You’re Not an Environmentalist If You’re Also a NIMBY


Global warming is changing far more than just the climate. It’s altering the way environmentalists view development. For years, city dwellers who consider themselves to be eco-conscious have used environmental laws and arcane zoning rules to block new home construction, especially apartments and condominiums. In the inner East Bay, liberals have justified their actions by railing against gentrification and portraying developers as profiteers. But the lack of urban growth in Berkeley and in parts of Oakland during the past few decades also has contributed to suburban sprawl and long commutes. And all those freeways choked with cars are now the single biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

23 Responses to “You’re Not an Environmentalist If You’re Also a NIMBY”

  1. Chris

    That’s precisely why I’m voting for Mike O’Brien. And not voting for David Miller.

  2. Jon Morgan

    What’s the connection? Miller seems really impressive to me.

  3. F Buncher

    Jon, seriously, you do not know?

    David Miller is anti-development, obstructionist, a NIMBY and dangerous for Seattle. If he makes it to Council, it will take years for our city to recover from the damage he will bring and the progress he will stop.

    David Miller is not an environmentalist. He drives around in a pick-up truck and had a car in the Pride parade. He lives in a single-family house with only his wife and no children and is expanding that house. He opposes density and uses trees to justify his case. True environmentalists work to reduce vehicle miles traveled and they embrace well designed density because well designed density reduces transportation caused carbon output. Carbon output is causing global climate change. Miller is finding every argument in the book that he can find to oppose density because at heart he loves sprawl and does not care about the repercussions of the way he lives.

    David is a card carrying member of Jeannie Hale’s Seattle Community Council Federation and he founded the “Liveable” Seattle Movement. His campaign contributors include anti-development leaders such as: Irene Wall, Jeannie Hale, Pat Murakami, Mira Latoszek, Barbara Maxwell, Steve Zemke and Jan Brucker.

  4. Billie C

    Oh dear. Not an environmentalist because he lives in a single-family house?

    I’m not sure you’re familiar with the living accommodations of prominent Seattle environmentalists, but you might want to check into that before using it as a litmus test.

  5. F Buncher

    Billie C – Did you read the article that Dan refers to as the topic of this post?

  6. West Seattle property renter

    Who died and allowed you to define environmentalism?


  7. F Buncher

    @6: Science.

  8. West Seattle property renter

    @7 Um, Science isn’t dead.

    While I (and other far more thoughtful and progressive people like David Miller, Irene Wall, John Fox, Jeannie Hale, Pat Murikami, etc etc etc) concur with your macro interpretation of the science regarding global warming, we also have every right to take issue with your micro interpretation of how to solve it – which is apparently that we should pave over every remaining green space within the Seattle city limits in the hope that we’ll prevent sprawl elsewhere (I’m not quite clear if you think we’re preventing it Bellevue, Burlington, or Bellingham, though).

    Either way, good luck with that. Been to Monroe or Vancouver WA lately?

  9. ktstine

    i more upset that apparently one cannot be an environmentalist if one lives in a single-family home without kids!

    bellevue, burligton and bellingham are subject to the same statewide growth management act that we are. bellingham’s downtown is doing great things, including lots of great affordable housing of all different kinds. i prefer new housing and retial to paved parking lots…

  10. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    John Fox is neither thoughtful nor progressive, and he does deny the science behind density. There is a thoughtful conversation to be had on balancing the rate of development, and mis-characterizing the arguments of others is not helpful. (Yes, some on this blog do it too.)

    By the way, Fox showed his true colors in his latest hit piece on SLU. I say that because he ignores the low-income housing that non-profits have built in SLU–I guess because it’s new construction. He’s apparently not “for” anything, just against anything changing.

  11. ktstine

    that is ironic, because there have been so many great affordable housing developments in SLU – i can think of at least four off the top of my head – one of which is an acquisition-rehab and not new construction. and there are more in the works…

  12. F Buncher

    @8: You also have the right to believe that the earth is flat or that evolution is an unproven theory.

  13. Weekend Density Update | hugeasscity

    […] Cohen with a follow up to the environmentalist NIMBY […]

  14. Just a tip from an insider

    John Fox is an asshat. Here’s what’s great about SLU:

    Just TODAY Downtown Emergency Service Center broke ground on Canaday House for homeless folks at 424 Minor Ave:

    And it’s NEXT FUCKING DOOR to Low Income Housing Institute’s Bart Harvey low-income senior housing:

    Which are ACROSS THE FUCKING STREET from Housing Resources Group’s Casa Pacifica low-income workforce housing:


  15. Just a tip from an insider

    Test, why can’t I post? Is there no swearing here?

  16. Just a tip from an insider

    Jesus christ. Here’s my post:

    John Fox is an a**hat. Here’s what’s great about SLU:

    Just TODAY Downtown Emergency Service Center broke ground on Canaday House for homeless folks at 424 Minor Ave.

    And it’s NEXT F***ING DOOR to Low Income Housing Institute’s Bart Harvey low-income senior housing.

    Which are ACROSS THE F***ING STREET from Housing Resources Group’s Casa Pacifica low-income workforce housing.

    ETC F***ING ETC. F***!

  17. dan cortland

    JDF@10: Fox and Coulter don’t ignore low-income housing in their latest column on SLU any more than they ignore the debate over corn vs. flour tortillas in their column, because housing isn’t the topic of the column. They are writing specifically about the failure of biotech to generate new jobs in the neighborhood as promised. SBRI moved from Queen Anne, and practically every lab at UW Med/SLU moved from the main campus. Rosetta moved from the Eastside, then went out of business. Nothing you’ve written about nonprofits or housing addresses their point.

  18. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    DanC, supposedly John Fox is a advocate for low-income housing, so it stands to reason that he would at least mention it while he’s blasting the city for updating SLU’s sewer and power systems for the 21st Century. As I stated in the response, I agree with some of his goals but not with his methods.

    You are also misinformed about SBRI and UW SLU, both of which were previously short of lab space and so could not expand. In fact, SBRI kicked some Seattle Children’s groups out that had been sharing their new Westlake space because they’ve grown even faster than expected–not to worry though, Seattle Children’s has space at 9th and Stewart. The faculty and a few staff have been at UW, but many of the centers at UW SLU are brand new, including the Women’s Translational Health and the ITHS. I know 8 new hires on the 2nd floor of bldg C personally, which admittedly is not many by itself but I’m talking about people I can name off the top of my head and who recognize my face. I’m sure the city (and Vulcan) would have preferred to see successful startups like Zymo that brought in some serious tax money, but personally I’ll settle for non-profits that have a real shot at curing malaria and tuberculosis (not to mention that cancer work at the Hutch). We do pay our sales tax, after all.

  19. Tony the Economist

    How about we ruffle some other feathers: you’re not an environmentalist if you oppose gentrification. If you displace poor people into the distant suburbs, they will still ride the bus. Every time you liberals try to stop a luxury condo from displacing an low-income apartment complex you are just making global warming worse! And that damn housing levy. Every piece of land you waste building housing for people so poor that they can’t afford a car anyway is a piece of land not available to build luxury condos, which is the only way you will ever get the middle class to walk to work.

    Remember: there are no other values besides exploiting the threat of global warming to push a pro-development agenda. All other concerns are secondary! Oh, and don’t waste time trying to push for the kind of carbon pricing policies that would actually have an impact on global warming, be sure to focus all your attention exploiting the crisis to push an urban development agenda before it’s too late, and by “too late” I of course mean: before people realize that dense development is about as effective at fighting global warming as Light Rail is at fighting traffic congestion!

    Please note that there is a degree of sarcasm in this post, though there is a grain of truth in there as well. See if you can tell the difference. :-)

  20. dan cortland

    JDF: It’s extremely unlikely that the established, tenured UW faculty (Moon et al.) moved from the main campus alone. They probably took full labs with them. New hires would occur with the natural turnover of students and postdocs, as well as some expansion of labs. Fox is correct. SLU is not the biotech (for profit or nonprofit) job creator it was hyped to be.

    What do you study, red herring biology?

  21. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    DanC, I try to be polite and see where people are coming from, but I’m not sure how to respond. I have no illusions about the hype, Vulcan was hoping for big money and is probably pissed we can’t afford their new luxury condos in Denny Triangle. But Fox portrays it as a complete failure when he says “biotech never got off the ground.” We do exist and we can afford to rent market-rate apartments on our public sector salaries. (It didn’t help that he also mocked our medical work as “developing new patented life forms,” a ethically questionable practice used by for-profit agribusiness.)

    It’s absolutely true as you said (and I mentioned) that some jobs at UW SLU are not new, but do you really think there are no new jobs at all involved in these newly funded centers? Why don’t you give Randall Moon a call and ask him if there was room for their new equipment on campus? If UW does not have the facilities it will not be competitive and the work will go to one of the 80 other Academic Medical Centers. (As it does if another institution has better area expertise.)

    You could probably say the same about any of the businesses relocating to SLU. The mayor’s jobs numbers are obviously self-serving propaganda, but maybe it matters to have “enough space to potentially double in size” and “way better transportation” in center city Seattle.

    My work? translational health science.

  22. dan cortland

    but do you really think there are no new jobs at all involved in these newly funded centers?

    Obviously not, because I’ve never even suggested it.

  23. Front Page News | hugeasscity

    […] $875,000 single-family home.  These sentiments perfectly capture the key drivers of anti-density NIMBYism:  bigotry against people who don’t own a single-family house;  the obsessive association […]

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