The Daily Camera has been performing a valuable service in promulgating varied views on matters of import — notably the rapid growth of the city. This reminds me of the 18th-century pamphleteer movement — including the Federalist papers, a small collection of essays which argued for creating the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution with its Bill of Rights has become a beacon in guiding nation states through the democratic process.
Typically, when such democratization and especially the freedom of the press arise, the driving force is some kind of oppression. There seems to be need for the strong enfranchisement of Boulder’s citizenry now in response to the forces of economic expansion which have Colorado under thrall.
I recall at a party about three years ago meeting a lobbyist for Xcel, who had been fighting municipalization of utilities in the city. She said she favored third-party adjudication over the City Council and could not understand why the people did not buy into that idea. I responded to her that I felt the people trusted the City Council more than they would an outside agency. These days I would not make the same response.
There has been a deluge of opinion pieces in the Camera, mostly in opposition to some of the council’s actions: for instance, the politically correct but foolish “right-sizing” of precious space on the city streets, overcrowding north-south traffic that is already headed for irreversible gridlock.
The truly monumental error in judgment has been to open the door to large-scale commercial development, bypassing the normal review processes which had guided the city for some decades.
To draw a comparison, the beautiful, spacious and nationally acclaimed St. Julien hotel project at 9th and Canyon took 15 years to gain citizen approval. The many developments of equal and greater size being constructed everywhere in the city from the downtown area east are being pushed through in months in some cases. The results reflect the two methods.
The St. Julien is a truly beautiful piece of architecture, incorporating open space on its grounds, with doorways accessible both north and south from early morning to late at night, inviting the citizenry to use the facilities for leisure activities, including dancing, socializing in the large lobby, and enjoying the outdoor patio.
Compare the block buildings on the north side of Canyon from the St. Julien to Broadway — a wall of impregnable fortresses which repel pedestrian traffic. Or compare the complex under construction on the old Daily Camera property between 9th and 11th and Pearl and Walnut, thoroughly obstructing the view on Pearl to the Flatirons — built, as are so many other buildings recently, too much like blocks and too close to the street. The tone of the city is being degraded by these ill-considered money-makers.
There really seems to be no one person who publicly holds the vision of the city at this time. However, a common sense, decent and moderate vision of the city’s growth is common to nearly everyone who regards Boulder as home, over and above a commercial opportunity.
There have been incursions in the past. The eruption of a few high-rises invoked the 55-foot height limit, and the residential sprawl has been contained by caps on new housing permits. The brilliantly conceived purchase of open space has for many decades given the city breathing space from the encroachment of development up the Route 36 corridor.
Now is another one of those times when a decent standard of life must be brought to the fore if we are not to end up with an urban nightmare in a once-idyllic landscape. Therefore, even though ballot issues 300 and 301 may be flawed, they have virtues as well — notably to slow down the commercial machine until such time as a truly inclusive process and cooler heads prevail in our governance. It is equally important to vote for individual candidates for City Council who clearly favor preserving the livability of our beloved city.
A caring citizenry must gather together now to gain strength for the battles that surely lie ahead.
Bill Karelis lives in Boulder.