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An Open Letter about Golden

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2022-06-15 Update #

I wrote this document the first time in a very small number of minutes, three weeks ago, on my way out the door on a particularly busy day. I follow “write it now”. I’ve gotten to discuss this letter with a few different people, because I mentioned it in email. Some of you asked, essentially “what are you actually asking for, josh?”._

I thought about it for a moment, and said something like “I’d like to see euclidean zoning abolished”, and now, as I’ve thought about it more, the simplest ask I’m requesting is thus:

Replace Golden’s zoning code with Japanese-style zoning

So, from a legislative perspective, thats almost the only outcome I would consider to be ‘possibly ethical’1

you, maybe:

what is this stuff of ethics, Josh, we’re talking about zoning!

I know.

Open Letter to Golden City Council #

I wrote this on May 24th, after that day’s update from announced two big entries on the docket. Reviewing a CoorsTek PUD (it was apporoved) and ‘voting’ on the rezoning thing that’s been underway for two years. Those two topics in mind, I wrote some thoughts about zoning in Golden

I wrote the following in an email to, but I have no idea if/where it will be made public, so re-posting here.2

Email Subject: I’m generally disappointed with the discourse I’ve observed to date #

Hi there, city council and staff,

I’ve lived in Golden since 2014, my wife and I managed to buy a house in 2020, on Iowa St. 3.

I’ve attended many meetings, and noticed that for people who live in the city, there is an obsession with what the city staff or council are doing/not doing, for understandable reasons. The entire city is dependent upon the decisions of city staff, planning commission, and council.

The city is extremely expensive to live in, and the road networks don’t function very well or safely for anyone.

The way the city solicits ‘public input’ is hilariously biased, full of micromanagement, and obviously doesn’t lead to useful outcomes.4

The city staff perpetuate issues that harm everyone by failing to recognize the origins of bad policies that cripple progress and real growth. I don’t expect the average resident to be an expert in municipal zoning codes, and the complicated histories therein, but I expect the staff and city council to know these things.

Zoning is far more complicated and insidious and harmful than generally appreciated #

Zoning, for example, as exists in America, was created by politically powerful ethnic groups to maintain social control and physical separation over other ethnic groups; “urban renewal” was the excuse cities used to enact regimes of ethnic cleansing against ‘undesirable’ ethnic minorities.1

Here’s a quote from an article, the whole thing is worth reading:

The zone plan drafted by Whitten and unpublished by the Atlanta City Planning Commission in 1922 explained that “race zoning is essential in the interest of the public peace, order and security and will promote the welfare and prosperity of both the white and colored race.” The zoning law divided the city into an “R-I white district” and “R-2 colored district” with additional neighborhoods undetermined (Rothstein 2017) source

This zone plan the document references is intense. I’ve written extensively about Whitten’s plan here.

Golden still has R1 and R2 neighborhoods. They’re not labeled “white” and “colored”, anymore, but the original intent lives on. I live in an R2 neighborhood. There’s a bunch of distinctive features that make it obviously a ‘traditional’ R-2 neighborhood.

Most people have not even heard of R1 or R2 zoning, and yet it’s the dominant visible feature of most (maybe all?) cities in America today.

Incidentally, everyone is hurt by the R1 and R2 distinction. The entire “zone plan” laid down by Whitten dicated not only to poor ethnic groups how they were going to live, but also how the lives of the “privileged”/powerful ethnic groups would be. For t he same reasons I wouldn’t want to go to a theme park built by a genocidal dictator, I don’t want to live in a built environment governed by the worldview of someone who was scared of certain ethnic groups and thought they were not even people.

R-2 neighborhoods #

Lets talk about R-2 neighborhoods. 

I live in an R2 neighborhood. Some (maybe most) of you don’t live in an R2-designated spot, but some of you do, and all of you are heavily negatively affected by the existence of R-2 zoning.

I invite you to look at page 10 of this document, to read the race zoning language directly, as it was written in 1922.

… did you look at it? It’s on page 10 of the document, page 12 of the PDF itself. Worth reading, in all its old-timey glory. The above link takes you to the correct page.

I desire for the city to move into the modern world when it comes to managing “itself”.

During the rezoning meetings, when the city was telling the residents of my R2 north-golden neighborhood what the new ‘form-based zoning’ rules were going to be, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the attendees of the meeting where from r1 neighborhoods, there to make sure that the new zoning plan wouldn’t apply to their homes.

I asked Rick if he was aware of the race-based heritage of zoning in the USA, and he seemed uncertain.

Let’s talk about ethnic cleansing #

is it getting hot in here? anyone sweating, or feeling uncomfortable? Not yet? Ok, lets carry on

Furthermore, road networks (and minimum parking requirements) are the primary justification/tool for urban renewal, which was used in American in the 50s, 60s, and 70s for ethnic cleansing.

Here’s how Wikipedia defines ethnic cleansing:

Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial, and religious groups from a given area, with the intent of making a region ethnically homogeneous. Along with direct removal, extermination, deportation or population transfer, it also includes indirect methods aimed at forced migration by coercing the victim group to flee and preventing its return, such as murder, rape, and property destruction.

So, to say that urban renewal has been used for ethnic cleansing in America, I’m making the charge that institutions in America have engaged in actions synonymous with rape, genocide, starvation, and war.

I invite anyone to obtain a copy of The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing by E Michael Jones, or borrow my copy.

I won’t be party to ongoing perpetuation of the injustices that decimated Denver, Golden, Lakewood, and every city in America in the 20th century.

I’d rather participate in a system that unwinds the evil plans worked by powerful people who embedded their views of the world in systems which hum along long after these evil people have died.

It’s too late to undo the evil acts that befell millions across the country, at the hands of politically powerful, racially-motivated ethnic groups. But we can start making a new path.

Incidentally, the new path will bring about a more pleasant, beautiful, well-running city. It will be a home to more people, and will hum with more life. There will be less “bad things” and more “good things”, for all involved persons, both now and years from now.

The things the city seems to be spending its time on are not related to the things the city should be spending its time on. The easiest/correct set of next steps would be to legislatively remove every piece of municipal code and statute that relates to regimes of ethnic cleansing and social control.

The people who perpetuated ethnic cleansing had deeply broken and warped views of the world (duh! They believed in things like phrenology and other forms of scientific racism. They were just as sophisticated in their understanding of how cities worked and functioned and existed as an ecosystem.

It’s really bad to continue allowing these people’s bad estimations of the world to be guiding decisions made across the city today.

These pro-ethnic-cleansing people couldn’t quite come out and say:

we want to pass laws that allow us to use heavy equipment to tear down ethnic neighborhoods

they had to say things like

in pursuit of maintenance of property values, we will make illegal many things associated with the ways of life of ethnic minorities, preventing them from consolidating any power or stability around them

and then later said:

if we deny city services to certain areas, we can make them look bad/scary

and then said:

To protect our citizens and GDP, we will tear down old-looking buildings and replace them with parking lots, and use federal highway administration dollars/documents to build highways through minority neighborhoods.

because these groups of evil people had access to more wealth and political power than the ethnic groups they targeted. Once they made tools to hurt certain groups, those tools kept hurting every person who is involved. Like It’s not wealthy people who get their homes taken for highway expansion, because wealthy people don’t live near highways, generally.

For example, since car ownership was associated with income, and income is/was a proxy for wealth, any legislation/regulation that prioritized cars, or any federal dollars obtained to build car infrastructure, supported their goals of advancing the way of life of people who drive cars, which was people who had a little more money to begin with, or at least who looked like “safe” people to lend money to.

This is why I have very little patience for urban planning experts who don’t instantly recognize the vast harm wrought by ‘minimum parking requirements’ and an unwillingness to make the streets safe/efficient/effective for all users.[^most-vulnerable-first]

OK, whats the alternative? #

The good news is as soon as we drop the crappy old paradigm, (and the rules that are a form of metaphysical handcuffs), really good things can happen, quickly, for nearly everyone:

  • More parks
  • more pleasant places to walk
  • quieter, safer, exercise-ier,
  • more kids playing outside
  • more socializing
  • more shade from trees
  • more park benches and playgrounds and pickleball courts
  • more schools and daycare places
  • more housing (that’s close to cool things!)
  • more places that will pay for labor (so you’re not so tied to a job if it’s not a good fit for you anymore, or you hate it)
  • more bus stations and train tracks
  • more deer, birds, rabbits, butterflies and bees

I don’t really know how to end this.

[most-vulnerable-first]: Current road networks are inadequate, even for drivers. That’s the topic of another blog post, but the roads are bad. Jonathan Stalls lives in Denver, and talks about inadequate road networks regularly. Here’s a profile of him in Mashable. “safe enough” roads can be used safely by children, or disabled people, or the elderly, in all conditions, like: at night, in the rain, in the snow. We could go on a walk around Golden, following a cargo bike full of traffic cones, and could start laying out improvements to improve traffic flow, reduce intersection complexity, and reduce the need for vehicles to do as much stopping and hard accelerating. Everyone could just cruise around at a constant 20 mph. Golden’s only a few miles across the long way, so it would take no time at all to go nearly anywhere.

  1. I know this was phrased really strongly. Please, again, read my write it now piece.  2

  2. I think the email went to the whole city council. It’s just a microsoft office alias for them, or something. I’m sure it goes to others/someone keeps an eye on it for spam. 

  3. My wife and I have “good” jobs, so banks were happy to lend us horrific amounts of money to afford our 70 year old house that’s literally falling to pieces. It “cost” over half a million dollars. That’s far more than we ever wanted to spend on a house, but this was all that was available, and we have “good jobs”, so even at that cost, it’s within a reasonable income/rent ratio, at least to a bank. It’s hard to talk about without assuming all parties have at least read a book review of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America or read some of the goodreads comments. 

  4. If you find this to be a not-credible statement, consider reading Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. I’m not casting aspersions at any particular group, per se. Good people with good intentions are everywhere. It’s the implementation that gets messy, for a few solvable reasons.