Hey, #Boulder. Time for another city council meeting on this very hot Tuesday.

It's a study session, and we're talking Plans (Parks & Rec, East Boulder) so it should be pretty chill.
Also an update on the continuing search for a new city attorney.
It's kinda hard to tweet these planning topics, bc it's a lot of visioning and strategery. Not a lot of details.

I'll do my best.
Yates running tonight's study session. He has been fairly quiet this term, or at least for the past few months. Anybody else notice that?
First up is the parks & rec master plan. Again, kinda hard to get a coherent narrative out of this. But I have lots of cool facts and data for you!
Like this.
Parks & rec manages:
1 cemetery
6 civic spaces
4 gardens
9 natural areas
55 parks
43 playgrounds
7 undeveloped properties
3 rec centers
46 athletic fields
5 pools
4 dog parks
3 skate parks
1 bike park
36 tennis courts
44 other sport courts
9 historical + cultural sites
Couple big questions that Parks & Rec is grappling with amid increased use but flat revenue (common story these days for many city dept):
Should we keep focusing on total parksland per capita? Or look at other measures like equity, proximity, ease of access, etc.?
Council will be weighing in on that tonight.
Other areas of input will be:
Should parks & rec keep partnering with private or other gov't entities (like school districts) to provide parks services to residents?
And how do we keep making progress on climate goals with a limited budget?
I would have a staff presentation to share and follow along, but the link was broken.
Parks & Rec was hit particularly hard by COVID, bc so many facilities were closed, and revenue from those sources was nonexistent.

During pandemic
10 FTE laid off, 5 retired (= 200 years of service to the dept)
400 non-standard employees furloughed
Totally forgot, but we last visited this topic in Dec. 2020, where we talked even more high level about goals and priorities. Equity is a new one for parks & rec since the last master plan update in 2014
Here's a link to that discussion: threadreaderapp.com/thread/1336476…
Even during the pandemic, with so many parks and rec closures, Boulder still provided better services than the state and country as a whole.

We do parks & rec really well here.
In 2021, Boulder had 17.22 Acres of parksland for 1,000 residents

By 2040, that is projected to be 15.15 Acres per 1,000 Residents. 226 extra acres will be needed to maintain current per capita parksland
That is, if Boulder decides that is still the driving metric. There could also be a shift from looking at the total and per capita parkland to how CLOSE parks facilities are to all residents. That is, does everyone in town have close/quick access to parks & rec offerings?
"With limited availability to add park land," says Sarah Horn, Boulder may have to think about new ways to measure Levels of Service (LOS) — an acronym you'll see a lot of tonight.
Horn: Even with anticipated increased population by 2040, Boulder will still have more parksland per capita than the national median.

And that doesn't even count open space land.
Horn on other ways to think of LOS: "You might be near a park, but is it easy to get to? Do you have to cross a highway? Just being close to a park may not be enough. Is it accessible to ppl with mobility issues? Is signage in more than one language?"
Council going to weigh in on that first q now(ish): Should we accept a lower total acres per capita and look at other metrics?
Brockett: "I think the primary we need to focus on is access to quality parks & rec facilities rather than acres per capita. Idk that I've ever gone to a park and it's been too crowded for me to enjoy." But not having one nearby inhibits enjoyment.
Wallach: "Do you ever account for our open space in these metrics? I know it's separate ... but shouldn't that factor in in some way?"
Jeff Haley: When we look at parks, we're typically looking at the amenities they provide: Play areas, fields, etc.

"At the end of the day, we do have a much larger amount of open space" than other communities, "but we're trying to achieve at least those median numbers."
Young agrees with Brockett: Access is important.

As are availability, accommodations, acceptability, affordability — the 5 dimensions
Weaver: It looks to me we're pretty good out to 2040 in terms of acres per capita. So it's OK to start looking at other metrics.
Forgot to say, but the national median is 13 acres of parks land per 1,000 residents; Boulder is above 17.
Per community feedback, residents are very pleased with our parks & rec offerings. BUT lack of time and parking more commonly reported barriers to use among
- Renters
- Latinx
- Families with kids
Residents who were not white and/or not Hispanic also report not feeling safe as a barrier to parks use
Yates: I think we should broaden our metrics, not just focus on total acres.
Yates: I was on the parks board when we last did a master plan, and I remember there were a lot of metrics. Numbers of dog parks per 100,000, for example. Avg was 1 per 100,00 and we had 3. "We were killing it in that area. I suspect we're killing it in some other areas."
Swetlik picking up a thread from Weaver in terms of amenities we *don't* have or that might not be equitable. We only have 1 rez, 1 golf course, he says, and those are high-fee areas. We need to have balance there.
Friend: When we look at equitable access, if you've got open space nearby, does that factor in? It seems like we're looking at parks & rec separately.
Ali Rhodes, P&R director: The simple answer is yes. We really are thinking about if it's nearby and accessible, whether it's provided by an HOA or school. Do kids have a playground nearby that they can easily get to?
We do look at open space, Rhodes says, but we're also thinking about amenities.
That's why 15-min neighborhoods are so important, Rhodes adds. Those were referenced quite a lot in this master plan update.
15 min neighborhood, for the uninitiated = Can you walk to all (or most) of the things you need within 15 min? Housing, jobs, retail, parks, etc.
Since we're talking parks land, here's some more stats:
Boulder has 1,576 acres of total parks land / rec facilities and 286 acres of undeveloped parks land.

So 1,861 total in its possession currently that could eventually be activated.
Weaver: We have a large amount of land in the planning reserve that are for parks. It's accessible in the medium to long term. Do we have a need for additional land?
This is getting to the question of: Should we acquire more land for parks & rec? Council is considering tonight.
Haley: "We are limited in land. ... The Planning Reserve ... was taken into consideration. ... (Projections do) assume that park land would be developed at some point."
Weaver: "To me, since there is a couple hundred acres available, it seems like there's plenty there for one big regional park and maybe some neighborhood serving areas there."
To him, the most important thing is to take care of what we currently have and make sure it accommodates higher usage, and planning different amenities or uses for the future. Not necessary getting more land.
"I would de-prioritize additional land, given that we have quite a bit and we're above the mark" per capita, Weaver says.
What does the public think? Per feedback, if they had $100 to spend on Parks & Rec, they'd put $48 toward maintaining/upgrading existing facilities and $27 toward acquiring more land.
Young asks a q about public/private partnerships, which is a potential moving forward.
Rhodes gives Central Park in NYC as an example. It's managed by a conservancy, which partners with the city.
What does the public thinkg? 89% of residents surveyed for this (formal survey and informal online feedback) support partnering with other municipalities, school districts or nonprofits to develop joint use recreational facilities or programs
67% support partnering with private organizations to develop recreational facilities or programs
We'll touch on this a bit more later when we talk finances.
Young likes the idea of partnering with other public entities and "to think differently."

Would also put additional parks land as the lowest priority, like Weaver.
Yates echoes that.
We're gonna touch on finances now. Boulder has moved to a "maintain" phase when it comes to parks/open space in recent years, bc they've bought so much but also bc the $$ is running out.
Open space has a $40M maintenance backlog; a sales tax extension was approved in 2019 to (partially) deal with that.
Parks & Rec has a $20.5M maintenance backlog
The dept currently spends $4-$6M each year on maintenance, less than the recommended 4% (which would be $9-$12M). It's not even proposing shooting that high: It wants to aim for 2%-3% maintenance spending each year ($6-$9M)
Lots of qs for council to consider around this topic
Increase fees for all?
Increase fees for some demographics?
Implement extra high-fee programs/facilities to subsidize services?
Re-evaluate subsidies and allocations?
Reduce services?
Combo of new revenue + fee adjustments?
What does the public think?
95% support maintaining current funding sources.
92% support renewing existing sales taxes when they expire
91% support leveraging grants, donations, even if they require matching funds
45% support a new sale tax
Swetlik: What are the plans for new revenues to support increased operating and maintenance costs?
Rhodes: That's what we're talking about tonight. We don't have answers; we have questions for you tonight.
Parks & Rec revenues have been flat since 2016. It's fallen 0.4% over that time, while expenditures have increased by 0.35%. So they've done fairly well so far.
But expenditures are expected to increase some 5% over the next 5 years, and revenue is only expected to increase ~3%
Council going to weigh in on what the dept should do to deal with that reality (options shared above)
Yates: "These questions just get tougher and tougher, don't they?"
Yates: "Jane Brautigam was ruthless about programs paying for themselves." For example, the pottery lab was outsourced. "It lost $$ every time somebody walked in the door."
Yates: Are there any other programs that aren't paying for themselves that you are thinking of shutting down or outsourcing?

Rhodes: We've spun out many programs since 2014: dance, boat rentals at the Rez, etc. "There's no more low-hanging fruit."
"There are gaps in the community we should be filling," Rhodes says. "At this point, we've spun off or discontinued programs that we should."
Nagle: What do you mean by increased fees for certain demographics?
Rhodes: We do fee discounts for youths and older adults. Adults pay for themselves, but we could make it so they do cost recovery plus, so they subsidize those discounts for other groups.
Nagle: Yes, I'm fine if you look into that. I guess the biggest thing I'd be interested in is the cost to people who are outside the city, or maybe even outside the county.
"That's one thing, with open space, I've always wanted to tax people who are not city residents," Nagle says, "bc it's putting a strain on the system."
Swetlik: "I am concerned about parks & rec services being run like a business, where access is dictated by how much you pay. That doesn't feel good to me."
Swetlik: "I just really want any fee increases to be as transparent as possible, as planned for as possible and in as small as increments as possible."
Weaver: "Writ large, if we do a good job of supporting folks of limited means, then I think increasing fees make sense. ... I don't see a real problem increasing fees as long as we're not pricing ppl out of our services."
"We should do so in a way that we support folks who don't have the money for fee increases," Weaver says.
Weaver: "I think you should avoid reducing services. Unless we really are having to put something on the chopping block to make ends meet."
Weaver: "I think we should be charging ppl who aren't paying taxes here more than ppl who are paying taxes here."
One caveat to that, tho: Partnering with other places so our residents can use their amenities that we lack and vice versa. "Very interested in exploring exchange," Weaver says.
Friend also doesn't want to reduce services.
She's also concerned about the wages we're paying staff, which are low. So raising fees seems to make sense.

"We have to have some way to pay for this to make it sustainable," Friend says.
I appreciate discounts for kids or older adults, but if someone's wealthy and can afford it, why are we giving them a discount? Friend asks. "I'm not sure that makes a lot of sense to me." Suggests means testing.
Brockett concurs.
Brockett: When we look at adding high-fee facilities (like golf simulators, which are popular) make sure there isn't segregation by income there. "We want to be careful to the extent that we add those, that they're not creating real disparities in access."
Young: There are capital maintenance backlogs in so many city departments.

"This picture repeats itself across the city. I cannot stress enough how dire this is."
Wallch agrees.
"We could have the same conversation with respect to almost any dept in the city," Wallach says with a sigh.

Sigh-o-meter: 1
And a slight huff after, so sigh-o-meter: 1.3
And another! 1.75

"The calvary is not coming over the hill to rescue us," Wallach says.
He doesn't want to reduce services, but he's acknowledging the financial reality. Fee increases are OK if they are "transparent and gradual," and with discounts for low-income folks.
"I would not take anything off the table," Wallach says. "Everything needs to be discussed and looked at. ... These are the financial realities we have to grapple with."
Yates agrees with everyone, including Nagle. "Out-of-city residents should pay" higher fees.
Suggests advertising/branding of parks services as a source of revenue. "Some ppl find that distasteful, but I hope we don't foreclose that as a possibility. Some cities allow (it)."
He likes the idea of adding a golf simulator. His brother operates one for $60/hr and "they make $59/hr on it. It's highly profitable. ... It's a guaranteed ROI and can subsidize" other programs/offerings.
Last qs for council to consider: How do we pay for upgrades to facilities to meet climate goals? (HVAC systems, solar, EV charging, etc.)
Weaver: The city does a good job at working with ESCOs(? - not entirely sure what those are, but I think it's a public/private partnership thing, like Tesla providing EV charging at Twenty Ninth Street Mall)
Also said something about pools and how much energy they use.

"It is energy intensive to heat and treat hundreds of thousands of gallons of water," Rhodes says. It's a financial and technological challenge.
50% of city's natural gas usage comes from pools, staff says, but they're not 100% sure about that.

It's high, Rhodes says.
The technology doesn't exist to heat that many gallons of water using renewables, Rhodes says.
Swetlik: Are we moving to native plant species so we can use less water on our parks spaces?
Rhodes: Absolutely. Also, we have turned over the entire system to smart irrigation systems. "It's not just about what's planted, it's how you operate it."
Weaver suggests renewable natural gas and heat pumps, which maybe the city can do through its partnership with Xcel.
Rhodes: The technology for some things is evolving "Boulder's going to have to get comfortable with trying things."
"It would be amazing if we could get anaerobic digesters for goose waste," Rhodes says.
"It wouldn't be a study session without reference to poop," Yates says.
This is the kind of quality content you'll only get from local gov't coverage, folks.
Last qs for council: How should parks & rec serve non-Boulderites? This includes fees, which we've already talked about.
Yates: How would a sliding scale work?
Rhodes: It wouldn't be hard to implement, but we'd have to pay to do so.
This is in reference to something called the Recquity program which is free passes to rec centers. Maybe open to non-residents...? I'm not sure.
But the program resulted in 5,000 visits in first 8 months. It was paid for from the health equity fund, which gets its $$ from the sugary drink tax.
That's a wrap on this one. But the master plan is still being developed so we'll hear more on this one... eventually.
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More from @shayshinecastle

28 Jul
Last topic! A new timeline for hiring a new city attorney. Looks like final recommendation by Oct. 5. documents.bouldercolorado.gov/WebLink/DocVie…
The city is reopening its search after drawing only 12 applicants. They did still ID and interview 2 finalists, who also did public q&a sessions. Yikes. boulderbeat.news/2021/06/23/cit…
I thought they did pretty well, but I'm guessing Boulder wants an acting city attorney, not an assistant or a non-municipal attorney.
Read 22 tweets
28 Jul
Moving on to the East Boulder subcommunity plan. I do have a presentation for you on this one. Hopefully it works; the city's new system is buggy. documents.bouldercolorado.gov/WebLink/DocVie…
This one's even harder to tweet than the parks & rec plan, bc so much of it is "what street is going where" and that's hard to describe via text.
But I'll do my best.
Read 82 tweets
21 Jul
OMG last item: Update on the city attorney search!
Friend, Yates (subcommittee) recommending continuing the search process. They didn't get enough applicants (12) and were apparently unhappy with the 2 finalists.
Wow. Interesting.
Read 17 tweets
21 Jul
Quick update on board and commission vacancies:
2 on HAB, 1 on downtown mgt commission

Nagle/Brockett will notify ppl who have applied in past years and open it to new folks as well.
HAB = Housing Advisory Board
Brockett responding to Young's concerns last week that maybe there's an issue with HAB since it has a lot of turnover. The 2 resignations were ppl moving out of town.

So maybe it's a housing affordability issue.
Read 4 tweets
21 Jul
Jump-starting this thread on the Boulder Rez resolution, bc it's so damned interesting and somewhat unprecedented. We rarely get pushback on neighbor opposition from the city.
Some background: The visitor center at the Rez got a serious redo in recent years, after the 2012 Parks & Rec master plan ID'd it as a need.
That included a restaurant/bar, to meet the goals of the 2017 concept plan for the new facility:
“extending shoulder season use opportunities, establishing partnerships with various groups to expand programming and offset construction and operating costs...
Read 56 tweets
21 Jul
Next item is a discussion about the CCS tax extension that we've covered so much lately.

Presentation: documents.bouldercolorado.gov/WebLink/DocVie…
Or you can read my stories. boulderbeat.news/2021/02/10/tax…
Read 21 tweets

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