The Sky Is NOT The Limit For New Housing

In its quest to “increase density,” Boise City’s fathers (and mothers) attempted to run rough shod over the city building code when it came to new apartments near BSU on Lusk Street, but the Idaho Supreme Court, once again, ruled against the city action in an opinion released Tuesday.

If you haven’t seen all the wood construction between Capitol Blvd. and Ann Morrison Park, you are missing out on something like 1,700 housing units built in what looks like a lumber yard. The three private projects are all encouraged by BSU and Boise City as “multi-family units.” From a practical standpoint they will provide student housing and not cost the university anything. They will create traffic, pedestrian, and parking problems, not to mention pedestrian and bicycle traffic across the 8 lanes of Capitol Blvd.

Parking is a major issue, as well as pedestrian and bicycle traffic across the 8 lanes of Capitol Blvd. Here is the official summary of the matter from the Idaho Supreme Court.

917 Lusk, LLC v. City of Boise, Docket No. 41214
“In an appeal from Ada County arising from a petition for judicial review of the Boise City Council’s decision granting a conditional use permit for Royal Boulevard Associates to build an apartment complex near Boise State University, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court affirming the City Council’s approval of the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to grant the conditional use permit.

“The Supreme Court held that the Commission and the district court failed to recognize that Idaho law and the Boise City Code provided the Commission with discretion to require the project to provide on-site automobile parking beyond the minimum required by the Parking Chapter.

As a result of this failure to apply governing legal standards, the Commission refused to consider the adverse effects on property in the vicinity, and thus, the decision reflected an abuse of discretion. Additionally, the Supreme Court found substantial evidence supporting Lusk’s claim of potential prejudice to its substantial rights as the project calls for 622 bedrooms to be leased to students and the Parking Chapter requires only 280 parking spaces for the project.”

The opinion indicated the city and P&Z Commission had the authority to mandate additional parking when granting a conditional use permit which allowed taller than legal structures. However both the council and P&Z commishes declined to consider extra parking as a condition of use.



Most building codes require concrete and steel construction of buildings taller than three stories. Boise has been approving wood construction for taller structures at the behest of developers and contractors. A devastating fire ripped through a very similar apartment development in New Jersey January 22. Building codes and variances nationwide have been questioned in the wake of that fire.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. So does it stop the projects or reverse them? Or do they ignore the ruling?

  2. Grumpy oleGuy
    Feb 11, 2015, 5:28 am

    I noticed the advertisement in the Statesmen for hearings on the new stoplight on 9th St. in regard to this anticipated construction/population expansion. I am happy that the Supremes are holding the City and P&Z accountable to the parking per unit requirements, since parking for higher density housing must allow for higher parking capacity, no matter what. I hope that the builder(s) don’t just get off with some slight design review; but, really do have to re-do to meet meaningful requirements for the density, the set-backs, the height limits and the parking regulations which the City has already put in place. Nice to see the Court siding with the People, again.

  3. The amazing, forward thinking City of Boise; building the slums of the future, today!

  4. Good find BG, thanks for posting that.

    But what does it mean? The city will retroactively need to require more parking? This seems to be a huge can of worms. Someone at city hall is probably already working on putting out the fires, pun intended.

    Regarding the fire issue, and limiting my research to just 1004 W Royal, aka River’s Edge Apartments, sprinklers and many other strong fire codes are in effect, I assume it’s the same for the two other buildings.

    See permits:

    And as I asked over at SSP, I hope to god Mcalvain has overnight security guards to prevent a repeat times a thousand of the mysterious 15th and Hill Road condos fire.

    EDITOR NOTE–We have done some additional cursory research and discovered the NJ apartments also had sprinklers. The chief there was seen on TV claiming, “If these had been built of concrete and steel it wouldn’t have happened.”

  5. Rod+in+SE+Boise
    Feb 11, 2015, 12:01 pm

    The City of Boise should be encouraging lower density developments and discouraging higher density developments. They are trying to pack us all into tiny apartments and condos.

    Regarding parking, the city failed the citizens of Boise at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, where neither store has enough parking spaces, and each parking space is too small.

    1,700 apartments will require 3,400 parking spaces.

  6. The statesman article seems to indicate that this ruling might not matter anyway, since the city changed the code regarding max building heights for ‘residental-office.’ Since this is the case, what’s to stop the city from simply extending one of the downtown parking overlay zones further, to cover this area as well? (If that has already been done, I apologize – the only boise parking requirements info I can find is from 2006 - )

    For what it’s worth, I think apts that close to the university, mostly marketed toward students, do not need a high number of parking spots.

    EDITOR NOTE–As I read the decision, it appeared the city refused to consider the parking issue at every turn, citing only the height variance. The Supremes said they indeed had authority to require more parking based on the extra floor. The fire issue for stick-built tall buildings more than three floors is very real and needs to be addressed. I suspect greed to make the project “pencil out” is a major factor in granting a permit.

  7. Foothills Rider
    Feb 12, 2015, 10:00 am

    We also did additional research after the NJ fire incident, and I believe you are mistaken about implying Avalon Communities (NJ) “having sprinklers” made them safe. With or without the minimum code requirements, Avalon has historically short-changed safety issues, and have a NUMBER of fires on their records….way more than other structures. Much has to do with shared attic space, lack of fire walls between units, etc that can allow quick fire growth. We found this from 2013, way before this fire:

    EDITOR NOTE–I don’t think anyone claimed the sprinklers made them safe. As I recall, someone simply asked if they had sprinklers. In NJ there was a lot of talk that sprinklers merely made it possible for people to get out alive. There are indeed many factors involved like fire walls, type of materials used, void spaces, etc. We hope to get some expert info soon.

  8. Well, the strict building codes have caused a significant decrease in fires. Perhaps this is a way to bring that business volume back up?

    Crazy? Wars have been started for less.

  9. Parking should be a major factor on any development, especially multi-unit housing. I have not followed all this Lusk area development, but I wonder what was done on the other 2 large multi-unit developments that are closer to completion? This only came to light when the adjacent property owner complained. I do see at least one of the developments has ample indoor bike parking.

    If you are looking for a free lunch sometime, “Like” a facebook page or two. It seems this places promote heavily to get signed leases for when they open.

  10. I’ve tried to get someone to pay attention to the Lusk St Master Plan since before it was issued. Please plan on attending ACHD’s open house tonight at the Downtown Library (5:30 p.m.)

    Please see page 6 for an aerial of the loss of green space in a public park (Tourist Rest Stop), including a stand of mature trees. This will put a road within 70 feet of the Greenbelt (set back issues?) and the John Booth Memorial, a set of lights at the beginning of the newly-restored Pioneer Bridge on Capitol Blvd, interrupting whatever is left of the visual corridor between the Depot and the Capitol (a big deal to Boise old-timers and counter-productive for the Capitol Blvd streetscape, plans) and just happens to coincide to where the Mayor wants to turn his trolley. In addition, the Lusk St neighborhood is in the floodway. The City has allowed a canyon of relatively high-rise buildings at the entrance to one of the City’s signature parks.

    The City and its PDS has been caught unprepared to deal with the Lusk St area. The solution to a land-locked area is not to shove as many people in there as you can, and mow through public parks with an admittedly useless road that is being pushed through to serve the Mayor’s next career as a trolley driver. Please ask ACHD to stop the madness.

  11. I agree that it’s frustrating that the city will create a set of rules, and then turn around and use those rules to pick and choose what they like and don’t (by use of ‘conditional’ permits or outright ignoring the rules). Makes it seem like there is a second set of rules for people who have an ‘in’ with the city, or whatever.

    That being said… trees & park (if you can call it that) or not, the University/Capitol/9th/Boise intersection is a disaster. If the city has been unprepared to deal with the Lusk street area, they are correct to do something about it, meaning the royal street extension. If anything, it will cut down on the sheer amount of people darting across 9th & capitol at rush hour to go to Boise State.

  12. Rod, how ignorant and closed minded are you? No one is forcing you into any tiny apartment. If you’re tiny brain can believe it or not, people like to live in these multifamily developments because they are convenient. High density is the way of the future whether you like it or not. Massive outward expansion is not sustainable. Regarding your parking comment, are you telling me that each apartment should require 2 parking spaces? You know why these people are choosing to live there right? Get with the times man and stop being so stubborn and closed minded.

    EDITOR NOTE–John Smith, your rude and condescending attitude sounds like that of a planner. FYI, all future comments containing personal attacks and allegations will not be posted. You owe Rod a public apology.

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