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Op-Ed: Lakewood's Growth Cap Is 'Climate Arson'

In a scathing response to arguments in favor of a "slow growth" ordinance in Lakewood, Colorado, Mike Eliason rebukes the idea that capping growth is a green policy.
July 15, 2019, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Jim Lambert

The city of Lakewood, Colorado recently made waves by approving strict caps on residential development, a policy some environmental activists supported. "To anyone who has been paying attention to the housing crisis across the country, the outcomes of such an act will be quite obvious," Mike Eliason writes. "Home values will continue to escalate, affordability will not improve, rents will go up, commutes will get longer, homelessness will increase."

In addition to the policy's potential social and economic pitfalls, Eliason says it's preposterous to view "slow growth" measures as environmentally friendly. He writes, "the cap does not apply to business and commercial properties. What this means is that the city can continue to add jobs at a staggering clip, but the housing that should be added to balance those jobs in the city, will be forced to be located outside the city."

Eliason ridicules the idea that "forcing 4,000 more people to drive into the city for work, life, sports, school" can constitute a plan for climate action. "In fact, it is the exact opposite of a climate action plan, and here is why. Lakewood's own 2015 carbon emissions inventory shows that as it has gotten denser, its carbon footprint has actually gotten smaller."

Calling Lakewood's anti-development policies "a form of climate arson," Eliason also points out that they can be racially and economically discriminatory, foisting the burdens of auto-centric sprawl on youth, the poor, and people of color while preserving the benefits for well-off mostly-white homeowners. 

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Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 in Medium
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