II am writing in response to a May 27 editorial from the Gunbarrel Community Alliance (GCA) (Re: “The Poor Door and the Legalized Segregation Model in Boulder”) and to encourage support for the Spine Road Project planned for the Boulder Planning Review from the council website on June 17th.
I am an affordable housing advocate who volunteers with the Boulder Housing Network and a member of the Better Boulder Board and the Boulder Arts Commission, although here I speak only for myself. Over the past several years my work has included research and writing on affordable housing and equitable land use planning for the Urban Land Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and I know how the reluctance against more housing diverse and affordable has amplified stress on our housing crisis in Colorado and across the United States
The Spine Road project is located off the Diagonal Highway on 9.7 vacant acres of the Celestial Seasonings property at the intersection of Spine Road and Gunbarrel Avenue in Gunbarrel. It includes 230 employees and affordable housing in 20 small two- to three-story apartment buildings with a variety of housing types, from studios and work-at-home units to three-bedroom apartments and townhouses. It is connected by walking trails, bike paths and a mobility center to help reduce car use. It also includes community and commercial spaces, such as a library, central park / open space, swimming pool and fitness center, meeting / event space, community garden, and cafe / cafe.
Local developer Andy Allison has met the city’s inclusive housing requirement of 25% affordable housing with 59 permanently affordable rental units for moderate-income households earning up to 60% of the region’s median income. (FRIEND). The project also has 165 rental units at market rates and six Habitat for Humanity townhouses for sale for middle-income households. Typical residents could be teachers, first responders, nurses, artists, catering staff, and other essential workers.
One of the reasons I love this project is that the workforce and affordable housing are located on the same site. This is unusual in Boulder, where developers often choose to locate affordable homes needed for miles as part of a one-time affordable project or pay cash instead of building them. This commitment is more complicated in terms of funding but promotes a more balanced community.
The affordable and labor-intensive housing of Spine Road would add diversity and opportunity to Gunbarrel with a wider range of household income and housing types. What Boulder needs the most, and what the Planning Council is currently considering, are “mid-digit” housing, such as duplexes, triplexes, townhouses and small apartment buildings. This will provide more options for people who cannot afford or need single family homes over $ 1 million, the type of residential zoning that dominates in Boulder and has directly contributed to our land costs. high prices and our exclusive housing market.
Another reason I love this project is its focus on art and community spaces. As an arts curator, I know the number one issue for the thousands of working artists in Boulder is affordable housing, studios and exhibition space. The Spine Road Project has scheduled spaces for a gallery, studios, art classes, events, nonprofits and a public art walk. Find out how the affordable Bus Stop Apartments and Galleries for Local Artists, built by Andy Allison and Thistle Communities, helped activate the NoBo Arts District.
GCA says the city and developers are continuing the “poor door” approach of providing less than affordable housing compared to market-priced housing. But if you take a look at the Spine Road sitemap, you’ll find that the amenities are shared, and the affordable, market-priced homes are adjacent to each other and also overlook the central open space. Coburn Architecture’s affordable and market-priced buildings are of similar quality in terms of design, materials and features.
The City aims to make 15% of housing permanently affordable by 2035, including 1,000 middle-income housing. In December, 8.4% of city housing was affordable. We still have a long way to go to meet our affordability goals and to create a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city. The affordable homes of the Spine Road project would be among the first in Gunbarrel.
What really continues the story of Boulder’s classism and racism is the belief that more diverse and affordable housing (and the people who live there) do not belong in our neighborhoods. The real poor door is the one that opponents use to chase away people who cannot afford to live here, where they work. Let’s take a look at how a holistic view of this and other affordable and labor-intensive projects can help create the fair, diverse and resilient city we say we want.
Kathleen McCormick has lived, worked and raised a family in Boulder for the past 28 years.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Weekly Boulder.