Denver Direct: Denver Parks and Recreation Department Running Wild

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Denver Parks and Recreation Department Running Wild

Mock-up of US OpenAir proposed 30-day cinema at Civic Center Park

It’s hard to say what’s really going on at Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) these days. So many proposals are on the table that keeping track of them all is a full time job. For example, the proposed Admission Based Events policy is still under consideration and has not been approved by City Council, and yet DPR is going full steam ahead with a contract to allow US OpenAir to show movies at Civic Center Park this summer, and to expand to City Park in 2011. No mention is made of this at the DPR website, so you have to subscribe to their newsletter to keep up.

From the newsletter of 12/31/09

Open Air Cinema Coming to Denver in 2010
Part of the Biennial of the Americas

US OpenAir is a spectacular cinema and lifestyle experience, a seductive combination of:

· fine food and wine
· panoramic views
· cutting edge cinema technology
· a season of great film

Thanks to Dave Felice for keeping up with this open letter to City Council:

Members of the Denver City Council:

The ordinance on a contract for park movies must be rejected because
it seeks your approval of unlawful acts proposed by the administration
of Mayor Hickenlooper.

Both the Charter and Zoning Code prohibit placing and operating movies
in city parks.

The contract was negotiated in secret, without any perceivable public
involvement, and the contractor was not competitively selected. The
proposal violates both the spirit and intent of polices proposed by
Hickenlooper’s Denver Parks and Recreation Department on civic
engagement and admissions based events. Hickenlooper’s City
Attorney’s office has continually tried to deceive both council and
the public into thinking park movies are acceptable.

In attempting to approve a LEASE of two public parks, it must be noted
that Charter permits leases only for “park purposes” and only three
types of lessees. It is NOT a park purpose to place and operate
movies in parks, restricting public access for an extended period and
requiring a fee for entrance.

Despite the City Attorney protestations to the contrary, US OpenAir,
whose very base of operation is dubious, is not a charitable or
nonprofit organization, government jurisdiction, or “concessionaire”.
(Charter 2.4.5; McLauthlin v. Denver, 280, P.2d 1103, 1106, 1955)

Under current Zoning, the Code prohibits outdoor movies in districts
where the parks are located (B-8-G and R-1). Even if outdoor movies
are considered “special events” under temporary permit provisions of
the Zoning Code, the provisions would apply only to Civic Center Park,
not City Park. However, such a “special event” would be prohibited
because the US OpenAir activity would exceed the 12-day maximum
duration allowance of the Zoning Code.

Under the Zoning Code, “park uses” are conditional in the B-8-G
district (Civic Center Park). The city has not complied with the
required procedures for proper review of this conditional use.
(Zoning Code 59-202, 59-117, 59-86, 59-205).

Charter 3.2.6 defines such use (i.e. setting up and operating outdoor
movies) as a lease and the City Attorney is seeking improper Council
approval. Charter 2.4.4 cannot excuse the requirements of Charter
2.4.5; they must be read together as intended.

City government must comply with the Zoning Code in effect until the
“New” Zoning Code is adopted. Even under the “New” Code, the
Hickenlooper administration proposes to take park zoning authority
away from Council and place the authority in the sole hands of the
Manager of Parks and Recreation, an appointed bureaucrat.

Council can amend the language of the Zoning Code (i.e. re-zone) only
by following due process of Charter 3.2.9 (D) and (E).

It appears Parks and Recreation is speaking of outdoor movies in parks
as a fait accompli and seeking a “courtesy” Public Hearing on January
11 as a means of hastening its plans to inappropriately control
taxpayer-funded property and conduct unlawful activities.

Council should schedule the Hearing for January 19, 2010. If the
Hearing is held on January 11, this message must be considered part of
the public record since I will be away from the city and unable to
appear in person.

Unless there are overwhelmingly compelling arguments to the contrary,
Council must avoid complicity in the improper and unlawful acts of
admissions based outdoor movies in public parks.

David P. Felice
City Council District 8
Director, ABC Streets Association
At-Large Delegate, Greater Park Hill Community (GPHC) Board of
Delegate, Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC)
Member, INC Parks and Recreation Committee
Delegate, Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF), AFL-CIO
Steward, Communications Workers of America

January 1, 2010