In the Headlines
April 7, 2023

Holland & Knight's Tamsen Plume Talks YIMBYs, NIMBYs and Getting Things Built in the Bay Area

San Francisco Business Times

West Coast Land Use and Environment attorney Tamsen Plume was profiled by the San Franscisco Business Times about her legal career path and current work in the Bay Area. She explained that she chose environmental and land use law because she thought the practice would be more straightforward—the line more visible between good and evil—than, say, family or criminal law. Her work turned out to be a lot more nuanced; the nuance of local land use laws, of support for and opposition to new development in the Bay Area and of getting things built there.

“I became quite passionate about environmental justice and environmental issues when I was in college,” said Ms. Plume when asked about how she became a lawyer. “I knew I wanted to work in that area, but I didn’t know what part. There was one path that would have required a science degree, but I didn’t see myself in a lab. There were master’s degree programs, but I just wasn’t sure what I would do with them. I also went through wanting to be a scuba diving instructor, but then I realized I was going to have to manage people on vacation.”

When asked about the most important piece of Bay Area land use policy in her career, she noted the year 2011 when the Housing Accountability Act was interpreted to apply to all housing projects, not just affordable housing. She also acknowledged the challenges that accompany passing housing policy and regulations. “For the first 20 years of my career, or close to, we did something I lovingly refer to as creative groveling, which you do in order to get someone to approve something they don’t necessarily want to approve. It’s not easy, and for housing, it’s really not easy. 'No,' and 'you have to' were never in my vocabulary when talking to cities. They weren’t options.”

She was also asked to provide insight on where San Francisco is headed with regard to housing opportunities. “The value of many people’s personal worth is tied up in their homes. So there is this tension between wanting housing—and this is classic [not in my back yard] NIMBY—but just not here, or not there, or not that way,” she said. “I think San Francisco is going to continue to struggle for a while. I think people are realizing they are going to have to embrace some change and density and urbanism. But I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

READ: Holland & Knight's Tamsen Plume Talks YIMBYs, NIMBYs and Getting Things Built in the Bay Area (Subscription required)

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