Following the rezoning of the Chaffee Park neighborhood to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs), Councilwoman Sandoval is proposing to allow more ADUs in the Sloan’s Lake area. ADUs, sometimes called carriage houses, are a secondary dwelling unit on the same property as the main house. Usually smaller, they can be attached but are often separate structures that can be alleyway or street facing.
Without the larger zoning change, property owners have gone before council one at a time to request individual rezonings. These hearings have become commonplace with multiple coming before council each month. The proposal would affect over 1300 parcels, giving them the ability to build an ADU without further city approval.
“Legislative ADU rezonings not only save property owners time and money, but also benefit the City by being a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars than one-off rezonings,” said Councilwoman Sandoval. “After months of neighborhood outreach, I am thrilled to sponsor this legislative rezoning on behalf of the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood and to continue to further ADUs throughout Denver.”
That outreach included mailing flyers to all property owners’ listed addresses (in the event they live elsewhere and rent out their property by Sloan’s or use it as a second home) and two rounds of hand-delivered flyers to all doors in the neighborhood in an effort to reach owners and renters or other residents. Of the 335 responses (a similar response rate to their outreach in Chaffee Park), 73% said they were in favor, 7% were undecided, and 20% were opposed.
Respondents in favor shared a variety of reasons: limited housing stock, skyrocketing rental prices (many ADUs are used as rentals), climate change (gentle density increases like ADUs arguably reduce commute travel and, therefore, pollution), and the desire to provide housing for an aging family member to live close but in their own home.
Opponents cited parking and congestion concerns that could come with a density increase. Several noted they selected the neighborhood because of its current zoning and character, and several commented about not wanting more renters in the neighborhood.
There were several common points of concern raised by both proponents and opponents though. Increasing home prices were noted by both. Proponents stated the rezoning will help owners stay in their homes by creating rental income and create affordably-priced housing for renters. Opponents noted that homes with ADUs are dramatically more expensive, which could push home ownership further out of reach if there is less stock of entry-level homes.
Another point of concern was whether the ADUs can be used as short term rentals (STR) such as AirBnBs. Numerous opponents and some proponents all expressed concerns about more STRs. Denver regulates such rentals, restricting the circumstances when an ADU can be used as an STR. A homeowner who lives in their primary residence can rent out their ADU as a short term rental, but they cannot live in their ADU and use their primary residence for short term rentals. That second situation is in contrast to long term rentals, where an owner can live in their ADU and rent out their primary residence. Renting the primary residence as a long term rental also prohibits the ADU from being used as a short term rental.
The proposal includes homes in the official boundaries of the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood, as well as a handful that are technically over the line in the West Colfax neighborhood in Council District 3, a technical and political boundary that residents are often unaware of. Councilwoman Torres said she appreciates Sandoval including the homes in her district in the proposal.
Larry Ambrose, who heads up one of the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood organizations in the area, is one of the homeowners who can see the lake from his home but lives in Councilwoman Torres’ district. After some initial discussions with both councilwomen regarding what is and is not considered part of Sloan’s Lake, he said he’s glad the zoning will be consistent throughout the area, saying he “appreciates everything Councilwomen Sandoval and Torrres are doing for the entire Sloan’s Lake community.”