Blanket ADU rezoning is not coming to the Montclair neighborhood

Almost half of respondents to City Councilmember Amanda Sawyer’s surveys said they were not in favor of the rezoning.
5 min. read
An ADU and a sidewalk in Westwood. Aug. 18, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Many residents of Montclair and a portion of the Mayfair area are uninterested in neighborhood rezoning for accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.

Councilmember Amanda Sawyer announced in her May 5 newsletter that the proposed move to rezone the neighborhood to allow for ADUs would not be moving forward due to the community's response.

"It's not something we're going to do as a legislative rezoning, as a council office, without significant support and the survey data and the comments we got lean a little bit towards 'no' and were relatively split 50-50," Sawyer said. "In my mind, 60% is really that barrier to say we have enough community support to move forward because when you're changing people's property rights, it's extremely important that they are invested in it and want it done."

Sawyer's office, along with Community Planning and Development, held several community meetings regarding the process and sent out surveys.

Courtesy of Councilmember Amanda Sawyer's Office
Courtesy of Councilmember Amanda Sawyer's Office

Sawyer said they received a little more than 500 responses but after vetting them and ensuring there were no duplicates or people not identifying as a Montclair residents, her office ended up with 217 responses. There were 2,454 parcels in the proposed area, meaning about 9% of residents responded to the survey.

Sawyer said the margin of error was about 6%.

According to the results, about 106 or 49% of respondents said they were not in favor of the rezoning. About 97 residents said yes and 14 were unsure.

Breaking down the results further, around 75% of residents said they've lived in Montclair for either five to 10 years, more than 10 years, or all their lives. Out of that group, 111 residents said they lived in Montclair for more than 10 years. More than half of those established residents, 55%, voted no.

The rest of the respondents, about 26%, said they lived in Montclair for less than one year to one to five years. A majority of this group, 68% voted yes.

Comments received from the surveys were mostly negative and "focused on the destruction of neighborhood character and addition of unwanted density and its effects on the infrastructure, especially parking and traffic."

"This is a community conversation. If the community doesn't feel like they want to change the zoning for the entire statistical neighborhood, that's OK," Sawyer said.

Courtesy of Councilmember Amanda Sawyer's Office
Courtesy of Councilmember Amanda Sawyer's Office

Building ADUs is one of the city's solutions to the low housing stock and limited affordable housing because it's seen as "gentle" density.

It's also one solution to pausing gentrification and displacement because ADUs can provide additional space for aging relatives or young adults and can also be used for supplemental income by renting out the space.

According to the East Area Plan, which encompasses Montclair, the neighborhood lacks middle density housing, or buildings that have between two and 19 units. One way that plan suggests adding density is through ADUs. The same sentiment is shared in Blueprint Denver, which says ADUs can "add variety to the housing stock in low density residential neighborhoods without significantly changing the existing character."

Sawyer said she can't speak to why residents believe ADUs would destroy the neighborhood's character because she doesn't believe that. She added that a portion of Montclair is a historic district and houses in that area have had carriage homes since the 1800s.

Sawyer added that the reason she pursued ADU rezoning in Montclair is because some residents have requested their homes be rezoned. This process is costly, around $1,000, and time consuming, lasting about six months. Blanket rezoning eliminates the need for one-off rezoning.

A Montclair neighborhood map in Wesley Brown's collection. Dec. 16, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

But ultimately, Sawyer said if residents aren't interested, then they aren't interested.

Sawyer, along with Councilmember Chris Herndon, spearheaded the rezoning for East Colfax, which became the third neighborhood to be rezoned for ADUs. The number is up to 10 neighborhoods with the most recent rezoning occurring in Athmar Park and Valverde.

East Colfax will no longer be in Sawyer's District 5 come July due to redistricting. The district did gain Cherry Creek and Country Club.

Sawyer said she intends to present the ADU rezoning proposal to all the neighborhoods in her district. The next stop would be Hale, which also houses a portion of the Mayfair area. Mayfair is a registered neighborhood organization that straddles Montclair and Hale.

Sawyer added that residents can still apply for their parcel to be rezoned for an ADU. Typically, those single requests are granted.

"We're here to serve. We're here to solve problems that we hear from our residents, including housing affordability," Sawyer said. "This is one great way to do it while still maintaining the character of the neighborhood. If 10% of people are responding and the other 90% don't care one way or the other or don't care enough about it to respond to the survey or we weren't able to cut through the clutter, then that's an indication that people aren't passionate enough about it. And that's okay."

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