Spruce Street Project needs Council’s help—again!

One year ago, Boulder City Council asked the developer of Papilio to give us more and smaller housing units at the site on Folsom between Spruce and Pearl. The City also wanted “for-sale” (rather than rentals) units that were smaller and less expensive than the 2,400-2,600 sq. foot units in the prior proposal. Papilio has done what the City asked, and presented the revised project to Planning Board November 1, 2022. Instead of 64 units in this busy part of town the project will produce 101.

We described the new proposal in our newsletter and blog on October 30, 2022. The large units are still there; but there are many more units that will be 1) smaller, 2) less expensive, and 3) for sale. Because the developer has given the City what the Council asked for, we fully expected Planning Board to embrace it. And indeed, two Planning Board members did.

A view of the project looking southeast, along Spruce Street to the left, with Folsom just out of view to the right.

But three members want the project scaled down because of existing buildings on the north side of Spruce Street that will be facing the project. These are mostly pre-World War II single family houses—but not a single one of them is used for housing now. They are all businesses. And though many single family home owners complain loudly about multi-family housing, none of neighbors to this development on Spruce have complained about the Spruce Street project. Yet three Planning Board members want a smaller project that is only two stories on Spruce street. Two Planning Board members were absent, though one of the absent members who was “traveling internationally” sent a memo to her colleagues expressing her opposition to the project.

View of the project along Spruce Street. Four Planning Board members want this scaled down.

What are these people thinking? They travel to Europe and love streets in neighborhoods that are lined with four and five story buildings. Why can’t we welcome four story housing here, recognizing a compelling need to provide housing for a diverse, young workforce?

It is particularly galling that the Planning Board members are asserting NIMBY rationales to scale down the project along Spruce when there are no neighbors asking them to do that. In complementing the design of the project, Planning Board member Laura Kaplan pointed out that this developer has already done all of the things that staff normally asks applicants to do to scale down a project facing two story houses, including:

  • Cutaway in the building for second floor courtyard;
  • Patios on the first floor setback from the street;
  • Fourth floors set back from the street;
  • Walk up entries and patios for ground level residences;
  • Main entrance and lobby recessed from the street, and;
  • Sloped roofs.

If the City Council wants to see this new project completed, they are going to have to call up the project for review this month. In the dense Boulder Valley Regional Center where this project is located, Council will need to stand up for this project, giving the developer and the Planning Board a strong message of support. That support must include these elements:

  • Support for rezoning the property to MU-3 (which allows higher density);
  • Support for allowing four stories;
  • An ordinance that permits the developer to put half of the affordable units on site.

Call to Action. Contact City Council to express your views about the project by emailing Ms. Shabnam Bista, Senior Planner, at BistaS@bouldercolorado.gov. She will send your comments to the whole Council. NOW is the time to do this. Put Papilio (the name of the project) in the subject line.

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