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Is Boulder, Colorado in Danger of Becoming Too Dense?

By Dom Nozzi

March 9, 2017

I hear it all the time as a resident of Boulder, Colorado: “Boulder is too dense!”

I beg to differ.

I support Boulder’s long-standing objectives, such as reducing the city carbon footprint (to ease global warming), reducing noise pollution, improving affordability, increasing the number of trips made by foot or bike or transit, slowing tax increases, ensuring the City has the fiscal capacity to engage in needed/ongoing maintenance of our infrastructure, protecting environmentally sensitive outlying areas from suburban development, reducing traffic injuries and deaths (in part by designing streets to be slower speed and obligate motorists to be more attentive), promoting small retail shops and discouraging large retail shops, encouraging diversity and creativity, improving public health, and retaining a lovable character rather than an Anywhere USA character.

Each of these worthy objectives are furthered by more compact (dense) development.

Unfortunately, despite the conventional wisdom, Boulder is actually quite dispersed. Shockingly so.

Indeed, Boulder is so extremely low-density suburban that if we don’t become more compact and add a lot more housing, we will continue to undermine each of the objectives I list here.

Besides the low density and short-statured nature of development I have observed in Boulder, there is another element that strongly signals that Boulder is suburban in character. sprawl
Christopher Leinberger has pointed out that in compact, walkable neighborhoods, “more is better.” That is, new, more compact development tends to be welcomed because it typically improves the quality of life of those living a walkable lifestyle (more things to walk to, for example). By contrast, says Leinberger, in a drivable suburban neighborhood, “more is less.” In such a setting, new and more compact development tends to be detrimental to the drivable quality of life of residents (roads are more congested and parking is more scarce, for example).

For decades, Boulder has had a near consensus that “more is less,” which is a strong signal that Boulder is a drivable suburban community. Indeed, stopping development – or, if not possible, at least minimizing the density of new development — tends to be the be all and end all of protecting or improving quality of life in Boulder.

Our very low-density, dispersed suburban character means that Boulder’s per capita environmental impact is, ironically, very large (being “green” means far more than engaging in curbside recycling or driving a Prius). Dispersed land use patterns found in Boulder are unsustainable, very environmentally destructive, and ensure that nearly all trips in Boulder will be made by motor vehicle.

There is a growing desire for compact, walkable, town center housing — particularly with the Millennial generation — yet Boulder provides very little if any of that sort of housing. Demand for such housing is substantially higher than the supply of it. Which severely amplifies the affordable housing crisis in Boulder.

Sustainability is far out of reach for Boulder unless we provide a lot more compact, walkable housing.

In sum, I think Boulder is quite far from being “too dense.” So far that a “too dense” Boulder will not happen in our lifetimes — if ever. Indeed, it seems to me that Boulder’s biggest concern should be that we are too dispersed.

I previously wrote about why I believe so many people in Boulder (like in so many other American communities) believe their community is “too dense,” despite the obvious signs I cite above.

It is enormously ironic that a great many Boulder residents — not to mention the millions worldwide — love the great historic cities and towns of Europe so much that they happily spend huge sums of money to visit such towns on a regular basis. Nearly all of us love Copenhagen. We adore Amsterdam. We are charmed by Perugia. We are delighted by Dubrovnik. We cannot get enough of Granada.

Yet each of these celebrated cities are far more compact – far more dense – than Boulder.

Why this disconnect?

I believe there are three important reasons. First, the contemporary modernist architectural paradigm we have been saddled with for several decades has thrown the inherently lovable 315-0722092524-NSA-building-and-parking-lotand timeless traditional building design into the waste can in favor of repellent, “innovative,” look-at-me design. Citizens are thereby conditioned to equate new compact development with hideous buildings. Second, local zoning regulations in cities such as Boulder have made lovable, human-scaled design illegal by requiring excessive setbacks, excessive car parking, and excessive private open space. Third, nearly all citizens live car-dependent lifestyles. And because their cars consume such an enormous amount of space, motorists are compelled to fear and oppose town design that they otherwise love as tourists. They have, in essence, become their own enemies by striving to improve their life as motorists (equating quality of life with easy parking and free-flowing traffic), not realizing that doing so is ruinous to a healthy city and a lovable quality of life.

For much of our history up until the 20th Century, citizens welcomed and celebrated new development in their communities because they knew that almost invariably, the new development would improve the quality of life in their community.  Steve Belmont has informed us that a densifying city is a sign of city health. But that welcoming of new development has been understandably inverted into a widespread opposition to new modern-architecture-Ronchamp-Chapeldevelopment, largely due to the modernist architectural paradigm, local car-friendly development regulations, and car-dependent citizens who have become cheerleaders for their cars rather than for themselves, their family, and their neighbors.

Boulder can comfortably house a great many more newcomers, and if our land development regulations are properly crafted to insist that new development be walkable, our community will be greatly improved in each of the ways I list above.

For the record, I generally dislike buildings taller than 5 stories (the limit set by city charter), but know that the city can be much better and provide a lot more housing by allowing buildings to be 3-5 stories in appropriate locations.

Note, too, that I do not believe that EVERYONE should be obligated to live in more compact, walkable housing. A community should always provide sufficient housing for the full range of lifestyle choices: walkable town center, drivable suburban, and rural.

Unfortunately, drivable suburban is about the only lifestyle option offered in Boulder. Because we have made the cities we love impossible to build.

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A Quality Future for Boulder CO Means Something Vastly Different from What No-Growthers Seek

 

By Dom Nozzi

January 8, 2017

The great irony of those in Boulder, Colorado who seek to protect the low-density character of neighborhoods (and to allegedly protect the “small town charm” of Boulder) is that by following the tactics recommended by too many “no-growthers,” Boulder will continue to take the Anywhere USA path that so many other American cities have taken (and continue to take).

Fighting against compact development is a recipe for keeping this city from becoming more walkable, charming, and human scaled. Such a fight will make it more likely that our future will be more car-dependent, more isolated, less walkable, more filled with surface parking lots, and less affordable (due to a growing lack of travel choices). Much of Boulder was built in an era of failed community design ideas that are unsustainable. Many of those who seek to “protect” neighborhoods are those who like the privatopia of suburbs and don’t like cities, and therefore don’t understand or appreciate those elements that make for healthy cities: slow speeds, human scale, compact development, agglomeration economies, diversity, conviviality, and choices.

Such advocates, instead, ruinously seem to believe that free-flowing and high speed traffic and easy car parking are the keys to quality of life. Actually, such objectives are toxic to a 51df393d218c6-imagehealthy city because they undermine the elements I list above.

The lifestyle of those who live in low-density Boulder neighborhoods compels them to fight for a halt to population growth, fight to minimize density and building heights, fight to oppose traffic calming and modest street and parking allocations, and fight to oppose mixed use.

Why?

Because fighting for those things helps protect their ability to travel easily by car. Because their neighborhood design obligates them to make most or all trips by car, they must fight for these things to protect their suburban lifestyle. Car travel becomes highly inconvenient when a community is more compact and slow speed. Densities over 2 or 3 units per acre make car travel much more inconvenient.

Conversely, densities below 3 or 4 units per acre make walking, bicycling, and transit nearly impossible.

It is therefore easy to understand why so many in suburban Boulder have concluded that easy driving and parking are equivalent to quality of life. Tragically, easy driving and parking are enemies of a quality city.

It is important to note, despite the unfair, inflammatory falsehoods we often have thrown at us urbanists, that this is NOT a call to make all neighborhoods in Boulder more compact. It IS a plea to recognize that for too much of Boulder’s history, the only acceptable form of development is high speed, car-happy suburban.

And that it is NEVER acceptable for there to be slow speed, compact walkable development.

Anywhere.

The result is a vast oversupply of drivable suburban development — which has no future, by the way — and a substantial undersupply of compact walkable development. Indeed, I would be hard-pressed to point to ANY compact development in Boulder. Because there is a big and growing demand for a walkable lifestyle — particularly among the younger generations — the price of such housing is skyrocketing (there are other reasons, but this one is substantial).

Boulder must do what it can to provide a larger supply of walkable housing — in appropriate locations.

Not doing so will lead to a grim, more costly future for Boulder.

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Boulder NIMBYs make quality of life in Boulder worse

 

By Dom Nozzi

June 22, 2015

When it comes to development, Boulder is most well-known for its well-deserved reputation for an extreme, hostile, antagonistic attitude that a large number of Boulder citizens express toward development. This hyper NIMBYism is almost entirely driven by ruinous demands that new development not congest roads or parking. Boulder NIMBYs are convinced that keeping roads and parking uncongested is simply a matter of stopping development (population growth) in its tracks. If that is not possible, to minimize the building height and density. It seems commonsensical: Minimizing people minimizes cars crowding our roads and parking!

This leads to both neglect and incoherence regarding reform of conventional land development regulations here in Boulder.

The fundamental, tragic mistake is that many in Boulder conflate happy, free-flowing, easy parking cars with quality of life. This blunder is highly counterproductive. Happy cars are toxic to quality of life. When cars are inconvenienced and seemingly free to drive or park, quality of life for a city is powerfully undermined, as communities with such an agenda end up with over-sized parking and roads and intersections, excessive and inattentive car speeds, unlovable building design (because there are no coherent, contextual design regulations), sprawl, light and noise pollution, high air emissions per capita, and unwalkably low density development.

Designing roads and parking for happy cars also induces excessive car dependence (yes, even in Boulder), because oversized, high-speed road and parking lot dimensions make 40-peopletravel by walking, bicycling or transit less safe, desirable, or feasible. Coupled with the excessively low densities that NIMBYs demand, and the enormous amount of space cars consume (17 times more than a person in a chair), Boulder’s roads and parking lots quickly and ironically become rapidly congested. This congestion, caused at least partly by NIMBYism, motivates NIMBYs to scream for even MORE opposition to development and compact design.

Which, of course, causes more road and parking congestion…

Allowing planning board and council to apply random, discretionary, subjective demands on proposed development (rather than a predictable, objective form-based code) plays well with those opposing development, as it means further torture and cost increases for developers, yet does nothing to make buildings more lovable or contextual. Ironically, NIMBY attitudes therefore make a visionary form-based development code (which calls for lovable, contextual building design) less possible, even though adopting a good one would, over time, reduce NIMBY hostility.

Example in this photo: the Boulderado hotel in town center Boulder. The most loved building in all of Boulder has been made either illegal or highly unlikely. Maximum Hotel_Boulderado1-T1building height even in the most urbanized areas of Boulder is now a crazy low 35 feet in the town center (Boulderado is 55 ft). In addition, the building design regulations say almost nothing about creating similar buildings going forward.

By naively concluding that free-flowing car traffic is the path to protecting quality of life, and deciding that the only way to preserve such a nirvana is to stop population growth, Boulder NIMBYs force the City to devote too much time and effort towards development opposition, and too little time and effort toward adopting visionary form-based coding that would deliver a more lovable future.

Instead, Boulder NIMBYs increase the likelihood that development which DOES occur (and it WILL occur, since there are no feasible ways to stop population growth) will be regrettable and unworthy of our affection.

The NIMBYism is therefore self-perpetuating, as it ensures an on-going growth in citizens who oppose development of buildings that are at least partly unlovable due to NIMBY distraction from the important task of creating visionary form-based development codes.

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Stopping Growth: Development Politics in Boulder, Colorado

 

By Dom Nozzi

December 15, 2014

In my humble opinion, it is mostly a waste of time to talk about stopping population growth — particularly in a city — where for legal and other reasons, no American city has deliberately stopped growth.

Ever.

I’m not even sure it makes sense in America, as all cities or regions can benefit from more compactness. Nearly all American cities (such as Boulder) have PLENTY of space to absorb more population, given how much land is wasted or otherwise underused by short-term storage of big metal boxes (that on rare occasions – a few times a day — transport overweight Americans).

When done right, absorbing more population can make nearly all American cities (including Boulder) BETTER.

Yes, some places have seen growth end (or actually lost population) — not by design, but because people are fleeing a downward spiral. And yes, I often make the point in writings and speeches that even in places where population is declining, we are seeing an on-going (growing?) consumption of land. It is very important to remember this, as many no-growth advocates are motivated by a fervent belief that one of the few ways to end land consumption in outlying areas is to end population growth in their town.

Nearly all Americans fail to understand simple economics and transportation principles. I don’t know if we will ever see most citizens understanding such principles. Many Americans fail for example, to understand (or may never admit) that even if they don’t like it, some car trips are more valuable than others.

Americans have also failed to learn from long Soviet bread lines. In that infamous case, the solution to long lines was NOT, as the Soviets thought, to make more free bread. The Carmageddon highwaysolution is to charge people a proper price for the bread. Americans almost all fail to learn from that experience, as we ignore it when we think providing MORE free parking or WIDER free roads will eliminate parking and road congestion. Shamefully, many relatively well-educated Boulder folks don’t understand this simple lesson, and continue to delude themselves into thinking that stopping population growth will keep roads free-flowing (the be-all and end-all of quality of life for too many, when it reality, free-flowing car travel is ruinous for a city).

Many Americans simply dislike cities and prefer to make cars happy rather than people, as best I can tell from comments I’ve seen over the years. Many attack ideas that would deliver better cities and happier people (which is achieved powerfully by making cars less happy). Many, in other words, see with the eyes of a motorist. In part, this means the only acceptable town design such people consider acceptable is low-density suburban. This is unfortunate and tragic, as a large and growing number of us want compact, walkable lifestyles.

By looking at problems with the eyes of a motorist, those who seek to minimize population growth (or density) are joining hands with the sprawl, strip commercial, road-building, and oil industries. I’m sure such people tend not to realize that.

Many Boulder residents continue to believe that transportation is a win-win game. That we can make cars and people happy at the same time.

Nope. Zero-sum, folks…

 

 

 

 

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The Fruits of NIMBYism

By Dom Nozzi

November 25, 2009

NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) hysteria played a destructive role in Gainesville, Florida in the years I worked there as a town planner (1986 to 2007).

The irony is that the NIMBY is convinced, in their zealotry, that their tactics are the tools of salvation, and their repeated failure on many of their campaigns simply instructs them to re-double their efforts to fight an even more vicious battle in the future.

It is a strategy ensuring that the Gainesville area would be locked into a downwardly spiraling future.

Some examples of the fruits of NIMBYism in Gainesville…

The Hogtown Greenway

By waging this ferocious, emotionally angry campaign, the NIMBYs succeeded in changing the city charter to prevent the City from EVER building a paved trail along Hogtown Creek. By doing so, the NIMBYs have guaranteed that the creek will continue its incremental degradation. The trail prohibition amplifies the most insidious enemy of an urban creek: Neglect. Because the paved trail was the only way the creek would allow benign public saintreportpicture3access (and, therefore, on-going, real-time citizen awareness of the condition of the creek), the prohibition of the trail will ensure that the incremental destruction will continue to go unnoticed and therefore unrectified. Every month, new homes, shopping centers, offices, or industrial projects are built close to the creek. Without a public trail, such harmful insults to the creek will remain ignored. The creek will ultimately die a slow death, because the most significant threat it faces is neglect, NOT a public bicycle and pedestrian trail.

Residential Suburban Development

Perhaps more so than any other form of development, NIMBYs turn out to oppose the construction of residential subdivisions. They yell and scream, and frantically try to find ANYTHING that can be used to stop the project — stormwater problems, endangered species, wetlands, large trees, traffic. Ultimately, such desperate tactics almost always fail. All of the energy and resources of the community are directed toward achieving the least likely outcome: prohibition.

As a result, no time or energy is directed, proactively, toward what is REALLY for a better future: Removing travel lanes from over-sized roads (Not that most NIMBYs are concerned about big roads. Nearly all of them LOVE multi-lane “bliss”). Of course, this “road diet” tactic is very long-term and will not likely bear fruit in our lifetime (it will take a long time to reverse the Big Road network we’ve singlemindedly assembled over the course of 50-70 years).

Therefore, we need an interim tactic to bridge ourselves to a sustainable future: Quality, walkable, compact, mixed-use urban design regulations.

By failing to direct any energy toward the establishment of such regulations, and almost always failing to stop a development project, the end result of the NIMBY battles is that we continue to get walloped by disgusting, auto-oriented, sprawling residential misery. Misery that is built all around us every week.

The Greenways/Weiss Project

This project was proposed in the northwest portion of Gainesville. NIMBYs screamed. Elected officials buckled. Project “halted.” Result of the NIMBY war against Weiss? Instead of the mixed use, compact project proposed by the Weiss developers (albeit not great new urbanism, but certainly better than most of what is developed in Gainesville), Gainesville would ultimately see auto-oriented, low-density, single-use, single-family development out there — the kind of horror we see in sprawling areas all over the U.S. Which is ultimately much more ruinous for the financial, ecological, transportation, and social health of this community.

Cell Towers

Another example of the likely fruits of NIMBYism.

Activists devoted an enormous amount of energy trying to prohibit the construction of a tall cell tower near their neighborhood in downtown Gainesville (I share in the horror of such a structure).

It is nearly impossible to prohibit construction of the tower.

Why do we not consider using this crisis to create an opportunity? Why don’t we consider the approach of Palm Beach County? There, the towers are allowed. But they must be attractive, BRICK towers resembling clock towers or church spires. The towers could (through regulation, NOT prohibition) be an attractive addition to the ambience of the neighborhood. Or, co-location can be required on existing tall structures. Instead, the NIMBYs will fight for prohibition. And almost always, they will lose.

Result: ugly towers will go up.

Capstone Project

Here, a walkable, compact, infill residential project was proposed at the southwest corner of Northeast Park in Gainesville. The project, in all likelihood, would have delivered healthier nearby retail (retail would be a short, walkable distance away, which would provide more affordable housing, since households would not need to own as many cars), an improvement of values and the condition of a neighborhood that has been in an impoverished decline for several decades, improved transportation conditions for the community, increased amenities for the park, brought healthy tax revenues to the city, and diverted pressures to live in sprawlsville.

NIMBYs screamed. Elected officials buckled. Project “halted” by commissioners who had paid lip service to precisely this kind of infill project for years. Message to future developers: “Don’t build infill projects in the city. Build in sprawlsville. There you will find a lot less pain, heartache, cost, and anger…”

Fate of that portion of the neighborhood: Continued low-density and low-income downward spiral.

Elections

NIMBY battalions played a role in election losses in Gainesville. Many NIMBYs became enraged by elected officials who did not fight to the death to PROHIBIT their pet evil project. A comment I heard from a Gainesville environmental NIMBY: “Newport and Hutch (progressive, green conservationists who have achieved and fought for many environmental causes for decades) are NOT environmentalists!!!!” Many NIMBYs ended up splitting the green vote by voting for fringe NIMBY candidates. Many NIMBYs “stayed home” (didn’t vote) because they could not stomach the thought of voting for “anti-environmental” Newport or Hutch.

Many NIMBYs failed to campaign hard to get Newport, Hutch, or Barrow elected.

These sorts of NIMBY electoral actions resulted in Gainesville and Alachua County voters electing several right-wing candidates that are strongly opposed to environmental conservation.

These NIMBY actions resulted in the election of a mayor for Gainesville who was disastrous for Gainesville’s environmentalists. At a time when Gainesville needed elected officials to possess wise leadership and courage to wage a war against auto-dependent sprawl, Gainesville elected “Dr. No” — a mayor who was merely an empty vessel. Someone who was more than willing to do the bidding of the enraged-citizens-of-the-week. A mayor with a suburban, populist, no-growth agenda. A man who cares little about promoting transit. A guy who loves multi-lane roads and big parking lots. A guy who despises higher density infill development and mixed use. A man who has no agenda except to say “no” to any and all proposals objected to by hysterical NIMBYs.

Given all of the above, it is increasingly clear that Gainesville needs to change its name. Nimbyville. Much more accurate about the Gainesville character.

Ultimately and ironically, NIMBY battles will deliver Gainesville a future of big roads, big parking lots, accelerated loss of important natural areas, higher taxes, more auto dependence, and endless urban sprawl.

How often did such NIMBYism result in the acceleration toward what south Florida, southern California, Atlanta, and Houston have become?

Too many fail to understand that their actions ENSURE that our future will be ruinous sprawl. We have met the enemy. He/she is NOT a “pseudo-environmentalist” elected official, as defined by NIMBYs. He/she is NOT a compact, infill developer. He/she is NOT an evil corporate polluter.

He/she is us…

 

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Is Boulder CO Too Crowded?

By Dom Nozzi

One of the most long-standing, vigorous debates in Boulder, Colorado is the question of whether Boulder is too dense or has too many people.

It’s all a matter of perspective, actually.

The first thing to understand is that cars consume an ENORMOUS amount of space. On average, a person in a car takes up as much space as 17 people in chairs. When the car moves, it takes up 100 times as much space.

40-people

 

The result, naturally, is that even without a lot of other people around, a motorist regularly feels that the city is too crowded or the roads are too congested or there is not enough parking. It seems like there are slow-pokes in their own metal boxes clogging things up everywhere.

 

As a result, even with relatively large, efficient-for-cars roads, motorists are often frustrated by delays.

Despite Boulder’s reputation, a large majority of us are required to make most or all trips by car, which means that ANY city projects to slow down cars to safe speeds is met with extreme hostility by the many frustrated people in huge metal boxes. Designs that deliver enormous benefits in cities around the nation are met with outrage in Boulder by motorists who are already sick and tired of existing delays: No to traffic calming! No to right-sizing!

Another result is that there is a near consensus in Boulder that development and population growth must be stopped! If we cannot do that, we must minimize residential densities! The objective, of course, is to keep additional cars from delaying us on roads and parking lots.

Tragically, however, this obsessive objection to new growth in Boulder has unfortunate consequences – particularly for the Boulder Town Center. Cities form because they promote an exchange of ideas, services, products, friendship, and love. To have a healthy amount of exchange, then, a town center needs slower speeds and compact clustering (what economists call “agglomeration economies”).

A compact, slower speed community is a community that allows a much larger number of us to safely and happily walk, bicycle or use transit.

Given this, the car becomes the enemy of the city, because cars deliver very high speeds and low-density dispersal – both of which are toxic to a town center. Because such a large number of us are obligated to travel by car, there is a great deal of political pressure to damage the city even more. We end up with more dispersal, higher speeds, more air emissions and noise pollution, more crashes, more asphalt, more loss of small businesses (which are replaced by national chains), and isolation from our fellow citizens. All of these things undermine exchange, which are the lifeblood of a city.

By being delayed so often in our cars, most of us understandably confuse easy car travel and parking with quality of life. Yet on the contrary, ease of car travel — because cars are so large and fast and isolating — is the death knell for quality of life (and small-town ambience).

Finally, obsessing about stopping development and minimizing density distracts us from a very important quality of life task: Seeing that we craft land development regulations that will result in lovable, quality buildings. By being distracted, Boulder’s design regulations have not been crafted to do that regularly.

Hopefully, adopting form-based codes – which pay a lot more attention to building design and placement than conventional zoning codes — will start to change that.

 

 

 

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The Frustration Syndrome

By Dom Nozzi

Cars consume a huge amount of space. Since nearly all of us for the past century have driven such large metal boxes for nearly all of our trips, we lose sight of the fact that our form of transportation takes up so much space.

A person in a car, on average, takes up as much space as 17 people in chairs. When a car is moving, it takes up 100 times as much space.

Because our cars take up so much real estate and are driven so often, it is inevitable that multiple times each day, we get extremely frustrated by being stopped or slowed down in traffic. In a huge metal box that needs more space than a city can provide without destroying itself, we quickly conclude the following: “THAT MORON IS DRIVING TOO SLOW!!” “GROWTH IS OUT OF CONTROL!!” “DENSITY IS CAUSING TOO MUCH CROWDING!!” “BUILDINGS ARE TOO TALL!!”

Our blood pressure rises and our stress and rage go through the roof.

Therefore, for 100 years, there has been enormous political pressure to widen roads and intersections. And to vastly expand the sea of asphalt parking lots we have. Anything to reduce the enraging frustration!Road-Rage_1689375c

We also have developed a bi-partisan political consensus that we must stop population growth in our town. If we cannot do that, we must slow it as much as possible. Or minimize densities and building heights. Our quest, again, is to keep our roads and parking lots from being crowded by even MORE cars.

We understandably (yet ruinously) end up confusing happy car travel (“free flowing traffic”) and easy parking with quality of life. Ruinous because the quest for happy cars gives us an asphalt mess. Ugly highways. Danger for children and seniors. Unaffordability. Suburban sprawl. Noise pollution. Loss of ecosystems. Road rage.

Since it is embarrassing for the political left to point out that we want to stop growth to make it easier to drive a car, we here in Boulder instead point to more admirable reasons: “We are saving the environment” (it is an article of faith amongst environmentalists that overpopulation is our biggest global threat). “We are protecting views of the flatirons.” “We are making it more possible and affordable for low-income people who cannot afford to live in Boulder to commute to Boulder jobs.”

The right wing also benefits. Not only do they seek to protect Lexus car travel. They also are able to keep out “undesirable” people by successfully pushing for such tactics as “snob zoning.” Such zoning requires very large residential lot sizes, large home sizes, very low densities, very low occupancy limits for unrelated adults, and low building heights. Indeed, in my view, no-growth efforts in Boulder are fundamentally and ironically a right-wing effort.

The above helps explain why Boulder has had bi-partisan support for a no-growth agenda since the 1960s.

The political left and right are enraged by the frustration of constantly being slowed down in their huge metal boxes (even environmental lefties are almost all motorists).

And the political left is able to claim they are saving Bambi or helping poor people or saving views of the flatirons, rather than their real agenda of easy driving and easy parking.

The Frustration Syndrome allows us to understand why even in progressive, pro-bike, pro-environment Boulder, there was FURIOUS opposition to narrowing Folsom Street. “You are going to deliberately slow down my car travel?? Are you kidding me??” Never mind that narrowing Folsom is a powerful and affordable way to dramatically reduce car crashes, improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, reduce noise pollution, improve affordability, reduce regional car trips, and reduce car emissions.

This also helps explain two referendums Boulder voted on in 2015: Growth Shall Pay Its Own Way, and Neighborhood Right to Vote. Both allege to “protect our quality of life.” It turns out that neither did anything to protect our quality of life.

Oops.

Instead, they are no growth efforts. A way to reduce the frustration of car travel by minimizing the number of cars in Boulder.

Which, too many of us wrongly believe, is a way to improve our quality of life.

Boulder does not have too many people. Boulder has too many people in cars.

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