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July 02, 2019 02:32 PM UTC

Housing Growth Cap (Q200) wins in Lakewood special election

  • by: kwtree

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Final update until July 11, when military, overseas, and “cured” ballots will be counted (but  probably not change results much) : Question 200, the Lakewood Growth Cap, won by 52.60% to 47.40%. Turnout was high for a municipal election: about 35%.

What this means: Growth in Lakewood will be held to 1%, and housing projects of over 40 units will have to go through citizen review.

From the Jeffco Clerk’s website:

Lakewood Special Election Results  – City of Lakewood Ballot Question 200

Shall the City of Lakewood limit residential growth to no more than one (1) percent per year by implementing a permit allocation system for new dwelling units, and by requiring City Council approval of allocations for projects of forty (40) or more units?
Yes (FOR THE ORDINANCE): 18,771  (52.60%)
No (AGAINST THE ORDINANCE): 16,913 (47.40%)
Total Votes Cast: 35,684 (35.81% of Lakewood’s 99,638 eligible voters)

A special election was held in Lakewood, Colorado on July 2, 2019. The all-mail-ballot election allowed voters to decide whether Lakewood will have a housing growth cap, which would limit density for new housing. It also mandates a more active role for community and local governments; units of over 40 apartments have to be approved by citizen and Council panels.

Green Mountain, Lakewood, CO from Thomson200, Wikimedia Commons
Green Mountain, Lakewood, CO, by Thomson200, posted on Wikimedia Commons. Lakewood values livable communities, with open space and mountain views.

The “Strategic Growth Initiative” (SGI), also known as Question 200, was strongly opposed by the real estate industry, which spent over $500,000 in ads against it. Lakewood, as part of Jefferson County, prioritizes parks and open space. Lakewood itself has 107 parks and 2,700 acres of open space. Most Lakewood residents want to keep the green and open space and unobstructed views. However, as with all the Denver metro area, affordable housing is in short supply. One bedroom apartments are going for $1200 – 2,000 rent per month. Q200 would set aside some permits for affordable housing. The growth cap is an attempt to keep Lakewood livable, but also more affordable.

Voting “No” on Question 200 would not have promoted affordable housing in Lakewood. More housing does not necessarily mean more affordable housing. Building multiple huge high rise apartments actually puts upward pressure on rents, as these units are marketed for upscale renters. A No vote on 200 would have made  those last remaining parcels of open space and low density housing in sleepy little neighborhoods even more tempting for developers, and over-developed the Lakewood we know and love. High-end and luxury developments would eventually have crowded out and overshadowed residential neighborhoods, and high-rise apartment complexes would have blocked mountain vistas.

But high-density development is profitable, and the real estate and construction industries worked hard to defeat Q200.  There has been some deliberate misinformation put out by the real estate industry; opponents said that the SGI would raise rents, taxes, and hurt the economy.

From the “Facts” section of the Strategic Growth Initiative website:

The Strategic Growth Initiative does not increase taxes and it does not apply to business and commercial properties.  Developers currently build wherever they want without any regard for, or input from the community. By having public hearings on large projects, we can ensure proper implementation of our city comprehensive and sustainability plans.

Current policies cause over-development. Recent changes to the zoning code removed long-standing density limits, leading to overcrowding and putting pressure on our already failing infrastructure including streets, traffic, parking, emergency response, open space and flood control.

Lakewood voters have spoken loud and clear. We want open space, limits on mega-apartment plexes and high-rises, and to have a voice in development. It is still going to be a fight to make that a reality, but our grandkids will thank us for it.


42 thoughts on “Housing Growth Cap (Q200) wins in Lakewood special election

  1. Wrong, MJ. I've lived in Lakewood now 24 years. If this ridiculous initiative passes, the value of my house will go way up as will my property taxes.

    There are other ways to do affordable housing. Even liberal state senator Brittany Pettersen, from Lakewood, publicly came out against 200. 

    And there is ample unused space within Lakewood. Take a drive sometime along “Lakewood’s smelly armpit,” also known as West Colfax, from Sheridan to Simms. You’d be surprised at the number of large and small vacant lots, empty big box stores and half empty strip malls. Oh, and don’f forget the liquor stores, tattoo parlors, and “no tell” motels.

    1. I’m familiar with West Colfax, and drive it often. All Q200 would do is mandate that the community, not just developers, decide and plan how it will change and adapt to the pressure of people moving in from “downtown”. I like how some parts of East Colfax were planned to include shopping, arts, municipal buildings, and medium density affordable housing.

    2. I lived in Jefferson County before Lakewood was incorporated and there was open land around Golden.  Instead of a growth cap, my preference was that a developer had to show that the houses they want to build will have adequate water 50 years from now.  It's all about the water and not having the tap run dry.  This initiative will be challenged in court but it is a shot across the bow at the developers, realtors, builders and bankers that unlimited growth is not an option.

  2. In a little over an hour, we'll start seeing returns from the election. We'll see if the realtor propaganda dominated public understanding, or not. I'll update the blog with election results.

    I didn't actually get to vote on this, having moved into Lakewood within the last month and forgot about updating voter registration. But I do agree that the Strategic Growth Initiative would give communities a voice in development, and slow the roll towards vast, multiple story,sprawling apartment complexes.

    To your point, CHB, I did not claim 200 would promote affordable housing; but extending current development trends with no community input definitely will not do that. It won't be the first time I'm on the opposite side of an issue from Pettersen, and I can live with that.

    I’m not even sure Pettersen really took a position on Q200. Most elected officials didn’t, preferring to leave it up to voters. Can you provide a source or a link?

  3. Results are in: Question 200 on a Housing Growth Cap in Lakewood won, by ~52- 47%. On July 11, when military, overseas, and "cured" ballots are counted, we will know the final numbers.

    I think that the Strategic Growth Initiative win is a victory for citizen participation in Lakewood. The ballot initiative itself met intense pushback, and several lawsuits, from the real estate and construction industries. Those interest groups poured over $500,000 into fighting the initiative, and pur out tremendous amounts of misinformation about it.

    After July 11, the opposing sides will have to start negotiating about housing development in Lakewood. Citizen voices have been missing from that debate, but Q200 will make sure that they are now heard.

    1. Yeah, it's great when the local Maoist self-criticism committee moves in and tells you how to live!  They do so well on homeowner association boards.  I just can't wait for the red guards to come into my neighborhood next.

  4. "tremendous amounts of misinformation….."  Like the advocates ignoring how property taxes and rents will rise, just as occurred in Boulder and Golden when those towns put on caps.  

    Liberal special interests; disguised as advocates for citizen participation; strike again.

  5. Liberal NIMBY-ism is the most rank hypocrisy there is.  It basically comes down to two mindsets.  The "screw you, I've got mine" one of preservation and that liberal philosophies such as diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism are fine as long as they aren't done in my neighborhood. 

    Bravo Lakewood for joining the bastions of affordability and inclusion that are Boulder and Golden.

    1. Well said, Wong.  A severe restriction on supply is automatically followed by a sharp increase in price.   That's why diamonds cost more than water, even though water is necessary for life and diamonds are merely decorative.

      So, Lakewood will become more expensive and affordable housing will shrink.  Another victory for racial segregation disguised as Nimbyism.

  6. I only looked at one source and don't live in Lakewood, but I read that 200 would still allow about 680 new units in 2020 (plus 1% of whatever the new and probably larger total is in years to follow), and has exceptions for:

    • New units on blighted land
    • Housing units for Colorado Christian University and Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
    • Homes that are torn down and rebuilt

    I don't know what Lakewood really needs, but 200 still allows for some level of new construction – one way to look at it would be more than 6,800 new units over 10 years.

    1. Wow.  6,800 units over 10 years?  That's really going to put a dent in the housing shortage of 30K units in Denver alone that has contributed to the rampant increases in property values in the metro area.

      The blighted land exception is interesting.  I'd call all of Lakewood blighted and in desperate need of scraping and rebuilding.  Can the entire city be declared a blight on the earth and an abomination before God?

      1. Well, 6,800 is nearly a quarter of 30K, so I assume we will differ in perspective but I don't think 6,800 is insignificant. Plus, by my eye Denver's building a lot of units right now, though I prefer numbers if anyone's got them.

        1. That would assume that growth remains stagnant over the next 10 years- which is unlikely to happen unless we go the path of Pueblo.  Lakewood, while not a firecracker of growth, has an average growth rate of 1.18% over the last decade.  So, Lakewood just elected to force that .18% YoY growth to be absorbed by other communities.  That might seem insignificant, but that can easily be a third of those units, if they were apartments, that Lakewood will build over the next decade.  If surrounding communities are unable to accommodate this demand displacement, which they won't, you will see an uptick in home pricing and lease rates.

          Then there's the socio-economic impact.  These displaced people aren't going to come from the white professional class that likely drove this initiative to victory, it's going to be the people on the lower rungs that are going to have to find housing elsewhere.

          1. It also creates growth wars with surrounding cities such as Golden, Englewood, and Littleton.  They may vote the same, and then we will need to build giant suburbs out by Brighton so that young, struggling families can drive fifty miles to work on crammed freeways. Not a nice way to treat the people who manufacture our goods and household items.

            1. 25% of the allocations are for affordable housing, so “young,struggling families” have housing that they can afford. See the sgi doc p 13, for explanation of how affordable housing units are allocated.

              My daughter, her partner and new baby are one of those struggling young families living in Golden. They are paying $1400 now for a 2br apt. The sgi initiative gives the housing industry an incentive to create affordable rental and condo units. That incentive doesn’t exist now- all the pressure is to build high end luxury apts and charge what the market will bear. 

              Yes, this idea will spread- and the housing industry will have to adapt to it, which will benefit struggling renters, transportation and infrastructure burden, and the environment. 

              Please take the time to read the actual initiative before you post more real estate lobbyist talking points.

              1. That you can draw such a conclusion from the SGI defies all logic.  There's ZERO incentive to provide additional affordable housing in the SGI- it does not afford any kind of exception for affordable housing (except for senior housing so the old residents of Lakewood are ensured a place for their enfeebled, selfish asses to wither away consumed by their bitter hatred of change).  There's simply four allocation pools to which the Council will divvy up the 700-odd allocations for new residences.  Lakewood will never grow by more than that number.   That people think that all of a sudden this will lower per-unit development costs and the majority of the ~700 units of new housing that will be added to Lakewood each year will be affordable is naive, unrealistic, and foolish.

                The SGI, in the exact words of one of the authors, is to ensure that Lakewood stays a "homogeneous community" of single family homeowners that didn't like the changing facets of housing trends where more people rent and that multi-family rentals are economically sensible in larger developments.  It's asinine and screams liberal hypocrisy.  These people don't want your daughter to have housing in Lakewood and you obviously don't want it either.


                1. Wow, you really don't like old folks, do you?

                  (except for senior housing so the old residents of Lakewood are ensured a place for their enfeebled, selfish asses to wither away consumed by their bitter hatred of change). 

                  What about students – got any nasty adjectives for them? Student housing has a carve-out, too. See "exceptions" page2  in the ordinance (pdf download).

                  Mind finding a source (with link, please)  for that "homogenous community" quote? All kinds of folks on here are quoting the industry propaganda, which frankly, lied its ass off so that they can keep on creating luxury developments for yuppies.

                  My daughter lives in Golden, not Lakewood – but perhaps reading comprehension is not your strong suit. Golden, along with several other front range communities, is considering a similar growth cap. And your mind-reading skills are on a par with V's – which is to say, they stink.

                  You have no idea what I want for my daughter, and you should apologize for presuming that you do. I simply wrote an article about an ordinance which the voters of Lakewood passed in spite of half a million that the industry dropped to oppose it. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to any vicious insults to our elders.

                  So what is your stake in this? Are you a developer, a construction company owner,a realtor, or ???

                  Note: commercial and industrial development is not affected, and there are various other hardship exceptions that city council can make as it pleases. 

                  So get your lobbying schtick on – just a word of advice though- many of the city council members are seniors, so don't come at them with your "selfish, greedy, enfeebled, bitter" schtick.

                  1. To rebuttal:

                    -Nope.  Baby Boomers are the most entitled generation to grace this country in a good long time.  These guys are truly the epitome of the, "screw you, I've got mine" trope.  The sooner that SS is reformed to be need-based, that pensions are radically restructured, and retirement is rethought so that this generation gets to embrace the suck that we younger folks have to endure, the better.

                    -If you want the quote, check out Brad Evans of Denver Cruiser Rides and Denver Fugly fame.  He has plenty of screen captures of this proponents vile desires.  I'm unable to provide links at this time.

                    -I don't have a bone to pick with the tiny college student population in Lakewood.  The few hundred beds that CCU want to put onto their campus isn't exactly going to make a dent in the draconian restrictions that your city just enacted.

                    -Perfectly aware that your daughter lives in Golden- reading comprehension is fine there.  But you clearly do not know that Golden has had a 1% growth cap in place since 1995 and that Golden home prices are an average of 25% higher than Lakewood.  This is not because Golden is far more desirable than Lakewood, but because the housing stock that was built since the restriction has been SF stock with a higher $/SF sales price and that was targeted at upper income earners.  Oh, and some senior housing so that the old folks who love their idyllic, little town can continue to enjoy it while ensuring that those young, less white, folks can't get in.  Once again, the "screw you, I've got mind" generation strikes.

                    It's clear you have little idea of how to accommodate growth in our communities in a smart and sustainable manner and have embraced the liberal California NIMBY model of embracing inclusionary principles- just as long as they don't happen in my town and keep everything the way it is.  Inclusionary zoning, banning single-family only zoning, offering a plethora of housing options such as duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, walk-up apartments, multi-story apartments, having mixed-use zoning, making streets multi-modal, decreasing SOV trips, etc. are all ways of increasing affordability, making our cities more livable, building the sense of community, and providing future generations some semblance of the opportunities that the previous generations have had and subsequently squandered.

                    Cities that developed primarily during the 1950’s to the 1980’s need to change, rather than refuse to change such as Lakewood is doing. This SGI is meant to keep Lakewood looking like Mayberry.  It doesn't accommodate growth, encourages SOV commuting, promote inequality, and drives economic and racial segregation.  It's not a progressive idea, but a conservative one.

                    Here's some reading for you:

                    Why Housing Policy Feels Like Generational Warfare

                    How Minneapolis Freed Itself From the Stranglehold of Single-Family Homes

                    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

                    5 Lessons from Cities On Affordable Housing

    2. Yup. The legal language of the ordinance ( pp 9-23 on petition doc) show that there are exceptions to the cap , and building permit allotments available, for “blighted”, for senior and university housing, for low income housing, for replacing existing single family and “accessory” dwellings, Commercial / industrial, and any other exceptions city council chooses to grant..

      Allotments include 4-5 different pools, including a hardship pool, which I’m not going to detail here – y’all can read all about it on the doc if you like. 

      The ordinance is a statement of what values should guide development in Lakewood, over and above profit for builders, which has been the only guiding principle for the last few years.

  7. "Math class is tough." ~ Barbie, 1992

    Limit the supply, with no equivalent limit on demand, and price will rise. 
    Or, at least it always has.

    Is population / demand for housing increasing 1% per year or less? 

    1. Are we increasing our supplies of water by 1% or more per year?  What are the realistic limits to growth and how do we know when we have reached them?

      1. I agree with Madco. Food plots, water, roads, and electricity follow growth, not the other way around. If we build they will come. If they come we will build it.

  8. I don't like sprawl, but I do favor denser housing along transportation corridors. 

    One problem with restricting the number of units is that the infinite wisdom of the marketplace (i.e. developers) leads to mega-mansions rather than condos. In other words, sprawling, expensive suburbs instead of European-style cities.

  9. Heartened to see that folks on this liberal blog today fully get it that mean ol' Smitty's Invisible Hand is the only factor in housing pricing, while kindly apartment investment firms, like the Kushners, are benevolent players setting prices almost involuntarily with no regard for their own gains, well-deserved though they may be.

    1. I'm of mixed mind here.  I am not a fan of Hancock because he is in the pocket of developers.  While I think there should be some check on that and a new approach to development, I'm not sure this initiative was the way to go.

      1. You should read the SGI initiative (start on p 9) It seems to me to be pretty well thought-out, with reasonable exceptions for housing for seniors, commercial buildings, students, low-income people, hardship clauses, etc.

        The only language that seems to me to be lacking is acknowledgement of environmental realities – fire mitigation, and available potable water, for example, (h/t GG)  in a time of climate change. But oversight by city council is built in, and presumably, they will take some of those things into account.

        Implementation of SGI is going to be immediately beset with court challenges, but it's already weathered several. The building industries have come at it with half a million dollars, and the voters still think a 1% growth  cap is the best idea to limit development to what the existing infrastructure and community norms can support.

          1. Read the language on p 13, about allocation pools (for building permits). Then read p.15, about how building permits are determined to qualify for the low income housing exemption.

            The number of available total allocations is calculated by a complex formula explained on p. 12. Out of those available allocations, there are 4 allocation "pools" – one for anyone, one for "hardships", one for low-income /affordable housing, one for surplus allocations.

            The need for this initiative became obvious when builders, as is their wont, looked to make as much gain with as little pain as possible. This meant making multifamily, high end rent apartments for yuppies.  Look at the new apartment construction around Belmar, or browse Zillow for available rentals in Lakewood, and you'll see what I mean. It's pretty much the same all over the metro area.

            But what the community wanted was home-ownership opportunities – condos and single family dwellings. That stock wasn't as profitable to build.

            This initiative places some new rules on the housing game that makes builders have to consider other factors than maximum profit.


            1. Wasn't that document well over 1,000 pages long with all sorts of carve outs and exceptions for the special interests that supported 200? 

      1. Not really talking about the builders. I generally like those who design and build, it's a real talent. I'm talking about large firms investing in complexes from afar, connection to a community completely unnecessary, and then boosting the rental rates pretty much at will. To me, it's sort of like not blaming the doctors for health care costs, since they do amazing things and deserve compensation, but maybe shining the spotlight a tad on the sources of overhead and service denial and strange billing. And while I have no knowledge of East German housing, at least they have national health care, which the poor actually Jung working folk (over 26 as long as ACA survives) may not have or be able to afford, and on top of this they must fork over a big chunk of their income once a month to investors who don't care if they live or die for a nondescript one-bedroom, which also means they're probably unable to save for a down payment to get out of this cycle in which they gain no capitalist housing value for themselves.

        But my real point was to inject one more factor into this discussion. Happy 4th!

  10. Opposed by the real estate industry? We already knew this. We know that landowner, homeowners, and apartment owners have always had a history of keeping their property values up.

    They have done this for hundreds, even thousands  of years. By not building new homes and apartments, the existing property owners property values goes up. Meanwhile, the future college graduates, and lower and middle class workers can never afford to live in Lakewood, so they end up living fifty miles away and driving 100 miles a day for work. This crams the freeways up and then everyone is ticked. Eventually, the college graduates begin to leave the area, and a huge ghetto is created where criminals move into. This is exactly what happened in California, where middle class workers live way outside of LA, and transport themselves great distances to produce the items that everyday households need. The old neighborhoods that used to be affordable are run down ghettos, and houses that normally sell for 200k, now sell for 1 million dollars. 

    There is a greed at work here. Yes, we live in a Democracy, and yes, the voters had their say, but I still believe that some things should not be on a ballot. You're future workers will live in Aurora and transport themselves here to work for you at your own convenience. This is not a very fair way to deal with your fellow man and woman, but as we have seen in history, greed is one of the biggest driving factors in almost anything that we do.

    1. Again, I'd recommend actually reading the ordinance. There is a pdf you can download, or you can view the doc online.

      If you take the trouble to become informed, instead of just mindlessly ranting, you will see that college and student housing is an exception to the growth cap, as is senior housing.  So no, the future college graduates can live in Lakewood, in low cost student housing,  and move up to better digs when they become gainfully employed.

      I can't really speak to the situation in LA, but I suspect that the freeway congestion and lack of housing is due to other factors than a growth cap. You are talking about gentrification when you talk about $200K houses selling for >$1M. That is happening all over Denver, too. It happened in my old neighborhood in Highland – the $29K house I bought in '79 sold recently for over $300K. I couldn't afford now to live in the neighborhood I raised my kids in.

      Highland doesn't have a growth cap, and the historic neighborhood ordinances that used to protect the old buildings and streets have been crushed by developers – so multi-story high rises with apartments that rent for over $2000/mo overshadow the old winding streets, and strain the infrastructure of my old hood.  That was due to greed, as you said…but not a growth cap.

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