Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Deception by Design or Community Forum? [Aspenization]

by Osman Parvez

Earlier this week, I attended Why Housing Matters - a community form to discuss housing challenges in Boulder.   

Here are my takeaways. 

- It's challenging to conduct a meaningful workshop for an overflowing amount of participants in the span of a couple of hours. eTown Hall could barely contain all of us. Given the size of the audience and the time constraint, the staff did a great job.  


- Several City Council Members were in attendance. 

Michael Pyatok, the keynote speaker, has an agenda. It's called higher density. Recasting it as "coziness" is insulting Orwellian doublespeak. Boulder is one of the smartest cities in the country. We're not fooled. 

- Building height and occupancy limits have a long history and are widely favored in Boulder.   Read: The Sky is Not the Limit. Semi-private courtyards in dense neighborhoods are very out of character for our city. 

- In the past, city staff have spent large sums on consultants to conduct community processes with obvious, foregone conclusions. I'm specifically talking about the sham that resulted in compatible development regulations. I know, I was there. I attended and participated in those workshops. They were designed with an end-goal and final results deviated little after all that public input. I hope we're not seeing that same game played again, one designed to beguile the public into believing their voices have been heard. 



- Pyatok claimed the median sale in Boulder was $1.2 million. He's wrong. If you're going to fly in a speaker to address issues in our housing market, he should know the facts. The median house transaction in Boulder during 2014 was $685,000 and the median attached
dwelling sold for $284,500. There were $1.7BN in transactions in Boulder last year. You'll find a more detailed analysis on market conditions in the House Einstein research report.  

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- The breakout groups were too large and the time given too short to have an authentic discussion. It felt like a game of beat the clock. Writing community concerns and ideas on a large piece of paper doesn't amount to actually listening.  

- Some of the ideas generated by the public were whimsical and fun, clearly out of the box thinking. If only our current regulations would be so creative.   

- This forum only scratched the surface. The over capacity attendance was a surprise to staff and evidence of mounting concern over housing issues in Boulder.

- As a city, we're caught between a lack of housing supply and our desire to make Boulder more affordable without changing the very character of our community. Even if we were to magically increase housing supply, it would be a short term gain at a long term cost to quality of life. The only tangible benefit would be to our tax base, which in turn allows for continued double digit increases in the city budget. Which entity benefits from that?

The city's goals are ambitious and certainly feel good.  Goals: strengthen current commitments, maintain the middle, create diverse housing choices in every neighborhood, create 15-minute neighborhoods, strengthen partnerships, and enable aging in place.  Too bad they're also impractical given the regulations that currently exist and the inescapable reality of limited supply and high demand for housing in Boulder.  

-  Instead of wishful thinking and promoting an agenda to gut density and height regulations, we should be focused on new and higher efficiency public transportation to neighboring communities like Erie, Longmont and Lafayette. Light rail, BRT, and better bicycle paths to these locations would serve the needs of our region better and functionally increase the worker housing supply without eroding what makes Boulder, Boulder. 

- Aspenization continues. In my opinion, it's unstoppable.   

Did you attend? What did you think?

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1 comment:

  1. Are you insinuating that City Council is hell bent on moving forward with a predetermined outcome and they don’t care what the minions think? Well, right you are Osman!

    One example – check out the Envision East Arapahoe process. They ‘envisioned’ three scenarios: The first is no major changes or investment. The city’s description of this Scenario is so miserable that clearly city government must get involved to solve ‘the problem.’ The second two are grandiose and full of fabulous outcomes…

    https://bouldercolorado.gov/planning/envision-east-arapahoe-scenarios

    ReplyDelete