Guidance for Denver DIY Spaces and Zoning Requirements

DIY Zoning Social

I practice arts & entertainment law in Colorado, have co-created a local cooperative artistic space, volunteer services to artists, and socialize in arts and Burning Man communities. I live and breathe arts in community.

So, when I heard about the tragedy in Oakland’s GhostShip, I was hit particularly hard. I didn’t know any of the victims directly, but many of my friends did. My mind quickly turned to our Colorado DIY spaces—what were they feeling, what were they scrambling to correct in their safety approaches, and how could I help? Not surprisingly, I found that artists in Colorado are grieving and also fighting to keep their spaces up to code in the face of increased interest from safety agencies.

At a recent gathering of artists running DIY spaces, I heard a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the lay of the legal landscape. Watch this space over the next weeks as I pen a blog series that answers questions many spaces are having and elaborates on top issues for DIY creative spaces.

All situations are case specific, so you may need further guidance given your particular situation.

Verifying Your Zoning Status in Denver

In Denver, the public online records provide a nice link to the basic information you will need to feel more assured about your zoning status. Remember that public government websites are never guaranteed to be 100% up to date, but this should give you a reasonable place to start in confirming that your space does not have unresolved zoning issues.

1) Visit the online real estate records page:
https://www.denvergov.org/property

2) Hit “Advanced Search”

3) Enter your address information

4) There will be a hyperlink on your building’s address. Click on the address to go to the detail page.

5) The website will take you to the “Property Summary” tab. Click the Tab to view “Property Map”. This is where you will find all sorts of juicy information about your zoning allowances.

6) Note all special designations for your property, including Enterprise Zones, Historic Landmark status, and zone district information. I recommend making a written note for easy reference as you look at the Zoning Code. You may be part of an “overlay district”, which means that two sets of requirements apply to you—make sure to check the requirements for any and all references made in this section.

7) The page will link to the version of the Denver Building Code that relates to your property. Click through to that document in the “Code Version” line.

Check the Code and How It Applies to Your Building

Understanding the Zoning Code is complicated and technical. This makes it difficult to maintain exact compliance and leaves property owners open to differing interpretations and potential violations, even discrepancies within the same department. Keep your focus on trying to get reasonable compliance with the most that you can. There is always a chance that the city will show up and point out a non-compliance issue that you haven’t thought of. Your attempts to get it right in the other instances will help you establish good faith and some negotiating room with the city if you need it.

Click through to the version of the Zoning Code that applies to your property.

a) Look at Articles 1 and 2 to get an overview of how to use the manual.
b) Look for the Article that matches each of the zoning assignments given to your building.
c) Find the Chapter on your specific zoning assignment and read.
1. You will find information on what types of buildings are allowable and offset distances from the sidewalks (this won’t really be anything you can control or worry about). What will be important is to Check the Uses Allowable for Your Type of Building.
2. You do want to look at any requirements that apply to free-standing structures you have in your space (sheds, lockers, garages…).
3. Look at the tables that apply to your type of zoning in each section of the chapter for the requirements that you need to follow. This is where you can start to pull together a list of items to prioritize as you come into compliance. Or, hopefully, you won’t need to make any improvements at all.
4. Pay particular attention to parking requirements and the USE TABLES. You should verify that the way you are using the property is allowable. And, you will want to know if you are required to get a permit for any specific types of use. For example, if you are zoned for mixed industrial use and live/work, there are limitations on parking and biking for which you will need approval.
d) Look at Article 10 for rules that apply to everyone.
e) Look at Article 11 for definitions and rules that apply to your specific uses.

If you determine that there may be compliance issues, discuss with the building owner. Your landlord may know something you don’t regarding prior approvals from the city or being grandfathered in for certain items. And, your landlord may be willing to help you with expenses to make things right.

Note that these instructions only apply to the Zoning Code. You will also need to be in compliance with the Building Code.  Check this blog later for highlights from the International Building Code, which is used as a model law for municipalities.

If you don’t live in Denver, your city may also include zoning information as part of the public record. Research what information is available to you through both the assessors office and the real estate records office of your city.

If you need more information or help with these or other topics for your DIY space, please contact Caroline Kert us via www.danieltgoodwin.com.

Protecting Your DIY Vision: Seven Things Creative Spaces Need to Know

DIY Series Social

I practice arts & entertainment law in Colorado, have co-created a local cooperative artistic space, volunteer services to artists, and socialize in arts and Burning Man communities. I live and breathe arts in community.

So, when I heard about the tragedy in Oakland’s GhostShip, I was hit particularly hard. I didn’t know any of the victims directly, but many of my friends did. My mind quickly turned to our Colorado DIY spaces—what were they feeling, what were they scrambling to correct in their safety approaches, and how could I help? Not surprisingly, I found that artists in Colorado are grieving and also fighting to keep their spaces up to code in the face of increased interest from safety agencies.

At a recent gathering of artists running DIY spaces, I heard a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the lay of the legal landscape.  Watch this space over the next weeks as I pen a blog series that answers questions many spaces are having and elaborates on these top issues for DIY creative spaces.

1. Your Use of the Space Needs to Match Your Zoning Classification

In most cities, you can run an Internet search to double-check that your space is zoned for the type of activity that you conduct. If you cannot find a quick answer online, you may need to call the building and permit department to find out.

Pay closest attention if you are a work/live space. If you run your space out of a residential area, and your space is zoned for residential use, be aware of the limitations to how many non-related people can be living in the same space. For industrial spaces that are zoned for mixed use, check to ensure that you have zoning for residential use and that your space has been issued a certificate of occupancy.

Zoning violations may expose you to eviction. If you are out of compliance, consider an immediate change in use to match the zoning.

2. Even if You’re Cool with the City, You Still Need to Stay Cool with Your Landlord

Cities and safety officials aren’t the only ones that are nervous about safety in your space right now. Landlords have their hackles up, also.

Review your lease to make sure you aren’t doing anything that would warrant you getting evicted. Does the lease acknowledge how you are using the space, in reality? If not, was the landlord clear on how you were going to use the space when you moved in? If you and your landlord are out of sync about how you are using the space, do your best to fix the situation. This could be anything from changing how you are using the space to having a frank conversation with your landlord, depending on your relationship.

3. Building Code Violations Should be Your Biggest Concern

City and agency officials in Denver are taking a proactive stance toward ensuring the safety of live/work spaces. While it may feel like a witch hunt, it’s not. The last thing the City wants is for another tragedy to occur in Denver. So, if your building is targeted for inspection, be cooperative, be cordial, and communicate that you share safety concerns. The more professional you remain, the better an outcome you can expect.

The International Building Code (IBC) is complex, and most cities adopt bits and pieces as local Code. So, don’t expect to understand it all. Talking to other spaces and understanding what issues have created problems in the past will be a huge guidance. In general, and irrespective of what city you are in, pay attention to:

  • Do you maintain the limits on how many people live and attend events in the space?
  • Your fire extinguishers must be charged and inspected on schedule. You must have enough fire extinguishers; and you may also be required to have more advanced fire suppression equipment.
  • Your interior walls need to be made of the proper material.
  • If you have live/work space, there are requirements regarding the square footage and how much space is non-residential.
  • Your exit lighting needs to be self-illuminating—check the Code to make sure you have the right amount of the right kind.
  • You need proper egress and your doors need to be up to code so they are easy to operate in case of fire. There are specific requirements surrounding garage doors.
  • Rises in the floor and areas that are uneven need to be marked as required in the Code.
  • If you have loft areas, the Code will have guidance on headroom, stairs, and square footage required for occupancy levels.
  • Electrical systems and fuse boxes have specific requirements.
  • Extension cords should not be over utilized or used instead of permanent wiring.
  • Some types of gas canisters need to be tied down.
  • If you hang art in gallery space, there are requirements that may apply to how densely that artwork is displayed
  • You must be up to Code regarding bathrooms and running water.

Each space and usage has its own particular requirements, so it is impossible to list all the pitfalls here. There are independent contractors who will review your property for a fee and give you a feel for where you are in violation. This is if you don’t want your list of violations to come from the City.

4. Your Alcohol Policy Should be Up to Snuff

If you are serving alcohol at either private or public events, you need to have a liquor license or an exemption to having one. There are a number of ways to get licensing:

–Get a nonprofit to sponsor your event and use their license for your space.

–Club license—if you are a certain type of membership organization (most likely a social club), and you have been a member organization for three or more years, you could qualify for a club license

–Arts license—tax exempt, nonprofit arts organizations that sponsor productions or performances can obtain a license. You need to be registered as a nonprofit in Colorado and have federal tax exempt status.

–Gallery Special Use License—Your primary purpose must be to exhibit and sell art and you can obtain a license to gift alcohol at up to 15 events per year.

–Special Event License—If you are a certain type of organization (most likely a social organization), you can apply for a special event license. You are limited to 15 special event licenses per year.

–Membership Organization Exemption– If you are a certain type of membership organization (most likely a social club) you may provide alcohol to your members and their guests at a private function. You can charge for entry, but you cannot charge more to those consuming alcohol

Make sure that the individual named on your application is “of good moral character”. The license can be denied if they are not.

5. Even if You Have a Liquor License, Be Careful Who You Serve

Even with a liquor license, you will face serious issues if you serve underage drinkers or intoxicated guests. “Dram Shop” laws still apply and you may be liable for damages if you continue to serve a drunk guest and they injure someone.

6. Protect Yourself with Insurance

If you are running an organization with business or management elements, purchase some insurance. Protect your belongings with renter’s insurance. Purchase event insurance if you will be hosting large groups. Make sure you disclose to the insurance company exactly what you are doing on the property and always make sure you read and understand the policy before you sign. The devil is in the details with insurance.

7. Be Aware of How You Present Yourself on Social Media

Cities and agencies use social media to locate potential issues with DIY spaces. Insurance companies will scour your social media postings if there is an accident in your space. Always review your posts with the assumption that those who want to create issues for you are reading.

8. In Denver, You May Need a Cabaret License Also

Bonus Tip!

If you hold events in Denver at which there is live or recorded entertainment and dancing, you may be required to hold a cabaret license. Depending on how you receive permission to serve alcohol, you may not be required to get a cabaret license. So, check up on what is required in conjunction with your liquor license. Special rules and exemptions apply for club, arts, social and special events.

If you need more information or help with these or other topics for your DIY space, please contact Caroline Kert us via www.danieltgoodwin.com.

 

 

 

 

Creative Entrepreneurship

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The stereotype of the starving artist, one who endures a life of poverty for a labor of love, is a common cultural conception. Indeed, many creative individuals ultimately choose to forgo any professional pursuit of their creative endeavors because of a perceived uphill battle of “making a living” in the arts.

However, today a growing “do-it-yourself” mindset is allowing artists, designers, engineers, architects, and other creators to invent jobs for themselves that didn’t exist a decade ago.  More now than ever, business- and technology-savvy individuals are branding, marketing and networking their way into successful creative careers.

Creative Industry Companies

Brian De Herrera-Schnering is the founder of Colorado-based video production company, Pinto Pictures.  Prior to moving to Colorado in 2007, he was employed full-time as a video editor at a company that produced healthcare education films, but was unable to find similar full-time work upon relocating to Colorado.  Nevertheless, upon establishing his own business he found Denver housed a robust, collaborative community of film, animation, and video design professionals, and his business has thrived ever since.  His company now specializes in a wide range of film-based projects and has worked with a number of local companies and nonprofits in Colorado, as well as national major entertainment brands like Discovery Channel, TLC, Root Sports, and Dish Network.

Another success story is LA-based entrepreneur KamranV, who has mashed technology, marketing and music to build a diverse creative industries company called CyKiK.  CyKiK has successfully undertaken a wide range of creative business endeavors, including developing Interscope Records’ mobile business; designing POP-AUT, a payment system for music, games art and other creative projects; producing DVD-Audio projects for artists like Beck and Nine Inch Nails, and taking over the production of Moogfest.  KamranV is also one of the founders of Bedrock.LA, a converted manufacturing building that houses music rehearsal and showcase rooms, recording studios, and an equipment rental and repair shop.

As these two examples show, there are many opportunities to thrive as a creative entrepreneur, whether pursuing film, music or technology and a mash-up of multiple mediums.

Career Entrepreneurship

The emergence of the “creative entrepreneurship” movement has been fueled by several factors.  By far the biggest is the emergence of technologies that unbundled creators from the traditional hold of studios, book publishers, concert promoters, record companies and museums.   Artists today have the ability to distribute and make money from their works in ways that were never available to prior generations.

New, web-based technologies have also generated innovative ways of project collaboration.  One clear example of this is crowdfunding.  Sites like KickStarter and IndieGogo have made the process of raising capital significantly easier for artists and startups.

Finally, the national economic slump that began in 2009 led to a lack of good-paying employment opportunities for millions of young people and recent college grads, and also resulted in layoffs for other workers who had been working their way up the traditional career ladder.  A number of these individuals realized they could no longer rely on an employer or a large established company to train and mentor them towards their dream career.  

 Business Planning and Awareness of Legal Issues

Today, designers, artists and creators mix artistic expression with business skills in order to thrive and sustain their endeavors. These individuals recognize they can utilize new resources and platforms to form their own businesses that contribute to media, arts and culture.  However, there are many legal pitfalls that could take a fledgling creative-industries business owner by surprise. 

One of these is the unfortunate receipt of a Cease and Desist Letter for either trademark or copyright infringement.  When forming a new business, people may spend a lot of time and energy coming up with a great brand name, designing a great new logo, and planning an interactive website, only to learn, after a large investment has already been made, that the name is being used by another company.  This happened to Judith Mendez, an entertainer who went by the name Dita de Leon.  Ms. Mendez decided to expand her business by offering jewelry, clothing and leather goods featuring her stage name “Dita”, but was sued for trademark infringement by luxury sunglasses brand, Dita, Inc.

Another pitfall for new businesses is improper business planning or the incorrect reporting or calculation of taxes.  This topic certainly isn’t very exciting or sexy, but extremely important.  For example, running a business a certain way, especially if there are two or more owners, or misunderstanding the filing and deposit requirements from having employees can have huge financial repercussions.  Even if you acknowledge your mistake to the taxing authorities and try to work something out to resolve it, the impacts of not knowing the intricacies or administrative rules of the tax system can be devastating and shutter an emerging business altogether.

Do you need help starting a new creative business or dealing with a tax problem under your current enterprise?  Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.