City Council election season is upon us and a boatload of candidates will be vying for your vote. I am not clairvoyant, but I can safely promise that they will all tell you that they favor diversity, inclusivity, affordable housing, resilience, preservation of neighborhoods, creation of walkable neighborhoods, open space is good, etc., etc. You will hear them at debates and meetings, and they will provide you with feel-good statements of intent with as few specifics as possible.
I call this candidate blather “Boulderspeak.” The problem is that many voters have been complicit in this electoral dance, responding positively to expressions of purpose without detail, and making decisions based on superficial information, slogans and buzzwords. This is no way to select our leaders.
The Nov. 7 election for the Boulder City Council will be one of the most important in the city’s history. There, I said it. Sound like hyperbole? Then consider this: The results will determine who will decide policy surrounding the extremely important planning issues of growth, housing and zoning/density — the NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard) or the YIMBYs (Yes in My Backyard).It’s going to be a very contentious race, based on candidates’ stands on these issues facing the city in the next few years.
Will new council members, YIMBYs, increase density and encourage the building of more housing to attract more people to move here and ease pressure on ever-climbing home costs? If we do increase density, will the housing supply ever keep pace with the demand in Boulder, which is becoming an even more desirable place to live because of its beauty and a rising high-tech presence?
Or will they, NIMBYs, leave density laws untouched? That would discourage, for example, the relaxing of the present regulation that limits the number of unrelated people that may live in one dwelling.
This is the first time I’ve expressed my concern about the CU South Campus property. I have tried to keep an open mind about the needs of the… university especially for additional student and faculty housing. I have also supported the need for flood mitigation work on behalf of residents who have suffered from the 2013 flood. But, the overly ambitious plan for housing and academic building development seems totally out of character with this property.This is one of the last precious Boulder resources where nature and wildlife still thrive. You just have to look at Chautauqua to see what pressures humans have put on the natural world. There is just something wrong about taking away living space from the creatures that make up the natural world.
Back almost 30 years ago, when I was on the City Council, we engaged in a very detailed study of the major drainages that flow through Boulder, and the likely damage that could result from floods. Our objective was to come up with appropriate risk mitigation standards… Out of this study came Boulder’s regulatory standard using the 100-year and 500-year flood maps and also the high hazard areas, which were based on such flows.
Setting the rules based on these standards was a compromise. The council did end up requiring some buildings that were at very serious risk to be torn down. But buildings in areas at somewhat lower risk were left in place, even though they never should have been built in the first place.
The current regulations need some serious updating. First, they are not appropriate for areas where development can be avoided; they were created for already-developed areas, and so compromise the level of protection. Second, the frequency/intensity forecasts are really just educated guesses because the historic events are so infrequent, so they form a weak basis for doing quantitative risk assessment. Third, and critically important, the climate is changing, so we can expect more and more intense flood events.
In the CU South debate, there’s one pesky fact that keeps getting buried. Well, actually, there are dozens, but the one that boggles my mind the most is this: In 1996, CU knowingly purchased 220 acres of unincorporated, open space-designated land on the South Boulder Creek floodplain…
Now CU is demanding that the city and county remove the open space designation, annex the land, and give CU almost carte blanche to build whatever it would like. This is a little bit like someone buying a chicken and demanding City Council transform it into a goose that lays golden eggs. Except CU wants a whole flock of golden geese…
People with comments and suggestions about proposals for major updates to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan can present their arguments during a joint Wednesday afternoon public hearing by the Boulder County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners.
4 Body Review Changes
CU South – Flood Mitigation
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?