By Kathryn White
Denver City Council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (LUTI) recently voted to move the West Area Plan, a set of guidelines for roadways and infrastructure through 2040, to the full council for consideration.
The plan is more than three years in the making and is the fourth area Denver’s Community Planning and Development (CPD) department has undertaken in its Neighborhood Planning Initiative (NPI).
Another similar plan, the Near Northwest Area Plan, is currently going through review before a final draft is expected to be published this summer.
West Area Plan
Work toward the West Area Plan, which encompasses the neighborhoods of West Colfax, Villa Park, Sun Valley, Barnum, Barnum West and Valverde, began in 2019.
At the recent LUTI meeting to review and vote on the plan, Neighborhood Planning Supervisor Courtland Hyser emphasized extensive community participation and a few of the plan’s features.
“You’ll see the quality-of-life lens cross-cutting through all chapters,“ Hyser said. “This was in response to community feedback throughout the planning process, and specifically from our steering committee, that said quality of life is the most important thing. It needs to be the driver for all other topics, because everything affects quality of life.”
The West Area Plan is the first area plan to itemize and address historic and present inequities; and it is the first to address the role of water (gulches, ponds, streams and the South Platte River). Council President Jamie Torres, whose district includes several of the neighborhoods in the plan, emphasized the significant role the community played in shaping it.
“Oftentimes, our engagement or even the planning initiatives themselves struggle to reach communities of color, families with multiple jobs, working families,” Torres said. “So I just want (highlight) that we partnered intentionally with Colorado Jobs with Justice to make sure that we were able to reach into the community and gather input to inform the priorities that neighbors wanted.”
Councilwoman Amanda P. Sandoval, who represents West Colfax until redistricting takes effect this year, acknowledged that the plan’s timeline was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She thanked CPD for the way it adapted not only to the pandemic but to the neighborhoods themselves.
“You all slowed down, and gave it more time,” she said.
To access the 300-plus-page West Area Plan, including details regarding its implementation, visit www.denvergov.org and type “West Area Plan” into the search box.
A public hearing and vote on the West Area Plan at City Council is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on March 28.
Near Northwest Area Plan
Work on the Near Northwest Area Plan, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Chaffee Park, Sunnyside, Highland and Jefferson Park, began in June 2021.
Community input was gathered throughout 2022, taking the form of online and in-person topical discussions, neighborhood workshops, a youth focus group at Denver North High School and multiple online surveys.
Currently, a 21-member steering committee meets monthly for facilitated sessions to assist CPD in refining its preliminary draft recommendations. In a recent steering committee meeting, city planners presented draft recommendations under the categories of parks and recreation, food access, small business and cultural retail, preserving and growing primary jobs, and Northeast Sunnyside.
For each category, facilitator Grace Herbison invited committee members to respond with their initial impressions. Which recommendations were they were most excited about or thought would be most impactful? And then, what was missing, and were there concerns?
In discussing ideas for parks and recreation, committee members spoke, among other things, to the advantages of improving existing park amenities over creating new parks.
Dog parks were raised as an amenity sought by many in the neighborhood. Upgrades to Aztlan Rec Center were supported by several members, though the importance of affordability was also voiced. The community review process continues with three more steering committee sessions and a full draft plan shared with the public this summer.
In the meantime, the public can look at highlights from the current draft and opportunities to observe steering committee meetings by visiting www.denvergov.org and typing “Near Northwest Area Plan” into the search box.
The NPI began in 2017 and will create 19 area plans covering Denver’s 78 statistical neighborhoods. NPI neighborhood plans involve significant community input and are intended to guide the city in its approach to adding or improving city services and resources (e.g., zoning, parks, recreation centers, transportation, business and economic development).