Housing Workshops - What about the 7,000 New Jobs, etc.?
The Boulder Planning Department recently released the following data: For 10 years (2000-2010) the number of jobs in Boulder stayed level and actually dropped by 2,000 jobs in 2009. However, in just 4 years (2010-2014) Boulder has added 7,000 new jobs. In two years there will be at least 3,000-4,000 more jobs due to Google, S*Parks, etc. - and we wonder why we have traffic, housing, and infrastructure problems?
The Planning Department also announced their housing workshops for citizens to “share what they love about their neighborhood and collaborate with small groups”. Last week I went to the East Boulder workshop and couldn’t wait to discuss my ideas about slowing down job growth in Boulder and other ideas for the housing issues.
However, that did not happen. Instead of facilitating a collaborative dialogue among neighbors the Planning Department handed out a list of 12 pre-determined options for making housing more affordable and asked me to choose my top three from those options. I didn’t like any of the options.
For instance (I kid you not) the 12 predetermined options included: 1) Repeal the 55 foot height limit in Boulder, 2) Make zoning changes in neighborhoods to allow more density in quiet residential areas, 3) Increase the occupancy limits which would result in increased noise and traffic in residential areas and give landlords more opportunity to make money. Furthermore, there was no data to indicate that any of the 12 proposals would even be effective.
The following sensible options were not even considered: 1) Limit commercial growth and new jobs to limit the need for new affordable housing, 2) Increase the minimum wage to help people pay for housing in Boulder, 3) Generate more revenue from development/impact fees and taxes on short term rentals like Airbnb (if they are approved), and 4) Use the revenues to purchase and remodel existing buildings as they are put up for sale (i.e. apartments and condos).
The second half of the housing meeting was even worse. We used clickers to vote on numerous questions related to the 12 options (but no other ideas). As the results appeared on screen pictures were taken of the results – as if this totally unscientific polling would be important for future policy making.
Even more importantly there were only about 35 “citizens” at this meeting; and, as I found out, about 10-15 of the attendees didn’t even live in the East part of the city of Boulder. Some were from other cities and there was a group of about 8 unrelated people who currently live together (in violation of Boulder’s occupancy limits) in another area of Boulder. They said they were going to all the housing meetings to make sure their votes would carry a lot of weight.
Now more than ever I am concerned about the direction our city and planning department is headed. I am joining others and signing the citizens’ initiatives for “Neighborhood’s Right to Vote” and “Development Shall Pay Its Way”. These initiatives were developed by former City Council members and former City attorneys who are concerned about Boulder’s future. You can find out more about these initiatives at LivableBoulder.org. 4,500 signatures are needed by July 1st. I hope you will sign too!
-Sally Schneider, BA Economics, MA education, JD law A Boulder resident