Some Thoughts on the Necessity of Transparency

April 15, 2020

The Code Rewrite

With all that’s happening in the world, it’s easy to lose track of some of the ongoing work of the City. In fact, it would be logical to assume that some projects would be frozen in time, waiting until life gets back to normal and public meetings are once again possible.

For the past couple of years, a growing number of citizens have expressed dismay about some of the new projects being built around town. Small, single family homes have been replaced by much larger (and much more expensive) multi-family homes. Developers are starting construction with approval for senior housing, then “trading in” their permits so their projects are no longer restricted to seniors-only tenants. New construction is invariably taller than what it replaces, with a much bigger footprint. Mountain views are being replaced by wall views. New construction comes with inadequate parking, so on-street parking becomes more congested and more competitive.

Citizens protested at public meetings, citing Vision 2030 and their Neighborhood Plans, and saying that the new projects are not compatible with existing neighborhoods. After many painful and fruitless meetings, they learned that the Vision and the Neighborhood Plans have no bearing on what developers are allowed to build–only the terms outlined in our Municipal Code are considered when approving a project.

And then there was the “boarding house.” Developers and planners have never liked Golden’s citizen-initiated 1% growth limit. With the boarding house, they found the perfect loophole that allowed a builder to construct 170 new apartments without being constrained by the 1% limit. The key to that? The apartments will have “kitchenettes” rather than “kitchens.” The difference? No stove/oven units. The apartments will have sinks and refrigerators and any number of stand-alone appliances (toaster ovens, microwaves, etc.), but the stove/oven units will be placed in a shared location for use by all tenants. With no stove/oven, the individual apartments are not subject to the growth limit.

The Planning Department proposed a complete rewrite of the code that dictates what can built in our various zones. The initial reasons given for the rewrite were that the current code was too difficult to use and it lacked pictures. Over time, the Planning staff began to say that the code lacked flexibility and didn’t promote development of affordable housing options. A rewrite of the code could fix those “problems.”

Projects by One of Our Code Rewrite Consultants – Click to enlarge

Code Audit Team
To people who liked Golden’s neighborhoods as they are–houses with yards–the term “code rewrite” began to raise red flags. The team that the City hired to review our code raised more flags–one of the consultants reviewing our code has redeveloped properties in Golden. In fact–he has one currently for sale, on Ford Street. I met him there recently, when I toured the property during an open house. That project replaced two small houses with four large townhouses.

Code Audit Reviewers
The Planning staff then selected a group to review the initial code audit. The review group includes the developer who plans to build the boarding house (and is currently building the apartments across from Safeway and the Briarwood project).

Citizens are understandably concerned about the work this group is doing. They feel that the resulting rewrite will have a high-density bias. If ever there was a process that should be conducted in public, it is this one.

The consultants presented their initial report to the reviewers last week. I submitted an Open Records Request, asking for a recording of the meeting and a copy of the draft report. I received a response from the Planning Manager yesterday, saying he didn’t have to provide either the recording or the draft report. He said that neither the meeting nor the report were public records, and he wasn’t required to provide either one.

If Golden’s building codes are to be re-written, the project should be done with the maximum amount of public input possible. The secrecy accompanying this process is distinctly disconcerting.

Golden Eye Candy – Community Garden – Click to enlarge

Coronavirus Update

Public Health References
CDC * Colorado * Jefferson County * City of Golden

Jefferson County’s case count page says that as of 3PM yesterday, there were 826 (up from 803) cases in Jefferson County. There have been 31 deaths (up from 30) and 206 are hospitalized (up from 198). There are 77 known cases in Golden (up from 73).

The State-Wide Stay-at-Home Order is in effect through April 26, 2020. Everyone is asked to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth when leaving the house. City and County fire restrictions are in place. Clear Creek is closed to all recreational activities.

Virtual Golden

History Museum
Building Colorado City Profile: Leadville

Community Center
8-8:55AM Virtual Flow Yoga
9-10AM Virtual Power Training
5:30-6:10PM Virtual Core Conditioning

10:15-11:15AM Let’s Dance for Toddlers

4PM DDA Virtual Meeting to consider COVID-19 Relief Loans for Golden Businesses
6PM Coronavirus Community Briefing with the Mayor and City Manager

3-5PM Hard Times Writing Workshop – Call 303-502-5189 to participate.

Golden History Moment

The April 15, 1965 Colorado Transcript reported that Judy Collins would be singing at the Colorado School of Mines. Tickets were $2 each. Collins went on to much bigger things, with Both Sides Now reaching the top 10 on the Billboards chart in 1967.