Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another ADU Fan Speaks Out

City Counsel Men and Women,

            I hope that your considerations for ADU’s are strong ones. I have lived in both a mother in law apt. as well as a carriage house. Both of these living conditions have been some of the most communal and enjoyable living experiences I have undertook. It is the only way I could afford to live in an area that truly felt like home. It gave a great since of security for both me and my close by neighbor. I loved being able to be close by city transit, not needing a car to enjoy life and living in a HOME. They both were solid homes that were quite and a relief of apartment life. I have never felt so relaxed.  The benefit it gave the city and me was a strong desire to be a home owner. I am in the process now of buying my first home.

AUD’s  - good for the community by creating good neighbors.


Vance Hall
Denver CO

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Fear of Misbehaved Renters in Granny Flats

By Bernie Costello

Opponents of ADUs usually say that they don’t want too many renters in their neighborhood.

First, let us address the reality of renters. Of the 582,000 residents of Denver, 53% are homeowners. That means that 47% or approximately 273, 500 fine folks are renters*. With the rise of the millenniums, aka Generation Y, and a projected slowdown in the rise of homeownership, that number will continue rise.

All healthy cities have a generous population of non-homeowners as it is vital to the survival and growth of any metropolitan area. This results in businesses being fruitful, transit ridership growing to proper levels and new small business creation.

Now let us be honest regarding the reality of misbehaved renters. Most if not all of this fear is directed at college or post college age young adults. It is common sense that many of these folks are concentrated near the universities and surrounding community. The fear is based on primarily noise and secondarily maintenance concerns.

By law, all Colorado residents are deemed equal regardless of their homeownership status. The governing ordinances and laws apply to all and are there to ensure proper conduct and to avoid any safety or health issues. In other words, a noisy young adult renter having a party is dealt with in the same manner as the neighbors teenage prodigy practicing drum rolls at 2 am.

As someone who lives just south of the University of Denver, I realize that many students live in multiple roommate scenarios based on economics. This usually means they wind up in a single family detached home with another 2-3 roommates. This also results in a rental range of between 400-600 dollars each month. (note: these rental costs are based on informal discussions with students and property owners.) With this comes a variety of agreements with the property owner/ management regarding maintenance responsibilities.

Detached ADUs, located at the rear of the property adjacent to the alley are not limited to rental tenant use. The numerous uses, as determined by the homeowner, can include guest space, home office/studio space, caretaker quarters, or aging in place options. While renting the structure is an option, it is not a given.

With the restrictions in size pertaining to ADUs the number of potential tenants will be reduced to one or two. With these restrictions comes a reality in rental demographics based on the cost. With 10 % of the Denver population between the ages of 18-24 and 36% between the age of 25-44, the reality is that the ADU will be occupied by a young professional or couple. It also provides a great option for single parent households and an attractive option for retirees that want to stay in a neighborhood rather than an apartment block. Remember that Denver currently has carriage houses in almost all neighborhoods throughout the city. I should know as I was a renter in the city between the ages of 24 and 38. I lived in an internal apartment ADU and as my income grew and I was able to rent on my own, a carriage house, both located in Platt Park.

By the way, the tenants in the primary residence located in front of my carriage house were also renters, not that anyone knew or cared. The arrangement was nearly perfect for everyone involved, owners, roomates, and even the neighbors.

*Statistics based on DRCOG demographic charts.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ADU's on TV

The following is a link to a recent KBDI (Channel 12) interview with Mike Krause and Councilman Charlie Brown regarding the zoning changes. Mike did an excellent job discussing the importance of ADU's and the realities of density.

Charlie and Mike have found that most opponents cite "Fear of Misbehaved Renters" (FMR) as the #1 reason to prohibit ADU's in Denver.

Granny has also found this also to be true, with the addition of "Fear of Parking Problems" and "Fear of Too Many Cars".
In most cases, the ADU will be built with garage space, which will solve those problems.

Granny would also like to point out that we have found 12 technical studies that conclude ADU's are a good thing for cities, but we haven't been able to find a single study that would indicate the above fears ever come true.

Granny will address FMR in a future post.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Friends of Granny Supporters

The message of detached Accessory Dwelling Units for Denver is spreading fast. As of this date here is the list of folks passionate about them:
  1. Bob Sperling, Founder, Platt Park resident 303 351-9216
  2. Becky Alexis, Platt Park resident 720 935-9574
  3. Bernie Costello, South Denver 303 905-1859
  4. Bryan Piesczak, Platt Park
  5. Mike Kephart, North Wash Park (303) 777- 5642
  6. Kirk Stathes, Cherry Creek North
  7. Michael Kadovitz, Sloan's Lake
  8. James Van Hemert, Director of RMLUI, DU neighborhood
  9. Kevin Dickson, Co-Founder, East Wash Park 720 435-5909
  10. John Ferguson, West Wash Park
  11. Jay Pearson, WWP
  12. Richard Chapman, PP
  13. Rich Perrin
  14. Jim & Vivian Brock, East Wash Park (EWP)
  15. Michael Craig, PP
  16. Niccolo Casewit, Barnum 303 570-8118
  17. Deb Hart, WWP
  18. Tom Hart, WWP, Former Director of the Colorado Division of Housing
  19. Art Engel, Berkeley
  20. Ned Stitt, PP
  21. Fred Hammer, WWP & PP
  22. Rebecca Caldwell, Highlands & Harkness Heights
  23. Daniel Markofsky, Sloan's Lake
  24. Ethan Crawford, PP
  25. Chuck Crowley, WWP
  26. Timothy Jacques, Globeville
  27. Scott Rittinger, Whittier & Clayton
  28. Cary Bernhardson, WWP
  29. David Solomon, Jefferson Park
  30. Howard Hutson, Highlands
  31. Jack Dorwart, PP
  32. Nancy D'honau, PP
  33. Renee Babkiewich
  34. Jack Unruh, Overland
  35. Nancy Hart-Edwards, Hilltop
  36. David M. Edwards, Hilltop
  37. Mike Krause, Berkeley
  38. Jeff Mauck, Intern Architect, WWP
  39. Gosia Kung, AIA, LEED AP, NW Denver 
  40. Tod Kapke, WWP
  41. Monique Elwell, Highland 

Please help spread the word, the new zoning map is practically ignoring carriage houses, apparently because the city planning staff is either too timid to propose them for all neighborhoods, or they believe that the residents don't want them. If you are a resident that wants them, please drop an email to , at the NewCodeDenver website, and to your City Councilperson (or all of them):

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alley Living is Good?

Narrative from the Rosedale-Nevitt-CPD Zoning Code Update Meeting

May 26, 2009 By Granny Kevin D

I sat in a group of REALLY nice ladies, and our assignment was to identify the context of what we thought was best for Rosedale. Their knowledge of the neighborhood was great, they’d lived there a long time, moved at least twice within Rosedale, and even built new homes over closer to Yale.

Granny Kevin: “Carriage homes behind single family homes down by Broadway make sense”

LADY#1: “Oh, I don’t think so, we used to live down there and there’s a bad problem with vagrants in the alley.”

G.K.: “Carriage homes are perfect for that. There’s less mischief by people in that alley because they know residents might be watching out their window down on the alley”.

LADY#2: “That’s true, but I would NEVER want to live on the Broadway-Lincoln alley”

GK: “No, but what if you were a waitress working in a restaurant on Broadway, sick of roommates and apartment buildings, and only making $1600/month? Wouldn’t you just love it?”

LADY #1: “I guess you’re right!”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Citizens of Denver, Please Weigh In!

In the INC May newsletter, information on ADU's was published.

A counterpoint from WWP official Charlie Busch has been received, which we encourage comments on:

"An article about carriage houses was written in the May INC newsletter by those who activelypromote Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). This article offers a different perspective.
The earlier article relayed an example where the occupants of an ADU would be relatives or care givers of the residents of the main house. While this may in some instances be the case, the size of most of these units (most often 300-500 square feet) suggests that a more likely occupant may be a renter. Injecting more renters into stable neighborhoods generally increases a transitional population, which could destabilize the current owner-occupied balances of our neighborhoods and make it harder to maintain single family homes. It is possible to mandate that an owner occupy either the main dwelling unit or the ADU on each property, as is required by a number of cities permitting ADUs. Such a requirement could serve to curb complaints that arise from ADUs, such as excessive noise. However, we understand the City has rejected this idea, citing concern that enforcing such requirements would be difficult and time-consuming. As Denver residents, many of us have first-hand experience with the difficulties of enforcing code violations regarding residency requirements. Given this, even if an owner-occupancy restriction was imposed under the new Code, it seems unlikely thatmeaningful enforcement in a City as large as Denver could be achieved without a major investment of resources. Unfortunately, the City has stated it has no resources for such enforcement activities.

Without the certainty of an owner-occupant on the premises, neighbors adjacent to ADUs couldbe subjected to increased alley noise, lack of privacy and traffic from what could easily translate into garage housing for students and young adults. Of course, there is a need for housing for such populations, but this is perhaps best accommodated in areas appropriately zoned for density. It is hard to dispute that individuals enjoying their college years and young adulthood frequently have lifestyles that can be out of synch with those valued by many in our predominantly single-family areas. Encouraging such uses in areas zoned for multi-family structures, or in areas of change where the inclusion of such uses is from the onset contemplated as part of the housing mix, can better address everyone’s needs and desires.

In addition to issues of differing lifestyles, privacy issues arise from allowing ADUs in single family home neighborhoods. As Denver residents, we spend significant resources to enhance our backyards, which for many of us serve as our only outdoor oasis from the hustle and bustle of city life. While a property owner with an ADU may fill her lot with more square footage of living space, the neighbor next door or across the alley suffers the lack of privacy in his backyard that ensues from the presence of an adjacent garage apartment. The quiet enjoyment of our outdoor spaces would be compromised.

It should also be noted that each additional living unit, on average, currently demands parking for one or two cars, and generates up to ten additional car trips per day. Some cities permitting ADUs require that three parking spaces be provided, and that one space be reserved solely for the ADU. But again, even if the new Code were to adopt such a requirement, enforcement likely would be an issue.

In the end, we must ask ourselves how much we, as residents in Denver’s existing stable neighborhoods, are willing to surrender in lifestyle for the profit of others. Clearly this type of housing should not be permitted in all of our Denver neighborhoods. The City should exempt single family home zone districts from this type of use and density. Otherwise, we must face the fact that such districts will no longer be single family home districts."

Granny's response:

In the city's words:

"Denver's 53-year-old zoning code is broken and needs to be fixed. It suffers from more than a half century of incremental changes that have made it complicated, inconsistent and cumbersome. Denver needs a new zoning code that will support a growing economy, a sustainable environment, a diverse mix of housing, strong neighborhoods, and a high quality of life."

We also feel that the old zoning code "didn't quite get it right". It was drafted during a time when people were afraid of many things about urban areas, the "Top 3" being density, traffic and parking. Carriage houses were outlawed due to these fears. The facts at the time weren't evaluated sufficiently. Those facts still exist today -- that Denver's thousands of carriage houses cause very few problems compared to the benefits for the city and its residents.

In other cities that have adopted ADU codes, only one home per thousand is converted per year. This is not something to fear.

Please comment below