The most important and time-tested component of American democracy is the concept of checks and balances. It ensures the interests of a few never override the values and interests of the larger community. It protects against corruption. It protects against tyranny.On June 13, Boulder City Council’s nine members met to contemplate eliminating Boulder County’s most important system of checks and balances: the BVCP’s four-body review process for land-use changes. Boulder’s four governing bodies are the county commissioners, county Planning Commission, City Council, and city Planning Board.
When the County Planning Commission (CPC) recently — and wisely — voted to maintain the existing density and reject Boulder County Housing Authority’s overreach at Twin Lakes, it sent shock waves through the halls of power in Boulder County — and the city. How dare this governing body listen to the people they serve? How dare they defy the back-door power plays of the county?
Boulder County Planning Commission would lose veto power on key parcels; County commissioners would not.
City Council members, a slight majority of whom would like to limit Boulder County’s control over future city expansion, appear to have come to some agreement on a proposed revision to the procedure by which city and county cooperate on long-range, land-use planning.
In an unofficial straw-poll vote taken late Tuesday night, the council supported a compromise that would let the Board of County Commissioners retain veto power over changes to parcels in categories known as Area II and the Area III-Planning Reserve.
However, the Boulder County Planning Commission would lose its voice in those two areas, under the straw-poll plan.
The implicit theory of growth behind Boulder’s current expansion is that it can become a fast-growing commercial center and retain its residential quality of life at the same time. That idea is proving to be a fantasy, along with many of the other visionary positions of our local government.Now the City Council has voted overwhelmingly to insert co-op housing in virtually any zoning district in the city and is pushing density through such bizarre ideas as “density transfer.” The inadvisability and destructive quality of this pro-density and anti-neighborhood position has been ably described in dozens of letters to the Daily Camera, as well as in editorials by Leonard May, Steve Pomerance, Spense Havlick and others.The indisputable fact is that the unaffordable housing problem is being driven by the push for commercial expansion. As one letter write wrote prior to the 2015 election, “You can’t build your way to affordable housing” — as has been demonstrated in San Francisco and Aspen. Boulder has fallen behind the wisdom of Palo Alto and other cities, which now understands this fallacy well. “Affordable” housing is really only more building, and not affordable at all. Indeed, much of the so-called affordable housing built in the city over the last two years opts out of the affordable housing requirement. Millions are being made, to a great extent by non-Boulder residents, by selling off beautiful downtown and neighborhood space.
I recently scooped the Daily Camera when several pro-growth City Council members sat down with me to outline their thoughts surrounding density and subsidized housing programs.
First, I asked if they were aware that higher density has only driven up home prices, reduced quality of life, and has never, ever, solved affordability. “But it’s sustainable” was the response. I then asked: “Is there any data that shows sustainability will actually increase for the specific case of Boulder?” “Not really, but Will Toor said it would” was the reply.
Chloe Pachovas’ May 11 letter suggested that ultra high occupancy co-ops are necessary for there to be artists and innovators in Boulder. Actually, Boulder’s low-density neighborhoods are filled with artists and innovators who abide by the zoning regulations. If Pachovas attended an “Open Studios” tour, she might be surprised at the number of participating artists in low-density neighborhoods.