180 units of housing on the chopping block in East Boulder

By BHN Editor Shawn Rupp.

Your voices are needed tomorrow night (Tuesday, July 19, 2022) at Planning Board! Please come to speak in favor of restoring 180 units of housing back to the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan (EBSP).

On May 17 Boulder City Council proposed an amendment to the EBSP, eliminating housing in the block outlined in red. They did this out of a concern for impacts from the operations of Corden Pharma, an industrial plant located across the railroad tracks to the north. Council voted 6-3 to cut the 180 units, and now the draft EBSP goes back to Planning Board for another round of review. While we acknowledge the impacts, we think the need for housing outweighs them and there are ways to mitigate the impacts through good design.

The entire “station area” within the EBSP is depicted. The 180 units in question would fall within the red outline.

The 180 units were slashed in the final stages of City Council’s adoption of the EBSP. Yet the EBSP planning process, which has been underway for three years, has included many opportunities for community and neighbor feedback. The amendment was proposed without Planning Board’s prior consideration. Tomorrow, Planning Board can ask Council to reconsider this eleventh hour decision.

Three years in the making, the EBSP anticipates 180 residential units in the area outlined in red. Less than a quarter mile East of Foothills Parkway at 55th and Arapahoe, this area encompasses a planned Bus Rapid Transit route and it is an ideal site for workforce housing connected to the transportation network.

Corden Pharma raised concerns that its operations could create conflict with potential neighbors. Proponents of cutting the 180 units cited concerns over building housing close to the noise, truck traffic and lights of a pharmaceutical plant that operates around the clock. Other Council members argued that we should not prejudge the livability of housing that might be put there, particularly when the housing shortage is so acute that people are living in their cars and hundreds of children in our schools do not have stable housing for their families.

Boulder needs more housing and denser housing. We do not have the luxury only to build housing in locations that current homeowners deem “desirable,” and market forces mean that future residents will be able to weigh the benefits (community, transit, amenities) as well as the costs (noise, traffic, lights) of living there. Building 180 residential units on this block will provide the opportunity for hundreds of additional people to make that decision for themselves.

Council’s desire to build housing in the most desirable locations is laudable, especially given America’s shameful history of building low-income housing in the least desirable and most polluted urban areas. However, this site has not yet been designated for affordable housing and it can be planned in a way that includes design features to minimize the noise and light pollution from across the street.

Housing advocates have the opportunity to ask Planning Board to stand firm on including these 180 residential units in the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan at the Planning Board meeting Tuesday, July 19. City Council and Planning Board must agree on the same set of amendments in order to adopt the EBSP. Housing advocates can voice their opinions on this property and on the chance to provide more housing in a community sorely in need of it.

You can read more about the transportation plans for the area here, and about the EBSP here. In addition, Shay Castle at the Boulder Beat has expertly covered this topic in two pieces: Where should poor people be allowed to live? and From the Opinion Panel: East Boulder’s new subcommunity plan, by Chelsea Castellano.

How to listen in and speak at the Planning Board public hearing.

The link to join the Planning Board Zoom meeting is posted here 24 hours before the hearing. You can also view Planning Board packet here. If you cannot attend, please send a short email with your thoughts to Planning Board at boulderplanningboard@bouldercolorado.gov. You can also submit comments to City Council.

When will the Planning Board take public comment on a project?

The Planning Board meeting begins at 6:00pm and this topic will be under discussion around 7:00pm. It falls under agenda item B1, “A motion to adopt the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan, as adopted by City Council”. Discussion will begin with a staff presentation followed by questions from the Board. The public hearing and opportunity to speak will begin after that. The Chair will call for people who wish to speak to raise a hand. You do not need to sign up in advance. When your name is called, unmute and then you will have two or three minutes to speak. For most people, that is 300-400 written words.

But what would I say to Planning Board?

It can be simple, and in your own words: tell the Planning Board why adding more housing is important. If you can make the story personal that is great, but if you want to voice general support for housing, that is OK too. The message that Planning Board needs to hear: we are excited about housing NOW, and on this site!

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