Denver council outlaws slot homes after years of neighborhood outcry

The Denver City Council outlawed the building of controversial “slot” homes in their current form Monday, nearly two months after the city’s planning department stopped accepting new development plans.

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But the popularity of sideways-oriented townhomes with developers resulted in a packed pipeline of projects, with 30 or more submitting site development plans by the city’s March 14 cutoff. That means dozens of slot home projects designed under the previous zoning rules still could rise in Denver’s older neighborhoods in the next couple of years.

The council approved, 11-0, a raft of changes to zoning rules that will alter the configurations and designs of future townhome projects, addressing many of neighborhood advocates’ most common complaints.

Most significant is a new requirement that developers orient new projects’ main buildings — and more front doors — toward the street. A task force put forth the proposal.

“Without a doubt, these slot homes were an abuse of the zoning code,” Councilman Paul López said. “They robbed our neighborhoods of character, and they robbed residents of community.”

A comparison provided by the Denver planning department shows a typical "slot" home development (upper left) and a version that incorporates proposed zoning rules.
Provided by Denver Community Planning and DevelopmentA comparison provided by the Denver planning department shows a typical “slot” home development (upper left) and a version that incorporates proposed zoning rules.

Slot home developments, at their most basic, have featured several side-facing townhomes stacked horizontally back to the alley, with seven units fitting into a typical lot that previously was occupied by a single-family home. Often, slot home buildings have been constructed in pairs, and they are most common in areas including West Colfax, Jefferson Park, Highland and Five Points.

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The number of units possible often has equated to big profits for developers. And younger buyers have favored the moderately priced townhomes, especially after condo construction plunged in Denver.

Some developers have said the new rules will reduce slightly the number of units they can build, resulting in higher project costs per square foot.

Developers who met the March deadline to build under the old rules have until Nov. 10 to win city approval for their site plans. Such approval clears a project for construction.

West Colfax neighborhood
Use the slider to see slot homes and other new development since 2006 in the area northwest of Federal Boulevard and West 16th Avenue.

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