Better Boulder aims to shape our city’s future by updating policies and encouraging infill development and smart growth. Well-designed density and sustainable urbanism will ensure Boulder grows into a more inclusive, leading-edge city with a smaller environmental footprint and a more dynamic culture.

The Transit Village Area Plan 2 (Boulder Junction 2) represents one of the final opportunities for large-scale redevelopment within the heart of the city, strategically situated near mass transit, road and bike networks, existing infrastructure, services, retail outlets, and open spaces. It also presents one of the most promising chances to address our housing crisis by creating a high-quality ‘True Boulder’ neighborhood that is less reliant on cars, pedestrian-friendly, energy-efficient, and transit-oriented.

Better Boulder applauds the work and community engagement that staff has completed to date to prepare and adopt TVAP Phase 2 and we look forward to the implementation phase as staff updates the form-based code and makes revision to the Boulder Revised Code.

Better Boulder is eager to participate and inform on existing zoning regulations, land use policies, road and sidewalk standards, utility layouts, open space designs, public realm criteria, form-based codes, building heights, sustainability, and affordable housing objectives.

We cannot continue constructing new neighborhoods and developments that all look strikingly similar, often taking the form of boxy mid-rise buildings with ground-floor retail spaces, generic sign fonts, and vibrant panels.

Our goal is to help the city provide recommendations to update and improve the code to ensure better outcomes as staff works on the implementation phase with the expectation that this new district will create socially sustainable, urbanistically redefined, uniquely Boulder, charming, unconventional, and intriguing spaces.

Better Boulder supports eliminating minimum parking requirements citywide, including in residential zones, commercial zones, mixed use areas, affordable housing developments and for ADUs, in both new and existing developments.

We expect the city to continue to provide parking for people with disabilities as required by ADA. We encourage the city to identify incentives other than parking reductions to encourage more affordable units, purchase of EcoPasses and other community benefits. The City should also continue to institute incentives for alternatives to parking such as having flex cars available for resident use, safe secure and sheltered bike parking, Eco-passes, and Boulder BCycle bike stations in close proximity.

Parking reform offers tremendous benefits for a multitude of City goals, as current parking requirements cause many problems and challenges for affordable, compact housing development that encourages sustainable transportation options of transit, bicycling and walking.

  • Parking spaces degrade the pedestrian, transit, and bicycling environment. Mandated minimum parking spaces force end destinations farther distances apart, increasing trip length and discouraging non-car modes. Parking spaces provide no shelter for pedestrians from sun, wind, and traffic.  Pedestrians, transportation cyclists and transit users have many more dangerous encounters with drivers in highly parked, car congested areas.
  • Required minimum parking standards increase building construction costs by 20% or more, making housing less affordable, even for residents who do not own a car.

Municipalities which removed minimum parking requirements found that many more housing projects became fiscally possible. This memo prepared by Southwest Energy Efficient Project provides numerous examples of how parking requirements (and their removal) have impacted housing developments across the state.

  • Many possible infill housing sites simply do not have any space on their lot for additional parking, so parking minimums prevent any additional housing on those sites.
  • Parking requirements greatly inhibit the creation of low-cost ADUs, such as converting garages.  Residential parking requirements in single family zones which require 19 foot deep, 9′ wide driveways and don’t even allow parking in front yard setbacks, eliminate the possibility of attached garage conversions in major parts of the core city where ADUs would be very beneficial for both renters and owners.
  • Each driveway requirement on single family properties actually eliminates at least two on-street parking places in front of the house because of space requirements to pull in and out of driveway. This means that off street parking requirements in areas with no alley access, results in a net loss of parking in the neighborhood.
  • Parking spaces take up valuable land that could be used for more public benefit as parks, gardens, bike and transit infrastructure or housing.
  • Parking minimums often result in excessive numbers of parking spaces that are rarely fully occupied, even on peak usage days. Examples are parking garages at Twenty-Ninth St. Building owners and developers can determine the appropriate amount of parking they want, without rigid mandates.
  • Removing parking minimums frees up the tremendous staff resources currently devoted to analyzing, documenting, and enforcing complicated and onerous parking regulations.
  • Minimum parking requirements are a huge implicit subsidy for automobile use. Subsidies introduced by requiring parking are regressive since auto use and ownerships scales directly with income, but parking costs are distributed across all consumers whether or not they are car owners.
  • Parking spaces are impermeable and increase flood risk, while polluting waterways with toxic runoff.

We hope Council members consider these many compelling reasons to support simplifying and reforming parking requirements, so they don’t stand in the way of urgently needed affordable housing and compact, efficient and sustainable urban land use and transportation.

  • Support zoning changes to the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan Update 2025 that encourage affordable housing for low and middle-income households, including:
    • Allow for missing middle housing types, such as duplexes, triplexes, quads, studio/micro apartments, and tiny homes, on lots that currently are restricted to single-family homes.
    • Allow for greater housing density near transit hubs and corridors.
    • Allow for shopping centers with underused parking to be redeveloped into mixed-use 15-minute neighborhoods with housing and daily services.
  • Continue the Urban Services Study already underway for Area III Planning Reserve to prepare for the BVCP update and potential annexation, with a priority focus on development of mixed-use neighborhoods with a high proportion (40-60%) of affordable housing.
  • Expedite planning and development for infill sites such as Alpine Balsam, East Boulder, TVAP II, and CU South to densify the city’s urban core and connect with transit and services.
  • Provide incentives for more affordable housing, such as reduced permitting fees and an expedited permitting process, including for ADUs.
  • Eliminate or reduce parking requirements to encourage the production of more housing, especially affordable housing. Eliminate parking requirements onsite for ADUs and for multifamily buildings next to transit hubs and corridors.

The 2025 10-year update to the BVCP provides a huge opportunity for City Council to improve our planning roadmap for Boulder, especially in the areas of transportation and housing.  We praise the current version of the BVCP for its visionary and inspiring blueprint for a better Boulder.  However, one recurring frustration with the BVCP is not with the document itself, but the gap between what is anticipated and promoted by the plan and what has been implemented.  Where are our 15-minute neighborhoods?  Where are our housing pilots? Our progress on a complete and multimodal transportation system that is equitable, and safe, is painfully slow.   We see narrowing that gap as an important goal for City Council and City Staff.

As for the document itself, Better Boulder recommends that the Land Use Map and associated table of Land Use Designations undergo a major, in-depth review. This review would be: to align the Land Use Designations (and associated zoning) to closely align with the stated goals of the BVCP.   We offer our support and expertise to help with such an effort.

Finally, we encourage City Council and City Staff to maximize this once-per-decade opportunity to engage the public in ways that are broadly participatory and inclusive and enhance the community benefit of having a planning process that has wide support and engagement.

Bills to Consider, timing, and who’s working on statement:

HB24-1152 – Accessory Dwelling Units
Better Boulder Statement:
Better Boulder supports legislation to allow more Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to be built, including financing options to make building an ADU available to more people.

As 2022, only 439 ADUs have been built in Boulder since the 1983 inception of the program. This lack of uptake of ADU construction is attributable to the city’s over-regulation designed to limit density, as well as regulatory complexity and other barriers.

While Boulder has recently relaxed its policies on ADUs in 2018 and again in 2023, we recognize that there are still significant barriers to ADU creation. HB24-1152 will continue progress on allowing property owners to build ADUs by reducing barriers from city-mandated car parking, as well as providing additional financing options to ease the financial burden of building an ADU, which will increase the number that will be built.

Better Boulder has been deeply involved in ADUs since our organization’s inception. In 2018, we hosted an ADU Summit with hopes that regulations would be updated in a comprehensive manner. While that proposed overhaul did not happen immediately, we believe advances in state-level housing policy for ADUs will help make Boulder more accessible, livable and promote middle income and missing middle housing.

The City of Boulder has performed many years of community engagement since 2015, and surveys have always shown broad support for ADUs. 93% of all ADU owners surveyed report that neighbors are generally approving or not mentioning existing ADUs. ADUs are exceptionally equitable housing types, with benefits to existing homeowners and the potential ADU occupants. We welcome additional changes that will make ADUs more common in Boulder.

SB24-106 – Right to Remedy Construction Defects
Better Boulder Statement:
Better Boulder supports a statewide effort to improve handling of construction defects in residential buildings.

Like many communities in Colorado, nearly all new residential multifamily construction is rental only, with no opportunity for home ownership. Senate Bill 24-106 aims to mitigate the hesitation developers have towards building condominiums in Colorado by providing clearer guidelines, a remediation path, and mediation opportunities, before resorting to costly litigation.

Additionally, the legislation is expected to reduce legal risks and insurance costs for developers, making condo projects more financially viable. The hope is that it will rejuvenate the stagnant condo market, increasing the supply of lower-cost, multi-family housing units and thereby helping to ease the state’s housing crisis.

HB24-1007 – Prohibit Residential Occupancy Limits
Better Boulder Statement:
Better Boulder has supported occupancy reform consistently from our inception and we are in support of HB24-1007. We believe this bill expands on the work and outreach done in Boulder, and extends the range of possible housing options to more easily create group living situations and housing cooperatives.

Better Boulder recognizes occupancy reform is a valuable tool for addressing housing affordability, accessibility, and a greater diversity of housing options. We join the 40+ listed endorsing groups for this bill across Colorado to put an end to occupancy limits based on familial status and to promote cities to regulate on the health and welfare of their residents.

HB24-1304 – Minimum Parking Requirements
Better Boulder Statement:
Better Boulder supports a statewide effort for cities to remove parking mandates from their requirements for housing and commercial uses.

Cities like Boulder and the surrounding communities have used parking mandates for decades, which have systematically overbuilt car parking and hurt the urban fabric. These mandates have proliferated excess “free” parking which adds costs to residents and businesses to comply with these mandates, as well as promotes more automobile ownership and usage, which is often our residents’ primary cost after housing.

Parking mandates are also at odds with building more housing in Boulder. Parking requirements are so high that they often contribute to required site reviews with the City of Boulder to get a reduction in required parking to be built, adding time and money to build new housing. And nearly every project requests and is granted a reduction to the parking requirements.

There’s no one ratio that can set the right amount of parking for every business or residential development in a city. Cities need to move to market-driven parking, combined with supporting transit and other modes of transportation, to meet our vitality, sustainability, and affordability goals.

HB24-1239 – Single-Exit Stairway Multifamily Structure
Better Boulder Statement:
Better Boulder supports a statewide effort to allow single-stair apartment structures up to five stories. Such a reform would be significant in Boulder as our city height regulations require a maximum of 55’ for any approved structures, often limiting any building to five stories.

Many of Boulder’s four and five story buildings are part of larger developments requiring larger lots to address buildings with significant mass. Allowing single-stair construction in these scenarios would provide additional options and possibilities for buildings on smaller lots, and to give options to conform with building height codes that can vary from lot to lot.

We see single-stair structures of four and five stories as another tool to get more housing in Boulder that is consistent with and enhances our urban fabric.

HB24-1313 – Housing in Transit-Oriented Communities
Better Boulder Statement:
Better Boulder supports a statewide effort to promote transit-oriented communities. While Boulder is a smaller city, we are relatively well-served by transit. However, many parts of town along our key transit lines still only allow single-family housing. Allowing more housing within these areas is a huge opportunity to create more housing while decreasing dependence on automobiles.

The transit-oriented communities infrastructure fund is another important piece of this legislation that provides benefits to local communities and their residents. The dual role in 1) allowing for an increased number of people to live near transit lines and 2) providing mechanisms for cities and RTD to increase transit infrastructure and service will be key to sustaining the success of the program going forward.

Better Boulder reached out to key members of our business community to gather their input on the Planning and Permitting process recognizing improvements, concerns, and other ideas of note. We express our sincere appreciation for the marked improvement in the speed of processing times, competence, and responsiveness. We support the following additional improvements:

  • Continued desire to streamline processes and codes, avoid new regulations without thorough stakeholder input, with “tweaks” to the Land Use Tables to decrease complexity.
  • Recognition that the current building and energy codes disproportionately hamper smaller “mom and pop” businesses from being able to afford to establish a business in Boulder.
  • Desire to move back to more in-person planning services to better serve small and medium projects and Boulder residents.
  • Elimination of the use review process for “like-uses” as well as Planning Board review for most use reviews.
  • Amend the Inclusionary Zoning standards to encourage a variety of housing including those that are not currently being developed. Better Boulder supports the move to calculate IH based on residential square footage rather than per unit, however the amount of the fees needs to be balanced with other financial factors so that the units we need are going to be built in the current market conditions. Also remove the practice of penalizing projects for having 4th or 5th stories.
  • Encourage the City of Boulder staff to continue to follow the engagement process used in planning efforts such as TVAP Phase 2 and the Use Tables update in a manner that resulted in encouraging flexibility to maximize land use options in order to alleviate our housing crisis.

We sincerely hope that in the coming year, Council and Staff focus on solidifying the fundamentals of the planning and permitting process and then begin considering new initiatives.