POSTED ON THE DAILY CAMERA: 02/23/2019
When Daily Camera columnist Steve Pomerance starts talking about too many cows on his open space, and those under his sway lean hard on Boulder City Council members to adhere strictly to their plans to make Boulder great again, we know the silly season in Boulder politics is underway.
Let’s be clear: Those who mock Better Boulder and other groups that desire more consideration of social equity principles and environmental values in our land use decision-making should be more transparent about their own policy objectives. Protestations aside, they don’t want more people in Boulder, plain and simple.
They talk about the desire for affordable housing and call for 100 percent affordability as the privilege of doing any new housing or commercial development. They demonstrate their intentions by setting the highest affordable linkage fee in the land. And like climate change deniers, they offer alternative facts that often do not line up.
In a recent column from Jeffrey Flynn, he declares his support for members of the current Council majority by name and criticizes “those who will argue that we should set the developers free.” He concludes: “Those market-rate candidates will use words like ‘inclusiveness,’ but their policies will produce development that is anything but inclusive. Just look at Seattle.”
In fact, we can turn to Seattle for an example of a relatively free-market response to housing demand: “The cool-down in King County’s real-estate market has now reached six months, and the drop in home prices over that span is among the largest on record.” The same principle of supply and demand that Flynn disparages actually can work to our advantage.
Better Boulder likes to point out other principles at work, like basic math. The more you spread out the high cost of underlying land prices amongst housing units, whether they are permanently affordable or simply market rate, the less of that cost is applied to each new unit. Those who disagree with this equation and the prospect of more housing call for requirements of 100 percent affordability as the price for any zoning adjustment. The truth here is that, without substantial subsidies, 100 percent affordability requirements will result in zero new housing units. So while it may sound attractive, the 100 percent affordability sound bite is a tactic to discourage the creation of more housing options for those who want to call Boulder home.
And what about our community’s commitment to climate protection? The direct connection between land use policies and the environment seem to be lost on many. Better Boulder advocates for land use changes that are good for people and the planet. In a report, entitled “Higher-Density Development: Myth and Fact,” by two institutions that have earned credibility in the sustainable development and environmental fields, the Urban Land Institute and the Sierra Club, the research shows, “higher-density development offers the best solution to managing growth and protecting clean air and clean water … Compact urban design reduces driving and smog and preserves the natural areas.”
With the launch of the silly season in the run-up to the 2019 city council elections, Better Boulder believes our community needs to live up to its stated ideals. It starts by standing on fact-based principles, which we expect from our leadership, in Washington and here at home. It also means being clear about an attainable vision for our community that produces less greenhouse gasses and truly is welcoming to a more economically diverse population.
Don’t believe the accusations. Those like Better Boulder who advocate for a bit more dense infill development will still stand up to development interests that choose only to take advantage of our community assets for their own financial gain. At the same time, we work in supportive fashion with architects and planners who understand our desire for a vibrant community, less car-dependent mobility and more attainable homes.
So, yes, Better Boulder opposes the virtual wall that some would have us construct around our community. We will walk our talk and will call out those who say they espouse social equity and environmental protection while promoting development policy contrary to those stated values. We think that kind of hypocrisy is just plain silly and Boulder voters will see through it.
Mimi Mather lives in Boulder.