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Howdy, #Boulder. It's Tuesday night, which means city council.

We've got two public hearings and one important council vote: Whether or not to keep winter homeless sheltering open every night from October to May boulderbeat.news/2020/01/18/bou…
The public hearings are on adopting updated building codes, which we first looked at in the spring boulderbeat.news/2019/04/21/bou…
Added since then are regs for tiny homes. But they still won't be allowed most places. Essentially, they'll be treated like ADUs boulderbeat.news/2020/01/17/bou…
Second public hearing is on implementing a 40% tax on electronic cigarettes, which you all voted on in November. Council still needs to implement it; you just gave them the OK. boulderbeat.news/2019/10/18/bal…
Let's see if we have "butts in seats" by 6 p.m., as councilman Swetlik said during this weekend's retreat.
Ladies and gentleman, we have an on-time start!
Also, I see Elizabeth Black in the audience, so hopefully we'll be treated to another stunning lecture on soil health. Maybe the one I interviewed her about last month: boulderbeat.news/2020/01/05/stu…
We're in open comment. Steven Newman talking about occupancy limits. Wants it to be tied to the number of bedrooms, rather than limited to 3-4 unrelated persons.

Have not heard anyone speak to occupancy limits during open comment before, that I remember.
"Zoning discriminates against younger ppl, those from lower socioeconomic levels" and those choosing a non-traditional family structure, Newman says.
OMG yay it's Elizabeth Black!
"We humans have tilled the earth forever," Black says. "It must be perfect, right?" Not quite: In samples taken from ~40 sites around BoCo, lands that were not tilled at all (ranches, open space, golf courses, forests, etc.) had the best soil health.
This matters bc they have the potential to sequester the most carbon.

As I wrote in my story, these are just the first snapshots of samples. The study will take 10 years, so it's too early to draw too many conclusions.
In fact, Black drew only 2 conclusions in the end-of-year report: That tillage negatively impacts soil health, and that water is good.
Leslie Glustom is comparing Boulder muni to the Revolutionary War, which went "over time and over budget. And how many of you wish George Washington had given up?"
David Prowell III starts by saying "I'm not righteously indignant about anything."

He's asking for more shelter nights, day shelter, public showers and bathrooms for unhoused residents.
Henry Beer, who I know but I don't remember why/how, is speaking on Chautauqua. Sam at the Camera wrote about this, so I don't go into detail. But I need to know why I know Henry from my time as a biz reporter. Who is he #Boulder?
Forgot to say this, but we're also getting an update on Alpine Balsam. Newest development: Boulder County will NOT co-locate there.
OK, apparently an historic structure at 311 Mapleton (being redeveloped into senior housing/care) was vandalized: Someone with a bulldozer demolished part of it (and other things on site), planning director Chris Meschuk says
So now the developers have to rebuild that structure, bc preserving it was a condition of approval.
I was going to start a new thread for the building codes, but I don't think I will. I also don't know how much I'll tweet. All the changes have been outlined by me in previous stories, and it feels like a fairly routine vote.

I'll let you know if something fun happens.
If I don't fall asleep first. Building codes are BORING!
This is something interesting that will impact some folks: EVERY residential structure will have to have a sprinkler system to fight fires. Even ADUs. There used to be an exemption for single-family homes.
But apparently we all have so much crap, and our crap is so much crappier than it used to be, that house fires — while rare — are more dangerous than *they* used to be.

Boulder's fire chief recommended removing the single-family home exemption.
Building code expert Will Birchfield just said something that blew my mind (if true): That Boulder has added just 39 single-family homes each of the past several years, on average.
I will definitely fact-check that for you when I can.
Back to sprinkler systems: When existing structures convert from non-residential to dwellings, they will also have to install sprinkler systems.
Clarification to earlier ADU part: that is for standalone buildings only, obvs. If you do one in your basement, you don't need a sprinkler system.
That's a good thing, bc they ain't cheap: $3.50-$4 per sq foot in typical SF detached home
And for ADUs, they have to have their own water line installed.
But sprinklers save water and lives: A system can douse flames with 25 gallons per minute; dept will use 250 gallons per minute on the same blaze by the time they can respond.
Boulder is late to the game on this: Boulder County, Golden, Westminster, Kiowa, Aspen, Elizabeth, Blue River, Elbert County, Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills Village and Vail all require sprinkler systems in all dwellings.
We've moved on to tiny homes. Reminder: This building code applies only to fixed-foundation ones. By definition, tiny home is less than 400 sq ft.
Appendix Q relaxes standards for "ceiling height by 4 inches, requirements for stairs to the loft and the loft itself, and emergency egress from the loft," Birchfield says.

(The previous standards were for larger structures."
Another rule I missed (it wasn't in the council packet): You can't move an existing tiny home in. You have to build it in Boulder so there can be in-progress inspections.
There's an exemption for ones built by a pre-approved modular home builder or something. I didn't see that in the packet either.
Brockett asking about that rule in particular. Bc Lyons allows tiny homes, so how can it be state law that you can't move them in?
Birchfield just repeating what he already said: State requires in-progress inspections unless you purchase a tiny home from a facility that is OK'd by the state.
Friend asks again: How is Lyons able to do it? Can we do what Lyons is doing?

Birchfield: I've have to research that.
Friend: What about being on wheels? Why can't we do that?
Birchfield: That's a vehicle. As the chief building official, I don't have authority to regulate vehicles.
Friend: Is there a third options? Not on trailers but not fixed, just kinda tied down?

Birchfield: We can amend the code to allow what we want.
Carr addressing the point I raised in my story: That they can't really go anywhere bc of land use/zoning regs. If you want to allow them, you'll have to have another conversation on that.
"This is really just the first step to recognize for the first time code provisions for tiny homes," Carr says.
Brockett: Aren't we adding additional requirements around fixed foundations and connecting to utilities?
Birchfield: I don't believe so. IRC has permanent foundations in its code; I just added language to make that explicit rather than implicit.
Brockett: Would this not allow you to do a home under 400 sq ft as an ADU?
Correct, staff says.
Surprisingly empty chambers tonight. Idk where the homeless advocate folks are. They're usually here.
To that end, read this story on Finland ending homelessness. Can't really compare this to the situation here: The entire COUNTRY has fewer unhoused residents than the city of Boulder.

But some good lessons nonetheless.
Back to building codes: If passed tonight, they'll go into effect July 1
Also, staff is working to develop how to measure embodied carbon and incorporate that into the next energy code update (2023).
It includes something called an Urban Metabolism Study that councilman Swetlik things is really, really cool.

Ladies, line up.

I hate when I make a typo whilst clowning on someone.
Although, I find soil health fascinating so maybe I shouldn't throw shade.
Q from Wallach: Is there a policy justification for treating a larger condo more leniently, energy-code wise, than a 3K sq ft single-family home?
That's in reference to requiring homes of 3K and above to be net zero.

Carolyn Elam: It's really about cost so we're not burdening people. In smaller units, we're still working on getting them to net zero by 2030.
Four people for the public hearing! More than I expected.
Alex Cassidy is a commercial architect. Planning services are stretched thin, he says: Review times on small commercial projects (store in a strip mall, etc.) used to be 1-2 weeks. Now it's 6 weeks.
"If you're going to implement new code and more code, you really have to support your staff with what they need to enforce the code ... in a timely manner. A lot of small biz are getting chopped off at the knees by this."
I just gotta say, at this exact moment, it really feels like a city council meeting. We're not trying to solve climate change or gun violence or homelessness: There's just a guy talking about how routine city operations impact his biz and others.
Byron Fears, a tiny home builder is from Lyons, is asking Boulder to also allow tiny homes on wheels. We've built homes for $55,000. That's very affordable, he says.
(I think he said $55K. The average cost is $30K-$80K)
Tiny homes on trailers lessen neighborhood impact, Fears says: You just roll it in and neighbors don't have to deal with construction noise.

This guy knows his audience.
"Boulder has been the poster child for years, for planning for zoning for green building. Moveable tiny homes is just, like, one with that completely. To remove that from possibility is just absurd for Boulder. It's not living to the standard Boulder preached for 40 yrs."
Michal Duffy from OUT Boulder County is praising the change to code to allow gender-neutral restrooms in buildings. "It's a smart and sensible change to not highlight gender in the signage and keep it to 'restroom' or 'gender.'"
Here's what that looks like:
"This is a safe issue," Duffy says.
There is a ribbon-cutting for the new gender-neutral bathrooms at the Boulder library Friday at 10:05 a.m. if you're interested.
Councilwoman Joseph has more qs about tiny homes on trailers: Why don't we want to allow them? What are the considerations?
That's just being added to the list of council discussion items. We're not starting with that but we'll get to it.
Brockett is reminding me of another requirement I covered in the spring: All outdoor heated elements (pools, spas, snow-melt systems for driveways) will have to have their electricity consumption offset by on-site generation.
Also, did you know there were outdoor snow melt systems? Like, how rich do you have to be to have a heated driveway? I'm still awed by heated floors inside homes.
NEway, Brockett wants to make an exception for, if you add such an element to your existing house, you don't then have to plop on a solar panel after to offset it. (I think). It would be for new construction.
Now we're talking about gas-powered fire pits, per a q from Wallach.
All these fancy people and their fancy sources of outdoor heat.
We're getting really in the weeds here.
Back to having to offset power generation for certain elements: If you can't, you can buy into a solar garden. If you can't do that, you will have to pay into the Energy Impact Offset Fund.
NOW tiny home discussion from council. We'll see what they bring up.
First from Weaver: What did planning board say?
Birchfield: They agreed with staff recommendation to not allow tiny homes on trailers.
Joseph: What can we do, how about a hybrid system bc you mentioned utilities? Is it not possible to have utilities if they're on trailers? Is it an enforcement issue? I think requiring fixed foundation makes it more restrictive.
Birchfield: Fixed foundation, utilities is the intent of the code, in my opinion.
Friend: I'd like to hear more about the process. You said this is Step 1. If we do want as a council to look at them having not fixed foundation or utilities, what would that look like? When would we look at it?
Carr: With no fixed foundation and no utility connection, it's a trailer.
Friend: The point is that they can be more mobile. There's a convenience factor. If we want to incentivize affordable housing and the ease of setting up a tiny home ... what's the process?
Carr feeling a bit defensive in his response. Basically, just restating that it's a "bigger conversation" for council to have.
Wallach asking what the vote count was on Planning Board. It was unanimous. "I simply note that at my last meeting we gave great weight to a unanimous vote by Planning Board. .. I would be inclined to give them that weight (here) as well."
Brockett: Is it allowable to put on a pad, but not a fixed foundation? A la mobile home
Carr: No. Code says tiny homes should be constructed on foundation.
Interesting dynamic emerging in council around this issue.
Which is still so benign bc these things can't go that many places.
Weaver: Building codes imply permanence. That's what we're talking about tonight: building codes. There's "another flavor" of tiny homes which look like RVs. Those won't be governed by building code.
"If we want to come back and talk about mobile, I think that's a different thing, and I don't think it's governed by this."
Yates asks Meschuk to address the long planning time referenced by a community member.

Meschuk: "Right now we're several weeks behind in our reviews. This year is a focused effort to do some pretty serious reimagining of how we get our work done."
Council is about to vote to adopt these, with one tweak: Allowing tiny homes to be built off-site and moved into Boulder, onto a fixed foundation WITH a proper inspection.
Everybody votes for it.
That's it for this one.

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