Tonight, Denver’s City Council will hold a public hearing on two of the city’s new plans to address growth, equity, design, climate change, and other issues facing the future: Comprehensive Plan 2040, and Blueprint Denver, a supplement to the plan. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.
Over the past three years, the plans have been written, revised, commented upon, and now they are coming to a vote, hand in hand. The vote will happen right after the public hearing. At least one city councilman suggested during a recent meeting of the Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure committee to hold the vote a week later, since there might be some comments to fold into the plans. That got nowhere, so tonight they undoubtedly will be approved.
Also, there has been talk about postponing the vote until after the election on May 7. That has gone nowhere, too, though the three top contenders seeking the incumbent mayor’s position would like a delay. Many things are now being viewed through the prism of this election, but it’s not just optics.
Last fall, I read the two plans, and this morning, I read (and scanned) the plans again, since planners have incorporated comments over the past several months. My goal was to see how much emphasis was there to protect the quality of design in new buildings and the preservation of neighborhood character throughout Denver.
The words are there, and they seem hopeful, but we have seen a lot of abysmally wretched new buildings constructed over the past few years. In some cases, the anti-architecture taking advantage of the zoning code has overwhelmed neighborhoods that have no say and little recourse.
Will this new plan be strictly enforced by the city’s planning and community development staff, and will city officials stand behind it? Will affordable housing become really affordable, and will massive redevelopment be questioned so long-time residents do not continue to get pushed out to…. Somewhere? Anywhere? Good design, honest materials, community investment: Will this be required?
The new Blueprint Denver includes this:
“Our community voiced a strong desire for high-quality urban design, from vibrant, people-oriented streets to attractive, inviting buildings. Simply put, Denverites want new development that honors the historic and cultural fabric of our city. They want a safe and attractive public realm that is human-scaled. They want a beautiful city with character.
“The urban design recommendations throughout this plan are intended to advance these values and achieve design excellence in Denver.”
Yes, we do want this. Can this really be accomplished?
Finally, Denverite this morning posted a story by David Sachs on the vote coming up tonight. He includes comments from the three major mayoral candidates — I’m listing them in alphabetical order — Lisa Calderón, Jamie Giellis, and Penfield Tate. They are running against current Mayor Michael Hancock, and the three favor a delay.
The story includes a quote regarding aspirational goals:
“I think that what we’ve seen from this administration is that it continues to put out plans, spend tens of thousands of dollars, and yet we see very little results,” Calderón said. “So whoever next takes the helm of our city will be stuck with an incomplete plan that is in need of further study. Quite honestly, I think the skepticism that you are seeing is a lack of trust in the administration because of aspirational goals that don’t have teeth to them.”
When I began this blog, it had a different name: Denver, What the Hell Happened to you? I decided to soften the title because I was more interested in explaining than yelling (though it made me think of the character of Howard Beale in Network, who foresaw our future through the brilliance of screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky).
Before writing this, I skimmed the old Blueprint Denver 2020, from 2000. That plan was somewhat more cautionary; it acknowledged that there would be growth in Denver, but not the growth the city has experienced like being hit by a tidal wave. That plan divvied up the city as Areas of Stability and Areas of Change. That was 19 years ago, and the result is an overwhelming number of Areas of Change, and much less stability.
These new plans will be in place for years, with some tweaks. That’s a long time for a city that has remade itself in so little time.
Below are links to the Denverite story, the two plans being voted upon tonight, and to the video of the City Council committee meeting on April 2.