Albus Brooks’ Con Job On Small Lot Parking Exemption Exposed

Old Abe Lincoln had sage advice for people like Denver City Council President Albus Brooks to wit:

“You can fool all people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Brooks has aspirations to succeed the developer controlled Michael Hancock as mayor of Denver and he knows the best way to do so is to do the bidding of those exact same developers.

Of course, it is not smart to let your constituents know that you are bought and paid for so Brooks is always coming up with highly inventive ways of pretending to be a man of the people. Case in point is his incredibly duplicitous work on “Small Lot Parking Exemption” scam that former print company owner and now real estate developer Barry Hirschfield and others are unleashing on Denver’s neighborhoods. We highlighted this controversy in our lead story last October titled “Humboldt Neighbors And Allies Take On Barry Hirschfeld.”

Back in 2010 the Denver Zoning Code was revised to exempt lots of 6,250 square feet or less from parking requirements when redeveloped. As stated by Councilman Jolon Clark the exemption “was to catalyze business on small retail and commercial parcels along major arterials such as Colfax Avenue and Broadway, where there were empty store fronts and there was a real threat of a loss of neighborhood character by small lots being assembled.”

But the ever greedy Denver real estate developer community saw the exemption as another opportunity to stick it to the local neighborhoods. The exemption does not expressly limit itself to small retail and commercial uses and does not expressly prohibit assemblages for application of the exemption, but it would appear clear that such was the intent. Thus people like Hirschfeld came up with an idea of building coffin-like micro units on assembled lots and rent them to the ever ripped off millennials pouring into Denver, but with absolutely no parking provided. Of course, the majority of the millennials do in fact have at least modest cars. Thus in areas that these units are built, everyone in the neighborhood will find it difficult if not impossible to find any street parking at times.

The problem was that the developers’ incredibly strained interpretation of the exemption might not stand up in court even in Denver’s sad sack judicial system. The developers and their bought and paid for Denver City Councilmembers needed time to amend the Zoning Code to remedy the problem, but they didn’t want to slow down any existing projects. And of course the citizens in various neighborhoods such as Cherry Creek North, Curtis Park and Humboldt Street were also screaming bloody murder about was being done to them.

That is when the evil genius of Albus Brooks took hold. He told the citizens that he would demand that the Council impose a moratorium on all such projects until a Steering Committee could be formed charged with coming up with a consensus solution. All interested parties would have a seat at the negotiating table. The citizens were thrilled when the City Council passed the moratorium unanimously.

They did notice that all actually existing plans including all of Hirschfeld’s projects were exempted. Also when a Denver city councilman says he wants to bring everyone to the table what he really means is that he will form a committee that is stacked in favor of the developers and their allies and citizens will be in a distinct minority. As a result, citizen representatives agree either to be browbeaten into submission or they will be simply outvoted by the developers and their allies. This is, of course, exactly what happened with Brooks’ Steering Committee which was chaired by the distinguished City Council President himself as an “honest broker” between the two sides.

The citizens quickly discovered that Mr. Brooks was being led around on a relatively short lease by Mr. Hirschfeld who was of course prominently placed on the committee. Brooks after listening to all sides proposed an amendment to the Zoning Code which specifically made clear that the Small Lot Parking Exemption did in fact apply to micro apartment units and as well as to assemblages like Hirschfeld’s. If approved by the City Council, the amendment would solve the developers’ greatest danger of a legal challenge to the City’s interpretation of the existing exemption. The amendment also allowed the full exemption for small lots for the first two floors of an apartment building and three floors within walking distance of rail stations and frequent transit corridors (whatever that phrase means). Even more importantly the City Council could waive any and all restrictions at any time for their favorite developers without specific notice to the affected neighborhoods. It was a compromise in which the Hirschfeld side gave up nothing and the neighborhoods gave up everything as was intended by Councilman Brooks from the very beginning.

But “surprise, surprise, surprise” as Gomer Pyle would exclaim, the neighborhoods were not taken in. Abe Lincoln’s admonition cited above in fact came true. In the Steering Committee all four neighborhood representatives voted “no” along with one real estate business representative. Of course, the developers and their allies had locked in eight votes so the “consensus compromise” passed eight to five. The neighborhoods groups had now caught on to the stacked voting trick and they also demanded parity in the voting rights between developers and the neighborhoods in all future deliberations, if any, of the Steering Committee.

Brooks tried another fast one by having representatives of the Orwellian named “Denver Community Planning and Development Department” try to con the Inter Neighborhood Cooperative (the umbrella group of neighborhood associations and others in Denver) into voting in favor of the “consensus compromise” but even they were shot down by a unanimous 32 to 0 vote.

With his con job falling apart along with his reputation, Brooks was even struggling at the City Council level with the honest city councilmembers led by Jolon Clark raising questions. Brooks had to postpone City Council approval of the scam and request an extension of the building moratorium.

Next time the neighborhood groups meet with Council President Brooks on matters such as parity in voting on the Steering Committee they quietly, but visibly, should have with them a pulled Recall Petition pertaining to Mr. Brooks. It will help to clarify the issues and the stakes for everyone involved.

— Editorial Board

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