Jacob’s Golden Update: February 20, 2019
1. A Modest Proposal for Tackling Golden's Redevelopment Challenges
2. Council Updates Sustainability Goals
3. City Council Considers Fate of Astor House
4. Golden Pushes Back Against RTD Proposal to Cut Light Rail Service
5. Open Space and Housing Affordability
6. City Council Awards City Manager $24,500 Raise
1. A Modest Proposal for Tackling Golden's Redevelopment Challenges
For many of us living in Golden, it's not news to point out the growing gap between our community vision and what's actually happening on the ground. A decade or so ago, we went through an extensive process to create Golden Vision 2030, and since then we have used that vision to inform the new neighborhood plans we started adopting around town and to inform a thorough update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Between all of those documents, we detailed a vision for Golden that acknowledged and even welcomed change while still preserving the character of our downtown and other neighborhoods.
Yet despite all of that work, and despite these many documents that are supposed to ensure that development and redevelopment are compatible, many of the projects that have appeared in recent years are genuinely at odds with the scale and character of our individual neighborhoods and our community.
In my view, the issue here is straightforward. If there's a gap between our community vision and the reality on the ground, City Council's job is to fix the city code so that we steer back toward our vision instead of away from it. Every time we end up with a development that doesn't fit in Golden – due to architecture, size, or tall canyon-like walls up near the property line – City Council's first response should be to ask what went wrong and how do we fix the code to prevent it happening again. And their second response should be to actually adopt those code changes.
This isn’t about City Council’s commitment to Golden. They work hard, take their roles seriously, and make what they believe to be the best decisions for their constituents and for the community. And reasonable people can disagree about the right direction for Golden or the appropriate role for Council in achieving that vision. But there is a great deal of frustration about this across much of Golden, and it seems to be growing with every passing year. Meanwhile, we haven’t seen much in the way of code updates and the incompatible projects keep happening. This is all the more frustrating because most of the neighborhood plans made specific code recommendations, most of which remain unaddressed.
Developers will build to whatever parameters we give them. If our code allows massive square-roofed boxes pushed up close to the property line in our older neighborhoods, that's what they'll do. If we change the rules so that their projects have to be more compatible with existing neighborhood character, they'll do that instead. I support redevelopment when done well, but City Council and staff's job is to ensure that it advances the vision of our residents, instead of someone else's.
Zoning and site development code is complex, and there are limits on what Council can do, but there is a lot they can and need to do if we are going to protect our community’s character. I encourage Council to bring the sense of importance and urgency to this challenge that I think so many across town believe it requires.
To that end, I support City Council immediately adopting a moratorium on major construction (including all scrapes, rebuilds, and renovations that add significant square footage). This pause on major projects should last however long Council needs - perhaps six months or nine months? - to expeditiously adopt the code changes that will steer the reality on the ground back toward our community vision.
I strongly encourage you to weigh in with City Council whatever your views on this are. If I'm wrong, and it's just a handful of people whose hope is to prevent any additional redevelopment, it's important for Council to know this (and if I'm wrong in this way, I would welcome having a better sense of our community's sentiment). If it's accurate to say that many folks across town are frustrated about how development is occurring, it's critical for Council to know that also.
What you can do:
1) Send an email to City Council expressing your views (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2) Submit your thoughts on the Guiding Golden survey.
3) Attend the February 28 City Council meeting and express your views during the public comment period, or simply attend to learn more.
2. Council Updates Golden's Sustainability Goals
There are some things I think Council is getting right, and their update of Golden's sustainability goals last week is one of them. Kudos to Council and to the Sustainability Advisory Board for the effort they put into crafting a thoughtful, forward-looking revision. The updated goals include achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2030, aligning greenhouse gas emissions reductions with the Paris Accord by 2050, and a 40% reduction in our landfill waste by 2030. You can see the entire list on the resolution. These are both ambitious and achievable, and in addition to significantly reducing carbon pollution the results will also include Golden families and businesses saving money, breathing less of the air pollution that puts ozone and other pollutants at dangerous levels in our valley, and making our electric grid more resilient to outages and other disruptions.
2. City Council Considers Fate of Astor House
Last autumn the city began soliciting proposals for the future of this iconic and historic building in downtown Golden. A City Council subcommittee is reviewing the five submitted proposals and I imagine will make a recommendation to the full Council on next steps. The city hasn't made the proposals public but the Golden Transcript acquired them by filing a Colorado Open Records Act request ("Determining the future of Astor House underway," Golden Transcript 2/15/19 - you may need a subscription to access this). The proposals include turning the building into law offices, private office suites, food vendors, a hostel, and a "Museum of Interpretation." If you've got opinions on this, I'd suggest you send City Council an email (email@example.com) and perhaps show up at the March 21 study session, which is currently slated to include a discussion on this topic.
H/t to Barb Warden for calling this out (and if you don't receive Barb's terrific 'What's happening in Golden today?' daily emails I strongly recommend them).
3. Golden Pushes Back Against RTD Proposal to Cut Light Rail Service
RTD has proposed a series of changes to Golden’s light rail service, including cutting service on Saturdays from every 15 to every 30 minutes and placing the Golden station in a different fare zone than Red Rocks, meaning that you’ll pay $5.25 instead of $3 to ride. RTD handicapped Golden’s light rail service from the beginning, limiting service frequency and building only one line instead of two. That it takes as long as it does from the Golden station to downtown doesn’t help, either, and now RTD wants to make the light rail line an even less appealing option. Golden is opposing these changes. You can learn more about the proposed service changes and share your thoughts with RTD (firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. Open Space and Housing Affordability
There are a number of groups having conversations about bringing an initiative to the ballot in November to support our open space and housing affordability ambitions. Despite the ongoing encroachment of Denver’s sprawl, protecting a greenbelt buffer on the city’s borders hasn’t been much of a priority. And despite a lot of effort on housing affordability from the city, mostly what we have is a small handful of projects. These are useful, but they haven’t done much to make it possible for the people who serve our community in less than-lucrative careers - our teachers, police officers, streets department crews, and others - to afford to live here if they wish. For me these two issues are linked. Protecting as much as we can of the undeveloped greenbelt buffer around Golden will help us protect our quality of life, but can also have impacts on housing affordability efforts. They both matter, in my view, and to do a good job on either will require political will and a source of funding. The lodging tax that then-Councilor Bill Fisher proposed years ago seems to be getting the most attention lately. I’ve been keep tracking of folks that have told me they’d like to be involved, and I’m happy to include anyone else in that if you let me know.
5. City Council Awards City Manager $24,500 Raise
City Council last week awarded the city manager a 13.7% raise, amounting to $24,500 and bringing his salary up to $203,000. The proposal passed unanimously.