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Wasteful Denver

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

It's terrible seeing all the waste in Denver, including the demolition of perfectly good buildings such as garages and more affordable small homes to replace with poorly made, bigger buildings that cover up more and more permeable green spaces in our neighborhoods. Beautiful historic affordable homes are being razed to be replaced with un-affordable homes. Landscapes and trees are disappearing under ADUs and larger mansions so that investors can get more money for the property.

The most affordable houses in our neighborhoods are being bought by investors instead of families, and then are demolished to erect much larger un-affordable homes in their place. Denver talks about needing affordable housing, but they continue to grant permit after permit to investors to bulldoze all of our more affordable homes to be replaced with un-affordable ones. At the very least we could preserve the affordable housing including small homes that we already have! Erecting McMansions by demolishing smaller homes in our neighborhoods is just erasing all of our most affordable and well-built historic homes from our neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, high quality bricks, wood and other materials make their way to the dumpster and then to our landfills. They are dumped into dumpster after dumpster without caution or care so that these valuable historic materials could be preserved or reused. The waste is colossal.

Dumpsters come and go steadily as our smaller affordable homes are demolished by bulldozers, making way for larger buildings built of all new materials. Even newer buildings are under siege...

Preserving and repurposing old buildings is a much more sustainable option than constructing a new buildings – even the so-called "green" buildings. But in Denver, who cares about sustainability? It's all about making money. Destroy and throw away buildings like small homes and garages into the landfill, and quickly build giant new buildings to make more money. Why not? It's all about the bottom line, right? Who cares about wasting valuable materials? Who cares if the demolishing of well-built homes pollutes our air with tractors and trucks and toxic dust? Not Denver property investors. It's a good thing they don't have to live on our blocks while the construction goes on. As neighbors, we can't just leave, this is our home and what we thought was an established neighborhood – not a 7 year construction zone as one by one the smaller houses are gobbled up by developers.

Dumpster after dumpster are picked up and empty ones delivered as a small brick home is destroyed. Worker trucks, vans and tractors noisily pollute our block as they come and go for months during the demolition and construction.

It's terrible to see our landfills filling up with materials of beautiful smaller homes that could have continued to be used by many more generations if we were thinking sustainably. It's time to change from our throw-away culture.

Photo source: Denverite – Denver Landfill from from Jan. 26, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Reusing buildings is much more sustainable than demolishing them and building new. But in Denver, many historic well-built homes are being sent to the landfill to be replaced with poorly built new buildings that are not designed to last the test of time.


Here's a recent letter from a reader in the Greater Park Hill News: Why Are We Letting This Happen To Our Park Hill? Dear Neighbors,

The Park Hill Cottage is becoming an endangered species. In my travels through our neighborhood I’m saddened to see more and more of what I call “starter homes” being scraped and replaced by McMansions three times their size.

Where do first-time home buyers go – singles, young couples, older folks downsizing? Where there may have been some chance for a working class couple to afford $600,000 for the cottage, they surely will not be able to afford the $1.5 million monster that replaces that cottage.

I’m watching what used to be an economically, and hence racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood, become a ghetto of nice privileged white folks with white collar jobs. This is not the kind of neighborhood I want to live in and it's not why I moved to Park Hill over 40 years ago.

I wonder why this is happening and imagine the answer lies with the sociologists and market economists. But I also wonder why are we letting this happen to our neighborhood? Where are the Registered Neighborhood Organizations, city councilpersons, we, who live here? The question needs to be answered not by economists and sociologists, but by us from our heart space. What’s right when it comes to living not the words, but the actions of diversity in all its dimensions – economic, racial, ethnic?

And if that question pushes on our sense of social justice and community, how do we deal with questions about stewardship of our planet? How can we justify taking all of those bricks, concrete, plaster, roofing, sinks and toilets from a livable space and putting it into a landfill and replacing it with a space that will use twice the water, gas and electricity?

I’m very sad and sorry for us.

~ E.G., Park Hill (Source: Letters to the Editor from the April 2022 issue of Greater Park Hill News)

Seattle lumberyard 1937. What amazes me is that all this lumber would be worth more than we can imagine. Millions of board feet of incredible old-growth lumber!! The bigger point is that none of this lumber is gone. It’s all still there in the houses around Seattle (if we don’t tear them down) and it will continue to be there for another hundred years if we only take care of these old houses!

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it takes about 65 years for an energy-efficient new building to save the amount of energy lost in demolishing an existing building. It's even worse if these new buildings are poorly constructed, which is occurring very frequently in Denver as developers cut corners to make as much money as possible. Denver developers are in it to maximize profits, and they most often hire subcontractors who provide the lowest possible bid and work with the least expensive lower-quality materials. New construction defects commonly result in foundation issues, leaking roofs or windows, electrical defects, What's worse, is that Denver developers are constantly trying to fight off construction defect bills so they can get away with shoddy construction, leaving the problems in the hands of the new homeowners.

Denver can do better than filling up our landfills with well-built historic homes to make room for new poorly construction buildings! Let's work to preserve as much as we can before it's too late.

Above are a couple posts from The Craftsman Blog discussing why old growth wood in our historic homes is invaluable and irreplaceable.



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