GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

Boulder City Council election may pave way to more flexibility on development, flood control

Yates, Brockett reelected, joined by newcomers, Joseph, Friend, Swetlik, Wallach

Construction work at the S’PARK development in Boulder on Wednesday will include commercial space and residential.
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Boulder City Council election results Wednesday represent a stark political swing from the 2017 race that led to a clamp down on local development.

Junie Joseph, Rachel Friend, Adam Swetlik and Mark Wallach joined incumbents Bob Yates and Aaron Brockett to win the six contested seats this year, setting up a Council that city, nonprofit and business leaders predict will be more diverse in approaching the issues surrounding affordable housing — and potentially South Boulder Creek flood mitigation — than its previous makeup.

The winners join sitting Council members Sam Weaver, Mary Young and Mirabai Nagle. That trio, along with the three outgoing members Lisa Morzel, Cindy Carlisle and Suzanne Jones, supported hiking affordable housing fees on commercial development to the second-highest rate in the nation, and placed a 10-month moratorium on new construction projects in the opportunity zone, a large swath of Boulder designated part of a new federal tax break program meant to attract real estate investment.

The four top vote-earners — Yates, Brockett, Joseph and Friend — were endorsed by political action groups that have promoted compact, infill multi-family housing development along transit corridors as a tool to fight climate change by reducing dependency on single-occupancy vehicle trips to workplaces in Boulder.

Boulder City Council election tallies

(As of 4:40 p.m. Wednesday)

Winners

  • Bob Yates, four-year term, 10.46%
  • Junie Joseph, four-year term, 10.13%
  • Rachel Friend, four-year term, 10.09%
  • Aaron Brockett, four-year term, 9.38%
  • Adam Swetlik, two-year term, 8.60%
  • Mark Wallach, two-year term, 8.48%

Losers

  • Mark McIntyre, 8.01%
  • Susan Peterson, 7.75%
  • Benita Duran, 6.83%
  • Brian Dolan, 6.49%
  • Corina Julca, 6.49%
  • Nikki McCord, 2.41%
  • Paul Cure, 2.40%
  • Andy Celani, 1.45%
  • Gala Orba, 1.02%

But residents aligned with the slow-growth advocate PLAN-Boulder County, which supported Swetlik and Wallach, question whether such development would be as effective at mitigating driving into the city and associated traffic congestion as its proponents believe, and may create new housing supply without addressing affordability, and lead to more walking and biking in the city without reducing driving.

Council members it has backed have instead pushed for tight restrictions on development that require more affordable housing dedication to the city with building requests, limiting how tall and dense new residential buildings can be without higher proportions of affordable units than under previous requirements.

“I am excited that Boulder leaned into hope and rejected fear in this election,” Friend said. “I am excited that Boulder didn’t limit our calculus to land use, but looked at issues like social justice and flood mitigation.”

PLAN endorsements maintain a majority on Council with Swetlik and Wallach wins, but with their respective fifth- and sixth-place victories, they will face election in 2021 along with the three sitting council members, who were all endorsed by the group, while Yates, Brockett, Joseph and Friend will be set to stay through 2023.

Boulder resident and Urban Land Institute Colorado leader Michael Leccese, who favors compact development, believes the latest election results could signal to PLAN candidates a change in philosophy on denser housing patterns may be prudent.

“It seems like there is support in Boulder for moving ahead with sensitive infill development,” Leccese said. “If they’re politicians, and they are, they might assess the situation and evolve. That’s what politicians do.”

“Everything is always in flux,” Young, a sitting Council member, said. “… I’m hoping that by working together that we can all moderate our approaches so that we can move forward as the community that’s united instead of this divisive place that we’re at right now.”

Boulder Chamber CEO John Tayer sees promise of potential relief of pressure on the business community. He said he is hoping the new Council finds a way to exempt smaller businesses looking to locate in the city or expand their building footprints here from the higher affordable housing fees the last group of city leaders set. Those go into effect in 2020 and will rise again to $30 per square foot for office space in 2021.

“There was entirely too much finger-pointing and antagonism toward business interests on the last Council,” Tayer said. ” … My hope is we move beyond that kind of talk and move toward balanced conversations that recognize that we have difficult issues to address and great opportunity if we work together.”

Morzel, the former longtime councilwoman, believes the new Council would be wise tor revisit the large homes, large lots project abandoned by the last Council in the face of community concerns about the initiative that would have allowed for additional dwellings to be placed on single-family residential parcels of certain sizes.

“We need to have some more housing,” Morzel said. “(Regional) transit is not going to be the panacea.”

Morzel also believes the Council could come to a compromise with the University of Colorado Boulder south campus annexation and associated South Boulder Creek flood mitigation project that may place a floodwall in the Variant 1 location extending west from U.S. 36 near Table Mesa Drive, but at a lower level of protection than a 500-year event, which the last Council preferred to CU’s dismay.

blog comments powered by Disqus