It’s Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.

Happy Friday, Boulder. Here’s what’s going on in your lovely little town that isn’t so little anymore, but gosh diddly darn it, is still lovely.

For today, John Herrick has a story on housing. Last night, city council unanimously approved a long-term plan for Boulder Junction, east of 30th Street. Over the next two decades, 1,500 to 2,500 new homes could be added to the area if the plan goes as planned, as could 3,000 to 4,000 new jobs through existing industrial spaces being revamped into arts studios, breweries and more. However, as with anything, there’s not only upsides. An overhaul would likely raise property values and displace some businesses. To prevent this, council is already pushing city officials to explore rent stabilization and smaller commercial spaces that would give options to those wanting to remain in the area.

Also, if you park in city garages, you’re going to want to scroll down and scan the provided QR code. It’s not often reading BRL Today saves you five bucks right off the bat, but today is a good day. A great day, even.

Enjoy the weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

— Tim, reporter

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Reserve your spot! Join BRL and KGNU at Trident Cafe on Oct. 18 for a lively and informative debate with the four City of Boulder mayoral candidates. This is your chance to hear directly from the candidates about their vision for Boulder’s future on key issues such as homelessness, affordable housing, climate change, wildfire mitigation and transportation. Secure a seat today.

Featured stories

More housing is planned for Boulder Junction neighborhood east of downtown

The updated Transit Village Area Plan could bring up to 2,500 homes to the primarily industrial and commercial neighborhood. What happens to businesses that face displacement as the redevelopment inches ahead remains unclear. Continue reading…

Boulder Reporting Lab is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit news organization that empowers our community through non-partisan, locally focused journalism that informs and connects.

In other news

Sunny sunny sunny

Pretty boring forecast for the next several days. Temperatures will be in the high 70s and low 80s with lots of sun. I know I should be grateful. Sun is one of the reasons I moved here from the northeast. But I’m ready for crisp days and crunchy leaves.

City council inches ahead with single-family zoning reforms

City officials have proposed an ordinance that allows duplexes and triplexes in neighborhoods where they have long been prohibited, with certain caveats. City planners estimate that over time, this zoning change will result in about 1,600 additional housing units.

The proposal would also tweak the city’s zoning code to make it easier to build “middle housing” — duplexes, triplexes, townhomes — and relax parking requirements.

During an unusually technical meeting on Thursday, councilmembers wrangled over final amendments to the city staff proposal, partially with the goal of increasing housing density. They are expected to take a final vote in October.

The revisions to the zoning code were one of councilmembers’ two-year priorities ahead of the 2023 election. The goal is to increase the supply and affordability of housing.

In single-family neighborhoods, density standards will remain in place, making the reforms relatively minimal. A more comprehensive overhaul of zoning is expected during the next council’s two-year term, when councilmembers are expected to update the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.

More fentanyl abounds

Boulder County Public Health has put out another warning to residents as powdered forms of fentanyl are surfacing in the county’s illicit drug trade. While investigating a suspected overdose death on Sept. 16, authorities found bags of granular powders, resembling drywall plaster, that ended up testing positive for fentanyl.

Fentanyl, an immensely potent synthetic opioid, poses a grave risk of accidental overdose, being 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more than morphine. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recorded 920 fentanyl-related deaths in 2022, a four-fold increase since 2016, the county said.

Nationwide, synthetic opioid overdoses have surged over the past decade, with a 22% rise in overdose deaths from 2020 to 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 106,275 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. for the twelve months ending April 2023, signaling a national crisis.

The county urges residents to stay vigilant, carry the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, and assume any non-pharmacy purchased pills may contain lethal doses of fentanyl. Immediate 911 calls for suspected overdoses are encouraged under Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law. Testing drugs with fentanyl strips is also recommended, but should be done with the understanding that the absence of detection doesn’t guarantee safety. Naloxone, vital in emergencies, is available for free from various local sources, including Boulder County Public Health, University of Colorado Wardenburg Health Center, Mental Health Partners and local pharmacies without a prescription.

Art day this Sunday

On Sunday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Boulderites are invited to join the free Community Art Day organized by the Downtown Boulder Partnership. Chalk murals will be chalked up, and interactive art installations will be there to interact with. Also, local artist Edica Pacha’s “paste up” project will let the community envision what Boulder’s streets could look like in their ideal world.

“Community Art offers the opportunity to come together and use creativity as a means of collective vision,” said Pacha. “We use art as a pathway to develop conversations about important topics and work together to inspire impact within each other and the greater community.”

Gateless garages coming soon

Starting Oct. 1, Boulder’s Community Vitality Department is upgrading its five downtown parking garages to the Metropolis gateless parking system. Registered drivers will be able to enter the garage without stopping, receive a welcome text from a robot, and exit at their convenience, again without stopping. Payments are automatically charged with a receipt sent via text, again by a robot.

Those who don’t use the garages regularly can still park without pre-registering, but will have to scan QR codes inside the garage and pay from there. Weekends and holidays remain free with registration optional. City staff says the transition aims to enhance convenience and sustainability by reducing idling times and emissions. Scan the QR code below before Oct. 1 for a $5 discount.

Fill your weekend filling out surveys

The City of Boulder has a plethora of input opportunities for residents right now. If you’re worried about seeing the stars, you should fill out the survey related to LED color temperatures the city will put across town as it acquires streetlights from Xcel Energy. For background, read BRL’s reporting on the issue.

Or, you can get ready to track your travel starting Sept. 25 so city staff can better understand residents’ movements and prioritize transportation projects accordingly.

Or, you can comment on the city’s draft water efficiency plan. Part of an update to the city’s Water Efficiency Plan that’s updated every seven years, it includes steps like helping people switch to more efficient fixtures, educating people on better landscaping practices, and working water conservation into other areas of city planning. Or you can participate in all three.

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ICYMI

Boulder’s response to homelessness takes center stage in the 2023 city election. Political organizers are working to secure a majority on the Boulder City Council that would support increased funding for clearing out homeless encampments.

Man in custody for attempted murder after driving truck through Boulder’s Central Park, narrowly missing people. ‘Some of the individuals that were in the park at the time, we believe, were unhoused. But we do not know if that was his specific intent.’

Interested in rooftop solar? New co-op kicks off in Boulder County to get residents cheaper rates. As the nonprofit SUN facilitates a countywide solar cooperative with broad local government support, some question Xcel Energy’s ability to handle increased residential solar adoption. 

Boulder’s new Michelin Guide honorees: Speechless, shocked and overjoyed. We catch up with Boulder’s Michelin-awarded chefs on their restaurant journeys and reactions.

Ranked-choice voting comes to Boulder: What you need to know ahead of the 2023 election. In the city’s first direct election of mayor, voters will trial a new process where they rank candidates by preference rather than choosing just one. The method is seen by advocates as more democratic than the typical winner-take-all system. 


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other related topics. He is also the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.