this week on nextdoor

What a busy weekend. Thanksgiving traffic, football games, and a crazy-ass NextDoor thread that can only be described as “a virtual Thanksgiving table with your um, more challenging, side of the family.” But in the interest of civic trust, we steeled ourselves with a six pack and a half gallon of spiked eggnog, waded in, and got messy. Here’s a recap and, because it wouldn’t be NextDoor without a bunch of utter bullshit, some fact checking.

(We stopped reading the thread when it got to 90 comments. It may still be ongoing to this day….)

First, a recap: the thread ostensibly focuses on the future of the American Legion property – fair enough, it’s coming up for discussion this Tuesday. The first red flag is the Orwellian usage of “Save Legion Park” in the opening post, which has become a battle cry for opponents of housing on the land. (There is no such Legion Park to be saved, nor is the town-owned property in danger of not becoming a park  – the only question is how much housing will accompany a future park).

Things went downhill from there, veering into numerous side chats. We hit the lowlights of these below:

Building Heights

The thread began with a robust debate about whether the housing for senior proposed for the Legion site will be “high-rises.” [Editor’s note: They will not be].  It seems that in Chapel Hill, three-story homes like you see in places like Meadowmont and the historic districts are classy, while four-story apartment buildings are trashy. A cynical person might question if people are really opposed to the heights of apartment buildings or just the kinds of people who live in them, but hey I’m definitely not that cynical. No way. I’m just saying.

The award for most hyperbolic post goes to a commenter discussing 5-6 story buildings in Blue Hill: “This isn’t NYC.”

What housing is

So, there’s an enormous body of research backing up the idea that you can’t solve our housing crisis without building…more housing. (Start here with this recap of a Jenny Schuetz interview and this reading list that we put together.)

But things took a strange turn on NextDoor, with one leader in CHALT claiming without evidence that apartments – not the lack thereof – contribute to housing insecurity and homelessness, and that “building APARTMENTS does not solve the housing problem.” Not surprisingly, this led to a discussion about how CHALT, by being anti-housing, is actually being super-duper pro housing. It’s the kind of rhetoric that would make Sarah Huckabee Sanders proud.

We live in a college community, where medical residents, visiting scholars, graduate students, and researchers are unable to find housing in Chapel Hill for their 1-2 year appointments. Not everyone wants to buy — but we’re not building enough housing for people who want to rent or people who want to buy.

The award for least self-aware post goes to the same CHALT leader: “I said APARTMENTS, not housing.”

Bolin Creek Greenway in Carrboro 

Somehow the conversation then veered to Bolin Creek and the potential to build a paved path in Carrboro alongside the creek. (This already exists in Chapel Hill and is used by people of all ages — walkers, bikers, roller bladers, scooter-ers, wheelchair users, stroller-riders.)

Anyway, the point was made that Bolin Creek in Carrboro is impaired. (It’s also impaired in Chapel Hill.) Paving the path will not change this impairment — it’s due to the many developments along the creek — which will not change.

In fact, stream restoration experts have said a paved path will, counterintuitively, be helpful for the creek because it will keep people on the paved path and prevent erosion. Paving the greenway will connect to Chapel Hill’s already-paved greenway and make it much easier for kids in Carrboro to bike to middle and high school, and for people in Carrboro to bike and walk along nature very easily.

Whether apartments cost the town more than they bring in.

(We’re going to cover this in a future piece. SPOILER: They don’t and are actually our largest taxpayers.)

Traffic on 15-501

While there wasn’t much discussion on this topic, it’s always fun to see a person who led the fight against light rail warn us about traffic.

The award for most shameless post goes to another CHALT leader: “[15-501] will not be moving in several more years and there is no transit plan to mitigate it.”

The elevated transportation system in Chicago

Sure, why the hell not.

Supply and demand

We’re working on a future piece about this because that discussion was 😱😱😱.

The failed light rail project

Whether apartments cost a lot

Whether apartments have high rents

Whether the bus goes to places other than UNC

The applicability of Saskia Sassen’s work on global cities to Chapel Hill

We’ll stop there..until the next batshit NextDoor thread. Onward, friends.

Stephen Whitlow and Melody Kramer worked on this piece together. They have both vowed to change their NextDoor passwords in the next few minutes.