Wow, we watched the Zoom public hearing about Denver's East Area Plan tonight, and there were several great speakers that represented the hundreds of residents in our neighborhood who opposed the plan in it's current form with height increase recommendations and single-unit zoning language removed. But unfortunately, our City Council decided that they do not need to represent the tax-paying property owners in our neighborhoods.
The city had the East Area Plan viewers and resident speakers signup at 4:30pm and then wait for over three hours to talk (through a multitude of other city topics). The public hearing on the East Area Plan finally started at 7:05pm.
The East Area Plan proponents then pandered their same rhetoric for why the plan is great for an extended period of time. Finally, they allowed for the public to speak, and several resident speakers had numerous valid arguments to vote against the East Area Plan in it's current form.
There were also several of the Hilltop Yimby Denver types who do not live in this area who spewed out the same rhetoric about how they're here to help us. They may say they are Yimbys, but don't think for a second that they live in an area where they'll allow for the destruction of beautiful homes or open spaces in order to build duplexes or multi-units. They do however, envision that the struggling people can live along Colfax, with tiny balconies where they can hang their bikes and enjoy the views, noise and stench of the back-to-back car traffic jammed into one lane while noisy, polluting RTD buses rumble their way down the blocks. Lucky people.
After the public hearing, the City Planners and City Council continued to gush how the plan is going to do so much, in an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, acting like they cared. They said they listened to the hundreds of residents concerns and objections (see petition), but did they? We all voiced that the height increase recommendations are not needed for sustainable growth, and the city acknowledged that this was true. But this concern was ignored as the city planners and council members then continued to repeat that the plan is going to cure our housing crisis by changing the city's “recommendations” to change our zoning to pave the way for more development and taller buildings right next to our historic, affordable and diverse single-family homes. They acted as though if they didn't pass their amazing plan right now as it is, then the plan would never be passed. That is not true, they could have continued to develop it with property owners' and residents' input. We do want to protect open spaces, community gardens, and provide parks for people who live here to enjoy. We do want the city to continue to be better for riding bicycles or taking public transportation. But we can do all of this within our existing height zoning, so it is a problem that the new East Area Plan is recommending taller buildings on certain blocks without the need for them.
They passed the plan with all of the undesired and unnecessary height increase recommendations despite the fact that the city has admitted that there is more than enough room for the growth they've determined that we need in the existing zoning (3-5 stories). This plan didn't need to go through with the height increase recommendations, they could still work on the plan to work within the existing height zoning.
The City Council passed this plan, despite that the plan makes NO COMMITMENTS at all to ensure that affordable housing or other community benefits will be enforced to be included. The highly controversial East Area Plan pays lip service to affordable housing, open space, community gardens and other community benefits but does nothing to guarantee any of these while it opens the doors wider for developers to come in and snatch up any affordable properties for development and exploitation.
Denver is in the top 10 nationwide for two things – having the worst air pollution, and for having built the most apartments in the past decade. Building more mid-to-high-cost housing doesn't solve homelessness or affordability, it just packs more people in and worsens our problems.
Nearly six hours later, at around 10:52pm the City Council decided to vote for the East Area Plan and go against the hundreds of the residents who have repeatedly opposed the unnecessary height increases in our neighborhood and zoning recommendation changes. All City Council members voted for the plan except for Candi CdeBaca, who supported the residents who live here and voted against the plan.
The rest of the City Council members happily congratulated each other for spending their valuable time listening to all of our objections – while getting paid as part of their job, and, then, subsequently ignoring us – as they excitedly, and smugly passed their plan.
The City Council is not representing us, they are representing only themselves and special interests. This magical plan won't help with affordable housing, it will instead make our area less affordable as it opens the door wider for developers to purchase affordable, well-built properties, bulldoze them to the ground, and then build expensive duplexes, multi-units and sky rises along Colfax, or add houses into backyards. In this process developers will demolish small, affordable homes to be replaced with units that are unattainable by the very people that the city planners and city council say they are trying to help. Us. Something's fishy here.
Well, not really, the answer is easy: the city makes more taxes for every unit. So, obviously, if you worship money as our City Council has proven in their total disregard for their hundreds of residents' input, then more units is better. More is more.
Even if that means more flooding, congestion, toxic air pollution, strains on infrastructure like roads, water supplies, hospitals, parks, open space, schools. Even if the people who are warehoused here in poorly built, overcrowded, noisy apartment complexes are unhappy and constantly want to escape to the mountains (to which, by the way, you need a car to get to.) Even if there are no sidewalks on the streets that they build these sky rises on, so it forces the new pedestrians to walk in the street at their own peril, dodging the additional traffic and parked cars. All of this while still struggling, as the rent isn't going to be affordable, no matter what the city council tells us that they envision.
The city says they cannot and will not be able to enforce that affordable housing is included in any developments, they'll just grant developers the permits to build sky rises and giant boxes right next to our small affordable homes and neighborhoods. These new taller buildings will cast a long shadow over our homes and landscapes.
What's worse, developers are going to be enticed to buy and destroy beautiful, small, affordable historic homes to build multiple box units such as two overpriced duplexes in their place – both of which will cost substantially more than the irreplaceable well-built brick homes they replaced. Meanwhile, for all of us struggling just to make our own mortgage payments, our property taxes continue to go up. We've already seen this happen in other neighborhoods all over Denver, now our area is up for the mauling.
We need to call in our own dogs in to protect our community from the very people that are supposed to be representing us. Shame on City Council and the city planners for pushing this ill-conceived plan through. There was no rush to have this plan approved during the pandemic, it could have continued to be worked on with resident input – since they rushed it through, one can only suspect some sort of bribery was at play.
On a last note, we'll leave you with this. We thought this resident's speech was one of the better ones:
“While there is a lot to like about the EAP, and I respect the work that has gone into it, three issues compel me to ask City Council members to vote no tonight. First, timing: We're in the midst of a global pandemic. Cities and states are shutting down, again. So why would the city make this matter a priority, when we as citizens are preoccupied with survival? I find it unconscionable this vote is even happening. Second, economics. While Denver's economy may seem strong right now, Colorado has always been boom / bust. By all indications, we are in a down turn already, downtown residential vacancies are rising. Rent prices are falling for the first time in over a decade. Citizens are moving rural because technologies allow them to work from anywhere. RTD is in crisis, businesses are closing or barely holding on. So why would council push forward a twenty-year plan amidst such economic uncertainty. This too, I find unconscionable. Last, the whole single family zoning thing – East Area Plan is one of four calculated attacks to undo single family zoning in Denver. There are neighborhood plans like this one, the residential infill project, group living, and allowing ADUs everywhere. Clearly, this administration is hell-bent on killing single family zoning, and for what? No city has proven that eliminating single family zoning results in anything better, more right or more fair. What is proven, is that single family zoning has created stability in Denver for over 100 years. Any notion of undoing what's working, such as omitting the language council woman's Sawyer's amendment proposes be replaced, strikes me as a covetous attack by the city on citizen's life, liberty and property. Encouraging density where it is not warranted, is just a tax wolf in sheep's clothing. And that, too, is unconscionable. Given market forces, it won't deliver the affordable housing outcomes that wishful thinkers would like to believe. So what's a better way? Leave single family zoning alone, you can only destroy a great city once, so don't. Add the language proposed in the amendment back in, and focus on one thing, making Colfax a commercial residential corridor that is the envy of the world, because we can.” - John S., Resident