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.
Support for ADUs and “gentle density” in Denver has grown in recent years. ADUs can provide affordable housing, allow multi-generational families to stay close, and generate supplemental income. Accordingly, “Blueprint Denver,” a policy document that makes land use and transportation recommendations for the growing city, specifically supports easing zoning and other restrictions that inhibit ADU construction.
Proponents believe zone districts that allow the construction of ADUs are especially important in communities susceptible to gentrification. However, ADUs can cost well over $200,000 to construct, often making them cost-prohibitive for such communities. In other neighborhoods, primarily in West Denver, city and nonprofit programs have funded loans for qualified residents seeking to use ADUs for qualified purposes, such as housing family or renting to lower- or middle-income tenants.
Despite this support, most Denver residential zone districts still prohibit ADUs. A neighborhood-wide rezoning has never before been attempted; instead, owners wanting to construct an ADU had to file for a lot-specific rezoning. Yet given city policy and the Planning Board’s unanimous vote in favor of the Chaffee Park proposal, at least some barriers to ADU construction may fall. If the City Council adopts the Chaffee Park proposal, it could pave the way for similar rezonings in other supportive communities.
Alex Haggarty, a law clerk with Otten Johnson, contributed to this post.