Denver to vote on safe occupancy program

People allowed to stay in unpermitted spaces
Posted at 7:23 AM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-17 09:23:07-04

DENVER -- Monday night the City of Denver will vote on a safe occupancy program which will allow building owners to apply for a conditional occupancy permit while they bring their buildings up to code.

The discussion about the program began in December 2016 when the city shut down the Rhinoceropolis art space on Brighton Blvd. because of serious safety hazards. Artists argued that Denver's high cost of real estate has driven them to older, less expensive spaces, that may not be up to current standards. 

Working with the arts community, the City of Denver came up with the safe occupancy program.

These are the key program points, according to the city's website:

IT’S VOLUNTARY: There will be a two-year window for people to apply for the Safe Occupancy Program without facing penalties for work done in the past without permits. The first step is for city code officials to assess the safety of the space. Life safety hazards must be addressed immediately, before continuing the program.

IT’S COLLABORATIVE: Participants will create a “compliance plan” tailored to their unique space, outlining steps for meeting codes and applying for permits. This may mean having an architect or other design professional on board. CPD and DFD will work collaboratively with applicants on reasonable, potentially more affordable ways to meet building and fire codes.

IT OFFERS EXTENDED TIMELINES: Work can progress at a pace that makes sense for the owner and the city — helping make the project more affordable by distributing construction costs over a longer span. Each project’s plan will outline an agreed-upon timeline. Routine, scheduled inspections will assess progress while work is ongoing.

IT LETS YOU STAY IN YOUR SPACE: The program includes a conditional certificate of occupancy, which will legally allow people to continue occupying their space, provided life-safety hazards have been addressed. Occupancy is conditional based on progress under the compliance plan. The conditional certificate of occupancy is a first nationally to help address affordability for existing buildings. 

Read more here.

See the bill text here.

Most existing buildings are eligible for the program, including retail, office, performance and art spaces, and residential buildings with 2 stories or less. Restaurants and bars are not eligible for the program.

The Denver city council will vote on the program at its regular meeting, July 17th, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.