Denver voters will get to decide how they feel about green roofs but not how they feel about public financing of elections

The Green Roof Initiative would require that Denver rooftops sport living things when the building is above a certain size.

Green roof of the EPA building in Denver. (Courtesy Denver Green Roof Initiative)
Green roof of the EPA building in Denver. (Courtesy Denver Green Roof Initiative)
Green roof of the EPA building in Denver. (Courtesy Denver Green Roof Initiative)

The Green Roof Initiative is pretty much what it sounds like. It would require that Denver rooftops sport living things when the building is above a certain size, and the larger the building, the more of the roof would have to be green.

A small group of environmentally minded volunteers have succeeded in placing this initiative on the 2017 municipal ballot, where it will join a $937 million general obligation bond program and a charter amendment to rename Denver’s public health department. The Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office reviewed 7,708 signatures turned in earlier this month and found that 4,771 of them were valid. The threshold is 4,726, so it was close.

Backers still face an uphill battle.

“We don’t have any money,” said organizer Brandon Rietheimer.

He anticipates that developers and real estate interests will oppose the measure, while his organization will depend on volunteers knocking on doors to explain the benefits of green roofs and why they won’t add to the cost of buildings in the long run.

Denver has the third most intense heat island effect of major American cities, with the average difference between urban and rural areas over a 10 year period running at almost 5 degrees. Only Las Vegas and Albuquerque are worse. And green roofs have been shown to reduce urban heat islands and improve energy efficiency, Rietheimer said.

The initiative would require that buildings 25,000 square feet or larger devote a certain percentage of their rooftop to gardens and solar panels. The larger the building, the more of the roof would be set aside. Buildings between 25,000 and 49,999 square foot would have to set aside 20 percent of the rooftop, buildings 50,000 to 99,999 square feet would have to set aside 30 percent and so on up to 60 percent for buildings 200,000 square feet and larger.

The measure runs counter to long-running city policies that don’t put mandates like this on developers. The ordinance would also kick in when roofs above a certain size are replaced, but it wouldn’t effect most existing buildings, many of which were not built to hold the extra weight.

Voters will not have a chance to weigh in on whether taxpayer money should help fund candidates for local office. That proposed initiative — the second recent attempt at such a bill — had just 4,303 valid signatures, according to the clerk’s office.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.