Boulder’s Compatible Development Regulations

Yesterday was the first day of the implementation of Boulder’s Compatible Development Regulations (Pops and Scrapes).  I have written about the major aspects of these new zoning rules here on a number of occasions:

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/pops-and-scrapes-new-boulder-regulations-part-i/

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/pops-and-scrapes-new-boulder-regulations-part-ii/

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/pops-and-scrapes-part-iii/

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/pops-and-scrapes-boulders-compatible-development-regulations-part-iv/

These new regulations will certainly cause more headaches for homeowners and buyers in the affected areas and will shift more efforts of architects toward administrative tasks and away from designing.  They may or may not work, in either case, they will be reviewed in 6 months or so, putting a chilling effect on anyone considering new work in the first half of 2010.

More concerning to me is that the controversy over these regulations, their impetus and the ensuing battles, are symptomatic of a problem plaguing little Boulder, Colorado  – what is the city and what will it become?  All cities and towns struggle with this and in Boulder’s case this argument has largely been played out on the field of zoning issues, most specifically density.  Over the last few years, bitter battles have been fought that go directly to the heart of change and density:

Washington School – adding residential units to increase the density on near North Broadway – approved by the Planning Board, city protests called up a  re-review, and finally a modified approval.

Robb’s Music site – much protest against a proposed multi-use project on the site, building up to the approved height limit – project cancelled.

Junior Academy site – many rounds and proposals of varying densities of residential units – finally approved.

CU Behavioral Science Building – on Broadway, near downtown, at approximately 70′ tall – much protest, but CU does not need City Council approval – project moving forward.

Transit Village – moving forward, slowly, after many missteps

29th Street Mall – a number of years ago, but finally the city bowed to the desired tax revenue and approved a project without housing

and of course, the Compatible Development regulations themselves.

Boulder has an incredible quality of life, surrounded by protected open space.  This and a 35′ height limit has limited the potential for growth, driving up housing prices and exporting sprawl to the satellite communities.  Many people have paid a lot of money to live in Boulder as it is, not a taller, denser city.  Most people can simply not imagine that Boulder can be better with more density.  I think they are wrong and it is the lack of imagination and leadership in Boulder that hinders a vision of the city that is more diverse and dynamic.

Florence, Italy is about the same physical size as Boulder, but is double the density.  It is a beautiful city, highly dense, but not dominated by housing towers or apartment blocks.  It is a model for what Boulder could be – a city, an urban gem, and then in Boulder’s case, surrounded by open prairie and mountains.  Urban and rural, each in contrast with the other, reveling in their difference.

Boulder's Compatible Development Regulations

Yesterday was the first day of the implementation of Boulder’s Compatible Development Regulations (Pops and Scrapes).  I have written about the major aspects of these new zoning rules here on a number of occasions:

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/pops-and-scrapes-new-boulder-regulations-part-i/

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/pops-and-scrapes-new-boulder-regulations-part-ii/

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/pops-and-scrapes-part-iii/

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/pops-and-scrapes-boulders-compatible-development-regulations-part-iv/

These new regulations will certainly cause more headaches for homeowners and buyers in the affected areas and will shift more efforts of architects toward administrative tasks and away from designing.  They may or may not work, in either case, they will be reviewed in 6 months or so, putting a chilling effect on anyone considering new work in the first half of 2010.

More concerning to me is that the controversy over these regulations, their impetus and the ensuing battles, are symptomatic of a problem plaguing little Boulder, Colorado  – what is the city and what will it become?  All cities and towns struggle with this and in Boulder’s case this argument has largely been played out on the field of zoning issues, most specifically density.  Over the last few years, bitter battles have been fought that go directly to the heart of change and density:

Washington School – adding residential units to increase the density on near North Broadway – approved by the Planning Board, city protests called up a  re-review, and finally a modified approval.

Robb’s Music site – much protest against a proposed multi-use project on the site, building up to the approved height limit – project cancelled.

Junior Academy site – many rounds and proposals of varying densities of residential units – finally approved.

CU Behavioral Science Building – on Broadway, near downtown, at approximately 70′ tall – much protest, but CU does not need City Council approval – project moving forward.

Transit Village – moving forward, slowly, after many missteps

29th Street Mall – a number of years ago, but finally the city bowed to the desired tax revenue and approved a project without housing

and of course, the Compatible Development regulations themselves.

Boulder has an incredible quality of life, surrounded by protected open space.  This and a 35′ height limit has limited the potential for growth, driving up housing prices and exporting sprawl to the satellite communities.  Many people have paid a lot of money to live in Boulder as it is, not a taller, denser city.  Most people can simply not imagine that Boulder can be better with more density.  I think they are wrong and it is the lack of imagination and leadership in Boulder that hinders a vision of the city that is more diverse and dynamic.

Florence, Italy is about the same physical size as Boulder, but is double the density.  It is a beautiful city, highly dense, but not dominated by housing towers or apartment blocks.  It is a model for what Boulder could be – a city, an urban gem, and then in Boulder’s case, surrounded by open prairie and mountains.  Urban and rural, each in contrast with the other, reveling in their difference.

liminal

window01

a series of photos

a space one inhabits, a liminal space between, and an imaginary space beyond the next window, into …

window02

a couple of these photos hang in my office, across from my desk.  It’s nice to know your neighbors are watching, maybe, from behind the shutters.

window04

these are all from varies places I have lived or stayed in Italy

a studio in Venice

a house in Tuscany

an apartment near Siena

photos by Mark Gerwing, 1988, 2006

Venice

a quick sketch of a building across the Grand Canal from the train station.

The ubiquitous wood shutters of most of Italy, but especially in Venice, draw an interesting contrast to the substantial stucco-over-masonry buildings.  Throughout the day the building they modulate the light/privacy/view with a complex variety of open, closed, tilted and cracked-opened shutters and awnings.

The regular and usually bilateral symmetry of the building’s openings is largely mute to the use of the room beyond, but the type and position of the shutters and awnings lend a kind of phenomenal transparency to the life of space.

Palace of Justice, Savona, Italy

This is a rather poor photo of the Palace of Justice in Savona, Italy designed by Leonardo and Maria Dallerba Ricci. A single photo really does not do justice to the context and form of this building, sitting between the mountains and the sea along the old railroad sidings in the city. It is a really magnificent building, both grand and monumental, but engaged on the street with a large plaza and multiple entries. I am a bit prejudiced because Leo and Pucci (Maria Dallerba Ricci) were instructors of mine at Kentucky and in Venice, and I first visited this building with them as it was nearing completion.

The expressive, structural determinism of the building is bold and sophisticated, and the building professes a profound humanism that permeates all of their work.  Although the building does not take any of its formal clues from the surrounding buildings, it is still clearly a site-specific work, working on the larger “site” of the city, the mountains and the sea. Though Leo and Pucci might disagree, it is a work that stands between a kind of placelessness of international modernism and more parochial critical regionalism.

Photograph by Mark Gerwing