Boulder prides itself on progressive values, striving to lead in sustainability and limiting climate change. But as city leaders grapple with unaffordable housing and pressures from growth, attempts to find balance in a changing character cause Boulder to fall short of its ideals on many fronts.
In housing specifically, the City Council speaks for a desire to create “15-minute neighborhoods” where residents can walk and bike to services, to improve bus and bike infrastructure, and build housing for the “missing middle” as a greater number of middle-income families can no longer to afford to live in Boulder. But an example of one recently proposed housing development accomplishing many of those goals was unanimously rejected by Boulder’s Planning Board.
The housing development, called Iris and B, would have provided 50 middle-income housing units on the city’s most active transit corridor. The project would have fulfilled many of the stated goals: providing a neighborhood coffee shop or restaurant, a diverse mix of housing targeted at 80 to 120 percent of the median area income, connecting to a bike route, and having a six-minute bus ride downtown. The units would have ranged from small efficiency-style up through three-bedroom condominiums for families, using smaller-footprint designs that reduce the amount of heating, cooling and water use per person.
The planning board ruled an increased zoning for the development would be “too dense” for the neighborhood, even though Broadway is a four-lane arterial with frequent bus service. Concerns about worsening traffic from this relatively modest development drew criticism, even though a majority of traffic on the corridor in peak hours results from commuters outside of the city limits, part of Boulder’s 65,000 regional daily in-commuters. Rather than supporting a project which meets its long-term goals of reducing vehicle miles traveled and providing more affordable housing options, Boulder’s planning board instead supported a development pattern which worsens the city’s long-term difficulties.
Boulder continues moving forward on a collision course with reality. City Council and the community’s ever growing staff are so entombed in Boulder’s bubble that the city seems hopelessly incapable of viewing the world as it is rather than the way some believe it should be…
…Soon after imposing this fiscal punishment, the city’s Planning Board turned down a completely reasonable middle-income housing project that was proposed on the former People’s Clinic property at 3303 Broadway. The reasons for doing so are outrageously inexplicable and some would like to investigate how and why the rejection was so aggressively and unanimously dismissed. Where and how does the city propose meeting its housing goals with such incredible pandering to the narrow views of theoretically impacted neighbors? …
I share a property line with the proposed development of the old People’s Clinic at 3303 Broadway. Developer Margaret Freund’s buildings will overlook my backyard.
And, I want middle-income and affordable housing in Boulder. And I want a walkable neighborhood. I want these things right in my backyard. Not “in theory” and not “somewhere else.”
So, I’ve been a supporter. Before I decided to buy my house, I talked to Margaret’s team. I believe in what they do–in general and here–to build dense, beautiful, livable, diverse spaces that revitalize or invigorate neighborhoods.
I want a Boulder that my artist and musician and non-profit friends can afford to live in. A creative city, and a creative neighborhood. I want a coffee shop where creatives gather, and a wellness center where we can do yoga and meditate together. What could be more Boulder? And to put this project on the transit line — if it doesn’t belong here, on Broadway, where in this city could it possibly go?
I’ll admit that along the way I’ve had some worries about the project: about parking lot lights shining in my bedroom, balconies overlooking my deck. Margaret has been responsive to every concern, just as her team as been responsive to planning staff.
Boulder says it wants affordable and middle-income housing and walkable neighborhoods. Yet both neighbors and planners reject a perfect project that provides just that in the most logical place possible? I couldn’t be more disappointed in them.
I want it. I want dense housing, cafes, retail space, gathering space — on the bus line, and in my neighborhood. I want it right in my backyard.
Ronica Roth, Boulder
As a response to the many neighbors, city planning staff, public officials and others who wish to deny the 3303 Broadway mixed-use project, I ask all to consider the broad merits of this gentle infill project that will provide more affordable housing and encourage the utilization of sustainable transportation modes.
There is a severe housing shortage in the city for middle-income workers, professionals, police, fire, teachers and others who wish to live here. And we know the benefits of sustainable development along Broadway and Arapahoe to create more attractive and affordable living along those corridors. This developer has worked closely within our planning system over a long time to develop this project that proposes a modest addition of residential, office, retail and streetscape amenities. This project can demonstrate aspects of a walkable neighborhood where people can live, work and recreate within close proximity to their homes.
The benefit of this location near Iris and Broadway where Boulder County and others are eying a future sustainable redevelopment is another strong “compatibility” opportunity to take advantage at 3303 Broadway. While many are pointing to the comprehensive planning process to protect the strength of this neighborhood, there are many others in the city wishing for Boulder to make the positive and gentle community development changes now along our major arterials like Broadway so more people can live here and use our fantastic community transit systems and cycling and walking paths to healthfully get around.
I and others in the community want to encourage and support more transit-oriented land development (TOD) throughout the city that welcomes a more dense urban fabric that meets city-wide needs to accommodate changing lifestyles, climate change mitigation, and the opportunity to strengthen the urban and social fabric of our community. Please support 3303 Broadway!
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We were lucky to buy into the Newlands neighborhood in the late 1980s, when it was affordable to middle-class earners. I enthusiastically support the proposed development at 3303 Broadway for a number of reasons.
First, it’s the exact type of development that should be built along a major transportation corridor — residents can walk, ride or bus to almost any amenity and ditch their car!
Second, Iris & B will consist of a number of different types of floor plans and is catering to middle-income earners. In my role in one of the affordable housing working groups, I was appalled to study the data and learn how quickly this sector of earner is disappearing in Boulder. I feel like Newlands is experiencing Beverly Hills-ization, and I rue the lack of income diversity in our neighborhood.
Third, I would love to see teachers, CU faculty and staff, and city workers have access to more affordable housing within the Boulder city limits. Iris & B can help fulfill this need.
Finally, this location has been an eyesore since Clinica moved into its present location 10 years ago. I would be ecstatic to see a vibrant space, like we see in north Boulder, occupy this corner.
I’d like to address a major concern of this proposed development — traffic. There are many high-density units along Broadway south of this corner to Balsam Avenue. I don’t see lots of cars spewing out from them. Instead I often see people taking the bus or riding their bikes coming and going. I expect to see a similar pattern from Iris & B.
I fully support this project, and I believe it’s the exact location where a development, which caters to the waning middle-class earners, is needed.
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… Broadway is not part of any “neighborhood.” It is flanked by commercial buildings for almost its entire length, from the south city limits to where it joins U.S. 36 to the north. As far as land-use compatibility, in a space of four blocks across the street from 3303 Broadway are: the sprawling Boulder County Health building; the North Boulder Rec Center; and two three-story apartment buildings. On the west side, between Balsam and Evergreen, there are several three-story buildings, not to mention the massive Boulder Community Hospital building. The new building is not incompatible with the “neighborhood.” … – Rett Ertl
The lack of consistency in housing decisions by the city of Boulder takes my breath away…. – Fern O’Brien
I’ve noticed that people who equate density to traffic tend to be the same people who only use personal cars to get around and complain about the climate implications of density… According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, apartment complexes with five or more units per building use one-third the amount of energy as single-family homes, and are being built to be more efficient while single-family homes are becoming less efficient. Relating to traffic,people drive less often when they live within walking and biking distance from destinations. Broadway and Iris is an ideal spot for new development; it’s great for people without cars and people who wish to reduce dependence on their cars… – Cha Cha Spinrad
Something seems amiss with the public process in the city of Boulder.
Take, for example, the flat-out rejection of the proposed redevelopment of 3303 Broadway (former People’s Clinic site). For over a year, the developer has worked with city planners to come up with a site plan that meets all requirements, but suddenly, a unanimous vote by the city Planning Board to reject it…. – Don Wrege
Boulder City Council spent nearly eight hours on Tuesday night largely on topics of inclusion and climate goals…
As a layperson with no stick in the development game, I have no idea whether the arguments against the Iris & B project were valid or run-of-the-mill “not in my backyard” broken records, but I do hope the applicants will try again and the citizens of Boulder will embrace the ideals of inclusion and climate goals by allowing middle-income housing and density along transit-rich corridors. – Michelle Estrella
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In 1985, I moved to Boulder, to an acre in a county enclave, with well, septic and dirt roads. I loved the rural surroundings, the distant sounds of neighbors’ roosters and donkeys. I hated learning that our entire neighborhood’s well water was contaminated, and that we had to annex to the city. I endured years of contentious meetings with bureaucrats and irate neighbors, and months of mud from street trenching. But in the end, we had pure water and paved streets. Our lives were better.
Then developers jumped into high gear, buying up neighboring lots from old-timers who were cashing out. I endured years of noisy backhoes, nail guns, and blown-in construction debris as developers built 12 new homes on empty fields surrounding us. Goodbye donkeys! But in the end, nice folks moved into those homes, and those new neighbors have enriched our lives.
Then another developer bought the No-Name trailer park just up the street. Mariachi music floated down our block from the No-Name on Sunday afternoons, a special treat. I hated learning that the trailers would be replaced with 2-3 story apartment buildings, tripling the number of people living there. I endured more backhoes, nail guns, torn-up streets and construction trash. But in the end, nice folks moved into the apartments, and though they do not play their music loud on Sundays, they bike down our street, buy my vegetables and say hello. Our lives are better.
I have learned the hard way that change is hard, scary and inevitable. I have also learned that with planning and goodwill, change can enrich our lives. I hope that we neighbors of Boulder’s new co-ops and affordable housing developments can recognize the goodwill and planning occurring, and can be receptive to the enrichment this change can bring to our lives.
Elizabeth Black, Boulder
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