Boulder, it’s the very best place to spend a Monday. Here’s what’s going on.

Today, John Herrick covers trash and weeds on University Hill. Later this month, Boulder City Council will discuss a new ordinance that would make it easier for police officers to enforce rules around trash and yard maintenance. The change is a response to concerns from residents living on University Hill and near other CU student neighborhoods. Students, however, have said their input has been largely ignored. They’re worried the proposed ordinance is yet more fuel for the longstanding divisions between students and homeowners.

I hope your week starts well.

— Tim, reporter

What to know today

  • A few clouds leading into sun: The clouds and possible precipitation today are only here so you better appreciate the unabashed sun brought by tomorrow and Wednesday.
  • Friday night fire: At 5:30 p.m. on Feb 3, Boulder’s fire department responded to an apartment fire on the 4900 block of Thunderbird Drive. Burning in a first floor apartment, the fire triggered the sprinkler system that aided firefighters in quickly quelling the blaze. There were no signs of wrongdoing, with the suspected cause being a window A/C unit or heating unit.
    • Boulder Fire-Rescue appreciated those who called 911 and the adjacent units for evacuating themselves. This is a great reminder to ensure your fire alarms are operational with fresh batteries.
  • More homes in industrial areas. The Boulder City Council last week approved new land-use codes to allow developers to build homes in what are now primarily industrial areas of the city.
    • The new “use tables” will allow developers to build homes on more than 250 parcels in North Boulder, Gunbarrel, East Boulder and other areas currently zoned as industrial. It’s the latest effort by the city to convert office, manufacturing and commercial space into apartments and for-sale homes, as a step toward addressing the city’s housing crisis. Some industrial areas will remain off limits to housing.
    • Several city councilmembers made last-ditch efforts to expand areas that would allow housing. One local developer suggested a code change that he said would have allowed him to build about 250 efficiency studios near the Boulder Municipal Airport.
    • Following requests by several in the business community, including the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, councilmembers voted down the last-minute changes and approved the more modest land-use code revisions. — John Herrick
  • New buildings could have a fresh new look: Councilmembers also approved new building and design standards for certain residential and commercial developments. The new “site review criteria” — which are permit requirements used by the Boulder Planning Board to determine whether to approve certain developments — are intended to be less subjective and more predictable. Further, “the updated criteria include language on environmental preservation” and addressing greenhouse gas emissions. Larger commercial buildings either have to be net-zero in terms of energy use or exceed the city’s energy conservation codes.
    • The changes are a milestone in the city’s Community Benefit Project. Overall, the program seeks “to ensure that new growth and development contribute positively to the community’s quality of life.” It commenced in 2018, to come up with additional requirements for developers who want to exceed the height and size limits set by local zoning rules. One such “community benefit,” in these instances, requires them to build (or pay for) more affordable housing.
    • The new criteria take effect on July 1, 2023. — John Herrick
  • Boulder back to moderate Covid levels: With an increase in rates and hospitalizations, those at high risk for severe infection are encouraged to take additional precautions. Sixteen people are currently hospitalized with Covid in Boulder County.
  • Spending dashboard: The City of Boulder launched a dashboard to show how it will spend the $20.15 million it’s getting from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, in Covid relief funding. Though the city has already allocated some of the funds over the past couple years, it has until 2024 to finalize its allocations and until 2026 to spend the cash.
    • Some of the top initiatives the city will be spending the money on are: a guaranteed income pilot project, manufactured homes, childcare assistance and behavioral health services. Other areas that will get funding are arts and culture, expanding wireless access to those in need, and transitioning city staff into a hybrid model to better retain employees.
  • 3D brain scans now available: Researchers at CU have developed a way to make medical CT and MRI scans into 3D computer models, enabling better analysis for disease and priming surgeons before difficult surgeries. This could be of the brain, heart or kidney.
    • “Surgeons are constantly touching and interacting with tissues,” said Robert MacCurdy, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at CU. “So we want to give them models that are both visual and tactile and as representative of what they’re going to face as they can be.”
  • Internet’s midlife crisis: Starting today and continuing into tomorrow, a conference at CU’s Wolf Law is discussing the internet’s “midlife crisis.” After early years marked by blogs and Evolution of Dance videos, at least some elements of online culture have turned into places to spread conspiracy theories and misinformation.
    • In an article ahead of the event, Blake Reid, clinical professor of law specializing in technology policy and telecom and disability law, gave a debrief on how the internet got to where it is today.
    • “The technology has changed radically,” Reid said. “But the concentration of power and the problems that poses for competition, protecting consumers and users, healthy discourse and the future of democracy has led us back to the same set of problems—or arguably worse problems—than we had before the internet.”
    • How to regulate the internet, and how to stop the engagement spiral where the most angering content gets seen the most encouraging more angry content, is up for debate.
    • Though the event is open to the public, admission to just a livestream link costs $200.
  • Artist-in-residence application open: The Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department has opened applications for those interested in staying up at Caribou Ranch as inspiration for their artistic endeavors. Those selected will stay in the historic DeLonde Barn for up to three nights between July and September. The old whistle stop for Denver Boulder and Western Railroad is currently home to, or part of the commute for, “moose, elk, black bears, beavers, bats, and nearly 90 species of birds.”
    • The application deadline is Feb. 28. Those interested should be comfortable in rustic accommodations.

Go deeper

Boulder officials want to make it easier to issue fines for trash violations in student neighborhoods

By John Herrick

February 6, 2023

Boulder officials are proposing a new ordinance that would make it easier for police officers to issue fines to property owners who violate the city’s code requiring upkeep of yards and prohibiting trash on public sidewalks and streets. 

The ordinance, scheduled for a public hearing at the Boulder City Council meeting on Feb. 16, is the latest response to nuisance complaints among residents who live near CU Boulder student neighborhoods, including University Hill, Goss Grove and Martin Acres. 

Residents who own homes in student neighborhoods have long voiced concerns about loud parties and their aftermath, including Solo cups strewn about sidewalks. In September 2022, the Boulder City Council approved a new ordinance that makes it easier for officers to write tickets for “unreasonable noise.” 

The proposed revisions would move the fine system from a criminal enforcement process, which relies on serving a summons, to a civil process, which relies on issuing citations. The new process seeks to hold property owners more accountable, in part by sending the citation — by mail or email — directly to those who are listed in Boulder County’s property records as the owners. 

The fines would range from $100 for the first violation to $500 for the third.

Continue reading…

Colorado’s free preschool application is open. Here’s what you need to know.

By Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat

February 6, 2023

The application for free preschool is open. Families who fill out the application by Feb. 14, will find out what preschool their child matched with around March 17.

Leer en español.

Continue reading…

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BRL picks

🌿 Intro to Chinese medicine: On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Terracotta will host an acupuncturist and herbalist to give Boulderites a taste of Chinese herbal medicine. The class will discuss how humans and plants interact, and talk about how plants can be used to bolster well-being. Tickets are $30.

📚 Women writing about Colorado: On Thursday night at the Boulder Bookstore, four women will discuss their new short story collections, all of which cover life in Colorado. Some even take place in a “vividly rendered small town in Boulder County.” Tickets are $5.

🖼️ A Tribute to Marshall: At the Boulder Public Library, Anne Gifford is presenting a collection of watercolor paintings, photos and writings that celebrate the Marshall Fire area and brings hope for renewal. The exhibition lasts until April 23.

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


Tim Drugan

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: