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Hey, ya'll. We're a few min away from the #Boulder city council study session. Two discussion items up tonight: Large homes, large lots and use tables (what can be built/operated where in the city in terms of businesses, offices, homes, etc.)
My latest on both, which are ongoing projects and have been visited in recent months. boulderbeat.news/2019/04/25/bou…
Though study sessions are usually pretty straightfoward and not exciting (no public participation) I'm told this one may be *very* exciting RE: Large homes. And there are PLAN ppl here. Always a sign of something afoot.
OK, getting started a few min late. I don't see Weaver.
Just walked in. Getting started with large homes/large lots. Staff has come up with some interesting recommendations that could add hundreds of units of housing to the city.
Which is probably why there are PLAN ppl here.
There are essentially 6 identified options before council, broken into 2 phases of work:
Option A: Cap home size
Option B: Allow duplex or triplex (5,750 sq ft total; conversion or new construction)
Option C: Allow lot subdivisions in RR and RE
Option D: Permit more than one ADU per lot (3,500 sq ft cap of main home; 5,750 total)
Option E: Allow special subdivisions with minimum-size cottage (1,500 sq ft)
Option F: Allow Cottage courts (like Poplar Place and Toby's Lane)
Staff says a combo of A+B+D would meet council's goals. They are NOT recommending Option C (subdividing RR and RE) bc they would allow greater floor area overall than is allowed now. And some of these options (B, E, F) may conflict with the Boulder Valley Comp Plan.
So to accomplish them, the BVCP might need revisited and RR and RE rezoned to something else. If council/the public wanted to do that.
If the BVCP isn't revised, there would be no changes to RR zones (Residential Rural) but RE (Residential Estate) could accommodate up to 250 new units based on some of the other options before council (extra ADUs, etc.)
RE and RR require the largest Minimum Lot Area, 15,000 SF and 30,000 SF
respectively, of the residential zones. But, as Bob Yates, points out, half or less than half of RE, RR lots meet those minimums, which were imposed in the 1970s.
Current Floor Area Ratio standards (how big a house can be relative to the lot size) were implemented ~2003; they were lowered bc big homes were being built even then. RR and RE didn't have FAR requirements before then.
(This is all in response to qs from council members.)
Before FAR standards, what dictated how big you could built were the site setbacks and height limits.
Here's a rundown of how many lots are in each of our low-density zones:
RL-1: 10,946 lots in total; 20% (2,145) are over 10,000 sq ft
RL-2: 5,216 lots; 17% (893) over 10,000 sq ft
RMX-1: 1,711 lots; 9% (158) over 10,000 sq ft
(may be included in this, but may not)
The ones this project is mainly focused on:
RE: 1,536 lots; 87% (1,328) over 10,000 sq ft
RR-1: 130 lots; all over 10,000 sq ft
RR-2: 250 lots; 82% (206) over 10,000 sq ft
Here's why it matters if the lots are over 10,000 sq ft: Bc that is the minimum council has discussed would be subject to any regulations regarding home size.
I feel like I'm presenting this info all out of order, without explanation. If you have questions, just ask.
Let's talk public engagement: There's been a bit.
Major results are that more than half of respondents don't support limiting the size of homes. BUT more than half *do* support the idea of more, smaller homes in Boulder. (but not tiny homes, which got minority support)
57% of respondents to Be Heard Boulder supported allowing duplexes/triplexes in current single-family neighborhoods.
Some members of Planning Board and the Housing Advisory Board are requesting a statistically valid survey to gauge public opinion on this.
Here's a link to the staff presentation on this. It's a bit crowded, but also packed with info: www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/CC_Large_…
Because council wanted to focus on the community benefit project, this large homes project has been broken up into two parts.
Phase 1 could wrap this fall, with Phase 2 in 2020+.
Phase 1 focuses on size limits and some small incentives:
3,500 sq ft on a 7,000-square-foot lot
4,100 sq ft on a 10,000-square-foot lot
4,710 sq ft on a 15,000-square-foot lot
Allow more square footage if it’s used for extra ADUs (Option D)
Allow existing single-family homes to convert to duplexes/triplexes if parking requirements met
Phase 2 could include possible subdivision and extra dwellings:
2, 4, or 6 dwelling units per acre (size would be capped)
Allow one size-restricted cottage per lot
Allow duplexes/triplexes compatible with the character of the neighborhood
Phase 2 will take longer bc of the aforementioned process to change BVCP, which will be a whole process in and of itself.
Some confusion among council members about staff proposals around capping size limits. (Some confusion among journalists as well.)
Getting a little history lesson: The area around downtown used to be high-density zoning but were "effectively downzoned" to a lower density, said Karl Guiler.
This is in response to a proposal that single-family homes be allowed to convert into duplexes and triplexes.
Weaver q: There are a few zoning districts where this is allowed in the city, right?
Yes, Guiller says.
People would be allowed more space to their home if they converted it to duplex/triplex. So a 4K sq ft single-family home could add, say, 1,700 sq ft if they turned it into a triplex.
It's not a very common occurrence in the city. Maybe 5 a year, Guiler says.
Third Phase 1 option is ADUs: The main house could be capped at 3,500 sq ft, but extra ADUs would be allowed, provided the TOTAL square footage stays under 5,750. How many ADUs is for council to determine.
Some tweaks to ADU regs might be necessary; bc today you can only have 1 ADU and therefore only 1 rental license.
Staff is recommending these Phase 1 options apply to RE, RR and RL-1 zones. (But RL-1 zones would still be subject to the ADU saturation limits)
We're onto more council qs now. Yates trying to understand "how many small houses there still are" on these large lots. (Using a table of how many homes would become non-conforming under these proposed regulations.)
90% of homes in these 6 low-density residential zones are under 3,500 sq ft. No district is more than half large homes, but RR-1 and RR-2 come close (47% and 49%, respectively.)
Is your head spinning yet?
Very few ADUs in RR and RE zones; ~2% or so have started the application process or already have one, planners say.
Q from Young: Why or why not is this project part of subcommunity planning?
Guiler: We thought about it, but subcommunity plans drag on. This was something you wanted to get done this year.
Weaver: That's a really good reason not to do RL-1 right now, bc RL-1 is found across every subcommunity.
"I would like to see RL-1 held back on even Phase 1 changes until we get a chance to do subcommunity planning."

RL-1 is by far the biggest zoning district of any of these: 10,946 lots.
"I've been thinking about how this got started and how we got here," Young says. (Bc ppl in NoBo were being "assaulted" by demolitions.)
"I would like to see more information. Idk that we can have it by Phase 1. But it seems to me the problem originated in NoBo and we really haven't heard from other areas of town."
"I'm thinking that RR and RE be included but only in the North Boulder subcommunity." It will affect "who we will survey."
*le sigh*
"When you look at the map, the vast majority of those lots are in the North Boulder subcommunity."
Phase 1 options might be more "appealing to speculative demolition than a private person," she says.
Jones: Thinking about our purpose in this project is important. I think it's good to pause. Every time we build a big, big house instead of smaller units, we're constricting our future options. I'm more interested in exploring broader implications than just a certain area of town
"This gets into growth, which is a sticky wicket... But one of the things I'd like to do is be setting rules for the future that are taking into account that context that you want more, smaller houses rather than few, larger houses."
Jones basically saying the government should actually govern. What a thought!
"That’s where we need to head as a city, with every neighborhood throwing some skin in the game."
Yates agrees with Young that context matters. Big houses in some neighborhoods are *in* character. A cap would be "capricious, arbitrary and out of context."
Yates: "I'm not sure this is a good tool for affordability. This may be a good tool to stop ppl from building large houses. I don't think this project is going to create affordability."
Yates: I certainly don't support a cap. I think we could have an interesting discussion around relaxing our ADU rules. "If we were forced to do one thing, the one thing I'd be reluctantly willing to explore is relaxing the ADU rules."
Yates: I wouldn't do any of these things.
Brockett: To me, this project is an interesting one. If we can get some smaller, or more generally attainable housing for folks in towns, and not just really large, really expensive homes. Some of those interesting possibilities are in Phase 2.
"One of the other things that's become really clear in feedback is there are dif. parts of town having dif. experiences."
Brockett: For phase 1, ADU options is a great way to go. That gets to providing smaller, more affordable living spaces for ppl in town.
All of council is speaking very VERY carefully on this topic. Sure sign of fear/an angry public.
Carlisle agrees with Young that solutions should be focused on "where the issues are happening." Wants to tackle via subcommunity planning. Not in favor of caps.
"I'm concerned about ppl living in these neighborhoods.... when they bought, they thought they were in a stable place." Wants to hear from the neighbors "before we start telling ppl" how big a house they can have.
Density is a big issue. There's a group that thinks density is better wherever it goes "and then there's the larger community."
"I would really like to hear from the ppl who live in the area, and what they would like."
Idk why I'm surprised, tbh. Of course council is largely abandoning this, after pushing so hard for it. Here I was, silly me, thinking they might actually get something done.
Carlisle: I was surprised to see how many big houses there are. And they seem to be quite contentedly so.
Nagle agrees with Yates, Carlisle and Young. Shocker.
Project has "gotten a little larger than I originally wanted to see." The amount of emails we get that oppose this "is a big red flag"
Acknowledges the Be Heard results (which showed a majority in favor of more, smaller houses) but noted it's not a statistically valid survey.
"For me, that's what counts."
Except for the emails she just referenced, obviously.
We should have done a cap 15 yrs ago, but we didn't. Now there's a lot of big homes up there. "It is what it is now."
I'm fucking screaming.
We should have done something but we didn't so oh well. Too bad for everyone else, I guess, since every one of these council members owns their own home.
Weaver: "We're supposed to represent the whole city, and that includes ppl who are renters" who might like to find a home. And ppl struggling to even find a place to rent.
Weaver doesn't support a cap on size, bc the energy code (which requires homes over 3,000 sq ft to be net zero energy) is a "significant step forward."
"It's incenting in the correct way, in the right direction."
Weaver: 10,000 to 30,000 sq ft "can bear a little more density."
"I view density as a tool; it's neither good nor bad."
In favor of multiple ADUs on larger lots.
Also likes the idea of converting homes to duplexes and triplexes
Weaver: "I like the survey idea, but it cannot just be the local residents."
Needs to be citywide "bc we have to represent the entire city."
Morzel, who really pushed this large home issue, now speaking. She wants a cap, but "I can also count" meaning she knows a majority doesn't support it.
"We have got to quit consuming so much. These large houses, regardless of how net zero they are, they still require huge amounts of embodied energy."

Supports ALL staff's options.
"I don't want to look at this as just a North Boulder issue. It's not just a North Boulder issue, even though it's happening in North Boulder."
Wants the project to extend to RL-1 zones.
"We need to think intentionally about what we're doing. We're making future choices, and by continuing to do nothing, we're constricting the future of our children and our children's children, and the future of our community."
"We have an out of balance situation, and I don't think this one project is going to solve it all, but I certainly think it could add more housing."
Who would have thought Weaver and Morzel would be advocating for more housing.
"Already, people's children can't live here anymore. A huge amount of our workforce can't live here anymore. Anything we can do to help that problem is significant."
Jones is back: I'm a little surprised by us. I thought we were going to do a little more here.
"It falls on us to make the decisions to shape the future, so when ppl say the ship has sailed, big houses are a foregone conclusion.... the future is upon us, and it's up to us to make some decisions."
Likes all staff's options.
Also wants a citywide survey.
Brockett: My interest in potential caps is we consider some of the bigger steps in Phase 2. I wouldn't abandon that idea entirely, but I'd move it to Phase 2.
A survey is always useful. We did a survey just 3 yrs ago on these topics for the BVCP: 62% supported more, smaller homes
71% supported duplex conversion
"That to me was a really strong indication that the city felt these ideas were worth exploring."
Young supports Option B, converting big houses to duplexes/triplexes. And extra ADUs.
Weaver: I think survey would be useful for Phase 2, but we can move forward with some of the Phase 1 stuff.
Carlisle: If this council were going to do any one thing to address the overwhelming issues we are dealing with affordability, density, traffic congestion, we would change the zoning to reduce commercial space.
"In terms of livability, as long as we're allowing these types of jobs to come in in these types of numbers," we're never going to catch up. We're never going to do it.
We're talking about "draconian measures" at least to the ppl who live there.
Yates: Ppl in RR and RE neighborhoods seem to be adopting ADUs at roughly the same pace as other parts of town.
We only adopted the ADU rules less than a year ago; we're still processing applications.
"I would like to give it some time to proceed, to see if the guesses we made at the end of last August and how they pan out."
"We've got a lot of work to do in the next five months, and if someone were to ask me if further liberalizing ADU rules is on your top 10 list, I would say no. Maybe something to visit in 2-3 years."
Weaver: So no to A, no to D, your opinion is to move this all into phase 2?
Yates: Yes.
Morzel: Part of the reason homes in NoBo are being torn down is that they are older than elsewhere in the city.
Morzel: The work we've done has got ppl talking. "That, for me, was the point."
I guess I'll just *talk* my way into an affordable living situation.
I *think* we might have 5 members in support of allowing single-family homes to convert to duplexes/triplexes AND allowing extra ADUs, but I can't be sure, since it was just a hand raise. Someone in TV land, what did you see?
Weaver: Cap extra ADUs to 2 per lot.
Jones: All we're doing is allowing one extra ADU. This is not revolutionary stuff.
Yates: You want to do these two things the next five months?
Yes, say the 5-member majority
Jones: It's in our workplan.
Nagle: If we're going to spend our valuable time doing this, I would hope we're making an impact. The premise is that we're doing this to create affordability, but if ppl aren't doing it, we're spending our time doing something ppl won't use.
"I think our time is better spent focusing on affordable housing in more dense, transit-oriented areas."
Jones: Right now, we're not taking anything away, we're just adding more options.
Weaver: These choices are useful.
"Everything doesn't happen in one step."
"We're trying to entice folks to think differently than the single large home."
Staff is going to work on two options: Extra ADUs and conversion of single-family homes, including public engagement and developing ordinances.

A statistically valid survey will be saved for Phase 2.
Staff is doing its Phase 2 presentation, but honestly I've lost my spirit to tweet. Council barely wanted to consider "baby carrots," and these are giant mutant space carrots in terms of changes to neighborhoods.
Interesting table on various densities in RR, RE and RL-1 and how much units they would add. At the most intense, if RR and RE were upzoned to allow 6 units per acre, Boulder would get 3,082 new units.
That's less than we need to get to hit our 15% affordable housing goal by 2035.
Council makes a joke about elections being "the ultimate feedback."
They're right. Please freaking vote, ppl.
But they're also wrong, bc there are many barriers to participation in our democracy. Those who govern, govern everybody, not just ppl who voted for them.
Interesting info: 60 current ADU applications in the city. NONE are for affordable units.
Some qs about when the statistically valid survey would be ready to go out.
Guiler: We'll check in with the next council, perhaps.
Weaver: This is a retreat q for the next council. It will be half baked
Jones: It's not baked at all.
Weaver: Well, it's kinda... they've got guidelines and parameters, structure, etc.
We're moving on to the Use Table discussion. I'm keeping the same thread, bc these topics are in fact related: It's all about council's approach to housing/growth/density in Boulder.
Use tables are what govern the "uses" of Boulder's built environment: What gets built, what kind of businesses/housing can go where.
This is related to the opportunity zone moratorium; the first part of the project is for zoning districts in that area, and will wrap this summer.
Council will be considering a number of things: Efficiency living units (should we allow more than 20% of them in one building? Should they be affordable above 50%?) and single-family homes in high-density areas (Should we stop allowing them?) etc.
The reason council is doing this: The use tables are out of alignment with community goals and the BVCP.
Last review was in the 90s, apparently.
In *this* discussion, 15-minute walkable neighborhoods are a priority.
RR, RE zones are not 15-min walkable neighborhoods. It might take you 15 min to walk one street with 7 houses.
THAT is why I'm keeping these threads together, and putting both these discussions into one story.
Here's staff's presentation on use tables, if you want to see it: www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/CC_SS_Use…
Now we're getting into individual topics for council discussion.
Efficiency living units
If more than 20% in the project are ELUs (under 475 sq ft), it triggers a use review.
Staff suggested making ELUs an allowable use.
Council suggested allowing them up to 50% of the project, and any over that would be affordable.
"Not many" ELUs in the city now, Guiler says.
Morzel OK with staff's recommendation; council agrees except for Carlisle, who is "thinking about it."
Carlisle: I have concerns about... how many units could be built... in one particular building?
Guiler: 2 ELUs count as one dwelling unit, bc they are so small. So number is dictated by density of the zoning district.
Next issue: Single-family homes in high-density zones.
They are currently allowed.
Staff originally suggested prohibiting them.
Now they are suggesting making them subject to Use Review.
Brockett "generally supportive" of this. "But I don't feel like single-family homes are the best use of high-density residential" land. So maybe put in some restrictions for building new SF homes.
The issue with prohibiting them altogether in those zones is that it makes them non-conforming, which makes it more difficult to alter or expand the homes. That *could* be an incentive to scrape them, staff said, which we don't want.
Of 13,000 units in the city's (scant) high-density residential areas, 321 are single-family homes on smaller lots.
Council agrees on staff recommendation: SF homes will be allowed via use review in high-density residential zones.
(That sounded really declarative. This project is still theoretical. Nothing is being passed tonight.)
Next q: Should homes not be allowed on the ground floor in Business Regional zones (near 29th Street Mall, for example)
They currently are, but staff is recommending that 75% of the ground floor area of buildings in those zones can be residential.
Weaver: That number seems high to me. 75% seems like a lot in a business area.
Brockett: The idea is, we need more housing. If you have a decent-size parcel, then making the whole ground floor retail is restrictive. 75% seems like a reasonable amount to me, bc then you get some retail. 25% is about what you need to front the street.
Weaver: Let's have this be a use review, bc it depends where the residential vs. retail goes.
Some debate over making this Conditional (staff-level review) vs. Use Review, which planning board can review the project.
Weaver OK with making it conditional. Condition could be street-facing retail, Brockett suggests.
We're still discussing this; council might want to add in some ties to affordability.
Carlisle suggest doing a subcommunity plan here instead of use table changes.
Next topic: Restaurants in Industrial zones.
Right now, they're a Conditional use. Can't be over 2,000 sq ft, but also they can't be on major streets, which is the big factor.
Staff is actually recommending punting this to a subcommunity process, which will include a discussion over industrial zones.
But council *could* simply remove the prohibition on not letting them be along major streets.
"A long time ago," Morzel says, "we didn't allow signage on restaurants in industrial zones." WHAT? Why??
Morzel likes the idea of removing the street prohibition. "It makes it more urban," and if a few more ppl come into the industrial zones to eat "it's not going to kill us."
Weaver thinks we need restaurants in our industrial zones, but wants to listen to staff. "I think it takes a little more thought than making a sudden change."
East Boulder Subcommunity Plan will be done in a year-18 mos.
The ideas that come from that plan about industrial areas may be applied to all the city's industrial zones.
Next: Should small (less than 1K sq ft) offices be allowed in residential zones? Offices are currently allowed through Use Review; Staff originally suggested prohibiting them altogether, but council wanted to let small ones in, since it promotes live/work and walkable 'hoods.
Would NOT apply to RMX-1 zone, bc there have already been many house-to-office conversions.
Carlisle: Can there be a cap on saturation? (How *many* offices would be allowed in the area.)
"Since we do have this horrific imbalance, idk why we would be permitting more offices."
Brockett: Full disclosure, this is me. I have an office across from my house. 650 sq ft. I'm not the only one; lot of ppl walk to work. I think that's a real positive thing.
Carlisle: I think it's positive, it's just, if it gets out of hand.
Weaver: "This is more an attempt to prevent erosion of housing into office space."
Brockett: Then I'd recommend crafting something specifically aimed at conversions. There may be new neighborhoods that get built that may want to include some office space.
"I do not support this in its current form. We've had a value of creating mixed-use neighborhoods in this town for decades."
I'm not sure what we're haggling about right now. But it's very specific.
I think it's new builds vs. conversions, and how to allow more office in new builds while not allowing conversions.
OK, more office space, but in business zones. They're currently allowed by-right; staff is recommending that offices can be no more than 25% of the building OR up to 50%, via a staff review, if affordable housing units are provided on-site.
If you wanted to expand your office space, it would take a use review process and limited to 10% more area... I think.
This applies only to a few business zones: Business Main Street, Transitional Business (abutting neighborhoods) and Business Regional (29th Street Mall)
Brockett: After you did this, the downtown would be the only place you could build an office building.
Jones: But we don't need any more.
Morzel: With this suggestion for limiting office space, you could still end up with "a lot of offices." 50% of a 10K sq ft building is a lot.
Brockett: Preventing us from ever building another office building goes too far.
Jones: What would you suggest? Allowing existing offices to be replaced?
Brockett: Yes, kinda, but ... I'd like to hear from my colleagues, I guess.
Sorry, spaced out for a minute.
Weaver: To me, this is a necessary step to get what we want. Otherwise we might be filled up with offices, which are the most (cost efficient) thing to build. Why have a plan if we're not going to implement it?
Brockett: We should have a rich mix of uses.
Yates: I get the fact that ppl don't want more offices, but by proposing this, you'll have fewer and fewer offices over time until you have none at all. Maybe that's the idea.
Jones: No, bc you can replace them with 50% office space.
Morzel: If we lost some jobs, I think that would be OK.
"We are so out of balance, we need more housing."
I've lost the thread of what is happening, but the last issue is how to prevent existing market-rate housing that is affordable in the Opportunity Zone. Staff had this to say:
"Staff has not discovered any specific way through the use tables to prevent demolition of the existing market rate affordable housing stock within the Opportunity Zone"
Their suggestion is to keep the demolition moratorium in place for RH-4 and RM-1 zones.
David Gehr, assistant city attorney: At some point, it's no longer a moratorium: it's a land use regulation.
Jones: In general, don't we want to prevent these kinds of conversions everywhere? Couldn't we write something like that?
Guiler: That's out of the scope of this problem.
Moratorium lasts to June 2020
Yates: So by June 2020, why don't we just do a citywide demolition land use adjustment?
Jones: Works for me.
Brockett: I very much want to prevent the scraping of units, but when you're talking about preventing all demolitions citywide, that's a bigger bite. You could have unintended consequences.
Yates suggests that if someone wants to demo an existing market-rate rental building that is affordable, the inclusionary housing requirements get put "on steroids" and they have to provide a lot more deed-restricted affordable in the new building.
Weaver proposes an "overlay zone" that would require higher commercial linkage fees for affordable housing. "Maybe $60 a square foot."
Gehr: I would have to look into it further; I can think of a few concerns I would have about it.
Jones: If we want Diagonal Plaza to get redeveloped with a lot of housing, how do we incentivize that?
Chris Meschuk: Rather than trying to achieve that through a regulatory tool, let's just be really clear about what we're looking for.
"We can try and create that incentive through what we're advocating for. The window of investment is actually very narrow. Ppl are going to need to make their investments in the next year or two."
"The time period that this is going to matter is going to be really short."
Council members are fleeing the building. Morzel and Nagle gone.
Jones says and then retracts the "blighted" word in reference to Diagonal Plaza. "If there's anything good that's going to come out of the opportunity zone, we might as well get it where we want it."
That's the end of this meeting. Short yet oh so long.

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