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.
There are viable options to consider other than the controversial development of CU South. Why not cap the enrollment of CU, so that additional housing, classrooms, and playing fields are not necessary?Since the doors to the University of Colorado opened in 1876 with 44 students, the University of Colorado has expanded and become a four-campus system including Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, and the University of Colorado Medical Campus. With a combined enrollment of over 62,000 students from these four campuses. CU Boulder supports over 31,861 students. In 2015, 6,208 freshman students were enrolled and more students are being admitted every year. It is time to cap the enrollment and consider what is best for the community of Boulder.
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.
Noteworthy in the last few weeks has been the coverage of making Boulder a “brand.” It seems we are no longer a community of human beings but have morphed into a brand. To be sold, exploited, manipulated, monetized, etc., which is what happens when people market brands. The essence of our community is being sold by our leaders (Council, Planning Board et. al.) to the highest bidder, further driving up housing prices and adding to our 60,000+ in-commuters. There are already far more jobs in Boulder than work-age adults to work them, yet the alliance of developers, Chamber of Commerce, and City Council continue to floor the accelerator on growth via our brand. And, on the recreation side, attractions such as Chautauqua are turning into over-use nightmares. This should be alarming, and I hope Boulder residents realize what is happening as we change from a city to a brand. To paraphrase the British: “The city is dead, long live the brand.” So sad. And unrecoverable. Just drive down “Box” Canyon Boulevard west of 28th and see the towering results on either side of you. Again, so sad, so unrecoverable. Let’s stop being a brand and return to being a city of human beings.