News, Analysis and Opinion for the Informed Boulder Resident
Thursday April 26th 2018

Support the Blue Line

Subscribe to the Blue Line

That's what she said

city council transportation energy municipalization xcel housing urban planning april fools bicycles climate action election 2011 density affordable housing boulder county open space agriculture renewables CU local food climate change election 2013 development jefferson parkway youth election pedestrian election 2015 preservation election 2017 Rocky Flats BVSD immigration recreation mountain bikes GMOs decarbonization urban design transit farming plan boulder boards and commissions fires fracking wildlife colorado politics downtown architecture new era colorado smart regs plutonium journalism homeless transit village parking commuting radioactive waste ghgs height limits natural gas rental planning board coal energy efficiency walkability historic preservation april fools 2015 population growth land use historic district diversity Neighborhoods growth flood students arts North Boulder gardens education election 2010 solar bus zoning water supply University Hill taxes nutrition RTD library bike lane electric utility sprawl safety groundwater water quality election 2012 affairs of the heart april fools 2016 organic flood plain blue line mayor zero waste planning reserve wetlands hazardous waste politics county commissioners hogan-pancost obama transportation master plan renewable energy electric vehicle ballot right-sizing street design golden Mapleton solar panels PV recycling comprehensive plan longmont climate smart loan diagonal plaza bears colorado legislature flood mitigation campaign finance boulder junction conservation easement epa congestion pesticide food inequality drought community cycles election 2016 road diet flooding bus rapid transit children PUC automobile daily camera Newlands league of women voters ecocycle BVCP climate change deniers community sam weaver ken wilson wind power david miller contamination boulder creek city attorney crime bob bellemare bsec mlk john tayer boulder Orchard Grove civil rights green points al bartlett technology EV arizona west tsa public spaces marijuana Whittier

Blue Line Poll: How Big is Too Big?

By and

On April 1, the City of Boulder’s Planning Board, in a series of 4-3 votes, set the stage for 4-story buildings on the south side of Canyon adjacent to the city park and a residential neighborhood.

Planning staff simulation (not an actual proposal)

City staff had recommended changes to zoning and the Downtown Design Guidelines that would have ratcheted down, slightly, the potential intensity of redevelopment in the 5½ block area from 13th to 17th Streets on the south side of Canyon Blvd.  Unlike the downtown (north) side of Canyon, this area is adjacent to the Goss-Grove neighborhood,  the city park and Boulder Creek.  It is traversed by the North Boulder Farmers Ditch.  The Dushanbe Tea House, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the Farmers Market are also located in the area under review.


In 1997, the Downtown Alliance, a group of 35 representatives of businesses, neighborhoods, city boards and Historic Boulder, prepared a set of recommendations for City Council about the future of Boulder’s downtown.  In their report they recommended “one to three story buildings” downtown and that new development be guided by “respect and preservation of the adjacent residential neighborhoods.”

The Downtown Design Guidelines, a 2002 document that is  “the direct result of work conducted by the Downtown Alliance” recommended a guideline to, in transitional zones between commercial and residential areas, “In general, construct buildings of three stories or less.”

In December 2008, Council directed staff to develop an urban design vision for the south side of Canyon that would include updating the Downtown Design Guidelines, revising the Land Use code (a Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan term analogous to zoning), and defining public benefits that would be required in exchange for density bonuses to developers.

In January 2009, a proposed 28,100-square-foot, four-story, mixed-use building at the site of Robb’s Music (1580 Canyon) was rejected by Council as being too tall for an area near a residential neighborhood.

Planning Board Hearing

The city staff took Council’s direction and put together a proposal that would help guide redevelopment on the south side of Canyon.  Among the many recommendations were two key items:

  1. Limit the height of buildings in interface areas (adjacent to the residential neighborhood) to 3 stories.
  2. Reduce the current floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.7 to 2.0.  (For comparison, the 4-story, First National Bank building on the NW corner of Broadway and Canyon, 1155 Canyon, has an FAR of 2.3).

Members of the public spoke both for and against the staff recommendations.  Business owners including Jack Stoakes of Liquor Mart and James Travels’ Andy and Don James spoke against the height and FAR reductions.  Dylan Williams, an engineer, urged the Planning staff to revisit their analysis of occupancy rates of the luxury condos on Canyon, suggesting that the staff’s methodology significantly overestimated the occupancy.   Neighbors Forrest Williams, Kate Remley and Elizabeth Allen spoke against blocking the views.  Builder Phil Shull and land use attorney Ed Bryne spoke against limiting development potential in the area.

The buildings on the north side are kind of universally disliked – for good reason. Bill Hollicky, Planning Board member

Much of Planning Board’s deliberations centered on the existing 4-story, 55-foot-tall buildings on the north side of Canyon Blvd., with some members arguing that those buildings were a Planning Board mistake and that measures should be put in place to prevent such mistakes in the future.

Planning staff simulation (not an actual proposal)

Arguments put forth for rejecting staff’s recommendations included the assertion that the zoning should be the same on both sides of Canyon as a fundamental planning principle and concerns that limitations would dampen development.

The Planning Board rejected the recommendations limiting building sizes, with members Elise Jones, Mary Young and newcomer Tim Plass voting in support of the limits and members Andrew Shoemaker, Willa Johnson, Bill Hollicky and newcomer Danica Powell voting against.

How do you feel about 4-story buildings on the south side of Canyon?  Let us know by voting in the Blue Line poll in the sidebar.

UPDATE:  Poll is now closed.

Rate this article: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Reader Feedback

One Response to “Blue Line Poll: How Big is Too Big?”

  1. MDouglasWray says:

    Why not have four (and more) story tall buildings along Canyon? Then it would like more LIKE a canyon… FEH.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.