Meet YIMBY Denver — Volunteers Fighting for an Affordable, Walkable City

Dense development around around the 10th and Osage RTD station includes homes and ground-floor businesses within walking distance of a grocery store, bike-share, a park, a student community center, and the Santa Fe Arts District. Photo: David Sachs
Dense development around around the 10th and Osage RTD station includes homes and ground-floor businesses within walking distance of a grocery store, bike-share, a park, a student community center, and the Santa Fe Arts District. Photo: David Sachs

What’s better for Denver — ensuring some people always have a free parking space directly in front of their homes, or enabling everyone to have an affordable place to live? This question gets at the core of the growing Yes In My Backyard movement.

You can add Denver to the list of cities with a YIMBY group fighting for policies that enable walkable growth and reasonable rents, discouraging sprawl and traffic in the process. Seattle, Boulder, and the Bay Area are among the other places with a strong YIMBY presence.

“As Denver grows, our policies and priorities have to grow with it, instead of trying to hang on to what Denver was,” said Ian Harwick, president of the Athmar Park neighborhood association and unofficial leader of YIMBY Denver. “Our physical boundaries are finite, but when it comes to building places for people to live — solo or with a family — the sky is literally the limit.”

Denver is not affordable to everyone. To bring rents within reach of more people, the city needs to tackle its severe housing shortage and build more places to live. But sprawling, car-centric development can’t accommodate the growth we need — the result would be a traffic nightmare. The city needs to chart a new course.

That’s what YIMBY Denver is all about — saying yes to development that supports the walkable, healthy, and affordable city that Denver leaders say they want.

From YIMBY Denver’s newly launched website:

Our goal is to build a community of local voices who shares our concern for the future of Denver. Too often, our city’s interests are held captive by the invented or inflated parochial concerns of a select group of neighborhood anti-growth advocates. As Denver continues to attract more new residents to our neighborhoods, we need community voices that are willing to stand up to the anti-growth crowd and show their support for policies and plans that will welcome newcomers to our city, and ensure that Denver’s best days lie ahead.

The YIMBY movement was sparked to counter the “Not in My Backyard” crowd, which has taken various forms in Denver. Most recently, residents who feel entitled to free, easy parking on public streets got Denver City Council to make car-free development more difficult.

YIMBY is not a staffed organization. It’s open to all and composed of volunteers who’ll contact elected officials and speak up at public hearings to support smart development policy.

“We are a group of people that will show up to meetings that matter and voice our opinions to the same way they do,” said Harwick. “The difference is, we know that our city’s growth is inherently good, and that trying to cap that growth — denying people places to live — will just lead to a more expensive city, forcing people to move to the edges and increasing sprawl.”

YIMBY Denver has a launch event at Public School 303 tomorrow (Wednesday, February 22) at 5:30 p.m., open to the public. Check out the group’s website for a charter of sorts, a “call to action” directed at the City Council, and a calendar with ways to get involved. You can also follow the group on Facebook and Twitter.

  • JustJake

    Be honest. It’s more accurately YIYBY. The established pattern of these groups involve trying to manipulate what happens in neighborhoods that they don’t live in, posturing that they represent people who might someday want to live there. SF’s group is as astro-turf as they come.

    • TakeFive

      “as astro-turf as they come.” lolol

      • Walter Crunch

        We need to preserve the history of the true original neighborhoods. Dirt roads, shacks that burn to the ground with just one match, saloons and brothels right next to the schools….rights for settlers!

        Oh wait, the “settlers” killed Natives to take their land. Rights for natives!

        You see, 1950 is not the only “neighborhood”.

    • Dmitrii Zavorotny

      If we’re being honest, then you just accused YIMBYs of being NIMBYs. A “YIYBY”, as your call it, is EXACTLY the NIMBY position. Listen to what they say at public meetings and it’s evident that as soon as the issue doesn’t affect them personally (e.g. their backyard, or more commonly, the public right of way in front of their house that we’ve all been subsidizing as their “personal” parking spot) they lose all interest. YIMBYs are patently against this type of thinking and emphasize that a neighborhood issue is a city issue.

      • JustJake

        Not sure what planet you came from, but please, try harder. You’re 100% wrong.

        • Dmitrii Zavorotny

          Elaborate, please.

          • JustJake

            What you want to tar, as nimbys, are more accurately, impassioned neighborhood residents who care enough to take the time to get involved in specific issues that directly and personally affect their lives.

            The yimby group is largely composed of a activist advocacy group, with desires to further an agenda /ideology – and they try to hijack various neighborhood issues to further that goal. Carpetbaggers would not be totally inaccurate.

          • Dmitrii Zavorotny

            Ah there’s that all-welcoming NIMBY attitude! People that agree with you = impassioned neighborhood residents. People that disagree with you = outside interlopers that have no place making their voices heard in YOUR Denver. I’m surprised you didn’t accuse YIMBYs of being in the pocket of the developers.

            What YIMBYs want is in inclusive city that doesn’t strictly cater to residents of a certain income level and. This means building enough housing to meet demand to keep housing costs down. It also means not subsidizing parking and single occupancy vehicle travel at the expense of a more walkable and urban environment to give people more viable transportation options.

            I bet we’d agree on a lot more things than disagree, but nowadays it’s very easy to turn discussions toxic with an us-vs.-them attitude.

          • Walter Crunch

            Nimby’s are just self righteous selfish individuals who only car about their parking spot and their twisted and perceived notion of value.

    • Tony Bobay

      As someone living right next to the new 30-story country club towers being built, I couldn’t be more excited about it (despite the 7am construction noise alarm). It will had hundreds of new residents to my neighborhood to support both current and future businesses, and ease the pressures on the housing supply near me.

      Advocating for building more of (almost) everything in both my backyard and your backyard is beneficial on the whole. It increases the utility of the location by supporting more city functions (job, food, friends, recreation, entertainment, education, etc) within walking/biking distance of eachother. Which takes pressure off of the transportation infrastructure because people will have to drive less to acquire all of the daily necessities.

      It also makes much more efficient use of our public infrastructure as the costs to provide services (such as roads, sewers, police, fire, water, etc) to an area are fixed or semi-variable. By locating more people and businesses within close distance of each other we add more income and property tax revenue in the same area without significantly increasing expenses. This is known as the economies of scale, and by focusing on maximizing these economies of our public infrastructure, we either free up more taxpayer money for other government functions (education, social services, arts, science, etc) or reduces the necessary taxes per person to cover the cost of infrastructure.

      • JustJake

        Regardless of what the subject is, If it’s your neighborhood and its important to you, advocate for it. Thats great. To some, that makes you an evil nimby. To me, that makes you an engaged resident advocating for your neighborhoods good.

  • TakeFive

    If the 10th and Osage/Mariposa redevelopment is a model for YIMBY then count me as a fan.

    Aside from the 10-story Senior Residence, the intent and purpose for redeveloping Mariposa was to preserve and protect the history and character of the neighborhood. While denser they found a very nice balance, I believe.

    Not a fan of NIMBY’s and If respecting the history and character of Denver’s neighborhoods is practiced, then finding a similar balance should be very doable. No reason why higher density can’t also be achieved.

  • Walter Crunch

    10 Stories is too little. It should have been 20 stories easily. Yet, people whine about heights because of “community character” . Well, eventually everything will be 20 stories because now this building is 10. Might as well gone to 20 to start. What a loss.