Is it time for a new blue line? — John D. English

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   01/24/2015 07:44:53 PM MST

An artist’s rendering of the Reve project near 30th and Pearl, one of Boulder’s new developments. (Courtesy Photo / Daily Camera)

Don’t let the issue of Google’s proposed expansion distract us. While Google may be the fall guy, they are not the bad guys. They are simply taking advantage of a zoning situation they did not create. The corruption of our planning process is also a distraction. The real issue is congestion and our quality of life.

Of course we want economic vitality. Boulder is too sophisticated to fall for the specious argument that we must choose between jobs and our quality of life/environment. In fact, we attract high-quality jobs because of our favorable quality of life. By protecting what we’ve worked so hard to preserve, we can continue to attract high-quality employers.

Not long ago, Boulder was a leader; its leaders were visionaries. Today, all of us benefit from that citizen-supported wise leadership. We enjoy a quality of life that is the envy of many and attracts companies like Google.

Boulder real estate is expensive because we have enhanced its natural attributes with good planning. All of us have paid for this. We didn’t plan to increase congestion or diminish our quality of life. Thus, we should continue on the successful path that has made Boulder so special: planning that protects our quality of life.

Boulder voted to be part of the solution for solving the climate change problem. Yet today that guiding principle — responsibility for consequences — is completely ignored when it comes to new developments, which should adhere to net-zero standards, especially net-zero congestion.

Without any public discussion, our direction has changed. Now the public is excluded from the decision-making process. The regulators and those they regulate meet secretly. City officials claim that the solution is more public outreach. No! We don’t need a sales job; we do not need them telling us. City officials need to be asking us. They work for us, the citizens, not some special interest group.

They insult us when they claim that their little rulemaking adventures are inconsequential. For example, Folsom Street was considered East Boulder — in 1955. Today, 60 years later, would you define Folsom Street to be East Boulder? The Planning Department does, which allows developers to make inappropriate developments in Boulder’s core.

The building in question, 1900 Folsom St., is solid masonry. Yet, the developers want to rezone the property so that they can demolish it and put up a building twice its size. Would you be surprised to learn that one of the secret “advisory” members has a financial stake in this venture? Perhaps the secret “advisory” group did no planning; they just manipulated the implementation for their own personal benefit.

We pay millions of dollars every year for a planning department that is supposed to protect our quality of life. Those planners have created a secret advisory group to help them write the regulations. Remember the bumper sticker, “If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention”? Well, even City Council members who are paying attention didn’t know about this blatant corruption of the regulatory process.

We have elected City Council to represent us and to protect us, have a positive vision of the future and proactively work to ensure that we, as well as our children and grandchildren, can enjoy the splendor that we have known.

I believe that City Council does represent us and shares our concerns that city staff has strayed. They know we need people of integrity with good judgment to protect us. Recently they learned that their employees have betrayed their trust. Certainly they will take corrective action.

It’s easy to talk about future requirements, delay making a decision. Meanwhile, irreparable harm may be done. For that reason it seems prudent that City Council will use its emergency powers.

Here are some suggestions:

• Declare an immediate moratorium: no more variances or zoning changes.

• Remove all in the chain of command who allowed the secret meetings.

• Require all new development to adhere to net-zero energy and net-zero congestion standards.

• Require all new development to prepay all costs necessary to mitigate its presence. In other words, you and I should not be paying for the destruction of our quality of life.

A half-century ago, our citizens were wise enough to create the Blue Line. Since those we hire seem incapable of protecting Boulder from predatory special interests, maybe we need a few more permanent lines that we all know will protect us.

John D. English lives in Boulder.

… maintaining Boulder's quality of life