Last month, Denver City Council voted 10-1 in favor of approving a contract between the City and Village Collaborative, an organization that “exists to create and operate transformational housing communities in partnership with people coming from homelessness.”  Under the terms of the contract, the City agreed to contribute $899,569 “to fund two Safe Outdoor Space (SOS) sites, with amenities and services that provide outdoor accommodation for up to 100 households.”  On July 1, 2020, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Denver’s initial partnership with Village Collaborative, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, and other nonprofit organizations for the development of SOS sites within the City.  Since that announcement, Village Collective has operated an SOS site at the Denver Community Church (1595 Pearl Street), and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado has operated an SOS site at the First Baptist Church of Denver (1373 Grant Street).  The earmarked funds approved by City Council this month will be used to fund Village Collective’s existing SOS site at the Denver Community Church.

The same day Denver approved its contract with Village Collaborative, the City of Aurora issued a request for proposals from service providers willing to establish SOS sites on private property in Aurora.  According to the RFP, Aurora is willing to provide up to $450,000 of emergency federal grant money in furtherance of SOS projects.  Although the exact location of Aurora’s SOS site (or sites) has not yet been determined, Aurora likely feels a growing sense of urgency as emergency winter facilities in Aurora are scheduled to close in April, decreasing the City’s shelter capacity to only 150 beds.

These measures, among others along the Front Range (like safe parking initiatives), arrive in the face of a distinct spike in the number of Coloradoans experiencing homelessness, and an undeniable housing affordability crisis, the severity of which have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  With spring and warmer temperatures around the corner, municipalities throughout Colorado may increasingly take interest in developing SOS sites in an effort to ameliorate these crises.

In 2018, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (the CWCB) published the current version of the State’s Drought Mitigation and Response Plan (the DMRP).  Originally prepared in accordance with the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-390), and adopted by the Office of the Governor, the DMRP is intended to provide State and local authorities with “effective and systematic” methods of combatting short- and long-term water shortages throughout Colorado.  The DMRP contemplates a three-phase Drought Plan Implementation Cycle, with Phase 3 of the cycle activated in times of extreme or exceptional drought.

On November 30, 2020, for only the second time in history, Governor Jared Polis initiated Phase 3 of the DMRP, and activated the Municipal Water Impact Task Force (MWITF). According to the CCWB, the MWITF’s current objective is to “coordinate with water providers across the state to prepare for anticipated water challenges into 2021.”

Governor Polis’ decision to activate the MWITF arrives in the face of persisting severe statewide drought conditions.  In August 2020, for the first time in eight years, federal officials designated 100% of Colorado as abnormally dry or in a state of drought, and as of November 3, 2020, drought conditions in nearly 25% of the State were classified as “extreme.”  Current federal forecasting models project that similar drought conditions will persist throughout Colorado well into 2021.  Coloradoans, as they so often do, will pray for increased snowfall throughout the remainder of the winter.  However, if forecasts hold true, a proactive approach by the MWITF, CWCB, and various local governmental officials may prove vital to guiding Coloradoans through a drought-ridden 2021.

Chaffee Park may become the first Denver neighborhood to be entirely rezoned for the sole purpose of allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on all residential lots of at least 4,500 square feet.  The Denver Planning Board unanimously approved the community-generated proposal on September 16, 2020, and the rezoning proposal now awaits City Council review and adoption.  The proposed zone districts are the same as the current districts except that they allow the ADU use, either within the primary structure or in a detached structure.  The Chaffee Park neighborhood extends generally from 48th Avenue on the south to 52nd Avenue on the north, and from Federal Boulevard on the west to Kalamath Street on the east.

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