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Not in My Backyard!

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"Prisons have to be built somewhere. Everybody just prefers that it's in NIMBY - Not In My Backyard thanks."

There are many things in life whose existence is desirable, or even essential to the society we live in, but that people generally don't want to live too close to. They might be homeless shelters where many people with addictions gather, smelly sewage plants, polluting electricity generator stations, prisons for dangerous offenders, or utilitarian social housing buildings. However as any SimCity player will tell you, not everything can be in the middle of nowhere - for people to have cheap and convenient access to them, they have to be near to civilization.

Fair enough, the voters will say. I support all these important social and government projects and facilities...Just... Not In My Backyard, OK? Build them somewhere else.

While it might be rather selfish to want the benefits of such amenities while declaring the downsides to not be their problem, it can be justified - there is little to no reward for living nearby, and often the decrease in property values actually punishes the neighbours on top of the lowered quality of life (noise, pollution, etc). It's not necessarily hypocritical except in Zero-sum situations where they want the good without the bad.

The phenomenon is a major part of many Simulation Games, where the player must balance necessary or lucrative buildings against residents' quality of life.

Also known as NIMBY. A key tool of NIMBY advocates is zoning regulations. As an example, an upper-class neighborhood might use its single family zoning to block construction of an apartment building for low-income people. A newer tactic is to use environmental regulations. For example, a posh oceanfront community that wants to prevent a homeless shelter from being built may develop a sudden deep and abiding love for protecting the habitat of a burrowing beetle (that just happens to live at the site of the proposed shelter). There is a more extreme version that believes that everything noisy, smelly, polluting, dangerous or ugly should be built in the middle of nowhere in an Abandoned Area and will oppose projects even if they're built nowhere near them, dubbed "BANANAs" - "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone", which is a viable option... in some video games. The opposite is Yes In My Backyard advocates (YIMBYs). They support building new social housing, homeless shelters and community facilities.

An often overlooked aspect of NIMBYism is the fear of the unknown. Projects that are dissimilar to those already up and running in the same area have a harder time convincing people. Say for instance a new light rail line is planned. In Germany or France, most people are familiar with light rail lines and have either lived near one in the past or seen one on holidays. In the US, most people don't know the first thing about them and thus fears are naturally bigger and easier to exploit through political ads. Often people cannot possibly comprehend their own or other people's erstwhile opposition once the project is completed, as the benefits become apparent and the downsides turn out to have been exaggerated.

Another aspect that's understated is that sometimes these projects can be twisted for far more insidious means, such as building a valuable bit of infrastructure that can improve public transportation (good) carving it straight through a neighborhood where mostly minorities and marginalized people live in, as a form of systemic erasure and good old fashioned bigotry and racism, without explicitly saying the bigoted aspects out loud (Which is incredibly bad). The end result can lead to people who would otherwise have accepted the genuinely good elements to refuse to allow the project to go through, since it's clear that it's being twisted and corrupted by power-hungry corporations or uncaring bigots and politicians to destroy what little the marginalized communities might still have.

Similarly, if a new housing facility or treatment center for homeless people recovering from addiction is proposed, neighborhood residents may oppose it, thinking that all the clients will be alcoholics and other Addled Addicts, and fear that the facility will turn Everytown, America into a Wretched Hive. The presence of a number of facilities for homeless people in a neighborhood may cause disturbances, but a single, well-managed facility might not cause these negative effects.note 

Compare to Original Position Fallacy, in which people demand something while assuming they will benefit from it or not be subject to the downsides. A sub-trope and possible result of Who Will Bell the Cat? when people realize that they don't want to be the one who has to bell the cat (or in this case, allow it to be built in their backyard).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Emerging: The Department of Virology, located in the National Institute for Infectious Diseases has the potential to operate as a BSL-4 (which is required to deal with deadly diseases such as Ebola and the unknown disease ravaging Tokyo), however it only operates at as a BSL-3 due to opposition from local residents and communities. This is an example of Truth in Television for the real life National Institute for Infectious Diseases located in Kanto, Japan.

    Comic Strips 

  • Erin Brockovich shows why most people have a NIMBY reaction: in the movie's case, toxic substances are leeching into the water supply.
  • Australian film The Castle is an inversion of this trope. The Kerrigans live a few hundred metres from an airport runway. Massive power lines pass right over their backyard. And the Kerrigans love it that way. They only get upset when a planned airport expansion means that they would have to move.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit often run into cases where they have to deal with former child molesters who face this problem when they get out of prison.
  • The trope name is the title of an early Blue Heelers episode, with a protest against a prison being built near Mt. Thomas.
  • An episode of Boston Legal focused on this problem, with some townspeople employing the firm to stop the production of a nuclear power plant in their area. Opposing counsel actually points out the use of this trope and rhetorically asks where they're meant to put the plant, as they'd already thought they'd chosen a perfectly remote location before the ruckus started.
  • This is the title of Midsomer Murders episode in which an unpopular real estate development planned for a small village results in murder.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, taking Not In My Backyard to its logical extreme, the Malon are a race that never bothered to develop clean ways of disposing of waste, because they simply shipped it all off to somewhere else, a long way away. When Janeway offers a Malon captain a way to neutralize waste safely without hauling it all the way to an empty part of space, she fails to realize that hauling waste is his livelihood, so he naturally rejects her offer (clearly not thinking that he could make a fortune with his new "invention" back home).
  • In Desperate Housewives, the neighborhood holds a protest rally after plans for moving convicts into their street start going ahead. It ends badly. For everyone.
  • Johnny and the Sprites: In "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove," a super-annoying real-estate developer shows up with exciting plans to build a hotel. It sounds great at first, until Johnny and the Sprites realize that it would require the complete destruction of Grotto's Grove, not to mention most of Johnny's literal backyard.
  • One episode of Yes, Minister centers around Sir Humphrey trying to get Ministerial approval for a new chemical plant intended to make something called Metadioxin. Unfortunately, since the chemical's name is similar to Dioxin, which was involved in a recent toxic spill incident on the Continent, there's a big NIMBY lobby to prevent mass production of Metadioxin anywhere near anyplace anyone lives, even though Metadioxin is harmless.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Hordes of the Things compares the average fantasy world peasant's attitude to magic to the average modern person's attitude to nuclear energy: "I have no direct experience with it, it is sometimes reputedly beneficial, certainly often very nasty, and the further it is from my back yard the better!"
  • In Suburbia, placing certain types of tiles (e.g. heavy industry, airports) adjacent to residential tiles causes your city to suffer a reputation penalty, reducing your ability to increase its population and score points.
  • A version of Monopoly called Monopoly City has a game mechanic where building unpleasant things, such as sewage treatment plants, can reduce the desirability of nearby locations, with the in-game effect being a reduction in the price of their land and properties on them.

  • From musical RENT's number "Over the Moon": "Not in my backyard, utensils! Go back to China!"

    Video Games 
  • Present in the SimCity series, and SimCity 3000 even uses the term by name. Makes sense, as you're playing a city planner.
    • This ranges to many things, from the obvious toxic waste dumps, incinerators, and casinos, to more subtle things like landfills, industrial areas, and commercial zones (more so in Sim City 4, where traffic noise becomes a factor to how desirable a zone is). Naturally, anything that humans wouldn't want sitting in their backyard in Real Life, Sims wouldn't want either.
    • The inverse of this is called YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard), which includes things like parks, schools, hospitals and police stations. A good strategy is to balance out the NIMBY with YIMBY. (Sure you're living next to a pollution factory, but look at the nice trees!)
  • Present in Dwarf Fortress. Obviously it is a bad idea to leave rotting meat in an indoor refuse pile near a place dwarves will frequently have to pass through, as the miasma it gives off will disgust nearby fortress dwellers. More subtly, it is a bad idea to create bedrooms near frequently used crafting workshops, next to areas under current excavation, or just next to rooms in which dwarves are hauling around and placing furniture. Doing so will result in any dwarves sleeping in said rooms having an unhappy through at their uneasy sleep due to the noise.
  • Constructor: High-level tenants are conscious of their neighbors, especially if you group Nerds together with noisy Hippies on the same estate. They also tend to demand more costly fences. The most expensive one is the Insurmountable Monolith, which more closely resembles the Berlin Wall. Only Yuppies want to live next to this monstrosity, which they dub "Art Deco".
  • In Pharaoh, there are many buildings that produce various entertainers and service providers required to keep your citizens happy. Unfortunately, while the walkers are welcome, the buildings themselves are not. Reasons range from the sensible (industrial buildings are ugly, noisy and smelly) to Fridge Logic (people coming and going from the dance school)note . Most cities end up with a few zones of highly-developped housing, requiring vast slums of workers to keep the rich society's services running correctly.
    • This game also has its own form of YIMBY: gardens, plazas, and statues. It's okay to built a circuit for industrial employers to find workers, as long as there is a statue between the industries and the workers' residential block. The maximum YIMBYs would be temple complexes, city palace, and your dynasty house.
    • No amount of YIMBY can negate the effect of Forts. Just like Real Life! (See: Okinawa.)
  • Cities: Skylines features a similar NIMBY system as the SimCity example above. However, you now have to factor what you should and should not build in your zones. For example, lumping in industrial zones right next to your residential areas will pollute the water system and makes your citizens sick and forces the medical service buildings (if you have any built in your city) to dispatch ambulances to pick up your ill citizens and send them to the nearest medical service building for treatment. This also applies if you connect any water pipe from a residential zone to an industrial zone regardless if your industrial areas are built away from your residential ones; no matter if you have water treatment facilities to deal with the wastewater buildup, the consequences will remain the same until you appropriately fix them. Also debuting in this game is the introduction of noise pollution. Even otherwise non-ground polluting buildings should be built away from residential zones as your citizens will complain about the noise and eventually will get sick due to vertigo or hearing damage caused by your noise-generating buildings. The construction of roads also influence the amount of noise pollution as well. Small, two-lane roads don't generate much noise and are ideal for low-density residential and commercial areas but high-density zones dislike them because they generate a lot of traffic due to so many vehicles using up a single lane at once and therefore contributes to noise buildup. Six-lane roads are generally suited to industrial and high-density commercial zones but not for residential ones as they generate a lot of ground-level noise thanks to major traffic buildup. Four-lane roads serve a comfortable middle ground between two-lane and six-lane roads and are suited to any buildable zone except low-density residential areas. On the other hand, office zones are the only buildable zones that do not particularly complain about what type of road is constructed in their areas so you can build them at your leisure. Ironically, the game does not feature air pollution generated from any of the buildings unlike SimCity.
  • Civilization VI delves into this trope with the tile appeal system and cities having to build separate specialized districts. Most notably, tiles that have high appeal comfer bonuses to things like Neighborhoods or National Parks; placing things like Industrial districts, mines, and airports conversely decrease surrounding tiles' appeal.
  • One event in Yes, Prime Minister the chief of the Electricity Board makes a request for a new nuclear power station to be built. If Hacker decides to build the plant, he's told it will be built at Fowey, where he has family, and promptly rejects the idea. If he turns the plant down, the chief says that he'd be happy to have one built in his back garden... only to backpedal immediately when Hacker takes him at his word.
  • Stellaris: Any species with the Repugnant Trait causes reduced opinion in diplomacy. It doesn't matter if said Aliens are scientists and workers par excellence; others won't appreciate having them as neighbors. Changed in 2.2, where Repugnant species are just worse at producing Amenities than other species, making it harder to keep your people happy if the only entertainers you have are gross mushroom men.


    Web Videos 
  • Climate Town: The issues faced by transit, affordable housing and other projects which could help make places less car dependent, more efficient and better for the environment as a whole are mentioned on multiple occasions to include people trying to fight allowing such things near their neighborhoods, with viewers encouraged to attend local meetings to voice their support so that the naysayers are not the most heard and represented viewpoint.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Girl who Slept too Little", a stamp museum is being built directly behind the Simpsons' house. The family aren't best pleased at having a construction site practically in their back garden, and successfully lobby to have it moved - it's shifted onto the site of Springfield Cemetery, which is promptly moved behind the Simpsons' house, giving Lisa nightmares.
    • They then visit the stamp museum and complain about how long the journey took. Homer is even more distraught when he discovers that Lenny has been making a good amount of money using his own property as an overflow parking lot for the museum tourists.
  • In the '90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon; Shredder and Baxter were raiding a hidden science testing facility deep in the bad part New York City. When asked why it was here of all places by Baxter, Shredder replies on how it's because "if it blows up the neighborhood, nobody cares." A variation in the formula as its existence is supposed to be a secret, let alone desirable at all, it is the consequences of its presence that lead to the double-standard as it will make less of an impact because of its placement.

    Real Life 
  • This is a major obstacle for cell phone companies wanting to put up towers to cover some areas. The fact that nobody wants a big, ugly cell phone tower in their view is one thing keeping Cell Phones Are Useless from becoming a Dead Horse Trope. So companies typically offer deals, or dress up the towers to hide them from view.
  • The phenomenon is an extremely important one in real life, pertaining to basically any real estate development that isn't a park.
    • Nuclear waste disposal is one of the biggest ones. Very few places are willing to take on this sort of waste, whether it be nuclear weapons related or energy production related and most fight tooth and nail to avoid even the mildest radioactive waste, often quoting this exact trope. This has made finding locations for safe and secure disposal extremely difficult.
    • This applies more generally any type of waste disposal facility. When a new landfill is created the people owning the nearby properties will usually be very unhappy about it.
    • Because of historic income disparity paralleling minority areas, many waste facilities and other undesirable but necessary facilities like power plants are disproportionally placed in areas of high minority population, in practice being outright environmental racism. NIMBY is thus one of the biggest drivers of the Environmental justice movement.
    • It doesn't end at industrial sites, in some areas there are rules in regards to anything from whether a building is allowed to be a certain height or design to what renovations and extensions a home owner can have, to keep in line with the heritage of the area for example. Even when there's not the NIMBY go BANANAS and go up in arms over There Should Be a Law.
  • For other forms of energy production: wind turbines. They might be better for the environment than huge power plants but some of them can be quite noisy (or at the very least be perceived that way) and their shadows and reflections can be irritating
    • There are also smaller modern windmills which are practically silent, which nevertheless got this reaction (in, for example, the West of Ireland) for being unsightly, despite generating impressive amounts of clean electricity for their size.
    • Property owners in Cape Cod have gotten the same beef from local property owners for allegedly ruining an ocean view.
  • Highways and freeways. They make things easier for business and tourists, but also bring in a lot of noise and pollution. Residential areas are kept away from these for just these two reasons, and mostly businesses and public service buildings are near them. In the US, highways were built right through cities in the 1950s and the next two or three decades. Why was there no major uproar? Well, the neighborhoods they went through were mostly inhabited by black and/or poor people who had no political lobby (and often couldn't even vote), something which is an all too common "solution" for NIMBYism. Only when highways started to be planned to tear down middle class and white neighborhoods did the "freeway revolts" get going in earnest, stopping many projects in their tracks.
  • Airports. They're obviously useful for travel, but few people want to live that close to one or have them open up a new runway/terminal near their house due to the noise and possible pollution. Furthermore, land close to the city center can be expensive. Those two things have combined in making airports farther and farther out more and more common. For instance, Munich's airport was relocated in 1992 to be almost 30km north of the city, while Denver's airport was relocated in 1995 to be 40km away from downtown, and similar things are planned for Berlin or London, though they are running into NIMBY problems at the new sites, naturally. Some coastal cities instead make new land to put the airport on, which mostly solves the problems of expensive real estate (although reclaiming land can itself be expensive) and complaining neighbours, although noise from planes flying over populated areas can still be a problem (for instance, one of the runways at Boston's Logan Airport is only allowed to handle flights departing or arriving over the harbour, and there is a hotel immediately to the northwest of the airport which was built specifically to make it impossible for said runway to be extended any further in that direction).
  • Casinos. The builders tend to put them in places that are conveniently away from most people, but the local residents have to deal with the increased traffic, inconvenience of the construction machines in the area and such. However, because the whole county votes on whether or not to grant zone variance(s) to allow the building, the locals are out-voted by the people who won't have to deal with the headaches that are created.
    • On the flip side, they are sometimes noted for boosting local businesses, whether it be shopping or restaurants, which people visit before or after going to the casino.
  • Train tracks - especially if they are only or mostly used by freight trains. Nobody wants to be woken up by that train that goes through at 3:00 in the morning. Some people also have safety concerns about train tracks; if a freight train derails while transporting toxic or explosive materials, you don't want to be anywhere nearby. This was grimly illustrated by the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.
    • Many cities have implemented quiet zones where train horns cannot be sounded, either at night or at all, except in emergencies; some commuter railroads such as Caltrain and Metrolink circumvented this by using quieter horns (that tend to sound unpleasant compared to the horns they replaced). Quiet zones tend to be reviled for two reasons: 1) Accident rates tend to shoot up in quiet zones because of inattentive pedestrians and drivers, and 2) trainspotters love train horns.
  • This is a particularly curly issue in the quiet island of Tasmania, with efforts to push out industry and keep the environment serene and untouched. The issue is a long and storied one, with the NIMBY side opposing the pollution of the proposed pulp mill; with some going as far as vowing their blood will stain the wattle before it gets built, and the YIMBY side wanting more progress, development and employment opportunities.
  • Homeless shelters. The homeless are often seen as imposing many negative effects on the residents and businesses in any area. So the homeless shelter is located in some place that makes it hard for the homeless to have access to any of the good parts of the community.
  • Jails are often treated this way; surely no one wants to live near convicted criminals. Even though, as George Carlin explains, it is a rather irrational response. The criminals are all locked up, inside the jail! And if they ever do escape, they'll get as far away from the jail as they can. Similarly, the first people to feel uncomfortable about being near a jail are those who are criminally inclined but not in jail; surely they will often be deterred from living in such an area.
  • The inversion of this trope can also be problematic. Say you want to build a new hyperfast train line, to link - well I don't know maybe the fourth largest city and a major banking center of your country - of course you would want it to stop only very rarely or not at all between either terminus. But to get the whole thing built, you have to get the agreement of local politicians. Who of course want to have a stop in their district. Cue two stops twenty kilometers apart, which are - even in the German Wikipedia entry - said to be a result of political blackmail in so many words. note 
  • Big infrastructure projects are very prone to this and NIMBYs are one of the main reasons why many a project has spent decades in Development Hell, even if it was approved in a ballot measure by supermajorities or basically all political parties agree it to be the best thing since sliced bread. On the other hand, NIMBY concerns have on occasion kept cities from making disastrous decisions and some politicians are even able to admit that the NIMBYs were right, decades after the fact.
  • Skyscrapers. The high cost of land makes high-rise buildings beneficial in downtown areas as then more housing and workplaces can be fit into the same plot of land. However, these same structures can be considered an eyesore by local residents who don't like having their views obstructed. Washington, D.C. is particularly notorious for this: the construction of the 12-floor, 165ft tall Cairo Hotel in 1894 caused such an uproar among locals that Congress passed laws in 1899 and 1910 placing severe restrictions on the maximum height of any new buildings (though existing buildings like the 555ft-tall Washington Monument were grandfathered in and remain to this day the tallest in the city). Today, Washington, D.C. notably lacks any skyscrapers, but also suffers from a lack of affordable housing, as well as some of the worst traffic in the country due to suburban sprawl.
  • Roads themselves can also be affected by the NIMBY backlash depending on what type of road is constructed and where they are built. Multiple-lane roads, for example, are not desirable for certain areas such as rural community developments and low-density residential zones because of the traffic buildup which can lead to noise and air pollution. Single-lane roads, on the other hand, don't translate well in dense, urban areas for pretty much the same reasons as multiple-lane roads are in rural areas; only the traffic is far more of an issue than pollution. Of course there is the whole issue of roads causing traffic by their mere existence and hence widening roads almost never solves any problem and residents near streets that are proposed to be widened are likely against said widening, especially if they do not use cars all that often or at all.
  • The issue of whether to allow more higher density housing development in urban and suburban areas became a major political issue at the state and local level in California, throughout American cities, and other English-speaking nations in the 2010's. The crash of the construction industry in the 2008 recession followed by rapid job growth in urban areas and a "return to the city" movement led to skyrocketing rents in urban areas and calls for increased housing production. This pitted self-proclaimed YIMBYsnote , a younger pro-growth and development faction, against "NIMBY" groups consisting of older homeowners concerned about "neighborhood character" and home values and sometimes allied with lower-income organizations concerned that new housing construction would gentrify their neighborhoods. This led to the seemingly dry topic of zoning becoming a polarized political topic that cut across party lines, with some Democrats allied with Republicans to eliminate single-family zoning note , while other Democrats working with other Republicans to defend it.