Motion To Repeal Change To The Life Of The Denver Group That Was Added To The November Vote | authorities
Denver voters have the option to overturn the city’s new amendment for group living this November after a petition putting the issue on the ballot received more than the required number of signatures.
The Denver Elections Division announced Monday that the petition received 13,642 valid signatures – more than 9,184 signatures.
“This is a huge win for Denver residents,” said Florence Sebern of Safe and Sound Denver, the group that organized the petition. “Good governance means serving your electorate and not flattering failed policies.”
The group housing change passed by the city council in February updated the citywide zoning code to allow five unrelated adults to live together in a single family versus two adults prior to the change being passed.
The legislation also increased the number of unrelated adults allowed to live together in maisonettes, apartments, and condominiums from four to five. Households can have an unlimited number of people as long as everyone is related. Households with five unrelated adults cannot have additional adult relatives.
Although approved by the city council by 11-2 votes (and expanded unanimously in April), the change has met with notable resistance in the community.
Safe and Sound Denver has opposed the policy change since its inception, arguing that increasing the number of people allowed to live in households would create noise, parking and security issues.
“We are grateful to be able to provide all Denver neighbors with a voice and choice about where to live in their neighborhoods,” said Paige Burkeholder of Safe and Sound Denver. “We support the stability of our neighborhood communities, policies, the Denver long-growth, quality of life and wellbeing.”
Opponents of the change also raised concerns about its component, which allows nursing homes and communal housing to operate based on the number of residents rather than the type of use.
This element of change expands the area in Denver that community correction facilities can be located. The apartment buildings, commonly known as halfway houses, used to be restricted to industrial and some inner city districts.
Safe and Sound Denver claims the city council failed to adequately address concerns and opposition from community members during the voting process; Councilwoman Kendra Black, however, disagrees.
“I worked very hard to change the original group life proposal to solve the problems that needed to be addressed,” said Black. “I met and communicated with neighborhood organizations, groups and individuals in 2020 to discuss the recommendations and hear concerns.”
Black said during the outreach process, most community members “understood the need to increase the maximum household size and expand inpatient care”. Some groups expressed discomfort at the proposal to increase the household size to eight, so the council reduced it to just five.
The council also changed the proposal to expand the zoned districts where home care facilities can be located based on public concerns about a concentration of home care in specific areas, Black said.
“Staff and councilors worked hard to resolve the issues in the Denver Zoning Code while listening to residents’ concerns,” said Black. “Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation and misinformation spread in the media and on social media that causes fear in some people.”
Black said that many fears about group life change are based on confusion. For example, when the council expanded the change city-wide, almost all opposition letters claimed it would drastically increase the number of residents allowed in individual condos, although in most cases it is more restrictive by removing the unlimited kinship rule for unrelated roommates.
Some parishioners have also claimed that the change will force landlords to accommodate large groups of people; This is not the case, however, as property owners can still limit the number of residents they allow to rent their properties.
The group housing change has been championed as promoting affordable housing and housing stability, with city officials saying it will lower housing costs, allow flexible housing options, and provide a more inclusive definition of households without significantly increasing the average household size.
Back in March, Councilors Jamie Torres, Robin Kniech, Amanda Sandoval and Council President Stacie Gilmore released a joint statement against efforts to repeal the change, saying the vote is not the place to go to settle such a complex issue.
“The council has effectively struck a balance between the disparate votes, something that a politicized election is not well suited to in a year with low turnout,” the statement said. “… We cannot ignore the many calls to the council to go further and remove all restrictions from the residential zone code for groups.”
Many city council members declined to comment on Tuesday on the repeal efforts that made it to the November vote, including councilor Kevin Flynn who was one of the two members who voted against the live group change when they did in February was passed for the first time.
Flynn (and the other dissenting councilor, Amanda Sawyer) have said they are voting against the home care parts of the amendment, not the budget definitions.
“Now people have to decide,” said Flynn.