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Why is the proposed Cooperative Housing Ordinance being fast-tracked? A draft ordinance to allow more co-operative housing units in the city is tentatively scheduled for a first reading at the May 17 City Council meeting.
As resident homeowner on University Hill, I feel ambushed by the manner in which the ordinance is being rushed through Planning Board and City Council. Our homeowner's property tax dollars subsidize licensed co-ops. These co-ops will affect the character of our established neighborhoods. However, we have not been given an equal voice in the decision-making process. Now is the time to slow down and fully engage homeowners throughout the city in formulating a new Cooperative Housing Ordinance. A majority of Boulder residents are currently unaware of the details of this affordable housing ordinance, its implications and potential impact on existing established neighborhoods.
A new ordinance should include, but not be limited to the following key issues:
a) The zoning of established neighborhoods within the city should remain the same, with no change in land use occurring. If a neighborhood is low density residential, then this designation should remain.
b) The land use should remain as conditional.
c) All licensed co-ops must be owner-occupied.
d) A co-op's license may be revoked if municipal code violations are accrued.
High density areas should be the primary location for new cooperative housing. When other residential areas within the city are targeted for co-ops, these co-ops must be spread equally within all existing established neighborhoods.
To ensure a smooth transition, the city must hire additional staff to oversee the entire process, including ongoing oversight of licensed co-ops. This oversight should make certain that a cooperative housing unit does not become an entity no longer qualified under the licensing restrictions.
Come to the City Council meeting to voice your concerns.
The proposed Co-op Housing Ordinance which is being rushed through Boulder’s legislative process right now has tremendous potential to disrupt neighborhoods throughout the city and to have many unforeseen consequences.
The Co-op Ordinance is complex, but essentially aims to allow single-family homes in any neighborhood to be converted into rooming houses for 10 to 20 or more people. This is not limited to current multi-family and high-density zones. It is actually targeted to increasing the density in existing single-family residential neighborhoods without even notifying the current residents of those neighborhoods. Extreme occupancy in one house on a block will spread as neighboring families decide to move out and find that their best option is to convert their house into another high-occupancy rental.
The idea that this will encourage the type of affordable, community-based housing that would address the needs of aging boomers, as expressed by Dorie Glover, is wishful thinking. It is far more likely to result in the type of high-priced, luxury “co-ops” prevalent in Northern California, combined with still more crowded rental housing for university students.
The Co-op Ordinance that has been crafted by city staff and the Planning Board so far has been based only on input from a small but well-organized special interest group of co-op advocates and developers. Most residents of Boulder are not even aware that this is being considered. Very few people have any idea of the details it contains or how it is being influenced. City Council should take a step back and seek out input from all citizens, not just the special interests. Residents should let the Council know their concerns by letter or by email, or by coming to the May 17th City Council meeting when the Council is scheduled to listen to public comment on this proposal.
The City is fast tracking a one-sided Co-op Ordinance drafted by a coalition of Boulder Housing Partners Foundation and their supporters, which includes real estate developers and young people who are seeking subsidized housing (Group A). It is an unusual coalition that is beginning to feel its political power. The mission of this ordinance is to open up single-family homes to Co-ops which will be permitted to house one resident for every
200 sq. feet, 8 residents in a 1600 sq. ft house for example. The owners of these single-family homes (Group B) have not been told, let alone consulted in the drafting of this Ordinance.
The one sided approach, just above, casts light on the bias in our City Government to favor one group (A) while ignoring the bedrock of our Community: the silent citizens of Boulder (Group
B) whose hard earned tax dollars will pay for this initiative. Imagine, what happens to the property value of a single family home with 15 to 30 people living next door. They will sell quickly. The extreme occupancy dwellings, built for single families will spread and unravel our neighborhoods.
With the loss of the neighborhoods we will also lose the history and the uniqueness of Boulder. Families with children, the heart of a community, will be forced out. The Open Space will go arid, and without the support of those committed to our community, will begin to be no more. The Open Space is next in the crosshairs of Group A. More generally, I am concerned that our City Government is creating winners and losers using complicated rules, and tax subsidies. They are driving a wedge into the community deeper and deeper. Instead their mission must be to serve and strengthen the community.
We are in a period of indefinable change. The world is in tumult. We are numbed by senseless killings, the ravaging of our earth, and by the rich and powerful. The decimation of the relics in Afghanistan, Syria and Irag diminish our sense of centuries of history. Unable to respond to these atrocities, we have ourselves become bewildered and inured. Lacking a vision of ourselves, we have started to think that big is better, bigger even more so. We gage ourselves by money and nothing more. If not money we seek instant fame in the media, not realizing that it is transient and, mostly, meaningless.
Our roots are thinning. Rootless societies become restless and become likely to commit atrocities without the feeling of guilt. Our institutions, the mainstay of societies become weakened. This feeling can slowly seep down to how individuals feel and act; that is starting to happen. Authoritarianism is everywhere, sapping the energy and the will of ordinary people.
It must be the ordinary people where the counter movements can begin. They can nucleate here and there, coalescing around a few people, who share an idea, small communities, small towns, like our Boulder. Graceful living with modest prosperity, culture and intellectual activism, can become our beloved vision. But first we must shake the trappings of mediocrity; we must feel free to be ourselves peering into the future. A shortsighted government, feeling that they must change for the sake of change, and find money to fund it, is an obstacle to this freedom. Let us seek a deeper sense of community that inspires writers, musicians, and creative entrepreneurs. We can do it; but only if our institutions begin to share in the vision of our people.
Boulder is unique, an oasis of ideas and community activism. The Open Space and the Blue Line are the testimonials to our citizens who can sense the future, and have their pulse on who we are and where we are heading. The overall mantra is to keep us vibrant, culturally, economically and yes, even spiritually. We have a remarkably diversity of thought and action.
Nevertheless, it is also to be expected that the city and its government goes through phases. Sometimes there is a period, as now, that runs contrary to our traditional values. The growth mania is making the citizens feel alienated. They cannot understand what is going on. The City government has become one of the largest employers, on par with the University of Colorado, with a budget of about one half a billion dollars. The City’s vision of itself is being distorted by money. Money has become the end not a means to an end.
It is for these reasons that the citizens have acted. The neighborhoods-right-to-vote and development-pays-its-way are the people’s voice to put us back on track. The history of Boulder is enshrined in our neighborhoods which represent different periods of our economic growth. People came to live here and build communities. Some are new, many have a long history. In University Hill, where we live, the houses are increasingly being taken over by young couples with children, often more than two. The vibrancy of our neighborhoods is palpable. The neighborhoods constitute the continuity of our culture. The box-like structures we see everywhere are built on sand; they serve a short lived purpose. It is the people of our neighborhoods that are rock solid. It is they, who will somehow, emerge to provide a vision for our beloved City.
Better Boulder (see below) is mostly proposing up-zoning along transit corridors, higher buildings, reduced (or no) parking. While a mini-bullring boom might produce a few lower rents in the short term (and a lot a windfall profits), it does little to promote long-term affordability. Their proposals are essentially “up zoning” a number of areas, with little, if any, long-term “community benefit.”
To this end, we should propose:
1) Buildings over 35’ have a community impact, not only with light and views, but more importantly, greatly adding to moderate income housing demands. Therefore, such buildings should be required to build permanently affordable low and moderate income housing on these higher levels, or, alternately, to provide funds to build such housing elsewhere — ideally, nearby.
2) Up-zoning along transit corridors provides little long-term-affordable housing (while providing substantial windfall profits to developers). Therefore, new buildings along these corridors (primarily housing) should be permanently affordable low and moderate income housing, with a small allowance for first-floor commercial stores serving local neighborhoods.
3) Splitting lots is again a windfall for developers. Additional housing on such large-lots should be permanently affordable low and moderate income housing.
4) Co-ops are a windfall to rental property owners — and may lead to demolitions and/or “monster housing”/ “monster dormitories" in existing neighborhoods. Therefore, all co-ops should all be permanently affordable low and moderate income housing.