Denied

Authorizing Allocations for 533 Van Gordon Street

Item 14 - Authorizing Allocations for 533 Van Gordon Street, Lakewood, CO 80228

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Staff Memo ( 0.39 MB )
Resolution 2020-23 ( 0.11 MB )
Lakewood Municipal Code 14.27 ( 0.16 MB )
Lakewood Housing Study ( 7.15 MB )
First Quarter City Council Allocation Report ( 0.43 MB )

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With regard to the proposed Van Gordon Apartment project at 533 Van Gordon Street, I request that this project NOT receive approval by the City Council. This is the kind of development that we did not want when we proposed and voted for Question 200, the Strategic Growth Initiative. That was AFTER the huge Beacon 85 apartment project popped up without having to be approved by the City Council, in an area that was zoned for Mixed Use.

I have reviewed the site plan for this development. Even though the revised zoning for the area would allow a 309-unit apartment building with more than 450 parking spaces in the basement, it is not a project that would be compatible with the community. The addition of 309 units of compact, small apartments is not needed. The very modern architecture of the project would be out of place and is not in keeping with the surrounding area. This would repeat out-of-place architecture like the Beacon 85 development.

The density of units is not in keeping with the surrounding area. I would like to see this building designed with no more than three stories above ground level in keeping with the overall character of the community, with a total of no more than 100 units, and that the project be divided into two or more buildings. This is a relatively small parcel of land, and the density would be more appropriate if it were similar to the Westhills/The Glens apartments, its neighbor.

I have been told by City Planning that a traffic study was conducted, and that the result was that the impact on the 6th Avenue Frontage Road and Van Gordon would be about the same as The Point Athletic Club in the past. I find this difficult to believe. Both streets have heavy traffic at rush hours, and this project would have only one entrance off the 6th Avenue Frontage Road. The curve from the 6th Avenue Frontage Road into Van Gordon Street is like a racetrack now. Imagine 400+ more vehicles per day—twice a day—going and coming, plus the existing traffic from Westhills/The Glens apartments. I would like to see the Traffic Study for this project, especially as it relates to the Frontage Road.

My request is that the developer redesign this project with far fewer units to make it more in keeping with the rest of the community.

The alternative is to find a more appropriate and significantly better use for the site.

09/28/2020 10:59 am
Lori Niquette
9 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

Lakewood citizens approved the Strategic Growth Initiative at a time before the pandemic when jobs already were not abundant. Now even more businesses are closed, and in dense apartment construction of recent years there are many vacancies. Where are the jobs to sustain residents crammed into 533 Van Gordon's housing, the most dense on Green Mountain and not even part of the citizen outrage that spurred the SGI? Well, those jobs certainly aren't in Lakewood.

The owner of this development will heavily market its proximity to light rail. New residents can live far away from their jobs in Denver because of the miracle of RTD light rail! Since housing is a net tax drain on the city but commercial development contributes to city coffers, what possible advantage is there in banking housing allocations for years on behalf of this unneeded project, one of the first to go through the allocation process and thus setting the precedent for future City Council decisions? Once again, Lakewood citizens bear the price of overloaded streets and infrastructure (and quite likely gridlock on the 6th Avenue service road) to provide housing for employees whose companies were attracted to other metro cities.

This development is too dense. It doesn't fit into the surrounding community, whose apartment complexes will seem like spacious views to this building's sardined residents. For areas of Lakewood where such a concentration is actually desired (hard to believe), maybe such a monstrosity could be appropriate. On already-overbuilt Green Mountain, the housing density per acre should be similar to the surrounding area.

09/28/2020 10:19 am
Denise Luepschen
9 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

Regarding staff’s findings, I question that a 3 year old study with 5 year old data provides legitimate demonstration of current and future need for this project, particularly given the reality that housing type needs have changed radically due to the pandemic.

The old data states that employment growth is strong and housing growth is not keeping up with employment growth. I don’t know if that was true in 2015, but it is not true now. Weekly I read about how Denver and Aurora are attracting more and more corporate jobs. This has been covered widely in the news. Lakewood is never mentioned as a city that is bringing new jobs to the front range. The numbers tell the story of what Lakewood needs. Jobs at this location near transit will be more valuable to Lakewood than apartments.

The statement that “All required public improvements will be constructed with the project, at the expense of the developer” needs Council scrutiny. While this may be accurate on its face it fails to define ‘required’. Per state law the developer is not required to upgrade infrastructure beyond the footprint of the development. Based on car ownership data in transit zones, this means that this development traffic will add statistically hundreds of cars onto a short 2 lane city road (Van Gordon) that feeds into another short 2 lane (eastbound) city road (4th Ave.)that connects to Union Blvd. It has not been proven that right of way to widen roads here is even available to support this project, nor funding. Since the developer-required infrastructure to support this project does not go beyond the parking lot, this project as proposed will create a traffic problem with no solution.

In light of the fact that this project lacks a current demonstrated need, is unsupported from an infrastructure standpoint, and provides more infrastructure burden than economic benefit to Lakewood, there is no justification for a banking plan.

I ask that the banking plan be denied. This will enable Council to apply the allocations elsewhere in the City where there is both current demonstrated need and existing infrastructure capacity.

Alan Heald
Resident - Ward 4

09/28/2020 8:37 am
Alan Heald
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

I agree with the thought repeatedly stated within these comments submitted by numerous citizens - utilizing an outdated housing study to justify current City decisions on strategic growth policy is unreasonable and introduces an unnecessary high risk of making embarrassing and unsound decisions. Obviously the City needs to update the past housing study to include current data and analyses to determine what has happened in community housing development and job growth since the previous outdated study was performed and presented.

And this required updating to the present must include investigation, study and analysis of the elephant in the room - both the short and most probable long term impact and implications of the continuing (currently unending) COVID pandemic. Elected official and planners should not ignore the unknown reality we are facing, regardless of the difficulty.

It has been frequently observed and reported throughout the pandemic that perceptions and choices related to housing density, office density and environment, and use of mass transit have been revisited and reshaped by the COVID pandemic. Families and individuals are moving to residences in locations with lower density. Employers are relocating to offices with less density in buildings that do not require elevators and have windows that can be opened. Commuting has been replaced by work-at-home, Social distancing-adverse mass transit ridership has dropped precipitously. The continuing pandemic will likely increase evictions, foreclosures, and homelessness. Many of the businesses that will be unable to endure the impact of the pandemic will be small, local businesses. What should we plan for in the future?

It is fortunate Lakewood passed the Strategic Growth Initiative that instituted a structured process whereby City Council representative, and not profit-only driven developers, are the ones responsible for engaging the community as strategic decisions for future growth are developed for our world of today.

Jim Kinney

09/28/2020 12:24 am
James Kinney
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

I am against passing a proposal to allow Point Athletic Cub developers to exceed the 40 unit limit. The density limit at 86 units/acre far exceeds what is already in the community. Past research on community need is outdated and I believe there will be fewer jobs requiring physical locality and housing in the Lakewood area in the future. Furthermore, excessive building is not environmentally friendly due to lack of water and poor infrastructure that impacts all of us whether we are walking, cycling or driving. More vehicles on the road also adds to the pollution and further depletes the ozone. Please reject the proposal that exceed the 40 unit limit.

Additionally, 14th and Harlan should not be given a blighted designation. Use regular allocations; the designation is not necessary. It would appear that designating properties blighted when unnecessary, is an attempt to manipulate the will of the people who voted for SGI 200.

Additionally, 14th and Harlan should not be given a blighted designation. Use regular allocations; the designation is not necessary. It would appear that designating properties blighted when unnecessary, is an attempt to manipulate the will of the people who voted for SGI 200.

09/27/2020 9:24 pm
Tamara Bilewski
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

Please reject the allocation request for the 533 Van Gordon high density apartment project. This project does not fill any "unmet need" for this area. Conversely, residents in the Green Mountain/Union Corridor have had their fill of this type of high density housing product. Councilor Skilling won his last election on his promise to "fight" such development project misfits in our area. Ballot issue 200 won because of the citizens' desire to get uncontrolled development under reins. Housing allocations are limited and valuable. Please save them for areas that want and need this type of development to thrive.

09/27/2020 8:54 pm
Mary Gilkison
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

I.) “Study” cited

Planning Department staff cites a March 2017 City of Lakewood Housing Study as proof of an “unmet community need”. This “study” was actually a marketing analysis to determine what residential “products” and amenities newcomers prefer.
This “housing study” is outdated and invalid. The report was “delivered” to Council in August 2017 – three (3) years ago. The report is purported to include data up to 2015 – five (5) years ago. In addition, there is a time lap between when data occurs and when it gets recorded. With these delays the data (even if it were accurate) would be seven (7) years old.
The City’s zoning rules were changed in 2013. Neither the “housing study” nor this staff report factor in the effects of the zoning changes made seven years ago.

II.) Satisfying an “unmet community need”

A.) Sufficient Local Housing Supply

The staff memo claims a “need” for more housing developments. The Union Square neighborhood already has over a thousand housing units (for either sale or rent) including condos, townhomes and even single family housing .

Despite this abundance of housing choices, staff claims there is a need for large apartment projects with more than 50 units. Union Square already has a dozen of these mega-apartment (over 50 units) complexes . The current housing supply includes an additional 3,348 apartment units in the mega-apartment category within walking distance of the RTD station.

Name Acres Units Density Stories
533 Van Gordon 3.6 309 86 du/acre 5 stories
Westhills/Glen 14.45 400 28 du/acre 3 stories
Silver Reef Apts. 12.05 419 35 du/acre 3 stories
Union West 4.71 267 57 du/acre 5 stories
Alta Green Mtn. 12.63 260 21 du/acre 4 stories
Panorama West 6.21 204 33 du/acre 2 stories
Riva Ridge Apts. 2.73 103 38 du/acre 3 stories
Ascend at Red Rocks 5.85 408 70 du/acre 3 stories
Elevate at Red Rocks 4.24 172 41 du/acre 3 stories
Americana Lakewood 8.58 444 52 du/acre 3 stories
Beacon 85 4.43 343 77 du/acre 5 stories

TOTALS 3,657

In addition to current oversupply of high-density, large-size apartment complexes in this neighborhood, there are proposals for more mega-apartment projects including: 66 S. Van Gordon St. - 343 units (another 10% growth in the inventory of this housing category

C.) Neighborhood Incompatibility.

533 Van Gordon proposal is for 309 units (over 3.6 acres) for a density of 86 du/acre. This is 12% more dense than Beacon 85 which has a density of 77 du/acre. The adjacent apartment complex called the Glen at Lakewood (formerly Westhills Apts.) has a residential density of 28 du/acre. 533 Van Gordon will be 3 times denser than its neighbors across the alley.

The proposed project will tower over its neighbors. Westhills/Glen is only three stories while the adjacent 533 Van Gordon will be five stories or 67% taller than its neighbors.

Other background:
2.) Residential density is unlimited
3.) Height Limit – 60’ Proposed – 58’
4.) Planning Commission is currently conducting a neighborhood “vision plan”. This planning process may result in proposed changes to the neighborhood zoning codes.

D). Employment Growth Has Stabilized

The cited “2017 housing study” claims employment growth is strong and housing growth is not proportional to employment growth.

The 15 year time period purportedly used in the “housing study” was right after the completion of St. Anthony Hospital in June 2011. However, employment growth has been relatively stable since that major event.

The “study” does not factor in the impact of declining employment in west Lakewood. In 2015, the strip shopping center along Union Blvd closed and was replaced with the 343 apartments of Beacon 85 in 2017. Proposed for the near future is the conversion of the government offices at 66 S. Van Gordon (unknown number of jobs will be lost) into 343 more apartments.

Lakewood’s Economic Development Office, estimates the City’s overall employment base over the past several years:

2014 - 72,110
2015 - 74,610
2016 - 73,450
2017 - 74,045
2018 - 76,200
2019 - 74,700

While there has been fluctuations over the past six years, our total overall employment has grown about 2,590 jobs or about three and half percent (3.5%) since 2014. This employment growth is less than the 1% year growth limit on housing.

E.) Housing Supply Has Expanded Dramatically

The 2017 “housing study” claims Lakewood’s housing stock increased by only 5,100 units between 2000 and 2015 (during the recession). The developer claims another 4,370 units “were delivered” in the 2015-2019 period.

Since then there has been a tremendous increase in housing development in the Denver metro area, Jefferson County and Lakewood.

The Denver Post article noted over the past five years metro Denver has added about 47,000 apartments, including 11,618 just last year. It is projected another 5,695 units are slated for completion in 2020.

The AAMD (Apartment Association of Metro Denver) Rent and Vacancy Study for 4th Quarter 2019 stated Jefferson County inventory of apartments was 42,271 units at the beginning of 2014. At the end of 2019 the inventory of apartments in Jeffco had grown to 50,562 units. This constitutes an increase in apartment inventory of 8,291 units over a six year period. This is nearly a 20% increase overall or an average of over 3% per year.

Conclusion
Despite fluctuations over the past six years, overall employment in Lakewood has grown modestly - about 1,000 jobs . However, housing supply has increased dramatically with over 6,000 housing building permits issued since the 2013 zoning change.

The reality is opposite of the “conclusion” drawn by the 2017 “housing study” and cited by city staff as justification for satisfying a “unmet community need”. It appears Lakewood is shifting toward a bedroom community of commuters who work elsewhere in the metro area.

I suggest the developer’s proposal (309 units) be rejected and the City negotiate a more reasonable alternative. For example, if Council were to authorize a project compatible to the neighborhood (around 30 units per acre), the project should be more like 100 units.

09/27/2020 6:37 pm
David Wiechman
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

The Lakewood administration and the planning department are the reason why the city’s economic activity has been growing stagnant well before COVID-19 hit.

It is already widely known that the planning department and some in the administration have no idea as to what city planning and economic development is. To them, a few car washes, another bank or a shopping mall nobody needs and a row upon row of apartments without any well-paying jobs which people can bike to is the epitome of how it should be done. Speaking of biking – Lakewood is a miserable failure:

https://cityratings.peopleforbikes.org/city/lakewood/

Despite all the talk from some on the council about bike-ability.

And then, there the “economic development office”. The same “economic development office” that has failed to attract a single job from Amazon, Google, Charles Schwab, VFCorp, Yeti, Icelantic, etc., etc. – all companies that have brought in thousands of jobs in to the neighboring municipalities in just the last decade:

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2019/04/30/amazon-denver-hundreds-jobs/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2018-02-23/inside-google-s-131-million-boulder-campus

The public has lost any and all faith in the City Council to do the right thing. The public saw the exponentially growing number of the “Available” signs along the Union corridor long before COVID-19 and started to wonder why is the City doing nothing to revitalize the failing economic engine of the city?

So do not confuse public’s silence with an agreement to the further destruction of the city’s economic and environment potential. Do heed it as disdain and a complete lack of trust in your ability to be the stewards of this community. How will yet another high-density development along the city’s economic corridor add to the city’s economic potential? How will all of those additional cars on the road improve the city’s environment?

And before anyone talks about Light Rail - Light Rail has been a disaster, since those who “planned” it have no idea what it is to build a transportation network which serves people’s daily needs. And then, everyone is surprised that the ridership is down.

Furthermore, there is now evidence of the higher density developments being potential hot spots for spreading decease. Hence, not only is the administration destroying the city’s economic potential, but it is also potentially enabling far worse future pandemic events localized to Lakewood:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-08/coronavirus-threat-in-melbournes-high-rise-towers-explained/12430218

09/27/2020 5:01 pm
Lakewood Citizen
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

Permission to exceed the 40-unit limit at 533 Van Gordon St:
a. The proposed 309 units in this project is far in excess of the 40-unit limit and should be rejected – even if done over 5 years.
b. This proposal for 533 Van Gordon is worse than Beacon 85 and other projects in the immediate area. This proposal is for 309 units, 5 stories, on 3.6 acres for a density of 86 units/acre. This compares to Beacon 85 which has a density of 77 units/acre. This proposal is worse than other projects in the area: Union West Apts with 57 units/acre and Alta Green Mountain with 21 units/acre.
c. This proposal is incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods. The adjacent Westhills Apts/The Glen is only 28 units/acre and the nearby Silver Reef Apts is 35 units/acre.
d. Current city data indicates housing has grown much faster than employment.

I suggest the developer’s 309-unit proposal be rejected and the City negotiate for a more reasonable alternative – a project compatible to the neighborhood about 30 units per acre, a total of about 100 units. Luxury apartments?

09/27/2020 4:00 pm
Donna Svendsen
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

I oppose authorizing allocations for 533 Van Gordon St.The last thing that is wanted or needed in this area is another large, high-density complex. The study which is used to justify this “unmet community need” is outdated. Instead of adding to the oversupply of these mega apartment projects, how about welcoming businesses that can offer employment opportunities to the area. Mixed use development is certainly preferable to even bigger and denser structures that residents don’t want. The reason that SGI/200 passed (although this seems to have slipped the memory of many Council Members) was because a majority of voters wanted this out of control growth to be monitored and regulated. Please listen to the will of the people and follow the law.

09/26/2020 10:45 pm
Lenore Herskovitz
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

I urge Lakewood City Council members to REJECT the exemption to exceed the 40-unit limit established by SGI/200 where 533 Van Gordon is concerned.
Nor should work arounds be approved, such as approving smaller amounts now and then "banking" additional units over time.
The Van Gordon proposal for 309 units is too many, too dense (86 du/acre), too tall (5 stories), inconsistent with the surrounding areas, and is not needed.
Employment growth has stabilized.Since 2014, employment has grown approximately 2,600 jobs: about 3.5%. This emplyment growth is less than the 1% SGI growth limit on housing. RTD has stopped or significantly reduced bus service to parts of Lakewood. It is naive to assume new dwellers will only travel via the W ligh trail line. I conclude workers will drive into Denver metro workplaces, further congesting Sixth Avenue and feeder streets.
Lakewood's emphasis on tall multi-family benefits developers, not Lakewood residents, who must contend with increased traffic, denser cityscapes, loss of privacy and views, and more temporary residents in these oversized apartment cubes.
The March 2017 Lakewood housing study is outdated, since Lakewood zoning has spurred the prevalence of multi-family dwellings.
Lakewood has experienced an increase in all types of housing supply. We now have 3,657 more large apartment complexes, including Beacon85 and others along Union.

09/26/2020 4:24 pm
Janet Draper
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

I'm concerned about the proposal of 533 Van Gordon St which exceeds the 40-unit limit (as voted on in SGI/200). The developer is attempting to exceed the limit specified in SGI. Council is required o have a public hearing to support the claim of an unmet community need. Attempting to hide under the guise of the claim it's a banking plan will allow up to 79 units per year for up to 5 years. This is in excess of the 40 unit limit. It des not even deserve the time and attention of our City Councilors and taxpayers alike.
But, if you believe against the will of the voters, this proposal should be considered; I ask as a citizen and taxpayer that you realize this proposal is worse than Beacon 85. This proposal would result in 309 units (five stories) on 3.6 acres for a density of 86 units/acre. Beacon 85, in its enormity and tasteless design, has a density of 77 units/acre.

The “justification" of the City in this scenario/proposal is based on a 2017 “housing”/marketing study that is out-dated and invalid.

Whatever the exact increase in housing, current city data indicate housing has grown much faster than employment.

Lakewood is not in a competition to provide housing for every job in Jefferson County. There are other cities in Jefferson County to provide housing. The developer is taking advantage of what might be construed as a way to completely bypass the intent of SG/200. A better and more realistic proposal is for the City to reject this proposal. Instead, consider a project that is more compatible with the neighborhood asthestically and in volume.

09/26/2020 10:32 am
Lynne Kinney
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

Apartments should not be built in the Green Mountain area with a density greater than what exists. It seems that housing needs for apartments in this part of Lakewood are already being met. A cursory review of the websites for the newest apartments in the Green Mountain area reveal that the Beacon and Union west apartments all have ongoing vacancy. The new Alta Green apartment complex is doing deals to fill those apartments.

Seems that having more jobs in Lakewood would make the argument stronger for more housing. Wish there was more focus put on that.

If there are more apartments built along Van Gordon please open up Zinnia Street to the 6th avenue frontage road to improve traffic flow from all areas southwest of where said apartments would be built.

09/25/2020 7:58 pm
Jennifer Shay
11 / 11 Council Members have viewed this comment

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