Watch CBS News

Proposed "micro-community" for unhoused people on South Birch in Denver likely to be dropped

Proposed "micro-community" for unhoused people in Denver likely to be dropped
Proposed "micro-community" for unhoused people in Denver likely to be dropped 00:53

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston is expected to announce as early as Wednesday that plans for a proposed "micro-community" for the unhoused at 1380 South Birch St. in southeast Denver will not move forward, according to multiple sources familiar with the decision-making process.

The proposal had met with stiff opposition from neighbors who feared a rise in crime, lower property values and increased traffic. If the South Birch micro-community plan is scrapped, it would mark the second time within a week that the Johnston administration has backed away from a micro-community for the unhoused that faced fierce neighborhood opposition.

Last week, city administrators withdrew their proposal for a micro-community to be located at 5500 East Yale Avenue in the Holly Hills neighborhood.

RELATED: Community reacts to Denver Mayor Mike Johnston's call to bail on micro-community site near Yale and I-25

A city spokesperson said that the site was nixed "based on the criteria we have identified that include economic viability, projected site yield, and consideration of other viable options, in addition to community feedback." 

The South Birch Street site was located in a neighborhood dominated by single-family homes with a school nearby.

"It's just a recipe for disaster," said Phil Roper, who owns a rental home adjacent to the site.

It's currently an empty parking lot surrounded by fencing. The property is owned by a real estate development firm that had indicated to neighbors it would only lease the property to the city if neighbors supported the proposed micro-community.  The city proposal was for 30- 40 tiny homes for the unhoused.

"You're right in the middle of a neighborhood," said Roper.

"Whatever it takes to serve these few individuals will impact this whole neighborhood and it doesn't make any sense to me. This is not my problem. This is the mayor's problem," said Roper. "He can figure it out but don't put it in my neighborhood."

Ellie Richardson, who owns a home 300 feet from the proposed site, said, "this is crazy. You're just relocating a problem, not solving it." She said she bought her home in 2021 due to the safety of the neighborhood, which she believed would be diminished by the micro-community.

In an interview last week, Cole Chandler, a senior adviser to Mayor Johnston on homelessness issues, indicated to CBS News Colorado the South Birch site had negatives that might detract from its viability: "When we look at that site it doesn't have the yield we would like to see."

RELATED: Denver Mayor Mike Johnston speaks 1-on-1 about migrant response, housing and public safety

At the time, Chandler said the city had "not made a decision" on whether to move forward with the site. Chandler said the city was weighing a moral obligation to get people indoors against the concerns of residents. Johnston has pledged to house 1,000 currently-unhoused people by Dec. 31. Chandler said as of the first week of November, 200 unhoused individuals had been housed.

Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann, whose district includes the South Birch site, said it "doesn't surprise me' to hear the South Birch site is likely a non-starter. He said he always had reservations about the location and hopes the city "comes up with a site that better fits the Mayor's micro- community plan."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.