Monday's post on sister blog Vibrant Bay Area addressed the politics of affordable housing, especially in Marin. Author Dave Alden's thesis, in short, was that the wealthy are happy to welcome those of lower incomes into their neighborhood as long as they only work there. To actually allow them to live there raises the heckles of the wealthy whether it's in Marin, or Portland, or LA. Pundits and activists in Marin have struggled to come up with reasons why that aren't inherently offensive. Development liberals often blame their opponents of racism or classism. While there may be some strains of this in the debate (a recent comment about how Strawberry "already looks like the UN" implied, perhaps inadvertently, that more affordable housing would mean more minorities, for example), prejudice is too simplistic to be an adequate explanation for Marin's opposition. Development conservatives claim they are the vanguard against rapacious developers and out-of-touch bureaucrats, who will end up destroying Marin's small-town character in pursuit of profit, social experimentation, or political power. This, too, is overly simplistic, again painting opponents as devils, though with a different set of horns.
Marin's debate has suffered from this mutual vilification. Our shields and swords are out when we should be learning and listening. It's tough, even for me, to swallow my pride and listen to those who have called me a utopian fascist (right) or naive (left). But I need to listen if I'm going to fulfill the role I set out to do in this blog: to educate people on best practices found elsewhere and advocate for their implementation. There is always common ground, provided I am more interested in finding it than kicking my opponent in the teeth.
Alden's point, in this light, is that wealthy areas don't know how to have this debate and never have. He's worth reading.