Getting to Yes

Posted by on October 20, 2016

Environmentalists say “no” a lot.

And I should know. For decades, at hundreds of government meetings, I have stood and said “no, sir — respectfully, that’s not good enough.”

I said no when I was working to slash contaminants in drinking water, and said no to toxins in our air, and said no to attempts to weaken efforts to clean up LA’s most contaminated sites. There’s power there — and a strong “no” must continue to be said. LA’s active oil wells are still spewing toxins into our poorest neighborhoods. We need to say no to that.

Yet, in many environmental circles, “no” has become automatic and unthinking.

With the default switch set at “no,” we may be harming communities by contributing to a culture of NIMBYism that thwarts good remedies and preserves a shoddy status quo.

Take housing and development.

This November, Santa Monica voters will consider Measure LV, which will place every development above 32 feet before voters for approval. And in March 2017, voters in Los Angeles will consider the so-called “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative,” which would ban all new buildings that seek variances from planning documents — most of which were developed more than fifty years ago, when Los Angeles was a very different city.

From a climate perspective, both of these NIMBY measures are disastrous. Gasoline is the #1 source of climate pollution and reducing dependency on automobiles is an essential strategy to reduce climate pollution. With three million additional souls projected in LA County by 2050, it makes sense to channel growth along public and active transit corridors, giving Angelenos real options to leave their cars at home or forego having a car at all.

This is why Climate Resolve favors “in-fill’ development, especially if it’s performed sensitively to existing communities – and we’re willing to consider other development efforts that similarly minimize climate pollution.

So this environmental organization is going to say yes to sustainable growth and a more climate-resilient future — by saying no to NIMBY measures.

If you’re curious about these and other ballot initiatives, Shane Phillips of Better Institutions has created an excellent guide.

And of course, be sure you are registered to vote!

— Jonathan

p.s. Two “yes” votes we recommend you cast: “yes” for Measure M (to transform LA with better transportation) and Measure A (to create and maintain parks and open, green spaces)!