Letter to Greater Park Hill Newsin Aug 2016 issue

Taste Is Very Personal

 I am writing to express my dismay with the current discussion to designate a segment of Park Hill as “historic” and the subsequent implications of this designation.

I live in the catchment area and see it as antithetical to what attracted me to the neighborhood in the first place. The qualities of acceptance, tolerance and friendly open minded people were the big draw. It seems inherently against this ethos to subject neighbors to a standard and scrutiny that they did not sign up for.

Taste is very personal and subjective and should not be dictated by the judgement of others. It saddens me to see the very best quality of Park Hill being diluted; its tolerance and open arms. We are better than that!

Gretchen Mueller  – Park Hill

Letter to Greater Park Hill Newsin Aug 2016 issue

Fear of McMansions Unfounded

The Historic Park Hill movement was triggered by fear that unscrupulous developers would come in, raze old homes and build McMansions in their stead.

By declaring a district a historic district, zoning laws will remain in effect, but houses that in our case were built before 1954 cannot be razed any more (unless severe economic hardship ca be proven), changes to the outside of the house can only be made after approval by the Landmark Commission, a panel of mayor-appointed people. The review committee has guidelines but its decision is binding, cannot be repealed and not arbitrated.

Is the threat of developers moving into Park Hill substantial enough to warrant the suspension of certain property rights of more than 600 property owners?

As of mid-July there were 14 properties for sale in the proposed district (source: www.realtor.com). Ten properties listed at more than $1 million, two properties between $900,000 and $1 million, and two properties at $500,000 to $600,000. The properties above $900,000 are already as large as zoning allows, the two lower priced properties are on four city lots and could be expanded but would not yield the profit that builders could make farther north in Park Hill. The fear of McMansions popping up all over the designated Historic District is therefore unfounded.

Historic District advocates quote Curtis Park as an example of why the designation should be sought for Park Hill. The situation in Curtis Park was very different: small, low priced houses on lots that could be combined and a zoning that allowed multifamily dwellings. A Historic District designation was the only way to preserve the character of the district.

Homeowners who live in the proposed district have done an exceptional job maintaining and curating a wonderful vibrant area. The perceived need of a Historic District is a slap in all our faces, telling us that we need oversight in how to deal with our properties. Property rights are a cornerstone of American society and democracy and we should not give them up lightly. Please vote no on the petition.

Elisabeth Staerz – Park Hill

Letter to Greater Park Hill Newsin Aug 2016 issue

Park Hill Already Protected

The Historic Park Hill Committee is pursuing historic district designation for the original Park Hill subdivision, from the east side of Colorado Boulevard to Dahlia, and the north side of Montview to 26th Avenue.

Supporters claim increased property values, and homes can’t be torn down. The opposition claims higher construction costs, a lengthy review process, and loss of property rights. Nevertheless, this designation is permanent, with an additional neighborhood design review committee possible in the future.

Doesn’t current zoning protect Park Hill from the condos, high-rises, and commercial infill that developed in the Highlands, Hilltop, and Cherry Creek? Yes. Read it on www.denvergov.org . Is landmark preservation needed to prevent demolition of homes? Absolutely not. There’s an application process to oppose demolition of an “historic” structure in Denver. We have the tools to protect our neighborhood already.

The Historic Park Hill Committee identifies smaller homes as those at risk of being demolished, yet the effort by the HPHC is focused south of 26th. Why do we so suddenly and desperately need to steal property rights from all to protect a few “at risk” homes? That’s a slippery question. 

Supporters claim landmark designation will preserve the socio-economic diversity of the neighborhood. A Wikipedia search of Park Hill includes the 2010 census data, revealing a shocking lack of diversity in the proposed area for landmark status. The dairy cows here before us were more integrated. Landmark status will polarize the current socio-economic demographics in an irresponsible manner.  

Accessory Dwelling Units were opposed by the neighborhood when the 2010 zoning law was written. ADUs provide affordable options for aging-in-community of retirees and rentals for young professionals that this neighborhood, and city, so badly need. Where was the HPHC in 2010 during the zoning law revision process, or in 1967 when Denver’s City Council first enacted the Denver Landmark ordinance?

The Historic Park Hill Committee has not acknowledged any specific number of opposition signatures that would kill the submission of the application. Telling. There’s plenty of time to educate yourself before signing an application, or change your mind if you already signed one.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, AIA – Park Hill

Letter to Greater Park Hill Newsin Sept 2016 issue

Historic Designation Too Restricting

I would like to express my concern for the proposed historic designation for Park Hill. I feel that adding another layer of review for exterior architectural change is too much restriction. I am not certain what makes this neighborhood architecturally worth preserving. I love Park Hill the way it is, but I don’t think that the homes in Park Hill should be forced to remain locked in place, limited to the fashion and technology of a particular era.  I don’t think it is the architecture that makes Park Hill such a great place to live.

We bought our home feeling very comfortable that there were no building restrictions other than the usual zoning, permitting, etc. and we feel like it is unfair to foist additional regulations on OUR property because of someone else’s idea of what the neighborhood should look like. Our house is fairly small by comparison to many in the area in question. It is on a corner lot where we would be hampered by the regulations on two sides of the street, not just the front. That said, I like my house the way it is. It is just right for the two of us as “empty nesters” and we don’t intend to do anything much to the exterior. But we want to know that when we need a new roof or a new front door that we don’t have to wait on another committee to approve it, or be told that solar panel or replacement windows would just not “fit in”. We want to know that someday, when we sell our house, (and we will someday-that is life), we are not limited to that small number of buyers who would fit well in this particular home, as is. We want to know that that we haven’t eliminated some future buyers that might want our house if only they could add some space.

We bought in Park Hill because we like the location, not necessarily for the style of house. I enjoy the eclectic nature of Park Hill; the juxtaposition of the bungalows next to the Denver Square next to the mid-mod, to me is vibrant and interesting and I would hate to see that variety stifled. I wouldn’t likely purchase a home within a historic district if I were shopping today, just like I wouldn’t have when we purchased our current home.

Julie Reusser – Park Hill (within the historic designation area)

Letter to Greater Park Hill Newsin Sept 2016 issue

Historic Designation Not In Our Best Interests

When I read the July ’16 article in the PHN about historic landmark status, I initially thought, “Don’t we already have historic status?”  I’ve seen those ‘historic’ signs in our neighborhood which really do nothing more than give us bragging rights.  I continued to read the article and was surprised to see the claim that the committee had “knocked on every door in the district and distributed flyers”.  “Hmmm”, I thought,” I live in the designated area…why is this the first time I am even hearing about it?”  A week or two later, a committee member came to my door to convince me that I should support this landmark designation.  (This same committee member later admitted that many blocks had in fact NOT been visited prior to that article being published). 

Because several things didn’t seem right about this whole “democratic process”, as the article called it, I decided to look into it a little further.  What I understand now causes me great concern.  Having lived in my beautiful 1909 Park Hill Bungalow for 22 years, I have seen many changes in the neighborhood.  I’ve seen beautiful additions, I’ve seen pop-tops that look original, I’ve seen neighbors come and go.  Lots of changes, just as there have been lots of changes to the houses and people of Park Hill for over one hundred years.  So, what concerns me is that there is a group of people (the local Historical Park Hill Landmark Committee and its supporters) that are using fear-based strategies and providing one-sided information under the guise of “establish[ing] protection for the neighborhood”, (PHN, 07/16), in order to push through this designation.

I oppose the landmark designation for our neighborhood because I do not believe that it represents our best interests.  I do not believe that we should give up our rights to 1) make architectural changes that fall within the current residential zoning code, or 2) to make small exterior updates and changes without submitting them for approval, or 3) to make sensible landscape changes that would no longer be allowed.  For example, did you know that grassy hill in your front yard is called “the Denver Bump”? Under Landmark designation, it cannot be replaced with a retaining wall when you tire of mowing that 45 degree angle.  There is more to this story and I encourage everyone to get all the facts so that you can make your own decision and not have it made for you.

Mary Henneck – Park Hill

Letter to Greater Park Hill Newsin Sept 2016 issue

Stop Historic Designation

We moved to Park Hill in the spring of 2014 specifically to escape an HOA.  The very thought of having to run any plan by a committee on our already beautiful 1905 home is repugnant and insulting. Though we understand this Historic Designation will be less stringent than the HOA with the specific paint color and the specified number of trees, if we knew this Historic Designation had been in the works, we never would have purchased our home here.  

The charm and idiosyncrasies of Park Hill drew us here — why change what’s worked since before the turn of the century?  

Babs and David Symonds – Park Hill