Guest review: The home Boulder refused to build


3303 Broadway, vacant for more than a decade, has twice been proposed for redevelopment into housing. (Google Street View)

By Eric Budd

In 2016, Boulder City Council rejected a proposal to to construct 50 housing units for the middle classes at Iris and Broadway in North Boulder. The property developer previously attempted to build 94 units on the site, reducing the number of units after initial comments from the Boulder Planning Committee.

Following this devastating loss of housing opportunity here in Boulder, I wrote an op-ed (excerpt below) about how rejection shows exactly the pattern of not building the housing we need.

Boulder prides itself on its progressive values, striving to be a leader in sustainability and limiting climate change. But as city leaders grapple with unaffordable housing and the pressures of growth, attempts to find balance in a changing character have Boulder falling short of its ideals on many fronts.

In housing in particular, the city council speaks of a desire to create “15-minute neighborhoods” where residents can walk and cycle to services, to improve bus and cycle infrastructure and to build housing for the “missing middle” as more middle-income families can no longer afford to live in Boulder. But one example of a recently proposed housing development accomplishing many of these goals was unanimously rejected by Boulder’s planning board.

The subdivision, called Iris and B, would have provided 50 middle-income housing units on the city’s busiest transit corridor. The project would have fulfilled many of the stated objectives: providing a neighborhood cafe or restaurant, a diverse mix of housing targeted at 80-120% of the region’s median income, connecting to a bike path, and having a bus ride of six minutes. downtown. Units would have ranged from small efficiency style all the way up to three-bedroom condominiums for families, using smaller footprint designs that reduce the amount of heating, cooling, and water usage per person.

The planning board ruled that increased zoning for the development would be “too dense” for the neighborhood, even though Broadway is a four-lane thoroughfare with frequent bus service. Concerns about worsening traffic from this relatively modest development have drawn criticism, even though the majority of traffic on the corridor at peak times results from commuters outside the city limits, some of the 65,000 daily commuters Boulder Regional.

Rather than supporting a project that meets its long-term goals of reducing vehicle miles traveled and providing more affordable housing options, the Boulder Planning Council has instead supported a development model that compounds the difficulties of long term of the city.

Extract Boulder struggles to achieve his own ideals, originally published in the Denver Post on December 9, 2016.

Several months after this decision, the council again had the possibility of promoting housing on the site by modifying the land use. And again, by a narrow margin, the board rejected the proposed change.

The council “backed a land use designation that none of them seemed to like, paving the way for new types of housing that none of them seem to think Boulder needs”, the Daily camera written at the time.

“We’re going to end up with 13 or 14 really expensive houses, in a transit corridor, and everyone’s going to be like, ‘How did that go? “,” Councilman Bob Yates reportedly said. “And I will say, ‘Well, on April 11, the board made a decision that may not have been well thought out.

Iris and Broadway are once again ready for redevelopment. Proposal request 13 townhouses, each just below 3,000 square feet, on land now zoned for residential mixed use. The project is in its own right, which means the council and planning board are unlikely to be involved in the process.

We don’t have a current price estimate for these homes, but a recent proposal at 2504 Spruce features 2,600 square foot townhouses that will sell for up to $2.4 million each, according to the developers.

Housing markets in Boulder are fundamentally broken. Growing wealth inequality coupled with successful NIMBY campaigns to stop new housing has created a truly dire situation. Along with losing more than 1,000 more homes in the area to the Marshall Fire, Boulder’s housing problems are only expected to grow for years to come.

The board can’t affect what happens at 3303 Broadway. Our housing affordability crisis hasn’t changed, but one thing has: We have a city council that’s the most housing-friendly in decades.

Council must ensure that future housing meets our city’s goals. Seize opportunities to “up the zone” of centrally located terrain accessible by bike, foot and public transit.

Additionally, we can and should look at some of their housing ideas proposed by council members for 2022 and how they can address our housing affordability challenges:

  • Encourage smaller, cheaper homes through code requirements
  • Create a deed-restricted middle-income housing program, with density incentives and pilot projects
  • Amend inclusive housing charges to stop encouraging larger units
  • Shorten the process and reduce city fees for projects with more than half the units affordable

Our board has some good ideas for moving forward. It is time for them to meet the moment and implement them now.

Eric Budd is a Boulder resident working on fair housing and transportation policy. Follow him on Twitter: @ericmbudd

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