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Sad: Steph And Ayesha Curry Are NIMBYs

Steph and Ayesha Curry
DNCC via Getty Images

Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry and his entrepreneur wife Ayesha Curry are opposed to a multifamily housing development in the swanky Bay Area town of Atherton, according to an email they sent to town officials on Jan. 18.

"As Atherton residents [...] we have been following along with the Housing Element updates with special interest in the 23 Oakwood property," they wrote in the email that was first reported last week by local news outlet The Almanac. "We hesitate to add to the 'not in our backyard' (literally) rhetoric, but we wanted to send a note before today's meeting."

The town—in its bid to meet California-mandated housing standards, which in theory at least mandate that local governments "adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community"—has proposed allowing a developer to build 16 townhouses on a 1.5-acre piece of land, 23 Oakwood, which currently has one house sitting on it. While the modest proposal is far from the high-density permanently affordable housing California needs to help remedy its housing shortage and homelessness crisis, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction. If a place like Atherton, the wealthiest zip code in the U.S., a suburb so anti-public it doesn't even have sidewalks, can upzone land as the state races to make progress on its housing goals, then anywhere can.

But the state ultimately doesn’t get to decide what happens in Atherton. The town’s government is in charge of coming up with the housing plan. And the town’s government is entirely beholden to rich people including but certainly not limited to the Currys, who do not like the proposal. After stating concerns about "safety and privacy," they wrote, "We kindly ask that the Town adopts the new Housing Element without the inclusion of 23 Oakwood."

Taking into account the whole deranged spectrum of NIMBYism, the Currys' email is polite, or at least savvy, given their attempt to distance themselves from the most openly adversarial NIMBY rhetoric. Compared to what comes to mind when thinking of quintessential NIMBYs, the old whites who fully lose their minds when asked to consider that they live in a society, the Currys' request even seems reasonable, as if it were written, perhaps, with input from a PR team who knew it could eventually be made public. Or as if one of the Currys' Atherton neighbors had already been flamed for writing a public comment email railing against multifamily housing developments.  

Last summer, billionaire venture-capitalist and Silicon Valley cretin Marc Andreessen and his wife emailed Atherton officials to oppose multifamily housing. As Jerusalem Demsas reported in The Atlantic, Andreessen's opposition was noteworthy because he had recently published an essay titled "It's Time To Build," in which he lamented "skyrocketing housing prices in places like San Francisco, making it nearly impossible for regular people to move in and take the jobs of the future," and demanded that the public force lawmakers into doing what needs to be done: building more.

And so Andreessen's public comment to Atherton officials, demanding that lawmakers in fact do the opposite of what he said needs to be done, was almost comically hypocritical. The comment has apparently been removed from the internet, but Demsas reported that it read, in part:

Subject line: IMMENSELY AGAINST multifamily development!

I am writing this letter to communicate our IMMENSE objection to the creation of multifamily overlay zones in Atherton … Please IMMEDIATELY REMOVE all multifamily overlay zoning projects from the Housing Element which will be submitted to the state in July. They will MASSIVELY decrease our home values, the quality of life of ourselves and our neighbors and IMMENSELY increase the noise pollution and traffic.

Hypocrisy aside, the entitlement of Andreessen's argument is astounding. This billionaire, who owns three mansions in Malibu alone, is worried about home value? I’d be impressed if anyone could read that without sneering. Now, if a savvy rich person wanted to oppose multifamily housing in their wealthy enclave, but didn't want to come off like an evil greedy creep, well, they might go with something that sounds a little like the Currys’ email.

"Safety and privacy for us and our kids continues to be our top priority and one of the biggest reasons we chose Atherton as home," Steph and Ayesha Curry wrote in the email. They added that if the development did proceed as planned, they wanted the town to "commit to investing in significantly taller fencing and landscaping to block sight lines onto our family's property."

It's more palatable to talk about children’s privacy than whining about home values (which would likely not, it’s worth pointing out, massively decrease). It’s especially more palatable than trotting out lightly coded concerns about "quality of life." But it’s all the same argument. Family, like property–or maybe property, like family–is considered a private matter, one that compels owners to act in certain ways to protect it. Even and especially when that protection rests on the explicit deprivation of others. 

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