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.

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