'YIMBY': The Origin Story Of A New Nashville Motto | Nashville Public Radio

'YIMBY': The Origin Story Of A New Nashville Motto

Jun 5, 2017

There is a small piece of political rhetoric that’s become a rallying cry for the mayor of Nashville.

"YIMBY," or "Yes In My Backyard." It’s a new twist on an old term, "NIMBY," which means just the opposite — objecting to something new in one's own neighborhood.

Pearl Sims first heard the term YIMBY at a city planning conference in Toronto. Then President Obama used it. And last year, it dawned on her: This could be her motto.

Sims lives in Edgehill, and recently she’s watched as her neighbors’ homes get razed and tall skinny ones, 10 times the price, are built in their place. Frankly speaking, it freaked her out. But she realized it is too easy to just be against something.  

"No, I don’t want those in my backyard. So what do I want in my backyard?" Sims says. "What I want in my backyard is a diversity of people from Nashville."

Sims liked the phrase so much that she took it to the neighborhood group she leads, Edgehill Coalition, which is working hard to stem the tide of gentrification. They adopted it as a mission statement of sorts.

And then a few weeks ago, Mayor Megan Barry started using the term.

"We need YIMBY-ism in Nashville, and we need it now," Barry said at her State of Metro address. "That means Yes In My Backyard," she continued. "It means yes, I want to live in a mixed-income neighborhood."

Sims knows the Mayor from serving on the city’s Planning Commission. But she had no idea Barry would adopt YIMBY as an aspirational slogan for the city.

"I was actually surprised when I heard her use it," Sims says. 

She’s optimistic that the phrase guiding her neighborhood, pushing for people to get active about inclusion and housing preservation, might also guide the city. "Nashville desperately needs something we can rally behind that says we are not going to let our city be totally gentrified," she says.