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‘Denser in certain areas:’ Inside Boise’s plan for a zoning code rewrite

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The multi-year process to rebuild Boise’s zoning code from the ground started up again recently.

Although Boise went through several updates to its comprehensive plans in the past sixty years, the underlying legal code determining what types of development the city allows where remains the same since adoption in the 1960s. City officials say the goal in rebuilding the code is to make it more usable and modern, as well as pave the way for more mixed-use development throughout the city as it grows. 

Andrea Tuning, a planner with the City of Boise, said the city wants to create a code fostering neighborhoods where residents live closer to their jobs or other services. 

“Really our goal is to place people next to their jobs, their goods, their services and the places they want to be,” she said. “When we do mixed-use development oftentimes that allows those goods and services to be near people so they’re not having to travel long distances, they have access to parks and open spaces and they have choices on how to get to where they’re going.”

[Deep Dive: Boise to revamp zoning code. What it means and how the city could change]

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Allowing more dense development in an entire city or eliminating single-family zoning entirely, called “upzoning,” has been a popular move in rapidly growing cities across the country to increase housing stock in an effort to keep prices down. The city looked at a proposal under former Mayor Dave Bieter to allow more density in some single-family residential zones, but it never came to fruition. 

Tuning said the city hopes for more dense development in certain areas, but they do not plane for a blanket increase in density city-wide. 

“It could make the city denser in certain areas, but my goal is to really create choices for people and when I say choices I want people to have a choice on where they live, how they commute, where they work and the size and type of housing product they live in for all stages of life,” Tuning said.

Shakeups between mayors

To update the code, Bieter hired outside consultant Clarion Associates for the revamp, and McLean continued the contract with the company. The city expects the entire process to take between two and three years.

The process to update the code saw a shake-up in the transition between Bieter and McLean. When Bieter began the process, he named a 14 member advisory committee without an application process. Upon election, McLean decided to disband the first committee, open a public application process, and name 20 new members she said better represented the community to inform the zoning rewrite. 

Darren Fluke, a senior member of Boise’s planning and development department who headed up the zoning code rewrite, resigned earlier this year. City officials would not say whether Fluke resigned on his own or if someone asked him to step down.

McLean’s new committee had over 80 applicants, and the city only selected 20. When asked to see the materials for everyone who applied, the city denied the request under the personnel matters exemption in Idaho Public Record law. Instead, the city would only release the names of applicants and short bios for each of the 20 people who were selected over two weeks after the initial request. 

Who is on the new committee?

City officials said McLean’s goal in remaking the committee was to have it be more representative of the city with respect to gender, viewpoints on planning and geographic location of their residence in Boise. 

“Everybody has different experiences they are going to bring to the table,” Tuning said. “This is the group we’re hoping we will be able to use as our sounding board. We want them to be an ambassador and a conduit of information that they’re sharing with us and they’re sharing with their neighbors as well.”

As requested by several readers, here is more information on committee members:

  • Drew Alexander – Capital Asset and Development Manager for Boise State University 
  • Ester Ceja – Civil rights practitioner with the Idaho Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprises program 
  • Bryon Folwell – Architect, preservationist and husband to McLean’s campaign manager, Melanie Folwell 
  • Roberta D’Amico – Retired National Park Service employee 
  • Richard Llewllyn – President of the Northwest Neighborhood Association and member of the first committee 
  • Ian McLaughlin – Architect 
  • Angela Michaels – Licensed professional engineer
  • Shellan Rodriguez – Prior Capital City Development Corporation employee, and current owner of a small affordable housing consulting firm 
  • Chris VanderStouwe – Linguistic anthropologist and professor at Boise State University
  • Nicole Windsor – President of the West Downtown Neighborhood Association 
  • Damon Woods – Architecture professor at University of Idaho’s Integrated Design Lab 
  • Benjamin Zamzow – COO of real estate development company Rocky Mountain Companies 
  • Marisa Stevens Keith – Social worker and President of Southwest Ada County Alliance Neighborhood Association 
  • Daniel Malarkey – Senior fellow at sustainability-focused think tank Sightline Institute 
  • Patrick Spoutz – Pharmacists with Veterans Affairs Health Administration, member of pro-density group Afford Boise 
  • Jessica Aguilar – Vice President for Corporate Real Estate and Construction for D.L. Evans Bank and member of the Boise Design Review Committee 
  • Andry Erstad – Architect and former Design Review Committee member 
  • Frances Fujii – Co-founder of CEO2, a professional development firm 
  • Brad Nielsen – Structural engineer 
  • Hilary Vaughn – Land use attorney

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Margaret Carmel
Margaret is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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