I recently received an email from a resident expressing concern about the environmental impact of building more homes. he writes: “The construction of thousands of new housing units requires vast resources such as cement, wood, sheetrock, glass, tiles and roofing materials, and each unit must be equipped with household essentials. We need 6,000 stoves, ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, toilets, washers, dryers, etc. The construction of these new buildings places demands on the earth’s resources and requires the consumption of large amounts of energy. , with commensurate greenhouse gas emissions.”
You may not agree that dishwashers and washers/dryers are “household essentials” that every home needs, but technically, he’s right about emissions and resources. Housing may be more environmentally friendly than others, but it still uses more resources than not building a home.
It is also clear that developing what would otherwise be green space, such as gardens, grounds and parks, is not good for the natural environment. That’s probably what the “Woodside is Puma Habitat” campaigners had in mind when they opposed state housing requirements, and if much of their vast rural land were to be fully developed , they are probably right that there will be a mountain lion or two. Affected.
But no one is saying we should stop planting crops because agriculture is also bad for the environment.People need food, people need shelter. So what’s behind these arguments that housing is bad for the environment, and how much of an environmental argument is the housing argument?
My guess is that at least part of it is that the person who wrote this email, the residents of Woodside, and most people I know love and appreciate nature. We vacation in beautiful places and visit parks and squares on weekends. In case of illness, you can go to a local hospital that prioritizes nature with beneficial effects on your health. We don’t just enjoy nature. Some people choose to abandon their larger homes and live in vans or smaller homes in order to be more immersed in the environment. I feel As such, people may be concerned that the increased density will compromise the tranquility of the environment they enjoy here.
But it’s a quality of life debate, not an environment debate. It is true that development, people, light, noise and human activity disrupt ecosystems, but the further away homes and businesses are, the worse the impact is. From an environmental point of view, we need people to live close to each other, provide the services we use, and keep the rest of the land undisturbed. , material consumption and environmental footprint are less. Therefore, where housing is required, the environment prefers dense and walkable areas. Especially when it is combined with the expansion and protection of open spaces and wilderness areas. There is a good environmental argument that all new homes should be multi-story, multi-family and walkable.
In addition, it can be argued that the houses built in our area are especially environmentally friendly. California has efficient building codes, relatively clean electricity, and a warm climate. Building dense housing in California is arguably a net win for the environment, especially when populated by people moving from areas with less temperate climates or areas with poor building codes or dirty electricity. So if nature had a vote, it would reject Woodside’s open land in favor of less populated open spaces and a more dense downtown with more populated multi-family homes.
In other words, housing may technically be bad for the environment, but people need housing, and the best kind of housing for the environment is dense and walkable. No, but not everyone wants to live in such a house. In 2016, he became known for being an ardent advocate for more dense Palo Alto housing, his 2,700-square-foot four-bedroom single-family home in Santa Cruz and his two-bedroom home. Moving the family to a house with a car garage. Density and environmental friendliness were not her top priorities when choosing where to live for her own family. The same is true for many people. Workers commute from Tracy to the Bay Area because they prefer Bay Area housing. What is good or bad for the environment has little bearing on these decisions.
So I think any “housing is bad for the environment” argument is dubious and distracts from the real problem. The housing debate is about affordability. It’s about fairness. It’s about quality of life. And it’s about balancing those objectives. If there’s a meaningful environmental angle to the housing discussion, I think it’s simply that people place a higher value on access to the natural environment, which is increasingly expensive to create and maintain. Palo Alto has long prioritized park space, healthy tree canopy, spacious schools, and access to nature for its residents. Many beautiful multifamily homes have been built with green spaces and gardens. Residents donate their time and wallets to start and support worthy initiatives such as Foothills Park, Baylands, Canopy and Gamble Garden Centre. Given the exorbitant costs of land and construction, developers claim they need 30 or 40 homes per acre to break even, so in adding new occupants, the park space How can we continue to prioritize and green spaces?
What are your thoughts on the extent to which our local governments need to balance more housing with access and integrity of the natural environment? For example, to reduce our footprint and improve affordability, Should all new dwellings be 40 multi-story multi-family homes per acre with relatively little green space? Or should there be more open space in and near these new dwellings? Need space?
Notes and references
1. There are limits to this. Dense urban areas need to be able to dispose of waste and procure energy and water in an environmentally friendly manner. The area may be too dense.
2. One of the good news for Palo Alto is that there are a lot of new multifamily lots that don’t involve building on green spaces. But how much green space should be reserved for new residents in those locations, and how much should the city expand park and school space?
Current Climate Data (September 2022)
Global Impact, US Impact, CO2 Index, Climate Dashboard
I hope that your contribution will become an important part of this blog. Please follow these guidelines to keep the discussion productive. Otherwise, your comment may be edited or deleted.
– Avoid comments that are disrespectful, defamatory, slanderous, angry, or personal attacks.
– Refer to factual and reliable sources.
– Stay on topic.
– In general, keep this as a welcoming space for all readers.
To encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, registered users can comment on stories. If you are already a registered user and the comment form is not below, you will need to login. If you are not registered, you can login here.
Make sure your comments are truthful and on-topic, and don’t disrespect other contributors. Don’t be mean or disrespectful. All posts are subject to our Terms of Service and may be removed if deemed inappropriate by our staff.
Please see the notice regarding mandatory comment registration.