The Boulder Opportunity Zone is part of a federal program to provide tax benefits to real estate investors and developers. The nationwide program was launched under the Trump administration with the stated goal of helping distressed communities. In reality, it is primarily helping make the extremely rich even richer, including the Trump and Kushner families. The New York Times covered this story recently: “How a Trump Tax Break to Help Poor Communities Became a Windfall for the Rich” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/31/business/tax-opportunity-zones.html.
The Boulder Opportunity Zone is a 2.5 square mile area stretching from 28th Street to 55th Street and from the Diagonal Hwy to Arapahoe Avenue. You can view the map here, as well as additional data: https://bouldercolorado.gov/business/opportunity-zone-program
Amazingly, this tract, which qualified because of the relatively low income of its residents, is home to Google, the 29th Street Mall and Wholefoods. This area was never in need of redevelopment.
The decision to submit this tract for approval by the Governor’s office was made by the City Manager, at the encouragement of the Chamber of Commerce, in March 2018. City Council was officially notified only after the fact. There was never a vote to approve this massive tax giveaway, a decision that puts thousands of people and businesses at high risk of displacement.
In December 2018, City Council passed a moratorium on development in the Opportunity Zone
in order to give city staff time to come up with proposals for how to prevent the worst consequences of this new program. However, the most recent proposal was entirely focused on rezoning and did not address the problem of small business dislocation. It also failed to come up with a long-term solution to prevent demolition of the apartment buildings other than extending the moratorium due to expire in June 2020, turning it into a ban, which may or may not be possible.
Solutions to the current problem range from purchasing the existing apartment buildings to significantly raising Linkage, Impact and Affordable Inclusionary Housing fees. Counteracting a program of this magnitude involves consulting with a variety of financial and legal experts. The work has not been done.
I live with my family in a rented apartment in the Opportunity Zone. My original motivation for running for Council is to look out for the thousands of residents and small businesses who are at high risk of being pushed out of Boulder. These include many of the workshops and mechanics that you almost certainly visit.