be allayed?

The thought of exploding turbines will surely slow the advances from aggressive climate change and alt-energy advocates. While they push for turbines as safer alternatives to coal, rebuttals are getting stronger. This is one rebuttal that advocates will have serious trouble with.

Source: Spiegel

The Dangers of Wind Power

By Simone Kaiser and Michael Fröhlingsdorf

Wind turbines continue to multiply the world over. But as they grow bigger and bigger, the number of dangerous accidents is climbing. How safe is wind energy?

It came without warning. A sudden gust of wind ripped the tip off of the rotor blade with a loud bang. The heavy, 10-meter (32 foot) fragment spun through the air, and crashed into a field some 200 meters away.

The wind turbine, which is 100 meters (328 feet) tall, broke apart in early November 2006 in the region of Oldenburg in northern Germany – and the consequences of the event are only now becoming apparent. Startled by the accident, the local building authority ordered the examination of six other wind turbines of the same model.

The results, which finally came in this summer, alarmed District Administrator Frank Eger. He immediately alerted the state government of Lower Saxony, writing that he had shut down four turbines due to safety concerns. It was already the second incident in his district, he wrote, adding that turbines of this type could pose a threat across the country. The expert evaluation had discovered possible manufacturing defects and irregularities.

Mishaps, Breakdowns and Accidents

After the industry’s recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting.

Source: Spiegel

The Architect’s Newspaper:


Architect and urban designer, Gerhard W. Mayer, calls for a revolution in California’s car country.

Angelenos, we must build a different city—or drive ourselves broke…

According to the American Automobile Association, it costs, on average, approximately $8,500 per year to own and operate a car. An infographic from the National Building Museum finds that of that $8,500, less than $1,500 stays local. For every car on the road in LA, more than $7,000 per year goes elsewhere—much to international oil companies and car manufacturers.

Let’s do the math. In 2009, LA County had 6.7 million registered vehicles. 6.7 million times $7,000 not spent locally equals approximately $47 billion! This is the amount we are taking out of our local economy per year, every year, because we drive.

At the sunset of Mayor Villaraigosa’s administration we rightfully celebrate our city’s amazing recent accomplishments and return to public transit. However, we are only halfway done. The next steps won’t be easy, nor are they obvious. Yes, we need to continue to build new transit infrastructure, but we must also build a different city around the shiny new transit network that can maximize its benefits.

Decades of development and sprawl are rightfully blamed for the degradation of our quality of life, and for our near unbearable congestion. This has turned many Angelenos against development and into NIMBY activists ready to object anytime to anything. But contrary to NIMBY creed, we cannot do nothing. The path we are on is really an economic fiasco in waiting.”


Just say “No!” to topless mud wrestling. Funniest front page I’ve seen for ages courtesy of the (Saffron) Walden Local. #NIMBY!

k-til asked:

Hello! I glanced your CV and saw you have a Masters in Urban and Regional planning. I have just been accepted to University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and VCU to pursue a masters in planning. I was wondering your opinion on any of those programs? Currently I'm waiting to see what funding I can get before making a decision.

Hey k-til,

Congrats. But are you sure you want advice from grumpy ol’ me??

Which school has the best job placement for your interests? Which professors have real world experience? Which programs have projects in real cities? Which school is located in the most demographically diverse region?

Answer those, and you’ve got your answer…

From my perspective, it’s not the school, it’s where you want to be when you finish. If you’re a planner at heart, then plan your outcome. Some other tips for planning school:

Develop relationships in the real world with city planners while you’re in school. Who’s your urban planning idol? Find a mentor and copy them.

Present at the APA and regional conferences (you must do this). Try to land a spot on a planning, conservation, housing, or some other board (urban planners spend a lot of time on boards. Get a leg up).

Dress well (get over it).

Take and pay attention to classes in art history, advanced writing, and philosophy. These will prove invaluable throughout your life.

Learn the basics of GIS, but overall avoid this software like the plague. If you want to be a city planner, just contract GIS specialists for this type of work - they’re a dime a dozen (a terrible truth). GIS is a vortex of doom. Avoid the dooms.

And my gods learn how to print. Buy a cheap color laser printer. I bought an HP 2600n in 2008 for $150 and have replaced the black ink once(!). Laser printers are reliable workhorses. They never break. Never. And ink lasts forever. School printers are vortexes of expensive, embarrassing, timesucks of doom. You are a professional, buy a damn professional printer. (This made me curious. I just checked how many pages I’ve printed on my trusty HP - 2541 total, 1707 color. It has never, ever let me down.). If you want fancy prints, skip the extra beers and spend the money at your local printshop.

Your cohort is your enemy come last semester. Why? B/c they will all be applying for the same exact jobs. Multiply that by all the other schools then add all the unemployed planners out there and you’ll see landing a job is ruthless business. Your peers are nice - spend time with them, but in the end they’re in your way.

I chose UMass b/c the advisers and profs focused on developing practical, pragmatic skills. I landed solid assistantships while there, and turned some of them into consulting gigs on the side.

I developed relationships with local government officials. I went to planning board, zoning appeals, conservation, housing, and city budget meetings to learn the ropes and shake hands and ask questions. I even went to court to sit in on land disputes. This put classroom learning into context For example, you will hear a lot about NIMBYism in the classroom, and profs tend to dismiss and even laugh at their arguments. Don’t do that. NIMBYs must be taken seriously. If you plan on staying in one community for a while, they you’ll be working with the same NIMBYS for years and years! Befriend them. Learn this early by witnessing a NIMBY argue in front of a planning board or dispute a permit at city council. 

Check out my reader mail tag for other grouchy student advice.

Keep in touch and let me know how it goes!