Boulder County Planning Commission members voted 5-4 Wednesday night to reject any changes to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan’s current land-use designations for 20 acres of now-vacant government-owned land along Twin Lakes Road in unincorporated Gunbarrel. The county planning panel’s action likely halts — or may at least stall, possibly for several years — the Boulder County Housing Authority’s and Boulder Valley School District’s proposals to develop an affordable housing project on their properties.
The Boulder County Planning Commission has an opportunity to reconsider its earlier approval of the change in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan that would pave the way for the City of Boulder and the Boulder Valley School District to build sorely needed affordable housing, up to 240 units, in the Twin Lakes area of Gunbarrel.For decades the City of Boulder has implemented policies which, while making Boulder a very desirable place to live, drive the cost of housing up, to the point where middle class families, not to mention lower income families, cannot afford to live there. City efforts to address the issue to date have not made a significant impact on the cost of housing, and the city council’s unwillingness to follow recommendations of experts do not give cause for optimism.
The Jan. 19 Camera article (“Twin Lakes debate resumes“) accurately quoted my comments to the BoCo Planning Commission, describing efforts to annex Gunbarrel land parcels into the city of Boulder and upzone them to medium-density residential as “an outright theft from the Gunbarrel community.
Should dedicated lands be used for their intended purpose? Do property owners have adequate recourse when radical zoning changes are proposed on adjacent parcels? Does the intense pressure to build affordable housing justify trampling citizen rights, degrading existing neighborhoods and destroying valuable wildlife habitat? Isn’t it about time we had an honest debate about the merits and pitfalls of unbridled commercial development?
A smallish parcel of grassland habitat that abuts Twin Lakes Open Space is being considered for destruction and development. To the untrained human eye, this parcel may seem an eyesores compared to the surrounding human-manicured landscapes. However, to the wildlife species that call it home, it is all they have. Even though these two parcels are not pristine or even historically natural, they provide resources in the form of food, shelter and safety. They are also part of a migration and dispersal corridor that is unique and irreplaceable.
Reality Check! Boulder will always have what the Boulder County Housing Authority mis-labels as an “affordable housing crisis.” Here’s why:
Boulder remains a desirable place to live. Even as Boulder’s quality of life begins to crumble under its own success, people and corporations still want to come here. That creates more jobs, and more demand for housing. That demand, in turn, drives housing prices even higher. As long as corporations and people stream into Boulder, that cycle will continue. Even if Boulder County Housing Authority (BCHA) built 500 new affordable housing units each year, they still could never get ahead of that simple economic curve. Build more affordable housing, and even more folks in need of affordable housing will flock to Boulder and fill it up. And the word will spread, which puts us even further behind the curve.
Do you see the cycle? Do you see the insoluble problem? There is a word for what’s going on in Boulder — “unsustainable.” And there is a word for what BCHA is trying to do to fix it — “insanity.”