Red tape means new housing and businesses are only for the wealthy

In 2023, Boulder's housing and city processes desperately need reform. Here are just two recent examples that highlight the problems.

This downtown Boulder sign announcing it had taken 408 days to get a building permit from the city arrived the same week as a postcard offering a small lot on Bluff Street, described as “Nestled Bliss,” for $1.7 million. These two messages are emblematic of the crisis of planning and land use in our beloved city.

Our city processes are so lengthy and difficult that dreams of opening a business or making a home are turned to dust by the planning machinery. Planners are so busy administering the machinery that they simply don’t have time to make the changes we need for Boulder to become a more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive place. If action is deferred, it will be too late.

The only projects that survive are those sponsored by and for the very rich, like the $1.7 million lot on Bluff St. An ambitious builder will apply the rule of thumb: spend twice as much on the home as you spent on the lot. Soon there will be another $6 million home in the neighborhood.

The very purpose of the Boulder Housing Network is to give voice to people whose dreams can’t survive 408 days to get a permit; people for whom housing restrictions such as zoning and the city code make it impossible for people of modest means to live here. We advocate for people who make this city tick but who are stressed to the point of giving up by the exclusivity baked into our land use regulations.  

Our city’s code has secured the primacy of the very expensive single-family home. A January 24, 2023 Denver Post article, “$13 million sale of Boulder estate shatters county record for home sales,” documents that the three priciest homes in the entire county are in central Boulder. It is stunning that, in the face of placemaking for the rich, we can’t take simple steps to make room for others, such as eliminating the saturation and parking requirements for ADUs. We must act quickly, for we turn away many people as our beloved city becomes a wealthy shell.

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