Welcome back to Monday, Boulder. I hope your weekend exceeded every expectation.

For today, we have a story I reported over months on the Community Foundation Boulder County. Published in collaboration with The Denver Post, it covers the foundation’s choices for how to spend the more than $43 million it raised in the aftermath of the Marshall Fire. Funds already distributed by the foundation have helped numerous people, but some have voiced frustration at the choices made.

Despite raising more than $43 million for Marshall Fire recovery, that amount is paltry when considered against the fire’s toll of more than $2 billion. And while the Community Foundation has set aside $20 million to aid fire victims looking to rebuild, some of the guidelines necessary to receive funds leave some on the sidelines. But this issue is not black and white. The more experts I spoke to, the more the story waded into the gray.

One thing is for sure: There’s not enough money. Federal aid for climate-fueled disasters is insufficient to span the gap between what it costs to recover and what most receive from their insurance. And in that void of federal assistance, people are turning to philanthropy to help.

Also, on Friday John Herrick provided yet another update on the city’s Police Oversight Panel. After Boulder City Council voted to remove Lisa Sweeney-Miran for bias against police, the panel is considering suspending its work until the city updates its code to allow them to operate with greater protections.

Thank you for reading. All of us here appreciate it.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • Sun brings a slew of showers: The early week should be lovely, with temps in the 70s and a plethora of sun. But mid-week brings showers for the flowers, with hopefully rain falling for hours.
  • ADUs will soon be easier to build: The Boulder City Council on Thursday unanimously approved new rules that will make it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, which are smaller living spaces in backyards, basements or garages. The changes are part of an effort to increase housing density in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes and chip away at the city’s longstanding housing shortage and affordability crisis.
    • The changes include eliminating “saturation limits” on the number of ADUs that can be permitted in neighborhoods. Such limits are uncommon in other cities, according to city officials, and the complicated permitting step has discouraged people from even considering building ADUs.
    • Councilmembers also increased the allowable size of ADUs. Detached ADUs can now be 800 square feet, up from 550 square feet. If property owners agree to cap rent and make the ADU “affordable,” they can build larger — up to 1,000 square feet for a detached ADU and 1,200 square feet for an attached ADU, such as those built in a basement or garage.
    • The new ordinance also seeks to simplify the permitting process. This includes treating ADUs more like any other home building permit and, in certain circumstances, giving more flexibility for meeting design standards and height limits.
    • The changes will take effect on Sept. 1, 2023. Depending on the outcome of a statewide land-use bill, additional restrictions, such as off-street parking requirements, may be nixed.
  • Wildfire awareness month: Boulder County commissioners have declared May 2023 as Wildfire Awareness Month, focusing on educating residents about wildfire preparedness and mitigation. With the risk of wildfires now year-round thanks to climate change, residents are encouraged to take action to protect their homes and communities.
    • One of the steps to take is signing up to become part of the Wildfire Partner’s program, the county’s wildfire mitigation program that pays your property a visit to let you know where you can improve your mitigation to reduce your risk. While you’re at it, encourage your neighbor to do the same.
    • The county is also working to extend education and outreach programs to the plains, those affected by the Marshall Fire. The county’s Office of Emergency Management is offering fire preparedness courses. In the meantime, signing up for emergency alerts is a quick yet important way to ensure you’re in the know when fire comes to town.

Go Deeper…

‘There’s just not enough funds’: Marshall Fire survivors bump up against the limitations of local philanthropy to help rebuild their lives amid scarce federal resources 

By Tim Drugan

May 8, 2023

The Community Foundation Boulder County’s response to the Marshall Fire highlights the complex decisions local philanthropic organizations face following climate disasters that are increasing in intensity and frequency — amid a shortfall of government aid and vast underinsurance.

Continue reading…

‘We are in uncharted territory’: Community Foundation expands Marshall Fire rebuild fund criteria to include severe smoke damage

By Ali Branscombe

May 8, 2023

Understanding the scope of Marshall Fire smoke-damage survivors would require ‘third-party verification’ of the damage, the foundation says. For now, those rebuilding their severely smoke-damaged homes can qualify for at least $20,000.

Continue reading…

Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel will consider suspending its work following removal of one of its members

By John Herrick

May 5, 2023

Members of Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel are considering suspending their review of internal investigations into officer misconduct, an indication that the politicized appointment process that culminated in the removal of a panelist this week could jeopardize the city’s civilian oversight of its police department. 

Continue reading…

BRL Today newsletter sponsor

MahlerFest XXXVI, May 17-21, celebrates humanity’s capacity for resilience and renewal culminating with Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 2 and Thea Musgrave’s Phoenix Rising. Other highlights include Act I of Wagner’s Die Walküre, Liederabend (Evening of Song), re-creating a 1905 concert of Mahler’s orchestral songs, the U.S. premiere of the Fourth Symphony of Hans Gál, our free symposium, and more!

BRL Picks

👩‍👧 Listen to your mother: On May 13 at 6 p.m., the Boulder Theater will host Listen To Your Mother, a live stage show celebrating Mother’s Day. The show will feature local writers reading original compositions on topics related to motherhood, including having a mother, being a mother, or not having or being a mother. The show promises to take the audience on a “well-crafted journey filled with humor, poignant moments, and lots of nods of recognition.” Tickets are $25.

🎈 The Found Collective x Rembrandt Yard: Also on Sunday, May 13, the Found Collective x Rembrandt Yard will host their Spring Marketplace Event, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Rembrandt Yard in downtown Boulder. “30+ artists, artisans, local small businesses, designers & experiences will be carefully curated for this special Mother’s Day weekend event.” Tickets are $5.

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


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.