Denver, Featured, Housing, Original Report, Sherrie Peif

Organized opposition forms against Denver’s controversial group-living plan

DENVER — 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.”

The group’s website lists over 20 Denver neighborhood groups and homeowners’ associations as opposing the plan.

The Group Living Zoning Code Amendment #7 would drastically change who and how many people can live in a single household as well as change existing code concerning halfway houses. The plan includes:

  • Allowing residential halfway houses for up to 40 residents transitioning from jails to society, most with felonies.
  • “Always open” homeless shelters for up to 40 people per shelter.
  • Sober living homes for up to 40 people per home.
  • Up to 10 unrelated adults in one residence.
  • Unlimited related adults in one residence.
  • Up to six vehicles per property in addition to unlimited street parking.

The group says, if passed, the new zoning will increase traffic, noise, trash and congestion; lower property values, place as strain on water and sewer lines, create safety concerns, and commercialize single-family neighborhoods.

Several Denver City Councilmembers agree. In a recent opinion piece in the Denver Post, District 5 Couniclwoman Amanda Sawyer and District 4 Couniclwoman Kendra Black say their fellow council members must understand the consequences and make changes now before the final proposal goes to a vote.

“That requires separate discussions of its many components, thoughtful consideration of different approaches that weren’t considered before, and resumption of the community engagement that had to be halted due to COVID restrictions on public meetings,” the women said in the opinion piece. “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.”

The op-ed was co-signed by councilmembers Jolon Clark, Kevin Flynn, and Paul Kashmann.

Sawyer and Black raised several questions about the proposal including housing-cost equity for those who don’t want to live with 10 people and whether it will discriminate more because of clauses that allow Denver’s 998 active Home Owners’ Associations to use their covenants to supersede the new code.

They said six of the 11 council districts had no representation on an advisory committee that was created in March, adding that 40 of the 47 members were providers of group home service, city officials or advocates of the plan. They called attendance spotty.

“Most Denverites find themselves reacting to what has already been produced rather than having authentic input in its formation,” the editorial said. “Had more communities been involved, we would have a very different proposal in front of us today.”

Sawyer and Black have called on their fellow council members to look at group living in a broader context.

“We don’t dispute the need for change,” they said. “However, rubber-stamping this proposal is not the best way to update the code to modern reality.”

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