DENVER (CBS4) – Denver leaders say they want to work with the city’s underground art community to create safe living spaces. They are proposing a safe occupancy program for buildings.
The effort comes after the forced evacuations of two creative spaces in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood late last year. The buildings known as Rhinoceroplis and Globb had become places for artists to both live and work. The problem was the “do-it-yourself” art spaces lacked the proper permits for both uses. That raised concerns for fire inspectors.
After the forced closures, several artists living in the spaces scrambled to find places to live and create their art, and others living in similar situations were sent deeper into hiding. The tension between city officials and artsts like Liz Solomon was apparent at a community meeting in January.
“These spaces are absolutely sacred to us but the only way they exist is underground because the procedures in place right now don’t meet the resource we have,” Solomon told city officials.
In response, Denver began working on the safe occupancy idea.
“We’re trying to find ways to respond to the reality that some folks have been forced to create unpermitted spaces, whether they live there or work there,” said Brad Buchanan, the executive director of Denver’s Community Planning and Development Department.
Buchanan says the goal is to work with building owners and tenants to identify violations. As long as they’re non-life threatening, they wouldn’t be required to fix those issues right away.
“It allows residents or occupants to stay in a place while they progress through doing the work to become code compliant,” Buchanan said.
If approved by the city council, Denver would be the first city in the country with a law allowing occupancy of unpermitted spaces.
The proposal for the new program will be heard by the Denver City Council at a committe meeting later this month. It likely won’t go for approval until July.