It’s a new year with a new Boulder City Council.
And now, after its two-day annual retreat, the Council has greenlighted about 10 new priorities that will be added to the city’s work plan. The various projects focus on housing, homelessness, transportation, planning and elections, respectively.
Three initiatives obtained unanimous City Council support:
- Launching the planning process for the core arterial network (CAN) that would add protected bike lanes and other bike, pedestrian and general safety improvements;
- Working on occupancy reform: conducting a comparative analysis, developing a model approach and soliciting community input with an eye toward an eventual ordinance change; and
- Initiating the process for a day shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
The transportation-related suggestion, brought forth Friday evening by Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend and Councilmember Matt Benjamin, was initially envisioned by Transportation Advisory Board member Alex Weinheimer. On Friday, Director of Transportation and Mobility Erika Vandenbrande expressed support and acknowledged at least some of the tradeoffs required to make the project happen would be welcome ones for her team.
Housing is a top priority for all nine councilmembers, and on Saturday they worked to winnow down the many housing-related recommendations and select four top priorities.
Those priorities include working on an ordinance to revise the city’s existing code regarding inclusionary housing for more middle-income units and to work toward code changes regarding accessory dwelling units that, among other things, would remove the saturation limit for them within a certain radius.
Accessory dwelling units, often called ADUs, include livable spaces such as granny flats and converted garages.
It also agreed to prioritize passing an ordinance that would change the regulations in some zoning districts to calculate density by floor area ratio instead of dwelling units per acre and to launch the middle-income down payment assistance program.
The latter was a measure put forth by Councilmember Bob Yates and former Mayor Sam Weaver and approved by voters in 2019.
Several other priorities received majority support, including initiating the urban services study for the Area III planning reserve, kicking off phase two of the Transit Village Area Plan and placing a ballot measure asking voters if they’re interested in moving municipal elections to even years.
The remaining housing recommendations as well as the general priorities that were not selected will stay in a queue of sorts, with an understanding that they’ll move up on the list if Boulder city staff members are able to move faster than expected and/or if the city addresses the continued staffing shortages.
“(The top priorities) are the things that you would lift up and start first,” facilitator Heather Bergman said. “And then the other things will come along as capacity allows.”
“If time allowed and opportunity came up then we would know those are critically important to you as well,” City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde agreed.
Rivera-Vandermyde has continued to look at 2022 as one of rebuilding and recovery from the pandemic. Due to significant shortages, particularly in the city’s Planning and Development Services and Housing and Human Services departments, staff is unable to commit to taking on too many new projects. The City Council’s initial list of 45 priorities was ultimately narrowed down to the 10 selected Saturday.
Some initiatives, including beginning an election commission to address equity and other reforms, were not selected, but Mayor Aaron Brockett noted this can be done legislatively and would be easy for the Council to tackle on its own.
Now that the retreat has concluded, staff will begin to scope out the projects, developing a timeline as well as an understanding of what staffing capacity is necessary to begin the work.