Racism, classism, xenophobia: Those words were often repeated by numerous people who signed up to speak for the update of the group-living amendment. And to make Denver better.

The Denver City Council meeting last night discussed a major change for Denver. The public hearing started at about 6 p.m. and ended around 1:30 this morning. (The photo above is credited by the Denver City Council and at the top of a Westword story.)

The topic was the Group Living Text Amendment.  More than 1,140 letters were sent in (for yes and no), and about 150 people signed up to speak last night. By the end of the meeting, 11 council members voted for the three parts of this amendment, and 2 council members voted no. The three parts of this amendment included different items, as noted from a story in Westword today:

“The vote came after three years of work to update the group-living aspects of the Denver Zoning Code by the Department of Community Planning and Development. Planners began working on the overhaul in late 2017: A ten-year moratorium on the construction of new halfway houses was set to expire in mid-2018, and they wanted to determine how the code could be changed to make more room for halfway houses. 

” ‘Since 2008, our halfway houses and community corrections have been in a time capsule. I do not think that’s progressive policy,’ (District 1 Representative Amanda) Sandoval noted during the meeting. 

“As they looked over the zoning code, planners saw other group-living issues that needed to be addressed, and decided to merge those into a single project that would come up with one proposal. In 2018, CPD staffers formed a Group Living Advisory Committee made up of sober-living home operators, communal-living proponents, and halfway house and homeless shelter operators, among others, to help guide the project. An August 2019 council decision to reject the renewal of halfway house contracts with two private prison companies increased the city’s interest in figuring out a zoning fix.”

And that is why some people were concerned about who could learn what was going on as this developed.

The result was in a story last month in the Denver Gazette:

“Denver District Court Judge Michael Vallejos ordered Mayor Michael Hancock to release improperly withheld documents on the city’s housing advisory committee, ruling against Hancock in the 2020 lawsuit.

“Vallejos filed the order Monday, demanding the release of 45 of 49 pages of documents that were withheld after Denver resident Florence Sebern submitted a request for the documents under the Colorado Open Records Act.

“ ‘I am grateful that Judge Vallejos took the time to carefully and thoughtfully consider this matter and apply the law, as written,’ Sebern said. ‘It appears standard procedure in the Mayor’s office is to obscure their actions and dare residents to challenge in court.’ ”

Interestingly, the city’s housing advisory committee was drafting the city’s Group Living Text Amendment. (And Florence Sebern was one of the people speaking last night at the public hearing.) 

Adding 3 more people in a regular home – making 5, with some relatives – is hardly a new concept even though it has been illegal. It’s called “I have a spare bedroom,” which has been around for years. Plus, people can save money so that at some point they might be able to buy a home. 

Also, since 2010, when the CPD developed a new zoning code but not for all of Denver, it’s time to get that evened out. In the case of District 5 Representative Amanda Sawyer, she was concerned about a couple of issues, but including the reality that “CPD had 10 years to fix this.” She voted no. District 2 Representative Kevin Flynn also discussed other issues on his district (with the most correctional facilities in his district) and said that several council members had asked planners to break up the one plan into three plans. He termed it an “omnibus bill.” That was a no vote, too. 

But for everyone else, it was a yes.

More to come, one would expect as this will be fleshed out over the months.




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