Two weeks ago, former first lady Nancy Reagan withdrew her support from a proposed drug treatment and research center in Los Angeles because of community opposition. Residents of the Lake View Terrace neighborhood had fought the project for more than a year, saying it would damage their property values and attract more crime and drugs to their streets. Frustrated planners and developers call this new kind of citizen power NIMBY, for Not In My Back Yard, and some think it has gone too far. Is citizen power truly hampering progress, or is it just adding a healthy dose of caution to the process of development?
Whether it's a halfway house or a nuclear power plant, a landfill or a new highway, citizens are rising up to halt development project?. Although they may say their objections are fiscal or environmental, and many times they are, all too often their real concern is more personal: fear of falling property values.
The record of what has not been built in recent years is impressive. Ground for no new nuclear power plant has been broken since 1978. No large hazardous-waste facility has been sited since 1979. No large metropolitan airport has been built in more than 15 years. Controversies over new prisons have prevented their construction, and prisoners have had to be released from overcrowded facilities in some areas.