Updated: Mar 29, 2021
The deeper you dig into the “group-living” proposal now pending before the Denver City Council, the more troubling it is. Even after assorted tweaks intended to placate justifiably worried residents, the overreaching amendment to the city’s zoning code comes across fundamentally as a cure in search of an ill. It’s even worse than a lot of policy proposals that risk doing more harm than good; this one will do harm while doing no discernible good at all.
It’s also a proposal for which there never was any community demand in the first place. Incredibly, the years of committee work and planning that went into the proposal — which led to public uproar once rank-and-file Denverites started finding out about it last year — didn’t get its start by way of a petition drive among the city’s neighborhood associations. Or as a publicly vetted recommendation from some blue-ribbon panel of civic leaders. It wasn’t even a plank in the platform of an idealistic, if tone-deaf, City Council candidate’s campaign.
No, it was in fact the handiwork of a handful of municipal technocrats whom few members of the public had ever heard of. In pursuit of a more “equitable” cityscape, City Hall’s social engineers thought it was a good idea to ratchet up congestion while jeopardizing peace, quiet — and security — in neighborhoods across a broad swath of the city.
The former convenience store next to your regular dry cleaners — in a strip mall parking lot a couple of blocks from your house? You know — in the same shopping center where there’s a day care? It could become a halfway house for criminal convicts.
There’s no shame in admitting this is one of those ideas that sounded good in grad school — but makes no sense in the real world.
The grassroots group Safe and Sound Denver recently tallied all public comments submitted to the city so far...it reveals 90% opposed...such lopsided results nevertheless don't bode well for a proposal that hasn't gotten nearly the scrutiny it warrants. All the more reason to scrap it and go back to the drawing board.
Union support for a highly controversial -- and, it seems, increasingly unpopular -- proposal now pending before Denver's City Council to reinvent the City's zoning code. It would not only allow community corrections/halfway houses...into neighborhoods but would also eliminate 1,500 ft buffers from that currently shield schools from those facilities. And the Denver Classroom Teachers Association has given the proposal its unqualified endorsement.
But it's a stretch to the extreme that [moving in with others] will have any appreciable impact on rent in a city where housing costs have been soaring for years for far more fundamental economic reasons. Hence the mounting misgivings about the new zoning regime and the growing sense that the main rationale behind a much higher limit on unrelated residents is something very different: essentially to allow satellite homeless shelters and community corrections facilities to proliferate citywide. The plan's fans have soft-pedaled that aspect of the plan, yet it has the potential to undermine and upend neighborhood after neighborhood.
Cherry Creek Chronicle | Neighborhood Noise Causes Council Members to Waiver Support for group Living Proposal
Infrastructure was a driving force behind Doerksen and other members of a group called Safe and Sound Denver submitting a petition with over 2,000 signatures of Denver residents who oppose the proposal prior to the September 1 LUTI Committee meeting.
Denver Gazette | More changes expected to Denver’s group living proposal in response to City Council opposition
A proposal that would change Denver’s zoning rules to raise the number of people who can share a home is expected to be scaled back, again, following fierce opposition from the majority of City Council members, who earlier this month urged city planners to hit the brakes for further discussion.
Opposition has been growing to a proposal that would increase the number of unrelated people who can share a home
It will be next year before Denver City Council decides on a proposal that would increase the number of unrelated people who can share a home and allow halfway houses and shelters to be located in more neighborhoods.
The [LUTI] committee won’t vote on whether to forward the proposal to the full Council until Dec. 1. That schedule makes a council vote unlikely before January, Laura Swartz, spokeswoman for Denver’s Community Planning and Development department, said in an email Tuesday.
But as Councilwoman Kendra Black said during Tuesday’s committee hearing, as more and more people learn about the proposal, opposition seems to be growing.
David Bufalo is a licensed professional engineer, employed by the City and County of Denver from 1990 to retirement in 2006. He served as Director of the Design and Construction Management Division, and Acting Director of the Building Department.
Trash: If another five persons were to be allowed to occupy the same residence, the solid waste generation would now be 284 pounds per week, which is a 225 % increase. This increased amount of trash will not fit into the city-provided 65-gallon trash carts.
Fresh Air Ventilation: The proposed zoning amendment makes reference to fresh air ventilation requirements via the Denver Rules and Regulations for Housing. These rules require a window or other means of ventilation. Opening a window for fresh air when the outside temperature is around 20 degrees does not seem like a good option.
Hot Water: The proposed amendment only requires a 35-gallon water heater, which is totally inadequate.
Overcrowding: The proposed zoning amendment would allow a minimum of five and as many as 10 unrelated adults and all of their relatives and an unlimited number of children to live in a single-family residence. As a human quality-of-life issue, this is unconscionable and a dereliction of duty by government to protect the life, health and safety of its residents.
Denver Post | Guest Commentary | Sweeping group living proposal poses risks, needs vetting by Denver City Council
Council members Amanda Sawyer, Kendra Black, Jolon Clark, Kevin Flynn, and Paul Kashmann co-signed this guest commentary.
The Group Living Advisory Committee, assembled in March 2018, had 47 members. Forty were providers of group home services, city officials, or advocates of the very recommendations that emerged. Twelve don’t live in Denver. Six of the 11 council districts had no representation. Seven members represented neighborhoods. Attendance was spotty and only 20 members were present when the recommendations were approved.
It requires involvement from the people of Denver who were not at the table the past two years but who have as much skin in the game, if not more, as those who were.
Denverites are getting the message. By many accounts, neighborhood associations are abuzz and are mobilizing. Handbills and petitions are circulating. A new citizens group of Denver residents — Safe and Sound Denver— has emerged to fight the proposal head on. Media coverage is cranking up.
In short, the city’s planning department is declaring that zoning laws perpetuate racism and that the amendment would make housing more affordable and reduce homelessness. The first statement is a fabrication and the second is completely wrong. The Council should reject this poorly conceived and ill-advised amendment.
Say a homeless shelter opened up in my neighborhood. How would my neighbors be able to “know their neighbor” when a transient population is moving in and out of a home? The proposal allows up to a total of 100 “guests” housed in a single-family home over the course of a year, with a limit of 10 at any given time.
Say a community corrections operator bought the house next to the elementary school playground and populated it with felons from across Colorado. How would parents feel about sending their children to that school, knowing that one or more of those “residents” were sex offenders still serving out their sentence?
In 2010, when Denver City Council passed a long-awaited revision of the zoning code (Denver International Airport was excluded from the action), 16,635 acres, or 22.5 percent of the city, was not affected; it remained zoned under the old code, which dated back more than fifty years.
Developments in places such as Lowry, Stapleton and Green Valley Ranch were granted custom zoning by Denver City Council. And there were other parcels of land throughout Denver where developers requested custom zoning because their specific vision of what should be built on property there that didn't fit well into the zoning code; the city granted variances in many cases. 21.38 percent of the city is still zoned under the old code. "This is unprecedented, the amount of folks from Montbello who have come forward with concerns about what this means to the community," says Gilmore.
About 20% of the city remains under Former Chapter 59, meaning they would be exempt from the changes, including Mayor Michael Hancock’s neighborhood. Any neighborhood with a Home Owners Association, or HOA, would not have to follow the proposed changes, and any neighborhood still under the city’s old zoning code would also be exempt.
“We don’t have to sit and let you destroy the areas that we live in,” said Thrichosia Burdine. “This is not going to work.”
“I think it goes back to the whole integrity and the flaws in the process,” said Paige Burkeholder, who says although she lives in an HOA neighborhood of Denver, she is still opposed to the group living proposal as it currently stands.
Denver7 | Backlash grows over Denver's Group Living proposal allowing 10 unrelated adults to live in one house
The backlash continues over Denver’s proposal to expand the number of unrelated adults who can live in a single-family home.
The group living amendment would allow up to 10 unrelated people to live in one house. It would also allow halfway houses and homeless shelters to be built in every neighborhood in Denver.
“It’s almost like they’re trying to shame you into going along with this,” White said. Both White and Jiner live in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood. White took our crew around her neighborhood, showcasing a number of homes falling apart with unkempt yards and too many cars to count. “This ordinance would compound what we already have,” Jiner said. “When you have that many people living in a dwelling, of course there’s trash.” Ann White, president of the Montbello Neighborhood Association, says lower income neighborhoods like Montbello are also unfairly impacted by zoning changes like this proposal.
... with the blessing of Mayor Michael Hancock and two at-large city council members, the GLAC has developed the complex and far-reaching, 184-page, Group Living Amendment.
The GL Amendment sets no minimum requirement for bedrooms per person, which creates privacy and safety concerns, especially for children and other vulnerable persons.
Few Denverites have heard that the Group Living Amendment would allow private, for-profit companies to operate community corrections facilities and homeless shelters in residential areas, but most who have heard of the changes are obviously distressed.
Under the revised rules, Denver’s residential neighborhoods will serve as magnets for inmates, as the privately-owned, community corrections facilities will be allowed to house, and profit, from inmates transferred from other municipalities in Colorado.
Complete Colorado/Page Two | Organized opposition forms against Denver’s controversial group-living plan
A group opposed to a plan that would allow, among other things, up to 10 unrelated adults in a single-family home says the risk to surrounding residents and the Denver community is just too great.
The proposed plan that the Denver City Council will vote on in October will “erase the integrity of our neighborhoods, demolish property values and destroy the cultures that make our neighborhoods unique and desirable,” Safe and Sound Denver says on its website. “The amendment is backed by planners, developers and organizations vested in their own commercial and political gain and not the interests of the neighborhood residents.”
Denver Post | Carroll: All the reasonable - non-racist - reasons to oppose allowing halfway houses in every neighborhood
At a city council meeting in June…Councilwoman Robin Kniech told the audience that if “you want to end incarceration, you can’t just talk about policing. We have to talk about the other systems that co-reinforce that racism,” one of which she identified as the zoning code.
…the plan would allow halfway houses of up to 10 residents in every neighborhood and up to 40 residents when the lot exceeds 12,000 square feet.
Proponents are quick to label any alternative that falls short of these benchmarks as an affront to equity and social justice. Please. Denver’s affordability problem has become acute in the past 20 years not because of single-family zoning, which long predated it, but because of a mismatch between the huge influx of new residents and housing creation. For that matter, that influx has been predominately white — meaning a majority of those taking advantage of looser rules on group living are likely to be white, too. Concern over the proliferation of unofficial boarding houses is not racist.
Nor is it irrational to wonder whether small halfway houses would be adequately supervised. In recent weeks I have spoken to several experts in community corrections who believe in its mission and agree that Denver needs more options. But for facilities to work, they must provide therapy, job training and job opportunities. They must have on-site personnel, especially for those with a higher-risk profile. And please note: The percentage of felons “with violent crime convictions taking up community corrections beds is on the rise,” according to a 10-year analysis by Colorado Politics earlier this year, including “those convicted of sex crimes, violent assaults and even homicides.”