After nearly three years of work, a proposal to revise aspects of the zoning code for living in Denver – particularly the number of unrelated adults who can live in a household – is in the final stages.

“Our zoning code’s rules for residential use, from household sizes to care facilities, are out of date and are preventing the city from meeting our residents’ urgent needs for shelter, support services, and community sharing,” said Laura Swartz, spokeswoman for the Denver Department for Community Planning and Management development (CDP) that drove the project forward. “These changes would replace many outdated regulations rooted in classism and racism with a fairer approach to the way and location of care facilities.”

On December 22nd, the Denver City Council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will vote on the current form of the proposal. If it is passed, it will be forwarded to the full advisory board for voting in February.

For months the CPD has been working on the proposal in front of council members, trying to get the plan so far that a majority of them will support it. Along the way, various members have expressed opposition to certain aspects of the overhaul, such as the increase in the number of unrelated adults who can live together. As a result, the planners toned down some of their changes.

As it stands, the proposal would increase the number of adults living together in the same house from two unrelated adults to a total of five instead of the ten proposed. (The exception: an unlimited number of related adults can live together in the same household as long as there is no unrelated adult in the household. This is unchanged from the current zone code.)

The proposal would also significantly increase the number of areas in Denver that houses could be halfway through. Residential areas designated as single or two-unit areas and certain row house areas would still be closed to halfway houses. Still, this would be “a huge improvement for a number of reasons,” says Swartz, “including the fact that Denver needs more intermediate sleeping spaces that we can’t meet under the existing zoning, and that these services can be placed in areas people who live can better access transport, jobs and everyday needs. “

The group life overhaul would allow service providers to establish care facilities such as homeless shelters and sober dormitories in more parts of Denver. Certain restrictions would limit larger care facilities in residential areas.

Ultimately, the proposal would create density limits for care facilities catering for up to ten people to prevent a single neighborhood from oversaturating these types of facilities.

The overhaul is already well behind schedule and is being delayed by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the requests from the council for more detailed presentations from the staff. The proposal has changed significantly from its original version as Andrew Webb, the senior city planner overseeing the project, changed various aspects to get the approval of certain council members.

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“We have worked to align shared values ​​for Denver improvement while ensuring these revised changes address council members’ concerns,” says Swartz.

If the entire Denver City Council finally passes the proposal, the CPD will also come up with an ordinance in early 2021 that will extend the budget-sized aspects of zone updates to areas of the city currently under the old zone code previously zoned by Changes exempt. A little more than 20 percent of Denver remains zoned under the old Code, formerly Chapter 59, despite the fact that Denver City Council passed a new Code in 2010. Many of these parcels were developed under special zoning permits. When the new code was passed a decade ago, it stipulated that the city could not change the zoning of areas still under the old code. But that could change.

The way forward, however, will not be entirely smooth. Some Denver residents have been vocal about the project and have come together as Safe and Sound Denver.

This group has regularly emailed and even created a YouTube video warning of the “unintended consequences” of the project, including “devastation of your property values” and “temporary populations”.

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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh works for Westword where he covers a range of topics including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and enjoys talking about New York sports.