Montgomery County, Maryland released their new County Council District boundaries, see below. A week ago, I explored the new District 4 through the lens of a single election. That provided some insight into the YIMBY-NIMBY divide in Montgomery County, but I promised a deep dive. While Elrich is a NIMBY, he was also the furthest left candidate in the County Executive election. This collider makes interpreting the election results not a perfect match for NIMBYness.
After thinking about it for a week. I have come up with three measurable prongs to analyze: new construction, comments about Thrive, and candidate support. Each of these is given a number of points, either positive or negative. In the end, the points are added up and each district is given a score.
One of the symptoms of NIMBYism is a low number of new units coming onto the market. This includes both new rental and purchased units. To measure this, I used 2019 5-year American Community Survey data. Table B25036 includes the number of units by 5 year periods. I thought that 2010 to 2021 was a decent period of time to use. For both new unit types, districts received a score of 1 to 4 points.
Comments about Thrive
Thrive 2050 is Montgomery County’s new strategic plan. It, by itself, is only a set of recommendations and does not change the law, but those recommendations are influential. Because of this, passing Thrive has been slow and there has been lots of community feedback. This is great because it allows us to figure out which communities have the strongest support and opposition to Thrive.
I was chatting with a friend about how one would go about trying to geocode the comments. Soon afterwards, a mysterious screenshot of a dataset was in my inbox. This dataset is at the ZIP Code level. The United States Postal System does not see ZIP Codes as anything more than a routing code and does not produce or maintain boundaries. The Census Bureau releases the Zip Code Tabulation Areas which are close to the areas covered by ZIP Codes, but not quite. The point is that each time you tabulate statistics by ZIP Code a geographer loses their wings.
Data you have is better than the data you need to collect. This is all to say that I tried my hardest to connect the ZIP code areas to the Council Districts but that process is imprecise. There is quite a bit of unavoidable misclassification error.
Using the pile of python code I wrote for last week’s post (that makes software engineers everywhere cry out in pain due to how I did it), I tabulated the results of the 2018 Democratic primary. From that data, I used Marc Elrich and Evan Glass as signpost NIMBY and YIMBY candidates.1 They don’t add many points to the mix, but I thought that they would nicely temper the other categories.
Here is the rubric based on those factors.
The most YIMBY friendly district is Rockville-based District 3. This is due to the massive amount of new construction in the Rockville-Gaithersburg area. The district built the most rental units from 2010-2021 and the third most purchased units. This is an area where there could be lots of persuadable proto-YIMBYs who are okay with development. It is, of course, not as great as development near Washington, DC, but any development that we can get is worth the struggle.
Districts 2 and 4 came in second place. District 4 was a known quantity due to it containing new rental developments in Silver Spring and North Bethesda. District 2, on the other hand, has seen an explosion of newly purchased units. Many of these are probably single-family homes, so your mileage may vary. District 2 has been rather apathetic above Thrive, so there is a chance to build support with some of these new homeowners. There is a chance, however, that this is a mirage and it is best to be thought of as an extension of Potomac and treated like District 1.
The least YIMBY district is District 7. Over the last decade, only 1,171 new units of housing went in there. That is to be expected. It does not have the major transit links that other parts of the county have. There was a single comment about Thrive 2050 from the whole district. I don’t really know what to think here.
Glass might not be the right choice here because he wasn’t endorsed by GGWash just suggested as a possible fourth, so YMMV.