Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Pending zoning changes jostle neighbors in Platt Park

When more than 100 people gather in a stuffy church basement to talk about Denver zoning and they bandy about phrases like “hornswoggled” or “sold down the river,” some degree of unrest might seem present.

Still, the gathering at Hope Community Church last Wednesday, July 2, in the Platt Park neighborhood northwest of DU was a polite, though robust, gathering of citizens, many of whom are just waking up to the huge change under way in Denver. After nearly four years of work, the city is proposing to totally revise the municipal zoning code and redefine the rights assigned to nearly every parcel of land in the city, including the University of Denver.

Which is why Jim Lindberg of the city’s Zoning Update Task Force spent a good chunk of Wednesday night’s meeting explaining basics. Specifically, why the familiar R-1, R-2, B-1 and B-2 designations that characterize most of Platt Park would be expanded to about 13 categories, or flavors as city planners are fond of saying. The names read like math formulas: U-SU-B, for example, or U-TU-B or U-MS-3.

“Most of the neighborhood is urban single unit B or B1,” he said, which meant something to the audience only after he had explained the new terms. “Urban” is the type of neighborhood, “SU” means single unit and “B” refers to a lot size of at least 4,500 square feet.

A person whose property is labeled U-SU-B could build a single-family house that conforms to the drawings in the new code. No other style would be allowed nor would a duplex, row house, tandem house or accessory dwelling unit, also known as a granny flat.

A person whose property is labeled U-SU-B1 could have that same type of urban house plus a granny flat, which the code says is a one- to two-story detached structure up to 1,000 square feet at the back of the property.

A person whose property is labeled U-SU-B2 could have all of the above plus a duplex or tandem house, providing they have 5,500 square feet and are on a corner where one street is an arterial or a collector.
It was clear from the discussion that there are plenty of concerns in Platt Park, which the area between Downing Street and Broadway and between Evans Avenue and Interstate 25. Some people want to be protected from more duplexes while others want the right to build them. Some complain the city is taking away their property rights in what they called a “major down-zoning.”

Some wanted the right to put granny flats on a multitude of properties in the neighborhood; others were unsure. Still others bristled that planners had created a “duplex ghetto” by limiting duplexes to a square of land between Asbury and Jewell avenues from just east of Logan Street to just west of Washington Street.

“Checkerboard zoning is the pattern (in the neighborhood),” said activist Fred Hammer. “It’s eclectic and random and planners didn’t acknowledge that in their zoning.

“This whole exercise was done by academics for academics. They like straight lines, not the rights of homeowners who have their life savings in their properties…The city took the easy way out.”

More than a few speakers urged residents to voice their opinions to the city through its Web site at or contact District 7 City Councilman Chris Nevitt at Both Nevitt and city planners say they welcome comments.

“This thing is really coming to a head and it’s important that we all be informed,” Lindberg cautioned. “We’ve got to get it right.”

Information about further informational meetings throughout July and August and a copy of the proposed zoning map can be found at The second draft of the city’s new plan is to be released Aug. 13.

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