Denver City Council approves code-violation amnesty program for artist spaces

The Denver City Council incorporated several ideas from the city’s skeptical artist community Monday before approving a voluntary amnesty program aimed at addressing safety hazards in unpermitted spaces.

City officials proposed the new Safe Occupancy Program last month and portrayed it as the first of its kind in the country because it allows residents to stay in the buildings while they’re brought up to code. The program is aimed in part at defusing six months of tensions stoked by the shut-downs of two popular arts spaces in the River North Art District in December, just days after a deadly warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif.

At Rhinoceropolis on Brighton Boulevard, inspectors “red tagged” the building because of fire-code violations and because five people were living in an industrial building that wasn’t zoned for residents.

Last week, the council heard protests from arts advocates and others who expressed concern during a hearing about weak tenant protections in Denver that could hamstring some artists who want to avoid similar evictions. Speakers cited other issues that also could dissuade residents and their landlords taking advantage of the new program.

Amplify Arts and All In Denver, another group that has pressed for more solutions to the city’s affordable-housing problem, worked out several changes with the Department of Community Planning and Development and council members before Monday’s vote on the program.

The council approved the amended proposal 12-0.

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