State of the City of Boulder

February 18, 2012

Boulder’s great, but it could be better. Drive through most older neighborhoods in Boulder and one can’t help but wonder why we don’t have “affordable” housing. More than 50% of Boulder’s dwelling units are for rent. Many owners have little incentive to upgrade while their tenants slowly buy their properties for them. Selling the lot as a scrape-off yields a reliable return.

While working in Denver from 1988-1994, I watched commuter traffic on US36 flip from Denver-bound to Boulder-bound. New homes in Longmont, Lafayette, Louisville and Superior easily competed with the slim, pricey, deteriorating pickings in Boulder’s housing market. We now have 50-60,000 workers in Boulder every day who sleep and often shop somewhere else.

In 1994, subcommunity planning (creation of 5-6 transportation-grid connected, primarily self-sufficient [work, shop, play closer to where you sleep] communities within Boulder’s existing city limits) provided hope for a less auto-dependent, more sustainable future. Neighborhood opposition killed it. Boulder is now stuck, waiting to give birth to a 21st century land use pattern.

Opponents of density prevent new, mixed-use, walkable neighborhood centers from being built within our homogenous residential subdivisions, at transit nodes, and along transit corridors. New regulations even limit home expansion and renovation potential. We’re losing our wisdom and our youth. Seniors move out to simplify their lives and escape their degrading neighborhoods. Our children can’t afford to move back to Boulder after college. Both would be delighted to move into apartments and condos close to where Boulder’s action is (or could be).

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