Moving on to Diagonal Plaza. You can read about this here:…
Or follow along with the city's presentation:…
This is just the concept plan stage, so council is deciding on anything. They're just providing feedback on the design and other aspects of the plan.
It's a bit unique in that there are multiple "options" before council — allowing a fourth floor of development (still under 55 ft) would result in more housing and affordable housing.
BHP plans to build out an existing community on the site. They've been eyeing this spot for quite a long time.
There will also, of course, be market-rate housing. Not luxury: It's defined (in the comp plan) as workforce housing.

Fun fact: Market rents are actual affordable to middle-income earners in Boulder (bc our median income is so high). Home ownership is most definitely not.
This project is also unique in that developers were basically like, here's what we want to do instead of proposing what they're *allowed* to do under current land use and zoning.
In fact, there will need to be a rezoning or land use change or some special city magic to let much of any housing to be built here, bc this zone still requires 1,200 or 1,600 sq ft of open space per unit — a HUGE amount that limits housing to about 60 or so dwellings.
Staff has identified the many city and comp plan policies to work some special magic on the site and encourage more housing. It's super walkable and non-driveable of an area.
and Diagonal Plaza is actually called out in the comp plan as a place where revitalization is needed and where the city supports "strategies unique to specific places," rather than sticking to the regular rules.
As I wrote in my story (link again:…) there's a long history of hand-wringing and attempts to revitalize Diagonal Plaza.
The city convened some groups and commissioned a study in 2010 to try and get something going. But council ultimately declined in a 5-4 vote to pursue a blight study (which would allow for creative financing), instead preferring the 12+ property owners to figure it out.
Diagonal Plaza is the whole reason Boulder has an opportunity zone, which was its own multi-year nightmare that I hope you were lucky enough to miss out on.
This is the first real proposal for redevelopment since that time. It's mostly parking lot being built on, on the south, west and north sides. Only one building will be impacted: The empty former Sports Authority and the occupied Walgreen's.
I've been told by developers that Walgreen's is moving their employees and Rx to its store literally 2 blocks south, but I haven't been able to get anyone from the company to respond to my inquiries.
Planner Elaine McLaughlin is going over some of the ways the city can accomplish allowing this plan to happen. Rezoning, land use, etc. It's complicated. But there are options that Boulder's comp plan policies support.
A mixed-use zoning is being suggested. It's currently Business Commercial - 1. Council changed some BC rules to preserve neighborhood shopping centers BUT allow more housing. That, unfortunately, didn't include looking at open space requirements.…
Open space requirements are a great example of a good policy (keep green space for residents so we don't become a concrete jungle!) that also severely limit how much housing can be built, even in the very places OTHER Boulder policies say housing should go.
It also can contribute to larger, luxury units. If you have to provide 1,200 sq ft of open space per unit.... just do fewer, larger units. Then you have to provide less open space and can build on more of the site (and get higher rents/sale prices, to boot).
I know this is all kinda complicated, but it's very important.
The developer also planning to formalize two cut-throughs on the site into actual streets with sidewalks and trees and such. Council gonna give feedback on that plan, too.
Our first Wallach sigh of the night! He's repeating a Planning Board point about wanting for-sale units on the site. The developer isn't doing that, bc they don't deal in for-sale units. Only rentals.
Wallach with another Planning Board point: "Obviously we're not going to hold this up for any area planning, but as we move forward, what are the plans for the bulk of the site?"
This proposal is for about one-quarter of Diagonal Plaza as a whole.
McLaughlin: The 2010/2011 study identified an incremental approach as the best one, bc of the many different property owners. An area plan is a long, involved process, and there is desire for things to happen at Diagonal Plaza sooner rather than later.
Wallach throwing some shade at Boulder Junction's design, as he likes to do: "They're housing, but they're unimaginative."

Wants more interesting design than "box after box after box."
People who grump about the design of multi-family homes rarely apply the same standards about sameness to Boulder's incredibly milquetoast single-family neighborhoods. You want new and different? Just not in your neighborhood, I guess.
Nagle has Thoughts, but she's saving them for later (when council comments on things; they're just asking questions now).
A little talk about height, which we'll touch on more in the next item. Diagonal Plaza can go up to 55 feet, but no more.
Under a current moratorium, only about 5% of the city can build up to 55 feet, the citywide height limit. Council can allow that moratorium to expire in August, and have the citywide height limit apply.... citywide. OR they can keep current restrictions for about 57% of the city.
That is, developers couldn't request to build above whatever the zoning height limit is in some places.

But, again, we'll touch more on that later.
Chatting a little bit now about changing open space requirements, which I'm sure you remember are what's preventing (much) housing from being built here without a zoning or land use change.
BHP's Laura Sheinbaum speaking quickly to council. BHP met with Congressman Joe Neguse and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge today to talk about some federal work on housing affordability.
Prob a bit of what the Camera wrote about:…
There are 14 ownership parcels at Diagonal Plaza, Bill Holicky of Coburn Architects says, plus a mess of cross easements, etc. "I've never seen anything like it."
He's talking about street plans.
"This is taking the worst parts (of Diagonal Plaza) — the dirt parking lots, the asphalt that's falling apart, the vacant buildings — and turning it into the best parts," Holicky says. Really selling it here.
I mean, I live here. Can confirm that the bits proposed for redevelopment are in fact the worst parts of Diagonal Plaza. Wouldn't take much to make them the best parts .... literally anything other than empty parking lots and empty stores.
The west side is OK, tho. Sushi place, Vic's, The Cork. It's got some trees. Would prefer if parking was internal rather than against the street, but that's just bc I don't want to, you know, get hit by a car when I'm walking there.
"We're not displacing small businesses," says Danica Powell of Trestle Strategy Group. In fact, we hope this will revitalize the area and drive more ppl to businesses there.
Idk if I said this, but a small-ish park is also going to be built on the site.
The developers prefer a special ordinance to waive open space requirements on the site, rather than a rezoning.

Holicky: "There's a bunch of hoops to jump through." And timing is a concern for the seller. "It incurs more risk for not happening the longer it waits."
"It's just the unknown," Holicky says. "We don't know what we might run into."

The open space requirement they're proposing is used in other commercial areas in Boulder that have/are encouraging housing.
And, again, they're building a park there. Open space requirements don't actually require space like parks. It can be patios/porches/decks, or like rooftop space, or setbacks, or like grassy islands. Parks are pretty rare to meet open space requirements.
The 30Pearl site did one, and I believe the Spine Road/Celestial Seasonings project is doing one, but I rarely see parks in big projects.
Young: Have you considered rezoning / land use changes that would allow you to put the kind of housing on the site that Planning Board talked about? (for-sale and/or single-family)
Holicky: We've talked about it. We'd have to do site review and request a land use change to the comp plan. It's a complicated and long process that could delay things.

We don't need a dif zoning to do all the housing we're proposing.
Which is a mix of housing that includes efficiencies, 1BR, 2BR and 3BR.
Brockett: Both Planning Board and city council would have to approve a comp plan change. "We've got a great Planning Board, but it would no longer be entirely in our hands."
Nagle speaks! "I was pleasantly surprised with the way this was laid out, more than I expected to be. ... It was really nice to see the option for townhomes."
"Is there going to be any leniency where we could double those rowhouses and have 12 units rather than 6?" Nagle asks.
I missed the answer! I'm sorry. But from my interview, developers said there's quite a bit of wiggle room and what type of units get built.
Weaver: We might want to do a land use change and rezoning on the whole site for future redevelopment.

Powell: It makes sense, comprehensively, but with 14 owners, that's a lot of time and complexity, which could be problematic for our project.
Holicky: One of the things we've seen with comp plan changes is that owners come out of the woodwork. We tried very, very hard not to draw on other people's property. We have their support but we might not if we start messing with their maps.
You'd have to rezone and change the land use for the whole site, not just the project area, says assistant city attorney Hella Pannewig.
Yates: Can we do both? A special ordinance just for this project, and then pursue a zoning or land use change for the rest of the site? (so then we could take our time with it and not impact this project)

Yes, Pannewig says.
Side note: What a freaking delightful name. Hella Pannewig. Jen Sprinkle. The city is full of storybook characters.
Anyway, we're moving to the public hearing. I don't have a list of speakers bc the city changed its website and I no longer know where those live.
Adalyn Fyhrie: We all know Boulder needs more housing, and this is an ideal location.

Excited about the park but would be more excited about MORE green space.
"I really look forward to having new neighbors and seeing that pothole-filled parking lot transformed into something liveable," Fyhrie says.
Alice Guinther, an assistant with CU's journalism dept, getting fancy with a pre-recorded presentation. And they include their pronouns! Killing it.
Ginger Zukowski, from Orchard Grove mobile home park, has been paying lot rent there since 1976(!) She wants for-sale housing at Diagonal Plaza and "truly affordable" housing — especially if there's a rezoning.
Rosemary Fivian: BHP has said again and again they have the most demand for studios and 1-bedroom units, from single people. We should believe them. Households with children will only be 10% of U.S. households by 2025.
Plus, our community is aging rapidly, Fivian says. "That translates into the need for smaller units. ... We need to plan for what's best for the future."

I'mma fact check the things she shared. Perhaps you can send me your sources...? I know you're watching!
Evan Freirich: The developer is only offering what it has to in terms of affordable housing, no more. And they want special treatment.

Freirich owns a rental unit in a nearby community.
Paul Cure is here. It's election season and he is running again, so I suppose it's time he started showing up. Haven't seen him since he was trying to get on a board or commission. And last election season, of course.…
Tom Volckhausen: This is a perfect 15-min neighborhood. Please approve this as quickly as possible, and put as much housing here as possible. Shared walls reduce emissions; housing will reduce in-commuters.
That's the end of public hearing. 14 speakers.

"The number of commenters at a concept review is not usually this high," Young says. I'm not sure I agree, especially for projects of this size. Celestial Seasonings? 311 Mapleton?
Young to developers: "As a catalyst site, you are shouldering responsibility for what will happen down the road."
Young: We had one speaker say we'll need more single units in the future. That may be so, but single units ... contribute to loneliness. We could change back into a communal sort of society. So we need more diversity of housing.
So.... we shouldn't plan for the near future, but the future backlash to/reversal of that future...?
Young: A lot of commenters said reduce the parking, reduce the parking. That will likely happen. That requests happens at site review.
"This is a really exciting project," Young concludes.
Holicky: I don't think we're terribly concerned with a parking reduction.
Brockett: We've been looking at redevelopment on this site for many, many years. I think you've done an excellent job with the design.

One suggestion: Bring the BHP housing closer to the park, instead of it being surrounded by parking.
The developer has already made *some* steps in this direction, but Brockett thinks they can do more.
He also supports a special ordinance as the HOW of accomplishing this design.
Nagle: I think you've done a good job of not making it look "overwhelming ... especially when there's so much density." Pushes again for European-style design "instead of these disgusting boxes we have all over town."
Driving past the neighborhood on Diagonal "is painful, every day," Nagle says. 28th Street, the Google campus... "this is not the town I grew up in."
Ah, to have a life so uncomplicated by trauma and stress that unsightly buildings register as actual pain.
Forgot Holicky and Powell are former Planning Board members, as Weaver notes.
Weaver referencing HUD secretary Fudge's visit to Boulder today. She was "shocked" to learn the median home price here, Weaver says.
Weaver also wants some for-sale housing here, whether Habitat or something else. "I know it's a little outside the comfort zone" of the developers, but "I would very much encourage" the applicants to think of any way to do that.
He's also in favor of a special ordinance for this project, then pursuing a rezoning or land use change for the whole site after it's done.
Weaver: "Along the lines of what Secretary Fudge said, we need to move quickly." The site "has long needed attention."
Swetlik, as always, asks about possible rents for the market-rate units.
Worcester: About 80% to 100% AMI for the city of Boulder. It's hard to say exact $$ bc there's such a range of unit types.
Swetlik: "That's the best answer I've heard so far. BUT it's not just about having units; it's about having occupied units."
LOL Swetlik on single ppl. "I'll prob only ever need one, at most two, rooms. We are lonely, but if you're lonely get on your HOA board or even city council. You may be sad but you'll be sad for different reasons than loneliness."
Such a shame he's not running again. Worth it just for this.
Yates: "This is exactly what we've wanted at the Diagonal Plaza for years. It's called out in the comprehensive plan as something we want to fix. How many other properties are?"

Answer: 3 others
"This is the best reuse of land I've seen in my years on council. It's the epitome of a 15-minute neighborhood. It's a 5-min neighborhood. This is the type of thing we should be building as often as we can," Yates says.

"If not this, what? If not now, when?"
Wallach: "This project will set the standard for the rest of Diagonal Plaza, and I trust it will be a high standard indeed."
Urges creativity to get some for-sale units.
Friend asks something that I *think* is: If we do a special ordinance, can we get more affordable housing?
Holicky: It's not like we're holding things back, but we can try to push a little bit.
The number of affordable units is probably more up to BHP, since they're developing this.

Pannewig: I think other cases of special ordinances have been for more affordable housing provided on-site than was required.
Council unanimously agrees to do a special ordinance, reducing open space requirements.

"We would like to see this get in place with this council," Weaver says.
I think that's a wrap on this one. Overall positive feedback, some pushing on more affordable housing, some for-sale housing, and non-hideous designs.
But this council wants to pass and ordinance to make it happen.
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More from @shayshinecastle

14 Jul
Lastly: Checking in on what this council has accomplished. Surprisingly, a lot (compared to the last council, at least, and in the context of a pandemic and a mass shooting)

Presentation here:…
This council started out with 12 priorities. COVID made 13.
7 have been completed; 3 more will be by the end of the year
Here's what they finished / will finish:
Racial equity - adopted plan
Boulder/Xcel partnership
CMAP - to be adopted August 2021
COVID - repeal of emergency declaration anticipated fall 2021
Financial strategy subcommittee launched
Read 31 tweets
14 Jul
Next: Community Benefit 2.0
Some background: This project is tied to height limits. The citywide height limit (approved by voters) is 55 ft. But most areas of the city have a lower height limit by-right: That is, you can build to THAT without a special process.
In the past, the only way to go above the zoned height limit (but still under 55 feet!) was kinda on a case-by-case basis, through site review.

Around 2015, there were a lot of 55 ft buildings going up, and council was like *clutches pearls*
Read 55 tweets
13 Jul
Guess I should get this tweet thread started, eh? It's Tuesday night, so that means #Boulder city council. Our first meeting after summer vacation!

On tap:
Public hearing/council feedback on (partial) redevelopment of Diagonal Plaza
Community Benefit 2.0
Council work check-in
TOTALLY forgot, but this was supposed to be council's triumphant return to chambers, with some staff and public at home. But technical issues scuttled the hybrid meeting so... we're still fully remote. Trying again next week.
Mayor Weaver announcing the public input period for the "reimagining" of Boulder's police dept, going on now through July 31. Link:…
Read 27 tweets
13 Jul
Finished watching the incredibly depressing documentary about The Villages, a large retirement community in Florida.

One tiny little detail has stuck with me: A sermon in which a preacher says that worrying means you don't have enough faith in God.
I used to hear this shit all the time growing up in the church. Normal human experiences (fear, doubt, sadness, not to mention actual health conditions like anxiety or depression) were all attributed to a lack of faith.
Rhetoric like this serves to make people ashamed of normal human emotions and experiences, who then try to divorce themselves from their feelings.

It also separates people from control of/responsibility for their emotions and experiences. Got a problem? Give it to Jesus.
Read 4 tweets
23 Jun
Next: Parking. We're focusing on two areas right now - pricing and neighborhood parking permits.

Staff presentation:…
Basically, parking isn't paying for itself (at least not the neighborhood permits), so the city is recommending higher prices to achieve cost recovery in 5 years.
We'll talk Neighborhood Parking Permits first. My notes:
Resident passes will go from $17 to $30 annually in 2022 and increase by $10 every year thereafter until “cost recovery is achieved”
Read 151 tweets
23 Jun
The first part of this crime update is actually about Boulder's changing policing strategy. Crime data is at the end. Presentation:…
Boulder is currently "reimagining" the police dept. You can weigh in on that here:…
And read some more here:…
Read 69 tweets

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