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Community Benefit Project

Community Benefit Phase II Update

On April 14, 2020, City Council discussed Phase II of the Community Benefit Project. Phase II includes the following:

  • An exploration of options beyond permanently affordable housing (included in Phase I in 2019) for projects requesting additional height, floor area or density (generally in a 4th or 5th story above zoning height limits, but no taller than the city limit of 55’). Options presented included:

    • Below-market-rate commercial space
    • Space for the arts and human services
    • Net-zero buildings
  • Updates to simplify and better align Site Review criteria with city goals

City Council generally supported this approach to Phase II. Here are some key takeaways from the meeting:

  • Council questioned moving forward with Community Benefit analysis during the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects it is having on the city’s economy.
  • Council emphasized that Phase II should focus on below-market-rate commercial space instead of net-zero building options.
  • Council showed support for continuing with Site Review criteria updates while potentially considering Community Benefit options at a later date.
  • Based on the current crisis’s impact on city resources and economic conditions, council indicated that it would be open to shifting the project’s timeline into 2021.

Staff anticipates returning to council for more direction in the third quarter of 2020.

View the April 14 memo to City Council.


Community Benefit Phase I

Oct. 29, 2019: City Council adopted Ordinance 8359 creating a new community benefits program in the form of new site review criteria related to height modifications. The criteria mandate additional permanently affordable housing requirements for proposals that request to build floor area above a zoning district height limit up to 55-feet in any fourth or fifth story. Such requests to build above the zoning district height limits will continue to require Planning Board review and decision at a public hearing. Appendix J, the map that specifies where height modifications may be requested will be kept in effect, but was updated by council to include the Alpine-Balsam Area Plan area and the Residential High – 3 (RH-3) zoning district.

This was a prioritized code change requested by City Council and termed the Phase I Community Benefit Project. Phase II will explore additional community benefit options beyond permanently affordable housing and revamped Site Review criteria into the 2020 timeframe. 

The ordinance went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Why is the city undertaking this project?

A community benefits program has been discussed as one tool to ensure that new growth and development contribute positively to Boulderites’ quality of life. While higher quality of development is often attained through the Site Review process, in recent years community sentiment has expressed that more specific community benefits should be required in exchange for additional height, intensity or density.

What is the Community Benefit Project?

Community benefit programs typically include a suite of regulations and incentives that tie specific community benefits to requests for additional development rights (like building height, floor area and residential density). These programs identify the specific amount and type of community benefit required with specific development requests.

For example, some properties in Boulder are eligible to request a “Height Modification” to allow an additional one or two stories (up to 55 feet) when the zoning only allows three stories. Boulder’s Community Benefit Project would provide a menu of options – like affordable housing, affordable commercial space, community gathering space and public art – to be provided as part of the project. The specific amount of required benefits would be proportional to the bonus amount requested.



How can I get involved?

Stay informed of all things planning related by signing up for the monthly Planning & Development Services Department newsletter at the bottom of this page.

Please contact Phil Kleisler ([email protected]) to be placed on an email list specific to this project.      

Project Contacts:

Karl Guiler ([email protected], 303-441-4236)

Phil Kleisler ([email protected], 303-441-4497)


Purpose Statement

Identify new opportunities for attaining community benefit through development review projects or zoning changes that propose additional height or intensity by updating the Site Review criteria (and potentially other parts of the code) to be more attuned to city goals and increase the level of predictability in projects consistent with the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan (BVCP) policies below:


1.11 Enhanced Community Benefit

For land use or zoning district changes that result in increases in the density or intensity of development beyond what is permitted by the underlying zoning or for added height that increases intensity, the city will develop regulations and incentives so that the new development provides benefits to the community beyond those otherwise required by the underlying zoning. Any incentives are intended to address the community economic, social and environmental objectives of the comprehensive plan. Community objectives include without limitation affordable housing, affordable commercial space, spaces for the arts, community gathering space, public art, land for parks, open space, environmental protection or restoration, outdoor spaces and other identified social needs and services. Community objectives also may be identified through other planning or policymaking efforts of the city.


2.35 Building Height

The city will review and update site review regulations to provide clear guidance on height and intensity of land uses and to address relationship of building height to aesthetics and view protection. The city will consider additional height (up to the City Charter 55 -foot height limit) as an incentive in exchange for community benefits that further other community objectives such as the provision of permanently affordable housing (as described in Policy 1.11).


7.11 Permanently Affordable Housing for Additional Intensity

The city will develop regulations and policies to ensure that when additional intensity is provided through changes to zoning, a larger proportion of the additional development potential for the residential use will be permanently affordable housing for low, moderate and middle-income households.




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