Stop Sacrificing Climate to Perpetuate the Status Quo

Two years ago I wrote about how Boulder’s Sustainable Future is at Stake in November’s Election, and the 2021 election that concludes on November 2nd is no different. The initiatives we adopt and the city council we elect will change the path of our city.

Many of my fellow townsfolk, who probably did not vote with Donald Trump, seem to be on the same page as Trump and the GOP when it comes to urban planning. As Nationalists spent four years fighting against immigration, Boulder Localists have been fighting for decades to defend our suburban lifestyle by limiting affordable housing and defending exclusionary zoning. Localists often say they support affordable housing somewhere, just not near them, and not whatever housing initiatives happen to be under consideration, such as: CU South, Alpine-balsam, 311 Mapleton, Palo Park, Celestial Seasonings, East Boulder, etc.

Boulder instead heavily relies upon over 60,000 migrant workers who on a daily basis commute to town to work and serve the privileged residents of this city. Not just low-income service workers, but many middle-income folks. They have little choice but to congest our streets and pollute our environment with their vehicles. This is not a sustainable arrangement. This is why the Sierra Club supports Urban Infill Development to create walkable communities that don’t rely upon long-distance car travel. The Sierra Club’s position has upset Localists because it flys in the face of their defense of suburban sprawl.

Boulder has many Blighted areas of town that are sitting unused. Rooted in racist redlining, exclusionary zoning is a powerful force in preventing the redevelopment of those areas. They could become thriving mixed-use developments, but the anti-business anti-mixed-development PLAN-Boulder council that has run the city for decades has created a climate where these places remain chronically vacant.

Boulder Colorado is a city where many areas of town are dominated by high-end homes that are lightly occupied. Many palatial estates could be the second or third mountain vacation homes for the one percent. As I walk these neighborhoods, seem very lifeless. It’s a different kind of blight. Personally, I consider vacancy to be more hurtful to our community than occupancy. Every place that is underutilized is forcing more commuters from outlying areas onto our streets. The 2021 election will determine if Boulder will continue to become more exclusive, richer, and whiter than it is already is.

Boulder’s Localists have mobilized to oppose Proposition 300: Bedrooms Are For People (BAFP) which loosens the occupancy limits that exclude more than three unrelated people from being allowed to live in a single-family zoned property. Opponents say it will cause investors to subdivide single-family housing into dormitories of unruly students who will replace families. I believe that many safeguards are in place to prevent this abuse from happening. It is not easy to divide up the bedrooms in existing houses or convert communal living areas, required under zoning rules, into bedrooms. The opposition believes that removing discrimination against unrelated people will result in even more demand and higher prices for single-family housing, but that’s not how markets work.

Boulder’s Localists have united in opposition to the annexation of CU South, a development that will bring housing for staff and students to South Boulder along with workspaces. Opponents would prefer to continue to use the land to walk their dogs or install an enormous detention pond to contain a 500-year flood. Many localists don’t like students and don’t want to live near them. But without CU south development, there will be no flood mitigation on CU’s property, the demand for student housing away from CU will continue to stress our housing market.

Many of Boulder’s Localists fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of pricing and how supply and demand will influence those prices. BAFP and CU South create housing supply, and this will put downward pressure on the steadily increasing cost of housing of all types.

We have seen what is happening to other mountain communities such as Gunnison Colorado, and Summit County who face a worker shortage because of their own housing challenges. Unlike Boulder, it is much more difficult for them to import workers on a daily basis to work in the lower-income service sector jobs.

In addition to not relying upon a large volume of commuters, I believe that a healthy community is one that has a wide distribution of age, race, and socioeconomic statuses. I want Boulder to be able to be a place where my small company’s employees and my two young daughters can put their roots down for the long term. I believe that Boulder will thrive by rejecting the regressive Localist policies.

My Dear Boulder Voters, I strongly encourage you to choose progress in this election.


Kristen Eller's 2021 Election Guide
Kristen Eller’s 2021 Election Guide