Removal of School Buffer Zones
A big experiment on Denver's residents and neighborhoods
One of many major changes in the massive Group Living Zoning Code Amendment is the removal of the buffer zone between Denver schools and community corrections facilities.
The current Code requires a 1,500 ft buffer zone (see pg. 8). The Amendment deletes that provision.
The current code does not allow community corrections in residential neighborhoods. The Amendment allows community corrections in ALL residential neighborhoods in Denver (see pg. 33)
This change will affect all schools in Denver -- public, private, charter -- and will take effect 1 week after Denver City Council approves the Amendment. The Amendment will likely have a City Council public hearing/vote at the end of December or early January 2021.
There are approximately 93,800 students in 207 Denver Public Schools and thousands more in 50+ Denver private schools.
The Denver Public School Board was contacted, asked if they were aware of the change, and if DPS supported the Amendment. They were also asked if they had communicated this impending change to their parent community. There was no response received.
The Denver Public School Superintendent was contacted, asked if she was aware of the change, and if DPS supported the Amendment. She was also asked if she had communicated this impending change to the parent community. There was no response received.
Community Planning and Development (CPD) was asked who had been involved in this discussion as a DPS stakeholder, and when that input occurred. There was no response received.
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) endorsed the Group Living Amendment, with no exceptions.
DCTA's Housing Committee, chaired by North High School French teacher/YIMBY activist Anna DeWitt and Columbian Elementary early literacy specialist/realtor Jessica Dominguez, led the endorsement effort.
Community Planning and Development (CPD) failed to disclose the removal of the 1,500 ft buffer zone in community presentations.
In response to a direct question about the removal of 1,500 ft school buffer zones, Andrew Webb, CPD Project Manager stated, "...there are so many schools in the city that there are very few places in Denver where these [community corrections] facilities can actually be established...we are proposing to remove those limitations on location."
Click to listen: Capital Hill United Neighbors Zoom Meeting, 8/25/2020
These excerpts from the Group Living webpage FAQ fail to clearly state the Amendment's removal of 1,500 ft school buffer zones:
Will existing buffers from residential areas or schools go away? (see pg. 7)
The code currently requires that shelters and community corrections facilities (halfway houses) be located a certain distance away from schools and residential areas, despite there being no evidence that these buffers have any impact on the safety of these facilities or surrounding neighborhoods. The buffers used in the past have been largely arbitrary and have created major barriers to the establishment of much-needed facilities.
How does this proposal affect halfway houses and how they are regulated? (see pg. 9)
The proposal would remove some of the current restrictions on where they can be located, but it would not change other regulations, codes or oversight that apply to these types of facilities, how they are established, how they are run or who is eligible to live in them.
Community Corrections summary information on the Group Living webpage is not specific about the current 1,500 ft buffer requirement, provides no statistics/source for their statements, and is in conflict with these recent statistics:
Colorado has a 50% recidivism rate (convicted criminal re-offense); 10 points higher than the national average of 40% (CPR, 2/2019)
Denver’s recidivism rate is 41% (Denverite, 8/2019)
2/3 of Denver’s halfway house population are felons exiting prison; 1/3 have been deferred from state prison
31% percent of people who “exited” Denver’s program did so because of an escape, nearly twice the state average (Denverite, 8/2019)
56% of parolees completed their programs at Denver Community Corrections-run halfway houses (Denverite, 8/2019)
54% of parolees failed their program at Tooley Hall and Williams Street, run by GEO (now closed), a national operator; 76% of parolees failed their program at Independence House, run by a local, independent operator (Denverite, 8/2019)
Violent crime increased 15% statewide (CPR, 2/2019)
Property crime and larceny increased 4% statewide (CPR, 2/2019)
42% success rate of Denver halfway houses (success = 2 years without re-offending); 58% failure rate (Denverite, 8/2019)