Harvard economist and New York Times columnist Edward Glaeser in an interview with Sarah Goodyear at The Grist:
My largest message to the environmental community is to fight development when it's harmful for the environment, but support development when it's helpful for the environment. Local activists can't stop development in the U.S. as a whole. There's just going to be too many areas where they're going to be happy to build. We're going to build, roughly, in the long term, 1.5 million, 1.4 million new housing units a year to accommodate the population growth and the depreciation of old housing. While local activists can't turn that off, they can determine where it happens, because they can, in their own communities, stop development. When you turn off the flow of new housing in your community, it turns on somewhere else.
At least one way that we see this is if you think about California's post-war arc. California through the '60s was building an enormous amount of housing. Gradually, starting in the '70s, that growth of new housing diminished sharply, particularly in the most attractive coastal areas of the country. One reason for that slowdown were environmental victories like the Friends of Mammoth case that made it much more difficult to build.
The sad fact from an environmental point of view is that building in the San Francisco Bay is a great thing to do. There's an incredibly temperate climate, which means that the carbon emissions for households there are among the lowest in the country. It's got plenty of access to great public transportation. This is the area that should be building a great deal of housing. But when you make it difficult to build there, you make sure that there's housing being built instead in the suburbs of Houston, where you'd need a lot of energy to create a pleasant manmade environment, and there's a lot of driving.
Someday we're going to have to scrap Seattle's ridiculously anti-green zoning regulations (70% of the city is zoned for single-family housing)—zoning regulations that create sprawl, make in-city homes scarce and expensive, and push families out of city and into their cars. We can have our current zoning regulations or we can have our smug, green, self-satisfaction (hey, we recycle our table scraps!), but we can't have both. (Via Sullivan.)