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Notes from the Field: The First National YIMBY Conference

This summer, Greenbelt Alliance’s Matt Vander Sluis traveled to Boulder, Colorado to present at the first national YIMBY (“Yes In My Back Yard”) conference.

The event, playfully dubbed YIMBYTown 2016, brought together people from across the country who are working to see their communities become more sustainable and affordable places to live by encouraging smart compact development.

It’s part of a national surge in interest in creating more walkable neighborhoods with plentiful housing opportunities that are well served by transit. YIMBY groups are popping up all over the map, from Alaska to Rhode Island. They come in all shapes and sizes, from new friends chatting over beers about what makes a great city to multi-sector coalitions campaigning to re-write their region’s land use rules.

The excitement was palpable at this inaugural national gathering. Participants swapped stories of exhilarating successes and heartbreaking defeats. They spoke of the thrill of finding kindred spirits on Twitter and Facebook and feeling crushed in the face of sharp criticism in online message boards. They debated policy approaches, educational techniques, and organizing strategies. They wrestled with how to advance social equity, diversity, and inclusion. And they dared to dream big, contemplating a national network with the power to reshape the country’s growth patterns.

We were proud to be there to provide our expertise and bring back great ideas to the Bay Area. It felt like the start of something powerful. We’re eager to see where the passion and energy on display in Boulder goes next. The stakes are high, with the fate of our communities hanging in the balance. If enough people can come together around a shared desire to help our cities and towns grow in smart ways, there’s no telling what we can accomplish.

So what about you? Are you willing to say “Yes” to making your backyard a better place to live?

Photo: Matt Vander Sluis meets up with former Greenbelt Alliance staffer Own Byrd and former Boulder mayor Will Toor.

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