Councilman Rick Garcia – MIA on Rezoning to Preserve Character of West Highlands

I guess the perfect prelude to this rant is my prior post on ticky tacky in West Highlands (pictures and video).

From a Denver Post story we are told that Coucilpersons Chris Nevitt and Carla Madison are actively pursuing the rezoning of parts of their districts to restrict new development to single-family homes. Quoting from the Post piece entitled, “Concilor of a single-family mind (9/9/08):

Nevitt said he will distribute leaflets Wednesday in the neighborhood, where he lives, that state: “The time has come to deliver on the promise of protecting West Washington Park from continued scrape-off/multiplex development.”

He will follow up with door-to-door canvassing to explain to residents his plans.

“From what I’ve seen, people are eager for this to happen,” he said. “I want to work with the neighborhood to make sure people are educated about this and are excited about this, and they are. Now we are pulling the trigger on it.”

Councilwoman Carla Madison is pushing a similar plan for South Park Hill.

Hmmm… Where’s Rick Garcia? Knocking on doors in West Highlands, as Nevitt is in his district? Nope? Not that I know of.  Sure there was a knock-down-drag-out fight to rezone parts of West Highlands from R-2 to R-1, not that long ago. But, other parts of West Highlands–principally north of 32nd, South of 38th, East of Lowell and West of Federal–continue to see single-family units scraped and two, three or more unit boxy plexes rise with a frequency that is testament only to the greed of developers and the innaction, complacency of, yes, not only Councilman Rick Garcia, but residents as well. When will this end? When will Garcia and residents get a clue that the preservation of our neighborhood, the preservation of our “settled” neighborhood is worth fighting for?

Posted a piece in April of last year that still seems relevant.  Sorry, but I think the content of that post needs repeating.

Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil’s Dictionary
A story from the Rocky Mountain News (April 6th–Stuart Steers), entitled, “Developers build campaign coffers,” offers the following:

“If money talks, Denver developers are aiming to have a big voice in city government.

“Political contribution reports reveal that developers involved in major projects in Denver have become important backers of campaigns. Many of the developers likely will ask the mayor and City Council to approve rezoning for their projects in coming years.”

Seems obvious that, other than special interests, the electorate in pretty much sitting this one out. A feel-good mantra permeates this city. I mean, hell, the self-effacing, ah-shucks, fingers through those boyish bangs, perambulations of John Hickenlooper and his minions–including the Denver City Council–have struck a dangerous chord with the electorate, much as an opiate quells the addicted, they, the electorate, buy this shuck and jive as kids in a candy store. Really! For heaven’s sake, if ya’ll don’t just feel so good pumpin’ those quarters into parking meters for the homeless.

Back to the Rocky story. Does anyone doubt that the siren call of “New Urbanism,” hasn’t enveloped this city in a ravenous frenzy of development; a high-density glob of cubbies piled atop one another where, in many cases, the essential charm of old Denver once graced our neighborhoods? Sure, the development of the Platte Valley has been a Godsend. And, if there ever was a needful location for “New Urbanism,” it surely remains the central Platte Valley. But, come on! West Highlands? Nope. Not here. (I’ve got a project in mind, that I haven’t gotten around to yet. I want to show you (pics) some of the abortions that have emerged from the damn-the-neighborhood-character machinations of developers who’ve blighted the West Highlands neighborhood with what can only be described as cheap heaps of multi-unit ticky-tacky.)

I’m reminded of an observation from the Hick–and I paraphrase–that New York City is the Greenest city in America. Ya’ll buy that crap? The de facto Green of New York City represents, of course, the giddy philosophy of “New Urbanism,” that we all should live in high-density enclaves, with common open spaces (no back or front yards); with transportation from here to yon right outside our front doors; with water, heat, AC all commonly pooled. Have you ever been to New York City? Of course you have. I have. And, after the second day in that monstrous ant farm, I long for home; my front and back yard, my single family unit where MY trees, MY flowers, MY grass, MY option to drive or walk or take the bus is MY little slice of heaven, shared with neighbors who still value the individuality of life in big cities that is slowing being eroded by “New Urbanism:” a phenomenon engendered by Hick and his hacks and financed by, yes, developers who, as the Rocky noted, are paying big bucks to politicians to keep that lucrative ball rolling–for them, not us.

Susan Barnes-Gelt wrote in the April 13th edition of the Post that, “Denver seems to be going through a period where dissent and disagreement are viewed as disloyal, and get-along-go-along (as long as it’s on time and within budget) rules the day. The climate reflects too much group-think leading to a faux election where important issues (and there are several) aren’t debated.”

You go goyl!

Barnes-Gelt goes on to note: “A citizen task force has been working for more than two years to update Denver’s archaic zoning code. How can we maintain the character of mature neighborhoods without changing current density rules in parts of the city? How can we ensure lively streets and public spaces without encouraging mixed use and greater density? The mayor and council members should be talking about the appropriate balance between neighborhood character and individual property rights.”

Yup. Barnes-Gelt is right on.

As an aside, I was–I guess??–surprised to read in the introduction to “Implementing Blueprint Denver,” that, “Some misunderstanding may exist regarding the definition of ’single-family residential.’ Developers generally define dwelling units with separate ground floor entrances as being ’single-family’ even when they are duplexes or town homes, creating the expectation amongst some residents that all projects planned in their neighborhoods will be detached single-family homes.”

Ah, duh, yeah! But, obviously–as noted even in the above City-generated document, “developers” are, apparently, given the opportunity to interpret the present zoning code to their best interests–certainly not the neighborhood’s–by defining what exactly a “single-family” home is. That seem a little, um, odd to you?

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