I recently visited the City of Cupertino. I didn’t go to appreciate its restaurants and parks, or to critique its low-density exclusionary zoning, or even to fantasize about affording a home there with a median price of $2 million. No, I went to defend my right to free speech against an abusive city official.
Ray Wang, the Chair of the Cupertino Planning Commission, regularly uses his position to harass his opponents. So it was no surprise when he attacked me and my pro-housing activist colleagues by trying to get us fired from our jobs for the crime of saying “Yes, we should build more housing.”
“Next time you get harassed by a YIMBY, track down their employer and send their HR, Legal, and CEO a letter outlining their YIMBY stance… it goes a long way towards getting them reprimanded and in some cases a dose of reality,” Ray Wang wrote. It was a response to my support for building 2,402 homes at the site of the abandoned Vallco Mall in Cupertino.
Upon finding out that I was hosting an event with Matt Larson, the Director of Public Affairs for the developer Sand Hill Property, Ray wrote “Fight back! I suggest a bunch of Cupertino residents attend.” and “Go to their free meeting and defend Cupertino and our way of life. Save the suburbs from an onslaught of anarchists and YIMBY Neoliberal fascists.”
The Chair of the Cupertino Planning Commission is calling YIMBYs fascists. For supporting housing.
This abusive behavior from a sitting public official highlights why I’m a YIMBY activist in San Francisco: our politics have been captured by conservatives in progressive clothing. The same people who say they support affordable housing do everything they can to stop it, including attempting to get housing activists fired from their jobs.
I’m tired of my fellow housing activists being intimidated by petty dictators with delusions of grandeur and a sense of entitlement. I’m done with tolerating public officials who say they support low-income households while fighting to stop the construction of new affordable housing. I’m over their claims that they are the real victim -- woe is the wealthy landowner.
It’s time to stop fighting change and to start living up to our liberal values. It’s time to stop blaming immigrants and young people and tech workers and renters for the problems caused by the failure of our leaders. It’s time for change. If you think so too, become a member of YIMBY Action and help us say yes to housing.
Steven Buss is a pro-housing activist in San Francisco. You can find him on Twitter at @sbuss.