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Catalyze 2020: Gina Driscoll

Gina Driscoll

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This holiday season, we asked some of St. Pete’s best and brightest citizens to share one catalyzing idea for making St. Pete a better place to live. We asked not for lists of problems, but for meaty, actionable and impactful solutions, no matter how big or how small. 

Gina Driscoll, St. Petersburg City Council Member – District 6

From NIMBY to YIMBY

St. Petersburg is shining brighter than ever, with a renaissance marked by unprecedented growth. Businesses are flocking to our city, our population is growing, and we are welcoming more and more tourists every year. We are prouder than ever to call St. Petersburg home, yet we recognize that this growth is creating challenges with affordable housing, traffic and even the preservation of what makes St. Petersburg so special in the first place. We realize that we must change the way we look at issues such as development and transit in order to accommodate our growth. 

These changes are often met with the response, “Not in my backyard!” This is understandable, because we live here for reasons that give us a great sense of pride – we love our block, our neighborhood, our city just the way it is. Realistically though, we know that St. Petersburg must move forward and evolve, and that change is inevitable. The NIMBY response usually doesn’t lead to healthy conversation, reasonable compromise, or positive outcomes for all. The solution might be to start at the other end of the spectrum instead. What if we decided to try a “Yes in my backyard” response first, and work from there? What if we took each new proposal and started by asking, “What would YIMBY look like?”

Taking a YIMBY approach to change doesn’t mean giving up with a sense of resignation. It’s actually more productive than the NIMBY response, and it can lead to better planning and policy. Instead of beginning with “No,” ask yourself what would get you to “Yes?” What would make you say “Yes in my backyard” to that zoning change, that bike lane, that mixed-income apartment building? Read the details of what is being proposed. Talk to your neighbors. What revisions would you make, and where are you willing to compromise? Communicate with City officials, the developer, your neighborhood association president. These are the conversations that can create positive outcomes. You might not get everything you ask for, and you might even still oppose a change. But the result is likely to be a better direction because of your input. 

St. Petersburg will continue to grow and flourish, and it will move forward on a stronger and smarter path if we incorporate a YIMBY approach into our community conversations.

 

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2 Comments
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2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Bill Herrmann

    December 31, 2019 at 6:34 am

    What is missing from this commentary is a discussion of our “brand” and core values. As St. Petersburg begins to see in-fill development and the beginning of a “demolition for development” phase we need to protect our brand.

    Anyone who has run a large organization knows that when you grow, you must ensure the new growth is loyal to the traits that allowed the original smaller organization to grow. Failing to be loyal to the traits that spawned success is the recipe for failure. Likewise, as St. Petersburg grows, we must protect the attributes that fueled our growth.

    The best examples of how we lost sight of those attributes are the Bliss and One buildings. I urge you to physically stand at the corner of Central and First St. Look west at the old northside with its quirky design and collection of slightly Bohemian cafes. The southside of the block between 1st and 2nd Streets does not attempt to match the original northside. Instead it complements the design. Both of these low-rise blocks could easily support a tall building, if it was stepped back to preserve the texture of the block. Now look east from Central and 1st, there is one structure occupying each side of the block. These two embody what should and what should not be happening. The new James Museum through its’ design, varied colors and varied depth is aesthetically pleasing from afar and maintains the ‘walkability’ of DTSP. The One building provides none of that warmth or texture. It does nothing to compliment the surrounding buildings. It is a structure that could fit in any other Florida city.

    It is important to separate what St. Petersburg needs and what it wants. We all want continued growth and redevelopment.

    We need good governance and the consistent application of our LDRs. We need to maintain our brand, our walkability, and a downtown that does not look like Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. This can be accomplished by pushing developers to continue to build new buildings that respect the character of our unique home. There are at at least two projects in the permit process that meet this standard. If staff needs LDR changes to help, we need those sooner rather than later.

    If we are willing to do the hard work of staying loyal to our standards- to protect our brand, there are developers who will build profitable developments that enhance our City.

  2. Avatar

    Karen Garcia

    January 3, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Considering the example of Brick Street Farms as an alternative farm, would it be possible to form an alliance with local southside land owners and entrepreneurs to create a similar type of grower to provide nutritious, fresh food in “food dessert” areas? I attended a lecture at the James Museum given by a young Lakota chef who is creating a similar network of growers partnered with entrepreneurs to provide better and healthier alternatives on reservations in Minnesota and surrounding areas.

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