There are numerous things to dislike about the Group Living Amendment now before
the Denver City Council and scheduled for a vote on Feb. 8. One of the most glaring is
the statement made by the city’s Department of Community Planning and Development
(CPD) in its presentation material when the Group Living Proposal was first submitted
for public review. It read: “We have exclusionary regulations with roots in classism and
That seemed to me to be a rather harsh and unreasonable statement being that, when I
first took up residency in the neighborhood where I’ve lived for 45 years, I was not
informed about the racist/classist nature of the neighborhood nor did I become aware of
that state of affairs until the truth of the matter was revealed, thanks to CPD.
However, sometimes declaratory statements of that nature can be deceptive, not
pertinent to current conditions, and the reason for making such a statement is an
attempt to influence and justify a cause of action. I believe that to be the case here, as I
have not experienced or witnessed the “exclusionary regulations” claimed to exist by the
CPD. In fact, I have observed the opposite, with many homes occupied by a diverse mix
If the “exclusionary regulations” do exist, as claimed, the blame most certainly can be
directed at the City Council in existence in 2010, when the current zoning code was
adopted. Just 10 short years ago, that council had the opportunity to remedy the
“classist/racist” Denver zoning code. Instead, it overlooked what must have been
obvious flaws and, in a unanimous 13-0 vote June 21, 2010, approved the current
Denver Zoning Code. Obviously they must have fallen short in their comprehension of
the situation because CPD says that, at this very moment, we have exclusionary
regulations with roots in classism and racism.
So, who were the members of this insensitive and callous council? Charlie Brown,
Jeanne Faatz, Marsha Johnson, Peggy Lehman, Doug Linkhart, Paul Lopez, Carla
Madison, Judy Montero, Chris Nevitt, Jeanne Robb, Paula Sandoval, Michael Hancock
and Carol Boigon. How could this wayward group make such a profound error in
judgment, especially with several minority members?
To further illustrate the utter disregard for the disparities that must have been overlooked and dismissed as irrelevant, Council President Jeanne Robb stated the new code was “an affirmation of Denver neighborhoods…,” and Council member Michael Hancock, now Mayor Hancock, said it was, “the greatest economic development decision this council will make at the
turn of the century.” To think that they could have corrected the great injustice that
existed and failed to do so. Shame. They were so “unwoke.”
Obviously, my comments about the former council are a cynical reaction to the current
state of affairs. The current council would do well to heed the obvious appreciation their
predecessors had for the character and integrity of Denver’s diverse neighborhoods.
They had an interest in protecting what makes Denver’s single-family neighborhoods
desirable, not turning quiet, peaceful neighborhoods, where neighbors know each other
and kids can safely play, into a high-density maze of rentals, multi-occupant owners and
homeless shelters, with criminal correctional facilities nearby. Residents of Denver’s
single-family residential neighborhoods live where they do because it’s the type of
neighborhood and housing they prefer. It’s a lifestyle issue and has nothing to do with
classism or racism.
To suggest otherwise is is an affront to the good people living in these neighborhoods
who overwhelmingly oppose this amendment, as demonstrated by 80%-90% negative
public commentary throughout this process. It’s obvious from scrutiny of the makeup of
the Group Living Advisory Committee that this amendment is an endeavor to
accommodate the wishes of the various special-interest groups, city staff and city
officials who participated in this group, and not the values of the Denver residents who
will be affected.
Denverites don’t want what the Denver Group Living Amendment is offering. This is a
“social engineering” experiment that promises to divide, alienate and compromise the
unique neighborhoods of Denver. The current City Council should uphold the integrity
and good judgment of the council of 2010 and vote “NO” on this poorly constructed,
unwanted and unneeded amendment. On Feb. 8 will the will of the people be upheld or,
to quote F.D.R., will it be a day that will live in infamy?
Jerry Doerksen, of Denver, is a member of Safe and Sound Denver, which was formed
last year to raise public awareness about the group-living proposal