Civil rights

Open Space, CU South and civil rights: a first step towards “Just Sustainability” in Boulder


Dear Council candidates,

Thank you for having had the courage and tenacity to present yourself to Boulder City Council. The vast majority of you have received approval from one of two political campaign committee blocks, the “environmental” block made up of PLAN-Boulder and Forward Boulder, and the “Justice and Sustainability” block which includes groups like the Sierra Club and Boulder Progressives. . As a longtime black resident of Boulder, I ask: Why would you want to sue and accept the approval of PLAN-Boulder?

I have watched the fierce public debate over CU’s plans for its South Boulder property, which include building up to 1,100 badly needed affordable housing units. But I think most people don’t understand that it’s not just an environmental issue. It is also a matter of racial and social equity that requires equitable planning.

The American Planning Association describes equitable planning projects as those that pursue “the triple bottom line of the environment, equity, and the economy.” This political three-legged stool is the very foundation of the concept of sustainability. Unfortunately, many Boulderites limit their definition of good policy primarily to impacts on land and animals and, in CU South’s case in particular, flooding.

Internationally renowned urban planning professor Julian Agyeman seeks to change this paradigm by asking activists and politicians to seek policy outcomes that achieve just sustainability. This frame adds two additional legs to the Sustainability three-legged stool: Geographic equity and Procedural fairness.

This forces us to extend our concept of “community” beyond the borders of Boulder. Such an approach would seem reasonable if people really cared about the environment and President Biden’s liberal agenda, including fair housing.

A United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) webpage indicates that during its first days in office, the Biden administration “stated that the positive promotion of the fair housing provision in the Housing Act fair housing “. . . is not just a mandate to refrain from discrimination, but a mandate to take action that reverses historical patterns of segregation and other types of discrimination and that provide access to opportunities long denied.

Federal law, which was originally part of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, requires the city “to do more than just not discriminate; they must take meaningful steps to overcome segregation patterns and foster inclusive communities. ” In addition, Boulder must “determine who does not have access to opportunities and remedy any inequities between protected class groups” and “promote integration and reduce segregation”. This report is called “Barriers to Fair Housing Analysis”.

The 2015 Boulder Report mentions PLAN-Boulder as “a powerful citizen lobby interested in land preservation” and that “over 45,000 acres within the city have been preserved as open space.” But, he also specifies that: “the two major implications ” of the open spaces program “on housing choice have been a decrease in affordability and housing choice due to the decrease in available land and so-called leapfrog developmentin which commuters must travel further – through the open space of other communities – to access jobs and services in Boulder. The development of frog jumping adds transportation costs for those who have to commute. An estimated 59,000 people travel to Boulder for work. According to a robust 2014 housing choice survey, about half of commuters would choose to live in Boulder.

In addition, the draft racial equity plan recently adopted by the City of Boulder states that “Here are some ways in which municipal government has reinforced and increased racial inequality:[t] Restrictions. . . The Green Belt – Purchasing the open space around Boulder for the purpose of nature conservation creates restricted movement in and out of Boulder and increases the cost of housing due to the limited number of plots residential ‘, as well as Zoning ”and Gentrification. . . preserve natural landscapes, without replacing housing. . . “

It is an open admission that the preservation of “open space” and other restrictions negatively affect racial equity (the language was softened in the final version).

The policies, procedures and practices that the Save South Boulder (SSB) Campaign and PLAN-Boulder insist on solely in the name of protecting the environment are not sustainable and they are unfair. In a city that a PLAN-Boulder co-chair recently called a “liberal stronghold,” shouldn’t racial and social equity be factored into land use planning policy?

CU South will take hundreds of cars off the road, provide affordable housing, and do so in a socially just manner by enabling a more diverse faculty and staff to teach a more diverse student body. This will lead to higher levels of regional geographic fairness and will do so in a procedurally fair manner. Building on vacant land (aka open space) surrounding our city would do the same. People need places to live close to where they work and learn, not just places to walk their dogs and play Frisbee golf.

Please oppose the socially and racially socially and racially excluded housing policy initiatives of SSB and PLAN-Boulder on Southern CU and City Lands. If SSB and PLAN-Boulder really cared about sustainability, and not just environmentalism, they would seek more balanced solutions to CU South and the myriad of other land use issues in Boulder.

A longtime resident of Black Boulder gave an interview to Boulder Weekly in an article titled “Black in Boulder: Boulder racism through the eyes of people of color”. She said: “I think in general the people of Boulder pride themselves on being very liberal, very progressive. In addition to that, they are very well off overall. I think the idea of ​​liberalism sometimes blinds to the notion of where people in that community contribute to the perpetuation of white privilege or white supremacy, even if they are not of one mind or heart. person who thinks these other people are inferior. “

I couldn’t agree more.

Tim Thomas / Boulder

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Weekly Boulder.