Denver Gazette Op-Ed | Save Denver’s neighborhoods — vote YES on 2F

Denver’s once world class quality of life has taken a beating, thanks to a combination of ideology-driven policies that have put the livability of our neighborhoods and the safety of our streets in jeopardy. This November, city voters have the chance to throw the brakes on one of the worst of a series of damaging decisions.

City leaders in Denver have embraced social experimentation at the expense of livability, public health and public safety. A major component of this agenda is the “group living amendment” that was enacted over the objections of local residents. A groundswell of grassroots activism placed a repeal of this dangerous ordinance on the ballot. By pulling the plug on this experiment that threatens the safety of our kids and their schools, we can take a major step toward again imagining Denver as a livable, great city that welcomes and supports its residents and their neighborhoods.

It’s hard to overstate Denver’s decline on the watch of Mayor Michael Hancock. Even an occasional visitor to Colorado’s capital city can see once-walkable streets and neighborhoods filled with litter, often lined with the tents of the homeless, and entire city parks shut down because our city government can’t operate its own spaces safely.

Rather than put a premium on quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who live, work and own property in Denver, city leaders have engaged in a concerted effort to put the needs and concerns of its own residents and taxpayers last. And dismiss reasonable questions about the effects of its social experimentation.

THE AMENDMENT In February, the City Council enacted a rewrite of Denver’s zoning code known commonly as the “group living amendment.”

This measure increased to five the number of UNRELATED individuals who can live together in one detached home, apartment, condo or duplex.

But if you’re a particularly close-knit family, there’s good news: the city allows (even before the GLA) an unlimited number of REALATIVES to be considered a household.

What could possibly go wrong in these scenarios?

Advocates of this transformation of current housing limits, tout affordability but seldom mention the effect on existing residential neighborhoods.

More than doubling the number of UNRELATED residents in a home can quickly and negatively change the quality of a neighborhood. More than double the noise, for example.

There is more.

Many city residents still own and need to park vehicles near their home, since most don’t have or can’t afford garages.

Parking is already at a premium on city streets and for residents already stressed with parking issues, this will make a difficult situation even worse.

This is, sadly, just part of a horribly thought-out ordinance.

Thanks to the City Council, homeless shelters can be placed in ANY NEIGHBORHOOD, and there is NO buffer-zone requirement for schools.

School days shouldn’t be a field trip for kids through the often disturbing, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions around homeless shelters.

City leaders also apparently thought it would be good for kids to be exposed to community correctional facilities, since they removed buffer zones around schools for these facilities as well.

The fact is that since Denver has a very HIGH rate of people who re-offend within two years, the risk of making children and parents crime victims is real.

Why would the City Council not want to prioritize the safety of children and place these facilities at a safe distance from our kids?

Interestingly, advocates of the group housing ordinance argued that community corrections should be placed in residential neighborhoods so that offenders can get accustomed to such settings and “reenter communities.”

It makes me wonder how many of our city leaders would welcome such “new neighbors” next to their homes or their child’s school.

This comes down to the anti-resident choices city leaders made in upending the zoning code that provides reasonable protections for families, children, and residential neighborhoods.

WHY GOOD ZONING MATTERS There’s no question that zoning codes and policies are not the sexiest of public policy issues.

But there is a reason why zoning is completely critical to a city such as Denver with a mix of residential, business, commercial and industrial areas.

Good zoning is critical to a city concerned with the welfare, safety and quality of life of its residents.

The concept is to govern the size, shape and use of certain buildings in certain areas, grouping like buildings for like or similar uses.

This protects property values by keeping incompatible or unsuitable uses away from homes, or schools for example.

Good zoning also regulates what occupations can occur within homes. Residents can be protected from tattoo parlors or retail sales being located in a neighboring home.

Nor would residents want a loud, round-the-clock manufacturing facility near their home, which is why industrial uses are placed apart from neighborhoods.

This ordinance upended, or blended, many of the uses and has purposefully decided that city residents, in their neighborhoods, must accept a noisier, less safe, less sanitary Denver. And this doesn’t begin to discuss what the advent of a community correctional facility or a homeless shelter next to a private home does for that homeowner’s property values.

AVERAGE RESIDENTS' CONCERNS SHUT OUT It is difficult to imagine how such an ill-considered amendment, with such widespread and negative implications for city residents and neighborhoods could have been enacted.

This is particularly true given the outcry from residents, homeowners, and business owners.

This puzzle was deepened when local residents attempted to shine a light on the Group Living Advisory Committee, which is a public body convened to focus on these issues. The committee was formed, according to the city’s website to help “evaluate existing regulations and provide insight into community needs and potential solutions.” The body was comprised of city officials, representatives of a selection of nonprofit and business groups and developers.

Given how unfair many of the proposals are to residents and businesses, some residents were curious about the details of the deliberations and other key facts about the committee. For reasons that are still baffling, the city government resisted an Open Records Act request for that information.

What were they hiding? Once a judge ordered the records opened, it became clear why the city wanted this information left in the dark.

As was pointed out in a public hearing, 85% of the members of the Advisory Committee stood to PROFIT from the amendment. And ONLY eight members — just 20% of the Committee — represented city neighborhoods.

Given that stunning imbalance, it is no surprise that the final product so aggressively DISREGARDS the interests, needs and concerns of average residents and business owners.

CITIZENS FIGHT BACK We simply weren’t listened to. But that doesn’t mean we will sit down and shut up. It doesn’t mean we are powerless.

We love this city, we love its diversity, and we love living here and raising our kids here. Just as much as the social engineers who are working to further upend and diminish our quality of life — even though they don’t live in our neighborhoods and won’t have to deal with the problems the group living amendment will cause.

A group of concerned citizens started a petition through that brought in more than 10,000 signatures and comments. These men and women reiterated what the council heard in testimony: concerns about housing density, increased auto traffic in neighborhoods and expanded parking woes, and the erasure of buffer zones around schools.

That wasn’t all.

An initiative campaign to repeal this amendment and protect our neighborhoods, kids and families from the out-of-touch social engineers on the council was launched.

And local voters responded with thousands of signatures on the petition to place this measure on the November ballot.

Since then, they have been busy educating voters that they don’t have to roll over and accept the city continuing to erode what is special about Denver.

They do not have to accept ideologically driven policies that just don’t work in the real world — and that disrespect men and women who have invested in their homes and businesses, often their entire life savings.

WHY A 'YES' VOTE MATTERS What does a yes vote on 2F mean for you?

A yes vote on 2F is a repeal of the dangerous ordinance.

A yes vote on 2F means we erase this anti-neighborhood, anti-family, anti-child, anti-public safety measure from the books.

A yes vote means we stop the proposal to more than double the population of unrelated residents in single-family homes and multi-family settings.

A yes vote means we stop the proposal that will damage our quality of life with increased noise, traffic, parking and crime in our neighborhoods.

A yes vote means we will prevent community corrections facilities and halfway houses from popping up next to schools.

A yes vote means that homeless shelters can’t be established in any neighborhood in the city.

A yes vote is a yes for Denver residents and small businesses. A yes for a livable city that cares about its existing families. A yes for once again imagining a great city.

Will you join those citizens standing up for us, using the power of the ballot, the power of citizens’ voices — the power of democracy — to push back against special interests who stand to benefit financially from diminishing your quality of life? Special interests whose leaders don’t live in Denver and don’t have to endure the havoc their “group housing amendment” will cause?

This is our chance, Denver. This is our chance to stand up and draw a line against social experiments with the lives of good neighbors and good families. If the “group living amendment” is allowed to stand, there is no going back. The changes are permanent, and the Denver you love will be altered, forever.

Let’s vote YES on 2F. Let’s once again, “imagine a great city.” Let’s bring Denver back from the brink.

The Denver Gazette | 24 Oct 2021 | DIANE WOLTA

VOTE YES ON 2F Safety and stability in our neighborhoods -- details matter! SafeandSoundDenver. com Authorized and paid for by Safe and Sound Denver Issue Committee

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