Athmar Park and Valverde join eight other neighborhoods in receiving neighborhood ADU rezoning

The rezoning affects about 2,700 parcels across Athmar Park and Valverde.
5 min. read
A modular ADU and garage installed behind Simple Homes co-founder and COO David Schultz, July 9, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Athmar Park and Valverde are joining the many other city neighborhoods that have been rezoned to allow for accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, on residents' single-unit properties.

On Monday, City Council approved the wide-swath rezoning that will allow residents to build the small backyard homes in a portion of Valverde and most of Athmar Park.

The large-scale change eliminates the need for homeowners to apply for an ADU rezoning, a small but tedious part of the ADU construction process. The rezoning affects about 2,700 parcels across Athmar Park and Valverde.

Small talks of rezoning the neighborhoods began in 2017, and in 2021, the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association began surveying residents' interest. According to the rezoning application, there was "overwhelming support" from the 128 people surveyed.

Athmar Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Efforts officially kicked off in October 2022 and the move was spearheaded by Councilmember Jolon Clark.

Clark said the move would make ADUs more accessible to residents by eliminating fees and time associated with ADU zoning change requests. For example, a zoning request could cost about $1,000. He added that the move also allows residents to participate in the West Denver Single Family Plus (WDSF+) ADU Pilot Program.

The program, run by the West Denver Renaissance Collaborative, focuses on low- to moderate-income west Denver residents but assists all interested homeowners on the westside with developing, designing, financing and constructing detached ADUs.

"It's another way to reduce the cost and reduce some of the barriers for families to be able to make this investment and give them more opportunities to stay in the neighborhood," Clark said.

The city views ADUs as one solution to the housing crisis because they help increase density and can stop displacement. ADUs can provide additional space for aging relatives or young adults and can also be used for supplemental income by renting out the space.

But constructing an ADU is a long process. There are different requirements for minimum lot size, how many stories one can have, building coverage exemption, bulk plane height, re-use of existing structures and setbacks. Construction requirements also differ from neighborhood to neighborhood and from structure to structure.

Renee Martinez-Stone, with the West Denver Renaissance Collaborative, speaks during a ribbion-cutting ceremony for a new ADU in Westwood. April 22, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Plus, construction costs in general are expensive.

While City Planning and Development can't help with costs like the West Denver Program, the agency has been working on streamlining the process.

Focusing on areas such as minimum lot sizes and the re-use of existing structures, CPD is proposing a text amendment to the zoning code that would create uniformity in the process across the city. The amendment would not rezone any neighborhoods for ADUs. That process is still up to City Council members and residents to bring forward. The text amendment proposal is set to go before City Council this month.

At Monday's meeting, two community members spoke in support of the plan for Athmar Park and Valverde.

Adriana Lopez, president of the Valverde Neighborhood Association, said the rezoning would add affordable housing options to the neighborhood.

Maureen McCanna, who also lives in Valverde and is on the West Denver Community Leadership Committee, added that housing accessibility and stay-in-place solutions are vital to both neighborhoods.

"It's been wonderful to see the comfort and stability ADUs can provide for additional space for multigenerational family members or additional incomes to afford the rising costs of homes," McCanna said.

"ADUs are a responsible and appropriate way to build soft density among our single family lots, many which, including my own, are underutilized. With proper zoning and resources, homeowners can be turning their unused space into affordable housing for families or afford residents the opportunity to grow generational wealth."

CPD said they received letters of support from the neighborhood groups and from four individuals. Two people sent in letters against the rezoning, citing traffic concerns, along with sewage, water and power concerns.

Valverde. April 29, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Though individuals have expressed concerns about how ADUs can change the landscape of a neighborhood, according to CPD, they've issued 450 ADU permits since 2010 and prior to today, only 30% of the city is zoned for ADUs.

Most of that zoning is in the Northside, particularly in Councilmember Amanda Sandoval's district. She began blanket rezoning in her area, and currently has rezoned about 75% of her district.

Athmar Park and Valverde join eight other neighborhoods zoned for ADUs including East Colfax, Villa Park, Barnum, and Barnum West.

Councilmember Amanda Sawyer is currently in the community engagement stage of rezoning Mayfair and Montclair.

Clark thanked Sandoval for leading the way on rezoning neighborhoods for ADUs and acknowledged that both Valverde and Athmar Park have wanted this type of rezoning for some time.

"It's really exciting to, after all this time, finally get to a place where these communities can have the kind of zoning they have asked for, that's designed to help people stay as a family together, stay as a community in place instead of being displaced," Clark said.

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