Homeowners in two more Denver neighborhoods now have the right to build accessory dwelling units on their properties without going through a long rezoning process.
The City Council on Monday made Valverde and Athmar Park on the west side of the town the latest corners of the city with blanket rezoning that allows residents to build secondary housing structures on their lots without applying for that zoning on an individual basis.
Those units, often called ADUs or sometimes granny flats or mother-in-law apartments, are viewed as a key tool in the city’s affordable housing efforts because they allow for more housing density in residential areas and, at smaller sizes than primary homes, are expected to provide more affordable options for renters and people living on fixed incomes.
“I believe allowing ADUs in Valverde and Athmar will allow our neighborhoods to change and grow while expanding affordable housing options in our neighborhood,” Adriana Lopez, president of the Valverde Neighborhood Association, said during Monday’s public hearing.
Both Lopez’s organization and the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association supported the rezoning effort.
Council’s vote comes roughly a year and a half after the Athmar Park organization circulated a survey to see if residents were interested in ADU zoning, according to a city staff presentation.
“It’s really exciting, after all of this time and all of this work, that these communities can have the type of zoning that they have asked for …” District 7 Councilman Jolon Clark said.
Clark sponsored the rezoning measure Monday. He credited District 1 Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval for blazing the trail for neighborhoodwide rezoning to allow for ADUs.
When West Highland was rezoned for ADUs in November, it became the fourth neighborhood in Sandoval’s district to allow the accessory units by right, meaning nearly every homeowner there has that option.
Valverde and Athmar Park make at least 10 Denver neighborhoods that have blanket ADU zoning. More than 2,700 residential parcels were rezoned via Monday’s vote.
The city ran an equity analysis ahead of the measure being brought to the council. Officials found that Athmar Park and Valverde were good candidates for ADUs in part because people living in those neighborhoods are considered more vulnerable to economic displacement than in other, more affluent parts of the city. ADUs can provide homeowners with an extra revenue stream and added financial stability, supporters say.
“ADUs expand housing options, are a wealth building tool and opportunity to keep current residents in place,” city planner Courtney Levingston said Monday.
Two neighborhood residents submitted letters opposing the rezoning, though neither spoke as part of the public hearing. Their concerns included the added stress more housing would put on infrastructure and the impact the units would have on the aesthetics of the area.
The city planning department is preparing to bring a zoning code amendment to the City Council that would update the way ADUs are designed to fit in with different neighborhoods and potentially knock down barriers to more ADU construction. A draft version of that proposed amendment is available on the city’s Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Denver webpage. That measure is expected to come before the council for approval in June. It would not rezone any properties on its own.
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