Thursday, November 13, 2014

Boulder Snow Removal and Snow Plowing

by Osman Parvez

Snow removal.  It's probably the last thing you think about when buying a house - until the white stuff starts hitting the ground. 

If you're new to Boulder, you might be surprised to learn that the city only plows a small portion of our city streets.    This is particularly hazardous in certain residential areas.   

Not your street
What You Need To Know 
  • When it snows, Boulder plows primary and secondary streets only using a fleet of 15 trucks.   Here's a map of what they usually plow.
  • If there is 8+ inches of accumulation, and the temperature remains below freezing for 72 hours, the City will dispatch two trucks to plow 10 predetermined residential areas.   Those areas are depicted on The Residential Street Plowing Map in black boxes.    Most of Boulder doesn't get that special plowing, by the way. It's mostly just certain areas west of Broadway and a small portion of downtown.
  • One truck is available to respond to public safety requests.   Click HERE to request the truck.
  • The city may not plow your street, but as a property owner, you're responsible for removing snow and ice from your sidewalks within 24 hours after snow stops. Failure to remove snow from sidewalks before the 24-hour deadline results in fines and the responsible party will pay for a private contractor to clear your sidewalks. To report sidewalk violations, call Code Enforcement at 303-441-3333.
  • If you're a senior or disabled, you may receive volunteer assistance through the Ice Busters program. Call 303-443-1933 ext. 402 to volunteer or ext. 416 to request assistance with sidewalk snow removal. 
Guess who's not getting plowed?
Due Diligence Tip  
The Residential Street Plowing Map also conveniently shows the slope of streets in Boulder.   Do you see the red and orange streets?   Those are high slope, i.e. sled runs. The red ones in particular are treacherous when things get slippery, which often occurs with far less than 8" of snow.  

Does it matter?    Yes, especially if you want to mobile in the winter.  

Parking your car on a street with 8 degrees (or more) of slope is a great way to make friends with the local body shop, too.   

The fact that the house you're thinking about buying sits on a street that does (or doesn't) get any winter maintenance might make or break a home purchase decision.  It's something you should know before you buy a house.   

image:  Arvell Dorsey, Jr.  ---
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Sky is Not the Limit | A History of Boulder's 55' Height Limit

by Osman Parvez
Close your eyes.  Imagine what Boulder would look like with 300 foot buildings stretching from downtown to 33rd street. Believe it or not, once upon a time, Boulder City Council was seriously considering allowing this to happen.    

a future that didn't happen in Boulder
In November 1967, CU law school student Ruth Wright wrote a seminar paper called "History of Height Control and Environmental Aspects." It sparked a movement which led to the passage of an amendment to the city charter limiting the height of buildings to 55 feet. The amendment saved historic buildings in downtown and the view to the mountain backdrop.  
Last night, I attended a talk on the history of height limits in Boulder. The 55' height limit has widespread support today but back in '67, it was controversial and polarizing.  I was also surprised to learn that developers had once planned dozens of skyscrapers in the downtown area and they almost were allowed.  

Key Takeaways

  • Safety concerns with high-rise buildings were an important issue that led to passage of the amendment.   Boulder's fire chief at the time was in favor of the 55' limit because the fire department only had equipment that would reach 70'.   Proponents of the limit wanted developers, not taxpayers, to pay the additional cost to fight fires above this level.   Developers balked at the idea.
  • Plan Boulder and other proponents of the amendment only had two months to campaign.   A series of contentious debates were held in Boulder during the Autumn of 1971 featuring dualing slide shows.   Prominent Boulder Architect Carl Worthington was against the 55' height limit and led the debate for the opposition.   Ruth Wright's photographs of Worthington's downtown Denver skyscraper were instrumental in swaying public opinion.  
  • Boulder has a long history of using emergency ordinances as a precursor to permanent regulation.   Along the way to passing the 55' height limit amendment, City Council used a series of interim ordinances to limit the height of buildings to 100'.    The first emergency ordinance was for a 6 month term and it was twice extended.
  • In addition to Plan Boulder, another group called Boulder Tomorrow was instrumental in the passage of the amendment.  This group is not to be confused with today's Boulder Tomorrow, which has co-opted the name.
  • The 55 height limit is not by right.   Plan Boulder and other prominent Boulder groups continue to expect a community benefit.   The height limit also doesn't apply to state and federal entities like CU, NCAR, and NOAA. The Federal labs have largely respected the rule anyway.   CU, not so much.
  • In July 1971, the voting age in Colorado was lowered to 18.   This turned out to be the key factor.   The students were overwhelmingly in favor of the height limit and pushed the vote count in favor of its passage.  

image:  Paul Bica
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Monday, November 10, 2014

Threatened Litigation - Research Archive Suspended

Due to threatened litigation, all content from the blog published prior to June 2013 has been temporarily removed.   

Details here

Our research archive is the best available information on area market conditions. It contains over 1,500 blog posts and more than a decade of obsessively tracking real estate trends in Boulder.   We know a lot of you rely on this information to make better real estate decisions and to advise your clients.    The research archive will return as soon as possible.    

If you're looking for specific information or would like to discuss your real estate situation, call Osman at 303.746.6896

Monday, November 03, 2014

A SELLER Loses The Bidding War - A Cautionary Tale

by Osman Parvez

Sellers can lose a bidding war, too.   Here's how it happens.    

Imagine that you've listed your house with a well regarded, highly experienced Realtor. He's priced it right, the property is staged, the listing photography is perfect.   

The first weekend your house is on the market, you get a ton of showings. Your agent calls to let you know the good news.    Multiple offers are coming in.

Sounds good, right?  Here's where it goes wrong.   

A week after you go under contract, the buyer you chose gets cold feet.  Perhaps in the frenzy of multiple offers, they felt they overbid. Perhaps a better house came on the market.  Maybe they realized that Boulder construction regulations would add far more cost than anticipated to their project.  They're bailing. 

Sellers - Listen Up 
When a property goes under contract and later returns to market, it's tainted.  Instead of feeling a sense of scarcity, potential buyers want to know what's wrong with it.   All they know is that your property was under contract and for some reason the buyer backed out. It's now a fact and it's easily discovered by a savvy buyer's agent.   

As part of due diligence, previous inspections must be made available to future buyers on request and believe me, I'm going to request it.    Sellers can't hide from the market history of their property. 

Bidding wars are great for a seller but they also create a problem.  The more pressure buyers feel to make an offer quickly, the more likely they will back out of the deal.   The contract in Colorado rightfully gives buyers a lot of protection and this is why it's so important to give buyers time to make an educated decision.    

When I'm the listing agent dealing with multiple offers, I allow ample time for all offers to be submitted.   If showings start on Saturday, we're going to wait until at least Tuesday before accepting an offer.   If they really want the house, give buyers time to make an educated decision.   They can wait.  As a seller, you've got a lot at risk - particularly lost time on market. 

The Buy Side
Smart buyers carefully evaluate pricing information.  They look at the recent sales history (comps) in the neighborhood, pricing trend, and the value of improvements.  The role of a good buyers agent is guide them through this process and towards writing an offer that makes sense.    Sometimes it means going over asking or writing aggressive contingencies into the contract to make an offer more attractive.   Sometimes it means encouraging buyers to walk away. 

True Story   
I was talking to one of my buyers on the phone yesterday.  He attended an open house in Boulder over the weekend and was shocked to learn (directly from the seller) that multiple offers were already on the table.    The seller proudly informed my buyer that they would be accepting an offer at 7pm that evening.    Meanwhile, one of the buyers who had submitted an offer was hanging out in the backyard.  

No, I'm not kidding.  It's 1pm on a Sunday and the seller will make a decision by 7pm.   Imagine the pressure buyers are under!   Meanwhile, a buyer was stalking the backyard. 

Perhaps the seller was thinking that this would encourage my buyer to enter the bidding war.   Unknowingly, they increased the likelihood of the buyer flaking out.     If that happens, and yes it does happen (look at the images in this post),  the seller loses valuable time on market and taints the listing.  

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Remember When?

by Osman Parvez

I was digging through old blog posts this week and came across a little gem. 

From Fed Takes a Breather

For the first time in two years, the Federal Reserve took a break by not raising interest rates. From what I've read, investors aren't sure whether this will be a long pause or a short one. For now, the discount rate (a key benchmark for all interest rates) will stay at 5.25%, a welcome relief for many borrowers.

What does this mean for housing? Mortgage rates nationwide have recently begun trending lower so the Fed decision today could help ease the landing for housing in many parts of the country. Many borrowers who took out adjustable rate mortages (ARMs) might not be pinched quite so badly, though no doubt they'll notice the difference when low initial rates reset to benchmark levels.

Talk about entering a way back machine.     Today, the Fed Funds rate is effectively ZERO and it's been stuck there since about 2009.    

As a benchmark for interest rates, the Fed Funds rate (and discount rate) a the foundation for essentially all bank lending in the Untied States - including, of course, mortgage rates.    I like to think of it as a gas pedal for economic activity and we've been pedal to the metal for a long time.  

Given last week's surprising market volatility and drop in mortgage rates, it looks like we're not letting up the gas anytime soon. 

Here's a long term mortgage rate chart for comparison...

For buyers and sellers, the number one question is whether rates will continue to fall.    As I've said many times, nobody has a crystal ball.   When I wrote Fed Takes a Breather in August 2006, I thought the drop would be relatively short lived.    Instead, we've had 8 years of dropping or flat rates.   

Something to think about.  

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Reputation Matters: A Tale from the Trenches

by Osman Parvez

Let me tell you about this year's most ridiculous closing.  Once again, it's time for a tale from the trenches. 

Once upon a time (i.e., a few months ago), my clients bought a house in Boulder.   George and Michelle were super excited, and not just for the Dizzy's donuts I brought to the closing table.   They're a young couple and recently engaged.  This would be their first home together. 

Now - it's customary for buyers to walk-through a property before closing.   When we did so, we noticed curtains were missing from the living room windows.   Not a big deal, however per the standard Colorado Real Estate Commission approved contract, curtains are included in the purchase of a home unless specifically excluded.    

Here's the verbiage from the current contract: 

Pretty cut and dry, right?   Guess again. 

I sent the listing agent several messages (let's call him Michael) asking him to contact me so we could discuss a solution.   No response.  He ignored my emails and phone call.   Closing was scheduled for the following day.

The following morning, I sent Michael one last email.  I asked that he please contact the seller and see that the curtains were brought to our scheduled closing. 

A few hours later, we were the first ones to arrive at the title company.   Michael walked in shortly after.  Everyone exchanged typical pleasantries.  I then asked him about the curtains.   

To my utter surprise, he claimed that the contract specifies curtain rods but not the curtains.   He proceeded to pull out the contract and with a smug grin, handed it to me. 

I read §2.5.2 out loud.   "Personal Property. If on the Property, whether attached or not, on the date of this Contract, the following items are included unless excluded under Exclusions (§ 2.6): storm windows, storm doors, window and porch shades, awnings, blinds, screens, window coverings, curtain rods, drapery rods, fireplace inserts, fireplace screens, fireplace grates, heating stoves, storage sheds, and all keys.  (emphasis mine)

I asked what he thought window coverings meant.    Unbelievably, Michael claimed window coverings didn't include curtains or drapes and in this case the curtains were decorative and not functional.   Yes, seriously. 

Here's a picture of the window coverings in question: 
Remember, we're at the closing table.   Those damn donuts are just sitting there, begging me to eat them.  We're all looking at each other. 

Of course, George and Michelle aren't going to walk away because of missing curtains but this is ridiculous.   I asked Michael what he thought the real estate commission would say.    Unbelievably, he claimed he'd actually been in arbitration for this very issue and the real estate commission had agreed that while curtain rods are included, decorative curtains are not.  

You've got to be kidding me, I thought.   Not about arbitration, I could see how Michael is just the sort of agent who lands himself in arbitration over and over again.    I'm shocked we're about to have a negotiation at the closing table over curtains worth a few hundred dollars, tops.     

Luckily, the seller walked in at that very tense moment.   In her hands - a bag containing the missing curtains.  She had simply removed them for washing and hadn't had time to re-install them before closing.  

All included?
So why the F was Michael creating a stink at the closing table?   It was clearly not at the direction of his client.   He probably didn't even contact her to ask about the missing curtains.  She obviously understood they go with the house. The only thing that I could think of was his ego.   

While we were puzzling over this, the title clerk walked in and started processing the paperwork - a welcome distraction.   We all dived into the signature process but I couldn't shake the absurdity of it all.

Near the end of the closing, I asked the seller if it would be OK if the buyers had her phone number - just in case they had any questions about the property.  She readily agreed.   For me, this is a normal part of closing.  I always encourage buyer and seller to have each other's contact information because questions sometimes arise after closing (about how things work, like the dishwasher, for example.) 

The seller started to give me her phone number but before she could finish, Michael interrupted.   With a smarmy look on his face, he said, "Why don't you just call me if you have any questions and I'll get the answers for you."   

I looked at the seller.   She looked confused and maybe even a little embarrassed. 

"Do you really want to be in the middle of simple questions about the house after closing?"   

He paused.  "Yes." 

I laughed and shook my head.   "OK, I guess." 

New agents.   Sit down with Uncle Osman and get out your notepad: 

Reputation matters.  If you want to be successful, safeguard your reputation. You will find yourself doing deals with the same agents over and again. Remember, top agents do the majority of deals in Boulder.  Want to represent your clients well?  Work on building trust.  

Think about it.  In a competitive offer scenario, which offer would you trust?    The straight shooter or the guy who wants to argue over the legal definition of window coverings?    Who do you want to do business with again?

Michael came across like a slime ball and his shiny suit wasn't helping.  Going forward, I will be reluctant to do business with him.   Of course, I will engage again if necessary, but next time I'll be sure to add the wikipedia reference for window coverings to any contracts submitted to his office which by definition includes decorative coverings. 

A few years ago, I had a seller, unprompted, handed over a $400 check to my buyers at the closing table.  He said that the dishwasher had started making noise during the last few days and he thought it was on its last legs. 

At Rotary, we have something called The Four-Way Test.  It's a simple ethical guide for Rotarians to use for personal and professional relationships.  I'm citing it here because I think it's a good reminder for how to behave.   It's also not coincidental that both that seller and I are Rotarians. 

The Four-Way Test: 

Of the things we think, say or do

Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

If you're ever confused about how to behave, start with Rotary's four-way test. 

p.s. You can argue anything (in a court of law or elsewhere).  You can claim curtains are art or even priceless antiquities.   You can argue anything you want, but common sense would dictate the curtains in the picture above are window coverings hung on mounts designed to obscure light and visibility through glass windows.   Just look at the picture.     Even if there is a middle ground, is your reputation worth a few hundred bucks?

image:  Aaron Tang

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Seal Me

by Osman Parvez

The #1 thing I see on inspection reports?    Unsealed tile.    

I attended a walk through for a brand new house earlier this month. Guess what?   The builder didn't bother sealing the bathroom or kitchen tile.   

Unsealed Tile, New Contruction
The builder's rep was there, so I asked him why.   The not so impressive answer?   Because it costs a couple of hundred per house (with labor) and buyers never ask for it.

He did agree about the importance of doing it.  It's sort of like buying art and then not putting glass in the frame.  WHY?

Sealing tile is trivial. It takes at most an hour or two.  Sealant costs little.   Not doing it means mold and failed tile down the road.  

Do it. 

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Meet the Spirits [Spooky Fun]

by Osman Parvez

Yesterday's Community Harvest Festival certainly fit the bill and attendance was almost 3x expected.   Kids everywhere, fantastic music, and tasty food.    What more could you ask for?

Here's another Boulder event worth attending.   


Starting at NOON this SUNDAY, October 12th, stroll up 9th street to Columbia Cemetery.    
Boulder’s Parks and Rec and Historic Boulder will be bringing more than 30 of Boulder’s dearly departed back to life.    Notable spirits include including Eben G. Fine, Mary Rippon, and James P. Maxwell.

This year, “Meet the Spirits” will host a new “Cemetery Symbolism Scavenger Hunt” for children including prizes, and celebrate its tradition with Victorian mourners, funeral music, vintage hearses, as well as a re-enactment of a solemn Masonic burial service.

This isn't a scary haunted maze.  It's a family friendly event. 

“This is a marvelous opportunity for people of all ages to learn about our local history in a fun, interactive way,” said Mary Reilly-McNellan, event organizer and the department’s program specialist. “It gives the public an opportunity to see that Columbia Cemetery is not scary, but that it is a special place that reveals rich stories of the past, roots us in the present, and inspires us to protect its future.”

“Meet the Spirits” is scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 12, at Columbia Cemetery, located at Ninth and Pleasant streets. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for Historic Boulder members and $5 for children/students under 16. Tickets are available in advance at Historic Boulder at 1123 Spruce St. in Boulder, or at Columbia Cemetery at Ninth and Pleasant streets the day of the event.  Proceeds will benefit Columbia Cemetery and Historic Boulder.  In case of inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled to Sunday, Oct. 19.  For more event information, call 303-444-5192.

image:  toritoons
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

That Warm and Fuzzy Feeling

by Osman Parvez

Some listing agents leave cute notes around the house, highlighting features.   Some sellers bake cookies.

And then there's this listing agent. 

I'm about as analytical as it gets.   In business lingo, it's part of my "value-add" and given my background, a competitive advantage.  Yet despite my hard nosed perspective on valuation, I'm affected by the sweet, cozy smell of fresh baked cookies.   It's warm and inviting.  It makes me think of grandmothers and childhood.  I want to linger.     

This sign isn't warm and friendly.  It's certainly not a "Special Feature."   It makes potential buyers feel like they're invading the seller's privacy and that the seller doesn't trust them.    Trust is critical for negotiation.    It's not just about making people feel good.   

If you want people to not place things on the table, try a cute sign and maybe a little explanation.     

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Influencing the Appraiser [No Baseball Bat Required]

by Osman Parvez

A few months ago, I attended a workshop for licensed real estate appraisers and real estate agents. 

"How many of you have dealt with low appraisals during the past year?" the instructor asked.

More than half the room raised their hands.  It was crowded, too.

Who here knows their job?
"How many of you have directly interacted with an appraiser in the last year?"

Only a few hands went up. 

Unbelievably, many Realtors still believe they aren't allowed to interact with the appraiser. This couldn't be further from the truth.  

Let me be clear.  

There are no rules that prohibit real estate agents from speaking appraisers during the appraisal process.  Smart listing agents talk with appraisers and provide additional property information, including a copy of the sales contract for purchase transactions.  

Low appraisals can cost a seller tens of thousands of dollars and frequently kill deals entirely.  Just like with Realtors, appraisal quality is all over the map. There's a reason industry insiders call it appraisal magic.

Low appraisal?  Fuhgettaboutit
Here's a copy of information I prepared and presented to an appraiser on a listing I sold recently.   I didn't just leave it on the counter. I handed it to her when we met in person.  I was pleasant, professional, and I made 100% sure she got the relevant information.   

No surprise, we didn't have a problem with the appraisal.    The previous month, I sold a different property at $17,000 over asking.  That deal involved a bidding war and came in well above where we expected.   The seller and I sweated the appraisal, but I carefully prepared the comps and highlighted the key value drivers for my listing (solar system, views, updates).  Again, there wasn't a problem.  

If your listing agent is not taking the time to prepare information and meet with the appraiser, they're not doing their job.  I can't be more blunt.    Hire a better Realtor, or at least find one who sucks less

More Points to Ponder
  • In a rapidly appreciating market, appraisals lag behind market value. This is because appraisers establish value based on recent historical sales. Realtors also review comparable sales but establish pricing based on the future trajectory of the market.   Smart Realtors price ahead of the trend (up or down).
  • Boulder has recently experienced both high appreciation and extremely low inventory.   This creates a problem.   Low appraisals are more common when sales data is lacking.
  • Cash buyers and those capable of putting down more than 20% have a competitive advantage.  In a bidding war, it's wise to show your financial capability (i.e. go cash).   If you're trying to negotiate a discount on a listing that has been on the market all summer, keep your cards close to your vest.
  • A low appraisal is not always a deal killer.  Buyers and sellers should expect to negotiate.
  • Savvy listing agents pre-negotiate a potential low appraisal, especially if there are multiple offers.    This means writing additional provisions into the contract and potentially removing appraisal contingencies entirely.  

Additional Reading
Understanding Appraisal Independence
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image:  Quinn Dombrosky

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Why We Live Here

by Osman Parvez

Here's Balcony Nine Media with a glimpse of Summer in Boulder.     It was produced for the 2014 TEDx Boulder conference. 

THIS is why we live here.

A Boulder Summer

...Up next?   A Boulder Autumn

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Is What A Seller's Market Looks Like

by Osman Parvez

I get it.  I really do. 

It's a seller's market.   Inventory is at record lows, demand is high, but lately it just seems like sellers are getting ridiculous with their lack of effort. 

Check out this master bedroom air conditioning installation. 

Ghetto A/C Included, Asking $600,000
 This was the icing on top of worn out floors, cracked windows, and lots of signs of deferred maintenance.    How do you think my buyers reacted?     

With laughter and disgust.    "HOW much do they want for this house?" they said.   

Let me add one more thing.  The house is listed as having central A/C.   Think about it. 

I hope the listing agent obsessed over the comps. 
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Boulder Inventory Update [Analyze This]

by Osman Parvez

Boulder inventory continues to drop, typical for this time of year.   If normal seasonal patterns hold, expect the bottom in late December.

Here's the chart: 


Here's the current inventory breakdown for traditional single family homes: 

Here's the breakdown for town homes and condos: 

There are more pending sales than current inventory for attached dwellings (town homes and condos), somewhat shocking even in this inventory deprived market.    If you're shopping for a single family home, you've got a little more selection and a little less pressure - in general.   

As always, the market varies by price range, location, and property type.   Talk to your real estate professional for advice on your specific real estate situation. 

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Move with a View

by Osman Parvez

I helped a friend move a Craigslist couch earlier this week.   Check out the view from Stanford Ave! 

Flatbed trailers are super handy for moving large items like couches and box fridges, without having to navigate a ramp or lift over a tailgate.   

Yes, I help friends and clients move.  Just don't expect a House Einstein or Realty Unique box truck with cheesy "we'll move you" advertising.    

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As always, your referrals are deeply appreciated.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Come, Get Your Fall On [Events]

by Osman Parvez

UPDATE:   The Community Harvest Festival has been postponed until next Wednesday, October 8th.   

Are you ready for fall?   Here's an event you should put on your calendar: 

Growing Garden's 
Community Harvest Festival

Bring on the pumpkins!
It's a family friendly event with pumpkin and face painting, live bluegrass, a beer garden sponsored by Post Brewing, and Oskar Blue's Chuburger Bonewagon (food truck).  It's also held in one of the nicest autumn spots in town, the Growing Gardens Urban Farm on Hawthorne Ave. 

When:  Wednesday October 1st 8th, 4pm to 7:30pm. 

Where:  Growing Gardens, 1630 Hawthorne Ave

Rain date: October 8. 

Full disclosure:   I'm on the board of Growing Gardens.  It's a great organization and I'm proud to support it. 

pic: istolethetv
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

BBC Coverage of Boulder Housing

by Osman Parvez

Boulder's housing challenges are becoming international news.   Here's a video from the BBC highlighting the problem.   It features a few notable residents.

hat tip:  N. Fiore ---
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Boulder, Can We Talk?

by Osman Parvez

Here's how last night's meeting went. 

Sam Weaver withdrew his ill considered proposal for a 9 month emergency moratorium and Council narrowly voted against a comprehensive development strategy.   The vote was 5-4 against and interestingly, fell along gender lines with male council members against the measure. 

Construction Continues at the Wencel Building (9/17/14)
As I mentioned in recent blog posts, Boulder needs an efficient public process that results in a shared vision for our future but enacting emergency powers to halt all new permits (of substantial size) wasn't the right approach.   I'm glad City Council came to their senses. 

We need to focus.  The Comp Plan is a joint project with the county, it's not specific enough.    Other planning efforts seem disjointed and reactionary.   If I was on Council, I would have actually voted in favor of a comprehensive development strategy as long as it wasn't bundled with an emergency moratorium. 

Liza Morzel's email on 9/15 nailed it.  

"Where is it Boulder wants to go, how do we want to get there, who do we want to get there, are we there, if not, at what pace will we accomplish goals?  Do we have a vision? What is our plan? Do we have a consensus? Time for community discussion."

More Reading:  Boulder Eyes Development Code Changes

The Boulder Development Map

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Avery Brewery Time Lapse

by Osman Parvez

Did you know Avery's new $27MM brewery took nearly two years to go through the planning process?  When complete, it will feature the area's largest craft brewing production, offices, tap room, and restaurant.    From a real estate perspective, it will also create a magnet for the Gunbarrel neighborhood.

Here's the time lapse (courtesy of Avery).

In addition to supporting all those construction workers and solving the brewery's production challenges, when operational, Avery will also add at least 20 full time jobs to their payroll.  

By the way, this is the type of project that the proposed emergency moratorium will quash.  Why?   Because i
t involved a change to land use and variance for the height of tanks, triggers for site review.  See Council Seeks 9 Month Ban and More on the Moratorium for additional information. 

Council's input?   "Members including Sam Weaver said the entryway, with its high archway, looked too grandiose for the building's character. They offered the comments as pointers instead of making a change to the entryway a condition of the plan's approval." DC 5/17/17
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More on the Moratorium

by Osman Parvez

A few additional thoughts to my post yesterday on Council Member Sam Weaver's proposal for a moratorium on building permits.

1.  I'm not against additional study and public process.  I'm for that. I'm against using emergency ordinances as a policy tool.   

2.  If you're against the emergency moratorium, consider signing this petition.   You can also email Council directly at and attend tonight's public meetings.    

3. Erica Meltzer's Daily Camera article is informative.  Here's an excerpt from my favorite comment: 

If we don't like how a few buildings turned out -- that, by the way, house our workers and seniors -- then let Council and Planning Board have a study session and guide some of the projects that are in the pipeline. No problem. 

A moratorium hijacks our local democracy and denigrates the work of those in our community who cared enough over countless hours to engage and participate in our current code and land use plans. The current plans reflect our collective vision and to throw these out without process or notice sends the wrong message about how quickly that work can be undone at the whim of a few. Enacting emergency government powers without actually identifying the problem is not the kind of democracy that we all demand in this community. 

Consider that Weaver wrote and widely distributed his motion for a moratorium BEFORE the study session has even commenced or the community's diverse voices have been heard. That tells you all you need to know about whether this would be a fair process with the community's best interests at heart.

- by MattFoley847

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Council Seeks 9 Month Ban on Building Permits [Aspenization]

by Osman Parvez

Heads Up.     Boulder City Council is preparing to vote on another emergency ordinance on Tuesday. 

The proposed ordinance is below.   Links and bold text are my additions.  The proposal is from Council Member Sam Weaver and of course, Plan Boulder supports the measure.


(a) the City Manager be directed to not accept applications for any Site Review as defined under BRC 9-2-14, or any review where land use intensity modifications or height modifications are requested, nor issue building permits for structures not already approved under such reviews except as provided in (c) below, and not accept applications for rezoning, as of tomorrow September 17, 2014, except as required by state or Federal law;

(b) the City Attorney be directed to prepare and present to the Council at its next regular meeting the text of an ordinance to impose a temporary stay on the acceptance by the City of such applications and on issuance of such permits as noted in (a) above, and on any further action on those applications which have not already been approved as of this date, except as provided in section (c) below, from tomorrow September 17, 2014 until June 30, 2015, or until the measures referred to below are deemed adequately advanced (even if not fully complete) to lift the stay with a majority vote of Council, whichever occurs earlier;

What to Do During an Emergency Ordinance
(c) the City Attorney be directed to include measures in the ordinance that provide that any project that has already applied for Site Review or other review as mentioned in Section (a) above, and has received a Concept Plan review from the Planning Board, but that has not been previously approved through the regular process, may apply once through an appeal process for consideration prior to the end of the period mentioned in Section (b) above, and after demonstration of inclusion of all required affordable housing generated by the project on-site and after demonstrating exceptional community benefit and with the approval of 4 Planning Board member and 5 Council members at a subsequent regular meeting of each body, may be allowed to be processed through the currently established development review processes.

(d) the City Manager be directed to undertake a robust public process to create a Comprehensive Development Strategy using surveys, public meetings, consultation with neighborhood organizations, community organizations, and other stakeholder groups, and other appropriate means to test alternative growth outcomes and scenarios, and thereby determine the amount of future residential, commercial, and industrial development, and other factors, quantities, and qualities related to such development, to be identified during the process, that Council determines a majority - or at least the largest plurality - of the citizens of the City believe to be in the City’s best interests;

(e) this comprehensive public process be initiated, designed, developed, managed, and reviewed on an on-going basis by a committee of Council members selected by the Council, Planning and other Board and Commission members and citizens as designated by the Council, and city staff members as designated by the city manager and city attorney, and the design be approved by the Council before the process is initiated;

(f) the City Manager work with the Community Planning and Sustainability Department to make any legislative, process, or code adjustments that are determined to be needed in the process described in (c) above;

(g) the outcome of this process be reflected in the upcoming five-year update of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan;

(h) the outcome of this process be used as the basis of an ordinance or ordinances regulating development in the City; and

(i) the City Manager be directed to suspend activity on any long-term planning processes that the City Manager determines could be substantially negatively impacted by the Comprehensive Development Strategy effort, until the time such process is completed.”


A Few Thoughts

Council Responds to an Emergency
1.  Site Review is the trigger.  Not every building permit requires Site Review.   The majority of homeowner improvements and even additions, if strictly within code, don't trigger Site Review.

2. This ordinance is primarily aimed at multi-family building permits and where variances are being requested for height limits, zoning, or intensity standards.  See table 2-2 in BRC 9-2-14.   Think Boulder Junction, Violet Crossing, The Residences at 29th Street, and many other recent and currently underway developments.   Landlords and homeowners rejoice, lower supply = higher prices.   The Aspenization of Boulder accelerates. 

3. The city's density limits and affordable housing goals are inherently conflicted.   We do need a comprehensive review of occupancy rules, density limits, and affordability.   I'm strongly in favor

4. Intense review of larger scale projects is a good idea.  Here's the thing. We already do that.   It's wrong to use so called emergency ordinances as a policy tool.  It's dishonest.  There is no emergency but I'm still in favor of comprehensive review of our city's housing policies.   

5. City Council says they would like to hear from you, but honestly, they're not listening.  If you've ever attended a City Council meeting and seen the bored looks on Council Member faces as citizens waste their two minutes of precious allotted time, you know what I'm talking about. 

6.  Compatible development ordinances began in the same fashion - with an emergency ordinance.   When it became clear that enough citizens were concerned, Council spent hundreds of thousands of your tax payer money on consultants to supposedly help the community reach consensus.   I attended those meetings.  It was obvious from the start that the consultant's surveys and other materials had planned outcomes.   Council's version of public process is an expensive smokescreen and they voted the way they had planned from the beginning.  

7. The meeting begins at 5pm tomorrow, Tuesday September 16 at 1777 Broadway.  The first two hours are a study session so sorry, you won't be allowed to talk.  At the regular Council meeting, from 7pm to 9pm, Council may decide to vote on the matter and if you want, you can sign up for a 2 minute speaking slot.    Sign up to be ignored by clicking HERE or email the members at 

images:  Mo Riza,  Annie Mole, and the U.S. Army
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