Aspen U speaker to explore community development, inequity |

Aspen U speaker to explore community development, inequity

Attendees at Wednesday event may find connections between Aspen, Boulder policies

Clay Fong will present "A Short History of Race, Class and Housing in Boulder" at the Limelight Hotel Aspen on Feb. 9, 2022.

What: Aspen U Speaker Series — Clay Fong presents “A Short History on Race, Class and Housing in Boulder”

When: Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. Attendees encouraged to arrive by 5:30 p.m. for a drink.

Where: Limelight Hotel Aspen

Clay Fong and Auden Schendler go way, way back.

The two have known each other since the early 1990s, long before Fong became the program manager in the Office of Human Rights and Community Relations for the City of Boulder’s Department of Housing and Human Services and Schendler became Aspen Skiing Co.’s senior vice president of sustainability.

And as two people in their fields of work are wont to do, they’ve had plenty of “casual conversation” about communities, inequity and sustainability, Fong said.

It’s a conversation that Fong will continue with an audience at the Limelight Aspen on Wednesday at 6 p.m. as part of the Skico-produced Aspen U Speaker Series, when Fong presents “A Short History on Race, Class and Housing in Boulder.” Schendler will give a brief introduction and help moderate questions after the presentation.

The presentation is focused on Boulder, where Fong has worked for more than two decades in the fields of environmental sustainability and human services. But the ideas he plans to explore with the Aspen U presentation are hardly limited to the city limits of one Front Range community.

“I think with just kind of everything that’s been going on in the world in the last couple of years, and some of the stuff that we’re addressing here in Boulder, that we realize that this presentation has a lot of resonances with what’s happened historically in Aspen and what the future may hold,” Fong said.

By “everything that’s been going on in the world,” Fong is referring to “broad level” movements like Black Lives Matter and protests spurred by the murder of George Floyd, “which really sort of gave people that weren’t maybe as directly impacted by these issues (a realization that) ‘OK, we need to sort of reassess some stuff,’” he said.

“In that process, what happened was we reassessed policies in Boulder that we realized have, for lack of a better term, kind of a racist impact, even though that was not perhaps the express intention, or if it was, it was very covert,” he added.

Those policies were framed as “somewhat benign environmental restrictions” — things like open space acquisition, height restrictions, limits on development above certain elevations, single-family zoning and occupancy limits on properties.

Intentionally or not, those concepts have had an impact on affordability, diversity and inclusivity in Boulder, but they’re hardly isolated to the city limits of one Front Range community, he said. They might even ring a familiar bell in Aspen, Fong said.

“While there are some distinct differences between how Aspen and Boulder have evolved as communities, I think the similarities are greater than the differences. … I think we (in Boulder) can learn from Aspen, but I also think vice versa,” he said.

The event is free and open to the public; the presentation starts at 6 p.m. but attendees are encouraged to arrive by 5:30 p.m. to grab a drink before the talk begins.