Affordable housing critic appointed to Boulder’s Planning Board; open space pick floated entrance fees

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Boulder city council on Tuesday filled in more than a dozen seats on 13 boards and commissions, and their picks included a prominent housing critic for the body responsible for approving development, and an open space board member who proposed charging for access to the lands Boulder owns.

Councilwoman Lisa Morzel landed the highest number of nominees: Of the 16 new members, roughly a third were nominated by her. Here are the vacancies council filled on Tuesday (listed in descending order according to number of applicants who showed up to public interviews):

Planning Board: Two five-year terms; 13 applicants

Seat #1: Lupita Montoya (nominated by Sam Weaver): Researcher at University of Colorado, with a background in mechanical and environmental engineering as well as public health.

Notable quote: In response to a question from councilwoman Mirabai Nagle about Boulder’s public engagement process, Montoya said that the loudest voices do not always represent a community consensus.

“There are people who don’t come to these meetings, but they do have an opinion,” she said. “Longer-term planning needs to be well understood by the whole city. Boulder is one of those places people want to live, but the character of the city is disappearing because of all the growth.”

Seat #2:  Sarah Silver (nominated by Morzel): Executive director of the Alan B. Slifka Foundation. Silver is perhaps best known for her “neighborhood advocacy,” which she referenced in her application.

She was the most vocal opponent of an affordable housing project downtown by Attention Homes, a nonprofit helping homeless youth. She has also been critical of co-ops, according to a post she made on the Facebook page for the Boulder Neighborhood Alliance, a group advocating “for neighborhood preservation, against irresponsible growth”: “My guess is that most Boulderites have no idea their tidy neighborhoods could quickly become crowded wit (sic) coops,” she wrote.

Notable quote: To answer Nagle’s question, Silver said neighbors should get to weigh in on projects earlier. “Neighborhoods have some really good ideas that often come to the table too late because the city process and developer process has moved so far down the path.”

In making their choices, council members stressed that they had gender in mind: Montoya and Silver were replacing the two outgoing women on Planning Board.

Human Relations Commission: One five-year term; 11 applicants

Lindsey Loberg (unanimously selected by council): Program director for Boulder Food Rescue, Loberg was already serving on the HRC. She has publicly advocated for a civilian police oversight board and the city’s tax on sugary drinks.

Notable quote: In her application, Loberg said the city needs to improve its public process. “We have more work to do towards more meaningful public engagement that is more participatory, which I believe can equalize power, diversify representation, connect people to resources, and allow people to actualize their own ways to address the issues that affect them the most.”

Transportation Advisory Board: One five-year term; 10 applicants

Alex Weinhemier (nominated by Cindy Carlisle): Planner for Traffic Engineers, Inc. Weinheimer has redesigned bus networks and sidewalks in his career and is a member of the American Planning Association and the Association of Bicycle and Pedestrian Planners. 

Notable quote: Councilman Aaron Brockett asked applicants how they would pursue Boulder’s “ambitious” goals of reducing single occupancy vehicle trips. Weinheimer suggested pursuing “aggressive parking maximums,” building walkable neighborhoods, and maintaining and expanding transit.

We have great commuting hour transit,” he said. “For 9-5 workers, it’s good. But we’re not a 9-5 city.”

Housing Advisory Board: Two five-year terms and one three-year term; 8 applicants

Five-year term #1: Juliette Boone (nominated by Morzel): Human resources executive and consultant, with the majority of her career spent in hospitality. Boone’s husband works for Boulder’s Melton Design Build.

Notable quote: On her application, Boone said HAB’s top three priorities should be 1.) Creating/finding housing for city employees and service workers, 2.) Working with CU to create more student housing, therefore freeing up units in the city; and 3.) Creating more accessory dwelling units in Boulder

Five-year term #2: Terry Palmos (nominated by Morzel): Real estate developer and attorney.

Notable quote: In his introduction during the interview process, Palmos said, Boulder is “a very different place then when I grew up, but I think it’s better in many many ways.” The city is doing well at adding small housing units and “expensive, big houses,” he said. “We need to do better at the middle.”

Three-year term: Adam Swetlik (mutually agreed upon by council): Swetlik, a digital marketing manager, is a returning HAB member and a member of PLAN Boulder County.

Notable quote: Swetlik’s top three priorities for HAB, according to his application, were to 1.) Follow council’s work plan, 2.) Engage with the community to get “buy-in for housing projects” and 3.) Continual education on “housing policies and systems.”

During the interviews, in response to a question from Morzel, “Do you support permanently affordable rentals and home ownership?” Swetlik gave a “strong yes to both.” He supported HAB’s recommendation that Boulder up its affordable housing goals to 20% of all units by 2025. “It’s important to reach a little bit because we don’t get what we reach for.”

All three new HAB members own their homes.

Open Space Board of Trustees: One five-year term; 6 applicants

David Kuntz (nominated by Carlisle): Retired environmental planner and natural resources manager, including several years with the state of Colorado. Kuntz worked for the City of Boulder’s open space department from 1993-2006. He also penned a 2016 op-ed in the Daily Camera criticizing so-called “new environmentalism” — the belief that dense, urban living is better for the planet than suburban dwelling.

Notable quote: Councilwoman Mary Young asked the applicants’ suggestions for replacing revenue once the open space tax sunsets at the end of the year. Kuntz was the only candidate to suggest paid passes, à la national parks.

I think it’s time in this program to start considering a pass for use by residents and a visitor pass as well,” he said. “It’s a little politically tough (and) with that comes a lot of bureaucracy, but I think that is worth considering.”

Water Resources Advisory Board: One five-year term; 7 applicants (only 5 participated in public interviews)

Gordon McCurry (nominated by Mary Young): A hydrologist who owns his own business, McCurry Hydrology, formed in 2011, according to state records. McCurry is also well-known for his involvement in the South Boulder Creek flood mitigation work. He designed the “upstream option” favored by a group of residents who also advocated for the current design  and have been critical of CU’s plans to develop the land. McCurry criticized another proposed development in south Boulder, Baseline Zero, over flooding concerns.

Notable quote: Weaver asked how the applicants would balance the South Boulder Creek work with other drainage areas in the city, given limited financial resources. McCurry responded that “even though many areas of city (need) flood mitigation, those are areas already fully built” and therefore it’s “extremely difficult” to construct projects there. 

CU South, meanwhile, will protect thousands of people and two major roadways, he said. “If there’s ever a place in the city that could afford a  higher degree of flood mitigation, that is the place.” 

Arts Commission: One five-year terms; 5 applicants

Bruce Borowsky (nominated by Mayor Suzanne Jones): Borowsky is a filmmaker and co-founder of Boulder Digital Arts. He has served on the board of the Boulder Chamber as well as the board for Boulder’s public access TV station and is a member of the Boulder County NAACP.

Notable quote: In response to a question from councilwoman Mary Young, “Who is art for?” Borowsky said, “Art is for everybody. … Art is like shelter and food. As humans we get so disconnected; we forget about what makes us connected as humans. Art is one of those things.”

Environmental Advisory Board: One five-year term; 5 applicants (only four showed up to the public interviews)

Miriam Hacker (nominated by Weaver): An environmental engineering consultant for Aspen Outlook, LLC, Hacker was an incumbent to EAB, having served a one-year term.

Notable quote: Councilwoman Morzel asked a question about environmental considerations of demolitions that included the inquiry, “Should there be demolitions in Boulder?” Hacker acknowledged that “demolition has its own set of environmental issues,” but that it can be done in a manner that is safe for the public, perhaps with the aid of an environmental analysis.

Parks & Recreation Advisory Board: One five-year terms; 5 applicants (only four attended public interviews)

Charles Brock (nominated by Morzel): A research scientist at NOAA, he has publicly advocated for more bike-friendly street and sidewalk design in Boulder and defended cyclists’ right to ride up canyon roads via op-eds in the Daily Camera.

Notable quote: Brock focused a lot of his interview and application on alternative transportation and the idea of exercise as a way of living. “We need to promote walking, biking, and transit access to all of our sites,” he wrote in his application. “People should not drive to exercise unless there are no reasonable alternatives.”

Library Commission: One five-year term; 3 applicants

Steven Frost (nominated by Morzel): A professor of Media Studies at CU and a volunteer at the Boulder Library since 2016 as a contract instructor for the makerspace, BLDG 61.

Notable quote: Councilwoman Cindy Carlisle asked why non-city users of the Boulder Library would be willing to vote to create a special taxing district to fund the library. In response, Frost said that, among other positives, a library district would allow for more services to be provided outside of Boulder.

“I feel in this city we have a tradition of Boulder being proud of what we do,” he said.

Landmarks Board: One five-year term; two applicants

William Jellick (nominated by Aaron Brockett): A photographer, he has served on the board for the past two years.

Notable quote: Morzel asked if Boulder’s numerous 1950s-era homes are “significant enough to preserve.” In response, Jellick said “it’s not real obvious” based up on the city’s code. “These structures have to have something specific about them … something compelling per (the) code. We can’t legislate from the bench.”

Beverages Licensing Authority: One five-year term; 2 applicants (only one showed up to the public interviews)

Michael Absalom (unanimously nominated and selected by council): The general manager of Southern Sun Pub and Brewery and president of the Boulder Responsible Hospitality Group

Notable quote: In response to a question from councilwoman Morzel, “What do you see as the biggest challenge in serving alcohol to people?” Absalom responded that his biggest concern in over-consumption. “Is someone coming and buying ten 30-packs? Should we be responsible as operators? Absolutely.”

Housing Authority (board for Boulder Housing Partners): One five-year term; 3 applicants, but only one showed up for the public interviews

Tony Adams (nominated by Bob Yates; technically a mayoral appointment, but council supported this choice): A retired finance executive. Adams was also a board member of the Center for People with Disabilities from 2007-2018.

Notable quote: In response to a question from Mayor Jones about how to make housing discussions less divisive, Adams said, “I’m kind of a moderate. I’m not an extremist. A lot of these debates get driven by the extreme.

“My sense is nobody wants to live in a gated community. Nobody is here by accident. Market-rate housing will continue to be the dominant form of real estate transactions (but) where does the market not work? Affordable housing is a market failure. There is a role for the government in being able to provide affordable housing. It’s a public good. You want the people to live in the town who work in the town. I think most people’s intentions are good (and) most people want teachers and policemen as neighbors.”

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle



Governance Housing

7 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for the comprehensive update. It wasn’t made transparent prior to the interviews that incumbents would be running. It appears that they were given a clear preference and some people’s time was wasted. I was a candidate on one of the boards. At the end this felt like a rather staged show to me. The other candidates besides me and the incumbent felt more qualified and any one of them would have been a fine choice.

    My mistake was not to be more diligent about who else is actually applying for the position. If there is an incumbent in the race one might want to reconsider. And of course the incumbent will most likely serve the city well but based on the interview the council should have decided otherwise IMHO.

    This opinion is based on what I could see that night. The council might have information beyond that, which wasn’t available to me.

    Some of the candidates’ comments you listed appear to be rather controversial. I think it is good to have debate and different opinions as long as people adhere to not making things personal. Having a whole group of totally like-minded individuals just nodding off each others ideas doesn’t serve us well. I feel it’s better to disagree and debate at this stage in the process than come up with decisions, implement them and end up with an disgruntled electorate.

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