Fact Check: Denver Post’s ‘Declining Green Space Due to Density’ is Misleading

Mr. Bruce Finley, of the Denver Post, recently wrote an article decrying:

“As development eats away at Denver’s green space, the “city within a park” is becoming a concrete metropolis.”

While Mr. Finley’s (who was a Fulbright scholar in Britain and has a journalism degree from Northwestern University) statement that there was 19% imperviousness in 1974 and 48% coverage today statements may be correct, he sloppily points a lazy finger at dense development downtown without first checking the facts, using arbitrary pictures of downtown to supposedly illustrate the story of density being the culprit:


Unfortunately, Mr. Finley did not fact check where impervious development specifically occurred and what these areas looked like before 1974, which also happened to be impervious and looked like this:


Old Downtown Parking
Immense parking lots following the destruction of old “blighted” downtown Denver in the 50s and 60s


Ask most urban planning academics for their thoughts on the actual cause of “development eats away at Denver’s green space” (including Mr. Muller- who was quoted in the article -I would contend), and they can point Mr. Finley in a much more accurate direction that has been ubiquitous for America -> sprawl & single family residences (86.2% of Denver’s residential land use)  and the car infrastructure needed for a single family home lifestyle (parking, asphalt roads, and garages).

So what are the facts and what does the data say?

Here is the breakdown of impervious area parcel development since 1974 in Denver:

Impervious Area Since 1974
Impervious Area In Denver Constructed since 1974 – (Please keep in mind that this does not include the impervious area of public property such as the roads, sidewalks, and street parking that is required to service these private parcels.  Single Family homes are the most road (impervious area) intensive land uses of public space that exist per capita in the US)

Where exactly has this development happened?

Many long time Denver residents can probably intuitively help Mr. Finley along with where development has focused over the last 5 decades.  I’ll give you a hint on some really big ones… the redevelopment of Stapleton Airport, DTC, Green Valley Ranch, Montbello, and SW Denver into largely single family homes.

Impervious Area Since 1974 - Downtown and Stapleton.png
parcel development in Denver since 1974 – Downtown and Stapleton
Impervious Area Since 1974 - DTC
parcel development in Denver since 1974 – DTC
Impervious Area Since 1974 - SW Denver
parcel development in Denver since 1974 – SW Denver
Impervious Area Since 1974 - East Denver.png
parcel development in Denver since 1974 – East Denver

Interestingly, Mr. Finley did not comment on the fact that the amount of Park Space protected by Denver has actually increased over this time as well.

Ultimately, when a resident is physically unable to walk to a coffee shop in a single family neighborhood, one will need car-sized parking spaces and car-sized impervious roads to every conceivable destination.  If we want to accurately investigate the decline of green space in Denver, we need to correctly point the finger at spread out, single family, suburban style neighborhood sprawl and the car infrastructure tied to it.

Lastly, regardless of construction date, here is Denver’s parcel impervious area by land use:

Impervious Area All of Denver
Denver’s impervious area by land use

Additional Bonus Satellite Pictures:

Denver Satellite - 1984
Denver Satellite – 1984
Denver Satellite - 2019
Denver Satellite – 2016

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