By Dom Nozzi
A “PINO” is a Progressive in Name Only. A person who holds deceptive political beliefs. A person who is engaged in virtue signaling, wherein the person seeks to give others the impression that they are ethical. Or part of the tribe.
Camera guest opinion writer Judith Renfroe questioned how progressives can support more housing, infill, smaller houses, expanded transportation choices, smaller and local retail, and a lower carbon footprint.
My questions to her: In what universe do progressives support preservation of low-density, low-slung, and large-lot suburban housing? Or take a stance that is detrimental to affordable and healthy travel options (transit, walking, bicycling)? Or be anti-walkable city and pro-drivable suburb? Or support such restrictive single-family zoning that house prices continue to skyrocket and middle-income families are increasingly excluded from living in a city where their job is located?
The ideas that the anti-city and pro-car folks such as this author hold on to are absurd.
We are told that it is wrong for some Boulder progressives (the pro-city and pro-housing folks) to be in bed with “evil, greedy developers” who can’t ever be trusted to build desirable developments. That it is progressive and promoting quality of life if we instead “protect neighborhoods from development.” Or “protect our views of the Flatirons.”
Let’s see if I understand correctly. I’m living in Boulder in, say, 1890. According to the above logic, I must urge my neighbors and my elected officials to “protect our neighborhood” by not allowing an “evil, greedy developer” to build my home. Or any other home for that matter. After all, how can we trust a greedy developer? My two-story home will block my views of the Flatirons. And cause traffic gridlock.
Why, I ask, were developers heroic when you arrived in Boulder but, now that you are here, developers have become greedy and evil? Putting aside the double standard — or the idea that I’ve got mine, so we can pull up the ladder now — let us consider this proposition that your home and neighborhood were wonderful when you arrived.
In the view of a great many in the field of town planning, science, medicine, engineering and sociology, the past several decades have seen the development of single-family neighborhoods that are:
• The most unaffordably expensive in American history, in terms of housing, land consumption, and transportation.
• The most anti-social and suspicious-of-neighbors in American history (Robert Putnam’s research has shown that America is now a nation of loners).
• The most energy-intensive, air-polluting, and consumptive in American history.
• The most unhealthy in American history (studies show low-density neighborhood design triggers obesity, heart disease and diabetes).
• The most architecturally ugly buildings in American history.
• The most restrictive in travel options in American history — only motorized travel is possible.
• The most low-quality in American history — in terms of the durability of building materials used.
• The most isolating in American history — for seniors and children who cannot get around without a car.
Is this the sort of neighborhood design we should be protecting in the interests of quality of life and sustainability? In this age of crisis regarding affordability, climate change, health woes, loss of lifestyle and travel choices, and loss of beauty, shouldn’t we instead be incrementally tweaking the design of the neighborhoods built over those decades so that they instead deliver a better quality of life and more resilient sustainability?
Eighty percent of the land in Boulder is zoned single-family and has many of these features, compared to about 0.1% allocated to a walkable, sustainable lifestyle. Is it possible that the neighborhoods with the features I list above are outdated and unsustainable in a world of climate change and affordability woes? A world where the demand for walkable neighborhoods is enormous (and growing) compared to a tiny supply of such neighborhoods?
Shouldn’t we perhaps reconsider the angrily held view that your neighborhood is wonderful in design and should not be harmed by more housing or compact development? That perhaps maybe a few mistakes were made back when Boulder had a “wonderful small-town character” at the time you arrived here?
Dom Nozzi lives in Boulder.