DENVER – A new Denver city and county residential parking permit ordinance is moving forward but it may drive renters out of the city – unless they can be socially engineered to get rid of their cars and ride RTD buses, light rail and bikes or walk to their destinations.
The city’s Public Works Department is amending a 1950s parking permit ordinance to allow three categories of parking permits to restrict parking in residential areas, manage the use of the public right of way, and create approved Area Management districts spanning several blocks.
Permit fees are slated to increase from a couple of bucks to $40 to $200 a year.
According to Matt Wager, director of traffic operations, the parking permit regulations conform to Denver’s Blueprint, a strategic plan for the city’s future which “looks at less vehicle ownership citywide.”
“The density supports that, the transit programs we’re working on support that, the bicycle lanes we’re building support that,” said Wager, who described the new parking permit plan as one of building blocks “to removing the car” and that will solve the traffic congestion and parking problems.
“That realization will start to be pretty clear,” Wager told Denver City Council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee which approved the ordinance changes in December 2012.
“A residential property class is defined as a single family home, row home, or multi-family residential structure that does not exceed 8 units in total,” states the new regulation.
Critics contend that the residential parking permit discriminates against renters – an estimated 15,000 residents who mostly live in apartment communities with nine or more units.
Members of the Denver Public Works department assured city counselors that the regulations were developed after meetings with stakeholders.
“We make a very concerted effort to make sure all the different stakeholders are at the table and decisions are made with representatives from each of these groups,” said Cindy Patton, a senior city planner. Those stakeholders, she said, are “restaurants, commercial property management groups (and) single family homeowners.”
Missing in the list of stakeholders were multi-family residents, who contribute an estimated $2 billion annually to city economy, and Apartment Association of Metro Denver (AAMD) which represents more than 500 residential building owners and property managers.
“Ten months after amending the ordinance, rules and regulations appeared without much notice or opportunity for a constructive dialogue,” said Nancy Burke, AAMD vice president of the government affairs in a letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, city council members and Public Works management team.
“We are very concerned with the substance of these rule and policy changes, and additionally with the lack of an adequate public notification and stakeholder input process to those impacted,” said Burke in defense of apartment communities.
The amended ordinance, she said, did not consider that “residents are now faced with no place to park, but also the impact it will have on Denver property values and more importantly affordable housing.”
“Not all multifamily buildings have off-street parking, particularly older, historic buildings in the Capitol Hill area,” said Burke. “These units are affordable.”
Newer high rises were constructed with below-ground parking but are more expensive for apartment renters. The ordinance, she said, did not consider that seniors and young professionals, many of whom carry an average of $35,000 in student loan debt, seek affordable housing.
A mid-morning public hearing scheduled Nov. 1 was cancelled because of improper notice. The rules go into effect after a new hearing which has not been scheduled.
The new rules and regulations for residential parking permits, Wager asserted “makes the process more transparent for everybody.”
But some critics dispute that assertion. To obtain a listing or any documentation of so-called stakeholder meetings, city Public Works spokeswoman Emily Williams told The Colorado Observer, “That information is not public… You need to file a CORA request.”
The attempt to manage city parking might be a worthwhile goal – but this ordinance revision met with resistance from some council members.
“I’m concerned that we’re finding new ways to metastasize irrationality in our parking permits,” said Councilman Chris Nevitt, who predicted that giving parking permits to single family homeowners creates a bigger problem for renters who are “not as organized and assertive as homeowners.”
“That makes no sense,” declared Nevitt. “We have to have a more global solution – one that apportions pain and relief in an equitable way.”