Welcome to Friday, Boulder. Here’s what’s new.

Today, John Herrick covers a possible housing project at Spruce and Folsom. Boulder’s Planning Board reviewed a proposed development that would plop 101 condos where a scooter repair shop, a fitness studio and a furniture store currently are. This new proposal is the potential developer’s attempt to appease city council, which told it last November there wasn’t enough housing in its initial proposal. This week’s Planning Board chat illustrates some of the obstacles faced by housing projects that would whittle at the city’s housing crisis.

Also, Boulder Open Space will be burning some of their land. But when you see smoke in the air, feel no fear; instead rejoice. Our landscape historically burned with dutiful frequency, and in semi-arid landscapes where there’s not enough moisture to rot, fire fills that void.

Have a good weekend. Or a great one.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

Cloudy and windy: Hopefully we get some more moisture today, because tomorrow will bring a dry wind. Please refrain from making sparks.

Election webinar for the election curious: Today at 10:30 a.m., Boulder’s Clerk and Recorder, Molly Fitzpatrick, will host a What to Expect webinar. Walking through the different types of ballots and how they’re tallied will hopefully alleviate confusion circulating around the election process. “For instance,” the county’s website reads, “military and overseas mail ballots can be received up until November 16 and still be counted.” I didn’t know that.

City to burn some of its irrigation ditches: Over a vague timetable of the “coming months,” the City of Boulder will be burning out its irrigation ditches on open space agricultural land. Burning clears out fuel for future unplanned fires, controls invasive weeds and improves water flows. It does, however, produce smoke, which can have health impacts for those with certain conditions. So on the days when prescribed burns take place — the choice of burn days will change depending on weather — indoor activities might be a good choice for some.

No paid leave for the city’s seasonal employees. Last night, Boulder City Council voted 7-1 to decline participation in the state’s publicly run Family and Medical Leave Insurance program. The voter-approved safety net provides 12 weeks of paid time off for family emergencies and additional time for pregnancy complications.

The decision to not participate in FAMLI leaves behind the city’s workers who need the benefit the most, workers’ rights advocates said during a public hearing. While the city already offers a range of benefits to full-time employees — paid parental leave, sick leave and vacation time — those benefits don’t apply to seasonal and part-time city employees, like open space trail workers and pool lifeguards. Seasonal employee are eligible for sick leave, but not much: one hour for every 30 hours of work, with a cap of 48 hours. The city has 450 seasonal employees. FAMLI would cover those workers.

The insurance would cost $1.3 million, according to a staff analysis of the city’s payrolls. The cost would likely be split between city taxpayers and workers, through a paycheck deduction. The decision came less than a month after the city council approved the budget for 2023.

In May 2023, City Council could have another chance to discuss opting in to the program. In voting against it, councilmembers cited the cost and the timing of the vote, after the budget was approved. Councilmember Junie Joseph voted for participating in the program. Councilmember Matt Benjamin was absent.

Water utilities resuming standard collections protocol: After a pause for the pandemic, Boulder’s Utilities Department is bringing back practices to ensure folks pay their bills. This includes the return of water shut-offs when money is owed. If you want to pay your bill, or contact about assistance, see the city’s website for more details.

Tree removal in Chautauqua: Emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle that does a number on ash trees. In the meadow below the flatirons, there are plenty of Green Ash, and many of those plenty are dead or dying from beetles. To rid the area of potential fire fodder and limit the beetle’s spread, Open Space and Mountain Parks will be clearing affected trees starting Monday, Nov. 7. For elbow room to complete the work, OSMP will commandeer the Ski Jump Trail from Bluebell-Baird to Chautauqua Trail.

— The flagstaff star to return; view it, but not too close: The star, lit on Veteran’s day as a tribute to former and active members of the armed services, will reclaim its light on Nov. 11 for its 75th year. Helping combat the long winter nights, the star is beautiful from far away — and that’s where you should remain.

There used to be a trail to the star, but too many people walked it and destroyed much of the area, causing erosion and wildlife loss. Also, plants were damaged. So stay away. It’s better from afar anyway. Up close you can’t even tell it’s a star.

Go deeper

‘Can you give me a fifth floor?’ Proposal to build for-sale condos near Boulder’s downtown offers glimpse into affordable housing challenges 

By John Herrick

One year ago, a developer pitched a plan to the Boulder City Council to build 63 housing units on a commercial block near Folsom and Spruce. Councilmembers said in order to approve the plan, they wanted more housing —  ideally homes ordinary Boulderites could afford to buy. 

Now, the developer, Pace Development LLC, has come up with the revised plan. It shared it with the seven-member Boulder Planning Board on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in an effort to get feedback before applying for any city permits. 

Instead of the 63 new units, the new plan calls for 101 housing units to be built in a four-story condominium. All would be for-sale, market-rate homes — except for 13 deed-restricted affordable units. The original plan included eight affordable units. 

For housing advocates, the latest concept plan is, overall, an improvement over the earlier proposal. But that it has taken a year — and that most of the units are not below market rate — highlights some of the challenges developers face when seeking to build relatively affordable housing in Boulder. 

“We’re at the mercy of a lot of things that are out of our control,” Ali Gidfar of Pace Development LLC said

Continue reading…

BRL picks

🖼️ Lived experience: Opening Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the Boulder Public Library, see what it’s like to live on Boulder’s streets. An analog project led by the nonprofit Feet Forward, 25 unhoused participants offer photos that might offer viewers a better understanding.

🏈 Buffs at home: CU football will play Oregon at Folsom Field on Saturday, Nov. 5. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. If they win, it’ll be their second.

🎼 Raised on Ronstadt: GerRee Hinshaw brings her love and memories of Linda Ronstadt to life on stage in her new play, “Raised on Ronstadt.” As described: “Exploring the sounds of her childhood, one woman discovers how an icon’s disregard for convention and category inspired more than her taste in music.” Includes live musical performances, at eTown Hall through Nov. 6. Tickets are $12-$40. Nov. 5 will feature a post-show community meal.

Covid in Boulder County: Nov. 4, 2022

58 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️ Up 20% over preceding 7-day avg.

12 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬇️ Down from a high of 14 last week.

71% percent of ICU is occupied. ⬆️ Up from avg. of 65% since July 2020.

What else we’re reading

The mullet is returning to Colorado (via Boulder) with the help of the queer hair community. Many studios are allowing people to escape stereotypes that the owners previously faced themselves. When they were a kid, Maeve Londono — who owns MAL Queer Hair Studio in Boulder with their partner, Mateo Londono — wanted a buzz cut no one would give them.

“[My stylists] were like, ‘Oh no, honey you don’t want clippers on your head. We’re gonna give you a nice soft, feminine haircut,’” they told CPR.


‘These areas are made to burn’: When it comes to the health of the forests surrounding Boulder, there is no replacement for fire. The answer to a centuries-old debate surrounding our relationship to nature could be a bitter pill for Boulder, according to OSMP Vegetation Stewardship Senior Manager Chris Wanner.

Boulder’s housing board recommends loosening rules on ADUs to chip away at the city’s housing crisis. The recommendations from the five-member board — which include nixing off-street parking requirements — now head to the Boulder City Council.

‘The biggest fear is losing this place’: Boulder residents grapple with high-stakes CU South vote. The annexation agreement between CU Boulder and the city could spur flood mitigation and housing. But some residents struggle to let go of the land.

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.