August 3rd, 2020

Trevor baby stare

Letter to Boulder City Council

[Context: the Bedrooms Are For People initiative to change Boulder's "only 3 unrelated people can live in a house" code is in dispute because of a dispute over signature deadlines, so supporters have been making their voice heard in communication to city council.]

I am writing in support of eliminating the “3 unrelated” city occupancy rule, and to support increased residential density more broadly.

I was born in Boulder, and have lived in and around the city my whole life. I attended CU, work near Pearl Street, and own a home in east Boulder. My parents moved to Boulder in the 1960s, and still live in the 4-bedroom north Boulder house they bought in 1980. Growing up, this was a middle class neighborhood; our neighbors did construction, worked at the library, wrote books, and one served on city council. When my parents reach the point that they need to move into a retirement home, my hope is to rent the old house out to other folks of modest means so that people whose work is vital to a vibrant Boulder---from teachers to firefighters to nurses to students to retail clerks---can afford to live in Boulder. Our family demonstrated that four related adults plus a friend could live in this house without a negative impact on the community; why should the occupancy be limited to three when we rent it out?

I spend much of my free time as a climate advocate. Climate change is a major systemic risk that requires communities around the world to reevaluate business as usual. I applaud the City Council for declaring a climate emergency resolution and setting ambitious goals for greenhouse gas reduction by 2030. Pandemic shutdowns aside, vehicle emissions by in-commuters to Boulder account for a significant fraction of Boulder’s contribution to climate change. Even if the combustion occurs outside city limits, these emissions are still on “our tab” so to speak when they come from folks who would like to live in Boulder but cannot afford to do so. Climate change doesn’t care on which side of a municipal border emissions occur. Boulder’s investments in low-carbon transportation, including our beloved bike trails and quality bus transit, will be even more valuable as higher density increases utilization. Compared to the millions of dollars the city has spent on municipalization, increased occupancy limits is one of the cheapest reductions in CO2 we could make.

I have many friends and colleagues in the Bay Area where low-density housing policy is heading to crisis levels, creating major stress on essential workers and reducing quality of life for even the well-paid professionals who can afford housing. Let’s take heed of this warning and work to increase housing density in Boulder before we stumble into the same fate.

Trevor Stone

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