Subversion 025. Devon Zuegel on on NIMBYism, YIMBYism, and the Life of Great Cities

Devon Zuegel joins Subversion to discuss what makes cities great. She sits down live with Michael and digs into why some cities flourish and others fail to grow to their full potential.

Covered in this episode:

  • The “high dimensionality” of cities. E.g., Paris is beautiful but has a trade off by being a fragmented labor market.
  • The life cycle of cities.
  • Who gets to decide how cities evolve? The people who live there or the people who want to live there?
  • The Seen vs. the Unseen in cities.
  • “Why does San Francisco LOOK the way it does?”
  • Why San Francisco has the highest rents in the US but has empty lots downtown.
  • The cultural influence on building codes.
  • The trade-offs between standard and living and density.
  • An insidious form of behavior control inside Depression-era mortgage policy.
  • The Game Theory of NIMBYism
  • What YIMBYs don’t understand.
  • What NIMBYs don’t understand.
  • The missing framework you can use to analyze the problem of NIMBYism.
  • Individualists vs. localists vs. regionalists
  • Why Urban Planning is the modern equivalent of Medieval bloodletting.

Select quotations:

“Cities are a very high dimensional space.”
“You have to find a balance between democracy — giving people a voice — and the emergent effects of democracy. [Those effects] are crazy.”

Books recommended:

  • Seeing Like a State, James C Scott
  • Order Without Design, Alan Bertaud
  • The Power Broker, Robert Caro
  • Season of the Witch, David Talbot
  • The History of Future Cities, Daniel Brook
  • The books of Jan Morris