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Council Members Push Back:A seriously flawed process lacking in equitable engagement – perhaps fatal

Updated: Oct 7

Our efforts are making a difference! Several Council members pushed back at Community Planning and Development during Tuesday's Sept 1st Land, Use,Transportation and Infrastructure (LUTI) Committee meeting. While encouraging, do not be fooled. There are enough YES votes to pass this amendment through LUTI and full Council. We need to keep up the pressure: petition signatures and emails to Council are needed! Please share this email, website, and petition link with Denver friends and neighbors. Read on for highlights from the meeting! The Land, Use, Transportation and Infrastructure (LUTI) Committee met on September 1, 2020. Community Planning and Development Senior Planner, Andrew Webb, gave a briefing regarding the Group Living Zoning Code Amendment.  Below are excerpted comments and questions from Council members and excerpted answers provided by Andrew Webb. __________________________________________________________________________ Councilwoman Kendra Black stated concerns about community involvement and awareness A majority of Council asked CPD to slow the introduction into the legislative process, but CPD disregarded the requests. There was a lack of representation from 6 council districts on the Group Living Advisory Committee (GLAC); lack of input from registered neighborhood associations (RNO); lack of input from communities of color. Question: I have not seen any cities who allow 10 unrelated adults per household, as this proposal allows. Please tell us why the cap was pushed to 10 in homes of 2600 sf. Answer:  What is unique about this proposal is that would allow additional unrelated adults in larger houses along with their unlimited family members. The proposal came from the GLAC committee. It will be unique as compared to other cities. (Editor's note: unique = experiment) __________________________________________________________________________ Councilman Paul Kashmann asked about the number of people in a household Question: I’m sitting here kind of stunned. I’ve paid attention to this as it has rolled out and I believe that I still do not clearly understand the allowable numbers in a household. So if I’m doing my math correctly for unrelateds, we get 17 people in a 4,000 sf home? Answer: No, there would be a cap of 10 unrelated adults in any home. Question: But that’s 10 and then all their relatives, correct? So, we have 10 unrelated adults in a 2600 sf home. Do their additional relatives require 200 sf per person? Answer: They do not. Question: So, I’m lost as to why you’re saying 10 people in a 2600 sf home when there is really no cap on it. Really, there is no limit. __________________________________________________________________________ Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer raised Chapter 59 exemption issues Question: Is it true that the Group Living zoning change would not apply to old Chapter 59 zoning code areas? Answer: Yes, that’s correct. Chapter 59 covers about 20% of the city. It’s a priority of CPD to rezone those properties as it has been since 2010. (Editor's Note: 2010 Chapter 59 = 20%; 2020 Chapter 59 = 20%. How much of a priority is it when no work has been done in 10 years?) Nathan Lucero, Assistant City Attorney:  Andrew is correct. Only the Denver zoning code properties will be affected and Chapter 59 properties will not be affected. Question: Does it apply to HOAs? Answer: As is currently the case, HOAs that enforce their own covenants or landlords that enforce their own contracts for occupancy, if they are more restrictive, that is permitted. What they can’t do is allow for less restrictive conditions. Question: If 20% of the city is exempted and HOAs are exempted, how much of the city is covered by HOAs? Answer: I do not have that. Question:  How is this equitable if we are exempting HOAs and exempting 20% of the city under Chapter 59? How is this law advancing equity across the city? __________________________________________________________________________ Sawyer also raised concerns about density We can’t talk about these things in silos and we have the Residential Infill Project starting in 2021. One of the things it does is talk about the potential for a single family home adding an attached ADU and placing another ADU in the rear of a property. Question: If there is a single-family home of 2000 sf and the home is split into (2) 1000 sf units plus a 1000 sf ADU in the backyard, does that mean there would be 15 unrelated adults allowed -- plus all of their relatives -- where right now there are 2 unrelated adults? Answer: That’s correct. __________________________________________________________________________ Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore focused on glaring inequity We have had this issue before with CPD.  75% of the council district that I represent is under the old Chapter 59 code. I’m very concerned that in the rush, there have been some mis-steps in true authentic engagement in black and brown communities. This is indicative of it. Frankly, we have almost tainted a citywide conversation in failing to bring 75% of the single family parcels in my district into the new code. It’s glaring for me as a representative in my council district where there are 75% of the homes won’t need to comply. On top of that there are HOAs and metro districts that have covenants on the land. Power and privilege show itself in different ways. Why was this not self-corrected 6 months into the process so that we could be having a citywide, inclusive conversation about this? Answer: I don’t want to downplay the Chapter 59 issue. This has been a challenge. Not only do we incentivize property owners to come in and rezone, city council members can also propose those properties be rezoned and brought into the zoning code. This project has highlighted some of those inequities. We have done a lot of outreach recently to Montbello to try to better understand the concerns they have expressed, especially as it relates to parking. Question: It’s not going to be inclusive because we are pitting neighborhoods against neighborhoods. Right there, that map shows Montbello is going to feel the brunt of this and GVR is going to be protected. That is the narrative, that is the message, it’s plain on the map. How did CPD staff and your leadership prepare for this work so that it wasn’t muddying the waters but it was truly coming from a place of anti-racism, anti-oppression, and comprehensive for every single neighborhood in the city and we actually had representation? How did you not self-correct within your own ranks? __________________________________________________________________________ Councilman Kevin Flynn emphasized disregard for public input and objective facts I think this shows a seriously flawed process lacking in equitable engagement  – perhaps fatally flawed. As Councilwoman Black said at the beginning, seven of us twice requested, when COVID hit, that this be slowed down because the public engagement had to be cut off precipitously. Instead you forged ahead without regard to the fact that the public could only react to what was drawn up rather than having authentic input into what would be drawn up. That’s what authentic engagement is. I think it’s evident from this discussion that it has to be broken up into separate actions. This conversation alone shows the package is way, way too comprehensive to be digested in a single bite. We’re discussing global issues when we actually need to get into the details of each of the three areas. The three areas on your slide show a logical way to break them up: household definition, group homes and congregate care. Obviously there are interrelationships but they are easily broken up and digested as INC and other organizations have suggested. This should have been slowed down. Providers of services really drove this process. The imbalance is way too obvious to ignore. I appointed the only person of color representing neighborhoods to the committee and he stopped going after 3-4 meetings because he came to the conclusion that there was a predetermined outcome. The process was dominated by self-interested providers of commercial services in residential neighborhoods. You mentioned 2,000 public comments, but there are more than 2,000. It appears to me there are more than 5,000 comments and about 90% of the public comment has been in opposition. So we have a serious problem here that we have to realize. It’s not enough to say “we know what’s best…this is what we want and 90% of you just don’t understand.” Clearly we haven’t engaged: we haven’t engaged communities of color, and we haven’t engaged in our neighborhoods. Frankly, looking at this I believe this will be an accelerator – a devastating accelerator – to displacement in our vulnerable neighborhoods. You will see commercialization in areas where money seeks its own level. As Councilwoman Sawyer said our Chapter 59 areas can opt out, HOAs can opt out. I’m concerned about the impact of displacement in our vulnerable areas. Through rents rising -- not falling --  because of the allowance of people to double, triple and quintuple up, that’s going to drive up rents for a family: a mom, dad, and a couple of kids. If I’m a landlord, why rent to a young couple for the $1600-1800 for a bungalow in Brentwood when I can rent to 5 white guys looking to buddy up, charge them each $800 and get $4,000 out of it. This is going to increase rents. __________________________________________________________________________ Chapter 59 exempt areas = 20% of Denver

Legislative Timeline

9/29     LUTI Committee Discussion

10/6     LUTI Committee Vote

TBD     City Council Public Hearing/Vote

NOV     Implementation

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