This week’s topic: Boulder City Council has imposed a temporary ban on new ground-floor banks on Pearl Street downtown. Your thoughts?


In the agenda packet for this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting, staff stated that the nine blocks of Pearl Street between 9th and 18th have “long been the heart of Boulder” and that in order “to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the city” that council needed to take EMERGENCY(!) action.

Egads, what were they going to do? Was City Council finally going to do something to help eliminate the lack of adequate shelter for the homeless that hang out day and night on the Pearl Street Mall? Were they going to solve the problem of overnight camping in City Park? Were they going to clean up the growing piles of trash and human feces spread up and down Boulder Creek? The hopes of the citizenry were on edge as they waited for their appointed leaders to announce their plan of action to save the “heart of the city.”

And then there it was. By the slimmest of margins, voting 5 to 4, council drew a line in the sand. No more banks on the first floor on Pearl Street. Yes, in spite of the fact that there are nearly 100 retail stores and over 60 bars/restaurants/coffee shops in these nine blocks, City Council had determined that four, soon to be five, banks were on the verge of creating a Pearl Street Armageddon. Rest easy tonight fellow citizens. Your beloved city has been saved.

Chuck Wibby,


Boulder has a vibrant downtown. The diverse shopping and dining options draw visitors from all over the world. The money visitors and residents spend generates sales tax revenues that fund amenities like open space and arts. These attractions then lure more visitors. It’s a virtuous cycle. It doesn’t happen by accident.

All across America, city and town centers have died. Their downtowns lost business to suburban malls and big-box stores like Walmart. They didn’t implement policies that supported economic vitality. With the decay of their centers, towns lose their sense of community and connection. Main streets lined with boarded-up restaurants and empty retail spaces provide no places for people to come together and little entrepreneurial opportunity. Citizens are disconnected and reluctant to invest in their downtowns. This is a vicious cycle. It happens when there is a failure of leadership.

Our city leaders have consistently taken steps to maintain a healthy and successful community. We preserved open space, created the pedestrian mall and pushed back on giant big-box retailers. Efforts to revitalize the Hill area are underway right now.

A balance of chain stores, restaurants, financial services and unique independent retailers has been part of the magic of Pearl Street. There is nothing wrong with banks, but they don’t generate city sales tax and they don’t draw many people to downtown. It’s prudent to make sure their proliferation doesn’t displace other diverse types of business.

Judy Amabile,


Lions, and tigers, and BANKS! Oh my!

Boulder law requires that council can change a zoning ordinance only upon the recommendation of the planning board, following a duly noticed public hearing. On Tuesday, council “suspended” this requirement and passed on first reading an ordinance that banned banks from central Pearl Street — without consulting the planning board, notifying the affected public or involving stakeholders at all. Sound familiar?

I haven’t decided whether banning banks is sound policy. I’ve been too busy scanning the horizon for the emergency that might justify council’s abandonment of regular process. So I watched the meeting replay, hoping to understand.

I was not reassured. Mayor Jones called the action on first reading a “timeout.” But it’s no such thing. Having passed on first reading, it’s actually a “pending ordinance,” meaning it has the force of law for 120 days. Council has that amount of time to finish the enactment, and the recording made clear that this is what they intend to do. Moving by surprise was thus a preemptive strike against the law’s likely opponents and businesses it will affect. Bob Yates called it “sneaky.” When others expressed doubts, Matt Applebaum snapped, like a salesman waiting for a customer to sign a contract, “Come on, this isn’t that big a deal!”

Actually, it is a big deal. Suspending legal process by fiat is not OK in Washington, and it’s not OK in Boulder. Council should take a mulligan, unless they want to invite more odious comparisons.

John Tweedy,


City Council is right that the number of banks downtown has proliferated in the last several years. For the city that means fewer tax dollars from the sales tax generated by retail sales. For retailers and restaurants it means less foot traffic upon which these businesses depend.

Walnut Street is a case in point: It has become a place to avoid for a retailer because the banks and other non-retail businesses have created a downtown “dead zone.” It is eerily quiet and devoid of pedestrian traffic. It is laudable that City Council wants Pearl Street — the aorta of downtown — to avoid the same fate.

But City Council has rushed in hastily and taken a sledgehammer to an issue that is complicated and has a number of stakeholders to consider. It is not just banks that have taken up space in the ground-floor storefronts. There are also ad agencies, production studios and co-op work spaces for startups. This ordinance would have no impact on them.

Council has once again signaled an arrogant and paternal attitude by not seeking any input from those with the expertise and experience to address this issue in a meaningful way, including Downtown Boulder Partnership (disclosure: I am a board member), the Downtown Management Commission, and the Downtown Business Improvement District.

Rather than tampering with the Land Use Code in this cavalier manner, City Council has got to reach out to solve this problem.

Fern O’Brien,


Trump channeling.

Without consulting with stakeholders, the temporary ban on banks on the mall is an example of, “I know what’s good for Boulder because I’m the only one who knows what’s good for Boulder.”

We’ve heard this sort of reasoning from the Twitter Troll for way too long. It’s unexpected and unacceptable from our City Council.

Not many of us are great fans of bankers. These are the folks who bought derivatives without knowing what they purchased. They almost tanked our economy. More recently, one major bank was caught opening accounts for customers without the customers’ knowledge. They act like students from the bottom of the business school class who, having failed at used car sales, looked to banking as a profession. Finding a sinecure for the simple in suits, they build or buy these edifices to themselves that are difficult to get to unless you want to walk some distance. The buildings are bricks and mortar write-offs against huge profits from overdraft charges and usurious credit card interest.

When have you had a good experience with a banker? My last set-to with a banker was when, while pompously shuffling my papers, I got a Dodd-Frank lecture.

“Dodd-Frank has made my job very, very difficult?” he concluded.

“You mean it’s like real work?” I asked.

But banks have as much a right to occupy space on the mall as any other retail enterprise. Good for the four council members who voted against this ban.

Alan Stark,


The Camera’s editorial advisory board members are: Mara Abbott, Judy Amabile, Rett Ertl, Michelle Estrella, Fern O’Brien, Cha Cha Spinrad, Alan Stark, John Tweedy, Chuck Wibby and Don Wrege. (Ed Byrne and Steve Fisher are emeritus members.)

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