Oct 25, 2021

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CCLP statement of opposition on Denver Ballot Measure 2F

Denver voters will be asked to weigh in on several ballot measures during the upcoming election on November 2, 2021. Among them will be ballot measure 2F, also known as “Safe and Sound Denver.” Despite its laudable name, Colorado Center on Law and Policy urges Denver voters to vote NO on 2F. This ballot measure would repeal important changes to Denver’s zoning code that expanded the number of unrelated adults who could live in a single-family home from 2 to 5 while simultaneously revising the way Denver regulates and approves the development of new residential care facilities. We believe that repealing these changes will only hurt our most vulnerable neighbors and make it even more difficult for our fellow Denverites to find affordable places to live.

Why is 2F on the Ballot?

Starting in March 2018, the City and County of Denver began a 3-year public process to revise the city’s outdated group living regulations. After establishing an advisory committee, holding over 60 public meetings, presentations, and open houses, the proposed regulations were reviewed and approved by Denver’s Planning Board in mid-2020 and by the City Council in February 2021.

Throughout the process, City staff made revisions and compromises to address concerns raised by community members, including limiting the number of unrelated adults who could live in a single-family home to 5 and restricting community corrections facilities from being located in single-family residential neighborhoods.

Despite the zoning changes passing with large majorities, an opposition group calling themselves “Safe and Sound Denver” collected enough signatures to place the repeal of this amendment on November’s ballot. While claiming to be made up of concerned residents and neighbors, this group has raised almost all of its money from Defend Colorado, a dark money political advocacy group that refuses to disclose their donors. In other words, the primary financial backer of 2F is a group that does not want the public to know what interests they truly represent.

Why did Denver Initiate These Amendments?

You might be surprised to learn that the City and County of Denver defines what a “family” is in their zoning code. Before this year, a family was defined based on blood relation. Not only that, but these definitions were written in the 1950s, a period when social and cultural norms were very different from today. For example, under Denver’s previous regulations, it was illegal for a married couple to live with their adult-age adopted son or daughter in their single-family home, duplex, or townhome—they were not considered a family.

CCLP does not believe it is the role of Denver’s zoning code to decide who we can consider a member of our family—that is a personal decision that is best left up to individuals to define for themselves. Furthermore, given Denver’s high housing costs, it makes sense that three or four unrelated adults might try to live together in a single-family home, duplex, or townhome and share living expenses. Such an arrangement was not legally permitted in Denver until the group living amendment was adopted earlier this year. Many living arrangements permitted under current law would become illegal if 2F passes.

In addition, the amendment changed the way the zoning code regulates large residential care uses. These range from senior living facilities to community corrections facilities that help those released from the criminal justice system to reintegrate into society (with supervision of Denver Police Department and/or the Denver Sheriff).

As a result of stereotypes and safety concerns unsupported by evidence, the previous rules made it nearly impossible to build many types of new residential care facilities. Many existing facilities for these uses are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color, even though all city residents benefit from these sorts of uses.

The code now regulates these uses based on the number of people who would be living in the facilities, instead of based on the population served by the facility. The amendment also expanded the areas where new residential care facilities could be built, but notably prohibited community corrections facilities from locating in single-family zoned neighborhoods in response to residents’ concerns. Despite this concession, “Safe and Sound Denver” and their supporters continue to use the false specter of released criminals moving en masse into our neighborhoods as a scare tactic to coerce Denverites to vote for this measure.

Why Vote “No” on Measure 2F?

We oppose ballot measure 2F because it will significantly harm our neighbors. Preventing more than two unrelated adults from living in a single-family home, the predominant housing type in our city, will only serve to exacerbate existing housing challenges and make it illegal for households made up of 3 or more unrelated adults to live together. We expect the direct result of this measure to be more of our neighbors forced out of the safe homes they will no longer be able to afford.

Voting yes on 2F will also mean that the code reverts to its 1950s-era definition of who you can consider part of your family, potentially preventing your family from legally living together if yours does not meet this outdated definition.

Finally, 2F will make it harder to build many types of residential care facilities, including shelters for people experiencing homelessness, despite the need for such uses in our city. The capacity of some homeless shelters could be reduced, and it would be harder to improve existing shelters or build new ones. Many existing residential care facilities are isolated from services like transit, health care, and employment, making it that much more difficult for residents to access the services and job opportunities they need to get back on their feet.

Our city faces many pressing challenges that will only be harder to address if 2F passes. This ballot measure offers no solutions to the problems Denver’s group living amendment was designed to address. Instead, its proponents have used fearmongering to mislead residents of Denver as to the facts of the amendment. We urge all Denverites to learn more about this ballot initiative and to vote NO on 2F this November.

You can learn more about the group living amendment by going to the dedicated page on the website of the City and County of Denver: https://www.denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Community-Planning-and-Development/Denver-Zoning-Code/Text-Amendments/Group-Living

Recent articles

CCLP files comment on overtime protections for farmworkers in Colorado

The following comment was submitted on November 1 to Michael Primo, Director of Operations for the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics, regarding rulemaking pursuant to SB21-081: Agricultural Rights and Responsibilities and COMPS Order #38. Read our new issue...

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