Welcome to Friday, Boulder. The sun is shining in the sky, and there are but a few clouds in sight. Electric Light Orchestra would be pleased.

For today, John Herrick covers the potential implications of Governor Polis’ new housing bill for Boulder. Jared Polis was born in Boulder and lives here, so he has first-hand knowledge of our housing affordability challenge. Perhaps that was part of the impetus for him announcing the 105-page bill that would force local governments to meet minimum state standards for land-use and zoning policies. Should the bill pass, it would potentially nullify decades-old laws that have kept many Colorado cities feeling like low-density suburbs.

Also, the city announced changes last night to its enforcement of the camping ban, reacting to a series of fires likely caused by propane tanks. And the cost of street parking in Boulder is going up. With high-traffic areas increasing 50 cents an hour, it’s a great time to use the city’s garages, or ride your bike.

Enjoy your weekend. You’ve earned it.

— Tim, reporter

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What to know today

  • Lots of sun today, not as much this weekend: 50s and sunny presides over today with a chance of snow arriving tonight. Temps drop into the 30s and 40s over the weekend along with more possibilities of spring flurries.
  • City ramps of camping ban enforcement: City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said during a study session with the Boulder City Council on Thursday that the city will no longer provide a 72-hour notice before clearing out encampments of homeless people at underpasses and multi-use paths. The city will also increase police patrols near downtown, including around Boulder High. The decision, which has been in the works for weeks, comes after a series of fires near tents, presumably caused by people using propane heat for warmth. Between January 2022 and February 2023, Rivera-Vandermyde said the city confiscated 352 propane tanks.
    • Revising the city’s policy for providing notice could raise concerns from civil rights lawyers. Courts have ruled officers must provide “reasonable notice” before confiscating people’s belongings in order to comply with due process protections in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Coincidentally, the city also responded to a lawsuit from the ACLU of Colorado on Thursday: The suit is seeking to overturn its camping ban. The lawsuit alleges clearing out encampments violates state protections against cruel and unusual punishments when people have nowhere else to go. The case could go to trial.
    • City officials are also scheduled to give an update to the city council on their homelessness strategy during a meeting on April 13.
  • The price of parking goes up: Starting April 3, the cost of parking in Boulder’s busiest areas will increase 50 cents an hour. The change comes after a study on the city’s parking needs and the decision to move towards performance-based pricing — pricing that adjusts for the demand of a given area. This doesn’t apply to accessible parking spaces, those will stay at $1.50 an hour. On-street paid parking will be now enforced Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • The new rules seem to further incentivize the use of the city’s parking garages that remain at $1.25 an hour or a flat rate of $15 for stays longer than six hours. The $3 flat rate for vehicles entering and leaving the garages between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. on weekdays also remains — a boon for restaurant workers and restaurant enjoyers. The city’s garages will also remain free on weekends and city holidays.
    • “Performance-based pricing of on-street parking is just one of many strategies the city is working to implement to support the community’s social, economic, and environmental goals,” said Cris Jones, interim director of the city’s Community Vitality Department.
    • For more information, visit the city’s parking webpage or contact Parking Services at parkingservices@bouldercolorado.gov.
    • Check out BRL’s previous coverage on the topic.
  • Tree work at Coot Lake: Scheduled for next week, the City of Boulder’s Forestry division will be doing much-needed tree work near Coot Lake for the sake of a healthy and diverse urban forest. The trailhead parking lot and sections of the trail will be closed due to the undertaking.
    • The project will focus on removing Russian Olive trees, which are a large version of a “noxious weed.” They’ll also be taking out ash trees that have been killed or mortally wounded by the Emerald Ash Borer, a pest from Asia that has done a number on Boulder’s urban canopy. Replacements for the lost trees will be planted this Spring.
    • Construction staff and contractors will also repair the parking lot to make it safer for the community, with the trail and parking lot hopefully reopening by March 31. The Tom Watson Park parking lot is a great place to park in the meantime.
  • Wildfire grants available: Boulder County is looking to spend its new funds from the recently passed wildfire mitigation sales and use tax. Nonprofits are encouraged to apply for funding if they’ll find a use for the money that has something to do with wildfire mitigation education and outreach, or forest and grassland management projects.
    • The grants, running up to $200,000 a year for five years, would ideally go to nonprofits positioned to address forests that have grown too dense from fire-suppression, and flammable grasslands spotted with subdivisions.
    • Read BRL’s recent coverage on community frustration over the spending of the new wildfire mitigation tax funds.

Go Deeper…

What Gov. Jared Polis’ housing plan could mean for Boulder, his hometown

By John Herrick

March 24, 2023

The bill would allow duplexes, triplexes and townhomes in neighborhoods where only single-family homes are currently allowed. It would also remove hurdles for people to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, which are smaller homes built in backyards, basements and garages. And it would make it illegal for cities to impose occupancy limits on the number of unrelated people who can live together. Major cities like Boulder would have until the end of 2024 to come into compliance. 

How, exactly, the bill would override or coexist with Boulder’s existing zoning regulations remains unclear in a number of ways, especially the city’s more granular rules for housing density and design standards. The state legislation comes as city officials and councilmembers consider more incremental changes to zoning, ADUs and occupancy limits. 

The City of Boulder is yet to take a position on the bill. 

Continue reading…

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Join us again at Boulder’s only large-scale, inclusive celebration of our community’s vibrant arts and cultural offerings and our city’s thriving creativity at the 10th Annual Boulder Arts Week from April 7 – 15, 2023. This year’s event includes art walks, exhibitions, performances, dance, music, theater, public art, lectures, readings, and workshops at venues throughout the city.

BRL picks

⚒️ Work for the Youth Corps: Boulder County Parks and Open Space is now accepting applications for the 2023 Youth Corps season. They’re looking for team leaders to supervise teams of up to 10 teenagers, ages 14-17, for eight weeks at various work sites. The work will be outside, so the job is perfect for those who want to get out in the summer heat. Applications are open until the positions are filled.

The county is also still accepting applications for teen Corpsmember positions until March 31. Applicants must be residents of Boulder County between 14- and 17-years-old as of June 12, the first day of work. Pay starts at $13.56 an hour.

For ideas on what to do this weekend, check out BRL’s Local Events page.


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.