While Boulder staff has a slew of projects slated for 2022, Boulder City Council members also came armed to Tuesday’s study session with their own priorities for the upcoming year.
Nearly every City Council member prioritized Boulder’s lack of affordable housing in some capacity, suggesting remedies ranging from the city purchasing homes to convert to permanently attainable housing to changing the way the city’s inclusionary housing fees are assessed to studying what it would take to decommission the Boulder Municipal Airport and redevelop the property into affordable housing.
Other priorities included homelessness, including the addition of a day shelter and other supportive services and the introduction of a new tax to pay for them; occupancy reform; climate; transportation; staff support and retention across all departments; and the adoption of ordinances to address noise, traffic and other “nuisance abatement” issues facing residents of the Boulder’s University Hill neighborhood.
Each City Council member could select five priorities and was given five minutes to share those ideas in Tuesday’s study session. Many overlapped, while some specifically selected priorities not mentioned by their fellow councilmembers.
Given the staffing shortages and capacity constraints, a number of City Council members said they specifically chose items that felt realistic and that wouldn’t take too much time or effort.
Of course, as City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde noted, this can be relative.
“Easy is always in the eye of the beholder,” she joked.
Several City Council members prioritized issues related to transportation and climate. Some had goals of reducing the number of miles traveled by vehicles in Boulder; implementing a citywide free bus service; and adding more protected bike lanes to ensure there is infrastructure to support safety and encourage long-term cyclists.
At least partially inspired by the recent Marshall Fire, City Council member Tara Winer said wildfire resiliency is a big priority for her. Among other suggestions, she said Boulder should reassess its evacuation plans and its emergency notification system, considering it with an equity lens to ensure that the notifications are multilingual and accessible to all.
Similarly, Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend said she wanted to see the city’s building codes updated to ensure all buildings are made with fire-resistant materials, not just those in the wildland urban interface, officially defined as the zone of transition between wilderness and land developed by human activity.
“To put it bluntly, we obviously did not avert the climate crisis,” Friend said. “Now we need to ensure that community members are protected from the worst ravages of it.”
The conversation will continue in next week’s City Council meeting, when a conversation on initial staff scoping for the Council’s proposals is scheduled. It will conclude at the annual retreat on Jan. 21 and 22, when the Council will delve further into its priorities for the upcoming year.