Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

West Wash Park gears for rezoning fight

A plan affecting more than 2,800 homes in West Washington Park was pulled out of the legislative hamper Wednesday, shaken out and held up for public airing.

Billed as a device to preserve the “predominantly single-family character” of West Wash Park against “rampant multi-unit development,” the plan is being advanced by District 7 City Councilman Chris Nevitt and neighborhood activists. They’ve been at work for months, holding coffee Q&As, meeting with city planners and walking door-to-door to inform residents.

On Oct. 8, some 70 citizens gathered for a briefing at which Nevitt outlined his proposal and answered questions.

“Development pressure,” he said, is causing an increasing number of single-family homes in the neighborhood to be scraped off and replaced with duplexes, triplexes and “in some cases quadplexes.”

“The resulting scrape-off development as a whole threatens to destroy the qualities and character that make this neighborhood so attractive and desirable,” Nevitt wrote in a briefing sheet.

The reason, he explained, is that Blueprint Denver, the city’s master plan for land use, envisions the neighborhood as single-family residential, but most of it is zoned R-2, a multifamily category. Over the years, rising property values created development incentives that pushed new construction in a multifamily direction, which he said is opposite of Blueprint Denver’s intention.

Nevitt said his zoning proposal is intended to “halt that slide.”

His solution is to divide West Wash Park into two regions. The eastern region would be downzoned from R-2 to the more restrictive R-1. Such a change would prohibit new multi-unit structures but preserve the rights of existing ones.

The rezoning would be achieved “legislatively,” meaning Nevitt would advance the measure through City Council. Legislative rezoning does not require approval by 51 percent of the homeowners affected as is required under a “voluntary” rezoning.

The area to be rezoned generally runs west of South Downing Street to the alley between Clarkson and Washington streets and south of Cedar to Mississippi Avenues.

“The current mix [of housing] is what we want and we’re going to snap that into place with rezoning,” he said.

The second region is the 18-month Moratorium area. It runs west of the alley to Lincoln Street and from Cedar to Mississippi. For 18 months, only duplexes would be permitted on lots greater than 6,000 square feet, and lots could not be “assembled” for a duplex.

“The 18 months gives us a moratorium on multiplex construction,” Nevitt said. That gives the city’s Zoning Code Update Task Force time to finish redrawing Denver’s zoning code and create a new mechanism for duplexes.

Critics question Nevitt’s assertion that West Washington Park has the single-family character he says it does. They claim the neighborhood has always been a mix of single-family homes and duplexes and that the larger pattern is one of continuous change. They also maintain that Blueprint Denver is a guide, not an absolute document and say it is already out of touch in the six years since it was adopted.

“Change is inevitable and often desirable,” District 6 City Councilman Charlie Brown wrote in September. “Rezoning does not guarantee preservation of a neighborhood, can have unintended consequences and can lead to future deterioration by choking off development and renewal.”

Nevitt is sticking to his guns.

“Passions can run high about this,” he said, “but I’m confident it’s consistent with our plans and very much the sentiment of the neighborhood.”

The first test of that will be during a public hearing Nov. 5 before the Denver Planning Board. For information, go A community meeting on the plan is scheduled for Oct. 15 at the Christian Indian Center, 501 S. Pearl St., from 7–9 p.m. For information, go to

Comments are closed.