History ETDs


B. Erin Cole

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Between 1956 and 1989, people unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption were prohibited from living together in some Denver neighborhoods. The City and County of Denver, like other cities, narrowly defined what a 'family' was in its zoning code. This dissertation uses R-0 zoning — the city's most restrictive form of residential zoning — to look at the families, race and sexuality in two Denver neighborhoods -- Capitol Hill and Park Hill. R-0 zoning was created by the city in the mid-1950s to keep rooming houses and basement apartments out of neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes. But residents of neighborhoods zoned R-0 used the zoning code for their own needs — it gave them a legal mechanism to keep 'unwanted' people out of their neighborhoods. In Park Hill, R-0 zoning was used to keep neighborhood property values high and its residential character intact at a time when the once all-white area was becoming racially integrated. Even though the neighborhood was, in many ways, racially tolerant, zoning enforcement targeted African-American and Hispanic residents of Park Hill. R-0 was also used to keep 'non-traditional' families out of Park Hill — most notably an all-white commune who unsuccessfully sued the city on Fourteenth Amendment grounds after it was forced out of its house. Capitol Hill was (and is) a dense neighborhood of apartment buildings and renters close to downtown. People in surrounding neighborhoods used R-0 zoning first to keep multi-family housing contained to Capitol Hill, and then to keep same-sex households from relocating of their own neighborhoods. After World War II, Capitol Hill became the center of Denver's gay and lesbian community, as its mixed-use built environment proved amenable to non-traditional households and families. But as same-gender households tried to move to surrounding neighborhoods, they found that neighbors were more than willing to use zoning laws against them. Fighting R-0 zoning became a priority for the city's queer community in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but reforms did not happen until R-0 zoning became seen as an issue affecting unmarried heterosexual couples.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Sandoval-Strausz, Andrew

Second Committee Member

Cahill, Cathleen

Third Committee Member

Wilson, Chris



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