This former Globeville farm, which became a place to dump trash and burn cars, will get a new life as an urban park

If it wasn’t for Denver’s downtown skyline poking over the horizon in the distance, you might mistake the five-plus acres of grass, trees and utility poles in Globeville for Colorado’s Eastern Plains.

It’s actually 49th and Grant. That’s where you’ll find horses in this city, in case you were wondering.

The locals call the area The Valley. It was once home to Eastern European immigrants who worked at Globeville’s smelters and brickyards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s remained undeveloped since then, but never uneventful.

The field has hosted a farm and bonfire-fueled field parties. It once had a lake where an entrepreneur harvested ice, and a complementary bootleg operation. More recently it’s been a depository for heaps of trash and stolen cars after joyriders finish with them. Sometimes people light them on fire and “explode them,” said Dave Oletski, whose family has owned property at the site since the 1890s.

“People don’t respect it like they used to, so we’re trying to bring that respect back,” Oletski said.

The field’s latest iteration will be Platte Farm Open Space, a restored prairie with native grasses, pollinator beds and walking trails aimed at attracting urban nature back to the area. And of course, attracting neighbors to enjoy it.

A Globeville brownfield site that will soon be remediated, Nov. 29, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A Globeville brownfield site that will become a prairie and a park, Nov. 29, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Deer have been spotted munching the grass, as well as urban wildlife like foxes and hawks. Platte Farm Open Space will be a decidedly “passive” park — akin to a mountain park in its natural landscape — to attract the animals and insects back to the brownfield site. In other words, you won’t find a playground or anything like that.

The Denver City Council accepted a $550,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last month that will seal the deal after more than a decade of wrangling with lawyers, bureaucracy, a recession and various landowners. The land had to be remediated because of industrial ground pollution. It took a while for the city and Excel Energy, which owns utilities there, to settle on a land purchase, too. And for a long time, Denver Parks and Recreation wasn’t interested in taking on new parkland because of the recession.

“It was not a priority for the city. Globeville was not a priority. There was no ‘corridor of opportunity,'” said Tangier Barnes Wright, director of community planning for Groundwork Denver, a nonprofit that aims to improve physical spaces to impel better health. “So it was kind of excruciating getting the attention of the right people.”

Groundwork, which helped raise funds for the project, enlisted City Councilwoman Robin Kniech to corral the right players, bring them to the table, and get this park done. Some of the most valuable players were Globeville locals.

“It’s an idea that came from the residents,” Kniech said. “It was their vision in their backyard.”

Dave Oletski plays Santa Claus at Focus Points' holiday fiesta at the Swansea Rec Center, Dec. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Dave Oletski plays Santa Claus at Focus Points' holiday fiesta at the Swansea Rec Center, Dec. 6, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Oletski is integral to the neighborhood. As a kid he constantly picked up litter at his father’s direction. As an adult, he plays Santa for local kids. He and other longtime residents have taken care of The Valley all their lives, he said. So it makes sense to put in the work to rehabilitate the land.

No shovels are in the ground yet. And it could take up to three years for the short grass prairie to grow from seed into a habitat. But the space will get somewhat manicured before that.

Jan Ediger, who lives right at 49th and Grant, is thrilled with that trajectory. She’s looking forward to seeing animals nest, and fewer dust particles coming through her window in the summer (she doesn’t have air conditioning, and the dust contributes to her husband’s chronic cough, she said).

“I like to look out my window and see something other than another building,” Ediger said. “That’s hard on your heart, when that’s all you can see.”

Immigration advocates are looking for assurances from Governor-elect Polis that they’ll have a seat at the table

When Jennifer Piper, the interfaith organizer for immigrant rights at American Friends Service Committee, saw Governor-elect Jared Polis had announced a transition team following his election, she noticed what to her seemed like a glaring omission.

The transition committee is responsible for helping build his cabinet (he later announced an open hiring process for directors in several state departments). But Piper said she felt concern and surprise; there was no mention of a position responsible for overseeing or developing immigration policy.

“Congressman Polis has been one of the leading voices trying to educate Congress and trying to lead toward a comprehensive reform,” Piper said, pointing out his past support of Dreamers and finding improved worker visa programs. “So as a congressman, he’s been an ally for a number of years.”

Though there wasn’t any specific mention of an immigration policy position, Polis seems open to providing more assistance.

His spokesperson Mara Sheldon said in a statement Thursday that the governor-elect, “would be thrilled if the legislature created and funded an Office of Immigrant Integration in the Governor’s Office or a state agency.” The state currently doesn’t have any such an office in the state’s Department of Human Services.

Sheldon cited Polis’ past work supporting immigrants including creating the New America School, which serves immigrant children, and for supporting immigration reform on a national level.

The governor-elect on Thursday announced the first round of staffing hires, which includes members of his senior staff, a chief policy advisor and legislative counsel, and a legislative director. There are 19 cabinet positions left to be hired.

“Any policy solutions in key focus areas like immigration that come up in this legislative session will be handled by the legislative and policy teams which are still being built, and who will not be able to start until January,” Sheldon said in a statement to Denverite.

Dana Miller speaks at a rally on the steps of the City and Couny Building before a Denver City Council hearing on immigration policy begins, Aug. 2, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Dana Miller speaks at a rally on the steps of the City and Couny Building before a Denver City Council hearing on immigration policy begins, Aug. 2, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Piper wants a seat at the table. She thinks this can come in the form of a person who is knowledgeable about the way the state and federal immigration laws interact. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a person whose sole focus is on immigration, but instead part of their overall policy responsibilities.

Dana Miller, a volunteer with the progressive and grassroots group Indivisible Denver, said immigration is largely interwoven into a lot of social justice issues the group advocates for in the city and across chapters in the U.S. The group tweeted out an email they were sending to Polis requesting information.

“I don’t think we can really separate that out as even being a separate issue. It needs to have that perspective in all decisions,” Miller said. ”

There are currently just under 200,000 undocumented immigrants living in Colorado.

That’s according to the Pew Research Center, whose latest estimate from 2016 shows there are about 190,000 unauthorized immigrants living in Colorado. The estimate is slightly down from 2015.

Pew reported last month that the overall number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in more than a decade. Colorado was not among the states that registered statistically significant changes over the past 10 years.

The concern Piper felt comes from decades of what she said is “successful” organizing by immigrant rights advocates in Colorado that have helped enact laws like allowing driver licenses and providing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

“All of these things have been part of a strategy and a movement building from our perspective, and when we don’t have a strong line of communication with the governor’s office, then that can often turn into a relationship that’s fraught,” Piper said.

She outlined some of the population’s needs in Colorado. For one, advocates are hoping to expand the driver license program. There are currently only a few offices where undocumented immigrants can get their licenses in the state.

“There are about 50,000 people who could qualify for a license but haven’t been able to access one because of the backlog and trying to get into an appointment,” Piper said.

The license adds a level of assurance for undocumented people who Piper said previously may not have been comfortable contacting police, for example, and attracting unwanted attention when reporting a crime.

Colorado Department of Revenue spokesperson Lawrence Pacheco said in an email Thursday the four offices where resident who can’t demonstrate “lawful presence” can schedule an appointment are in Aurora (renewals only), Colorado Springs, Denver and Grand Junction.

A new law going into effect on January 1 allows undocumented residents to use a social security number to obtain a license.

Piper hopes to keep public services available, to immigrants and refugees, which is currently facing challenges at the federal level.

It’s becoming increasingly challenging for some immigrants, including those with proper documentation, to use public services. Some are avoiding using public services altogether due to fears it may jeopardize their future immigration status.

The reason? The Trump administration is considering expanding what defines a “public charge.” NBC News reports the Department of Homeland Security has proposed including other things like use of SNAP benefits or Section 8 housing as a public charge, which immigration officials can use to consider residency status.

A roadtripping group of protesters, fighting for status to remain in the U.S., arrive at Park Hill United Methodist Church where Araceli Velasquez has lived in sanctuary for 13 months. Her husband, Jorge, will soon lose Temporary Protected Status to remain in the country legally, along with many more migrants from El Salvador and a handful of other countries, Sept. 3, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A roadtripping group of protesters, fighting for status to remain in the U.S., arrive at Park Hill United Methodist Church where Araceli Velasquez has lived in sanctuary for 13 months. Her husband, Jorge, will soon lose Temporary Protected Status to remain in the country legally, along with many more migrants from El Salvador and a handful of other countries, Sept. 3, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

State Sen.-elect Julie Gonzales, who works as policy director for a Denver-based immigrant law firm, said in an interview with Denverite this fall she’s heard about the anxiety and fear this proposal is causing.

“We’re asking people to basically make the decision between, you know providing healthcare for their kids and applying for status in the future,” Gonzales said. “At the end of the day, that’s sort of like the root decision, the choice that the government is trying to drive people to make.”

Piper wants undocumented immigrants to continue understanding that, in Denver at least, police here won’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities or be apprehended while making court visits. It’s part of a wider goal to ensure the state remains a welcoming place.

“The state has a role in deciding whether we believe that people in our communities who are part of our community should be living in fear or not,” Piper said.

Things to do in Denver this weekend, Dec. 7-9



Black Sheep Friday: C’rap Karaoke. Museum of Contemporary Art, 1485 Delgany St. 6-9 p.m. Free-$5.

Open Music Sessions feat. Kayla Marque. Denver Open Media, 700 Kalamath St. 6-10 p.m. Free.

Midnight Madness: “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” Esquire Theatre, 590 Downing St. Midnight. $9.50.

“A Classical Christmas.” Boettcher Concert Hall, 1000 14th St. 7:30 p.m. $20-94.

“The Santaland Diaries.” Jones Theatre, Speer Blvd. & Arapahoe Ave. 7 p.m. $40-48.

“Xanadu.” Garner Galleria Theatre, 1101 13th St. 7:30 p.m. $46.

“The Humans.” Curious Theatre Co., 1080 Acoma St. 7:30 p.m. $38-46.

“Coyote. Badger. Rattlesnake.” Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St. 8 p.m. $25.

“A Drag Queen Christmas.” Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 N. Clarkson St. 8 p.m. $54.25-188.60.

Snow Tha Product. Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave. 9 p.m. $25-30.

Sunsquabi. Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. 8 p.m. $45.

Allen Stone. Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway. 8 p.m. $25-30.

Grateful Shred. Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St. 9 p.m. $22-25.

The Number 12 Looks Like You. Lost Lake, 3602 E. Colfax Ave. 9:30 p.m. $15-17.

Ghost Revue. Globe Hall, 4483 Logan St. 8 p.m. $10-14.

Travis Thompson. Cervantes Other Side, 2637 Welton St. 8:15 p.m. $15-18.

Fate. Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton St. 9 p.m. $20-40.

Godflesh. Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave. 8 p.m. $27.50-175.

3OH!3 & Emo Nite. Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake St. 8 p.m. $25-29.

Filth. Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer St. 7 p.m. $12.

LaserSWAMP. The Black Box, 314 E. 13th Ave. 9 p.m. $20-25.

Hate Minor. 3 Kings Tavern, 60 S. Broadway. 10 p.m. 

Mike Watt. Lion’s Lair, 2022 E. Colfax Ave. 9 p.m. $22.50.

King Cardinal Holiday Spectacular. Syntax Physic Opera, 554 S. Broadway. 9 p.m. $7.

Comedy Showcase with Caitie Hannon and Byron Graham. Syntax Physic Opera, 554 S. Broadway. 7 p.m. $5.

Guilty Pleasures dance party. Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway. 9 p.m. $5.


Best bet: First Friday Art Walk. The galleries and studios in Denver’s art districts will leave their doors open after-hours to welcome the curious with wine, beer, special exhibits, demonstrations and music. Your options:

Santa Fe Art District, along Santa Fe drive from Alameda to 12th Avenue.

River North Art District. This one is more spread out. Here’s a gallery list.

Tennyson Street Cultural District, along Tennyson Street from 39th to 45th Avenue.

Free admission at the Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock St. 5-8 p.m. 

Free Cultural First Fridays at Museo De Las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Drive. Noon-5 p.m.

For the family

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker. Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. 7 p.m. $28-89.

“White Christmas.” Buell Theatre, 1350 Curtis St. 7:30 p.m. $30-80.

“A Christmas Carol.” Stage Theatre, 1101 Speer Blvd. 7:30 p.m. $40-95.

Blossoms of Light. Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St. 5-9 p.m. $11-19.

Zoo Lights. Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele St. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Free-$20.

Christmas Concert at The Cube Stapleton, 8371 Northfield Blvd. 7 p.m. Free.


Denver Nuggets at Charlotte Hornets, 5 p.m. 


Food & drink

Beer & Cheese Pairing. FERMÆNTRA, 1715 E. Evans Ave. Noon-11 p.m. $15.

Beer & Chocolate Pairing. Fiction Beer Co., 7101 E. Colfax Ave. 1-5 p.m. $20.

Barrel-Aged Hammer Imperial Stout Release. Renegade Brewing Co., 918 W. First Ave. Noon-11 p.m.

2018 Genius Wizard Variant Release Party. Ratio Beerworks, 2920 Larimer St. 5-8 p.m. $45.

Fifth Birthday Bash + Can Release. Station 26 Brewing Co., 7045 E. 38th Ave. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

OMF Turns 6. Our Mutual Friend Brewery, 2810 Larimer St. Noon-midnight.


Cupcakke. Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake St. 7 p.m. $25-27.50.

Midnight Madness: “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” Esquire Theatre, 590 Downing St. Midnight. $9.50.

“A Classical Christmas.” Boettcher Concert Hall, 1000 14th St. 7:30 p.m. $20-94.

“The Santaland Diaries.” Jones Theatre, Speer Blvd. & Arapahoe Ave. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. $40-48.

“Xanadu.” Garner Galleria Theatre, 1101 13th St. 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $46.

“The Humans.” Curious Theatre Co., 1080 Acoma St. 7:30 p.m. $38-46.

“Coyote. Badger. Rattlesnake.” Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St. 8 p.m. $15-20.

The Polish Ambassador. Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 N. Clarkson St. 8 p.m. $24.75-36.

Said the Sky. Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave. 9 p.m. $25-27.

Ookay. Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. 9 p.m. $20-25.

Grateful Shred. Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St. 9 p.m. $22-25.

Fist Fight. Lost Lake, 3602 E. Colfax Ave. 9 p.m. $10-15.

Bankshot. Globe Hall, 4483 Logan St. 9 p.m. $10-12.

Anthony Ruptak LP release. Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway. 9 p.m. $10.

Kyle Hollingsworth Band. Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom and Other Side, 2637 Welton St. 9 p.m. $22-25.

Silverstein. Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave. 7 p.m. $22.

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Highland Ramblers. Walnut Room, 3131 Walnut St. 7 p.m. $10-15.

Big Chocolate. The Black Box, 314 E. 13th Ave. 9 p.m. $15-20.

The Chasm. 3 Kings Tavern, 60 S. Broadway. 8 p.m. $15.

Opera on Tap Holiday Extravaganza. Syntax Physic Opera, 554 S. Broadway. 6 p.m. $15.

Dallas Thornton Goodbye Show. Syntax Physic Opera, 554 S. Broadway. 8 p.m. $10-12.

Mike Watt. Lion’s Lair, 2022 E. Colfax Ave. 9 p.m. $22.50.

Ski Movie Night. Zuni Street Brewing Company, 2355 W. 29th Ave. 6-10 p.m.

For the family

Snow Cats Convention. EXDO Events Center, 1399 35th St. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $15-105.

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker. Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. Noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. $28-89.

“White Christmas.” Buell Theatre, 1350 Curtis St. 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $30-80.

“A Christmas Carol.” Stage Theatre, 1101 Speer Blvd. 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $40-95.

Blossoms of Light. Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St. 5-9 p.m. $11-19.

Zoo Lights. Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele St. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Free-$20.

Brunch with Father Christmas. Four Mile Historic Park, 715 S. Forest St. 10 a.m.-noon. Free-$25.

Cookie Decorating Party. Olive & Finch, 3390 E. First Ave. 4-5:30 p.m. $85.

2018 Holiday Fest. Old South Gaylord Street,1059 S. Gaylord St. Noon-4 p.m. 

For your brain

Local Author Happy Hour. BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St. 5-6 p.m. 

Still Coming Home conversation series. Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton St. 2:30-4 p.m.

For a cause

Santa’s Ugly Sweater Party and Toys for Tots Drive. The Crafty Fox, 3901 Fox St. 4-8 p.m.

Toy Drive & Ugly Sweater Party. Denver Beer Co., 1695 Platte St. 11 a.m.-midnight.

Santa Paws. Copper Kettle Brewing Co., 1338 S. Valentia St. 5-8 p.m. $10 suggested donation.


Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks, 5:30 p.m. 

Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning, 5 p.m. 


Food & drink

Downtown Brunch with the Adam Bodine Trio. Dazzle Jazz, 1512 Curtis St. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. $30.


“The Santaland Diaries.” Jones Theatre, Speer Blvd. & Arapahoe Ave. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. $40-48.

“The Humans.” Curious Theatre Co., 1080 Acoma St. 2 p.m. $36-44.

“Xanadu.” Garner Galleria Theatre, 1101 13th St. 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $46.

Charlie Parker and Willie Watson. Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. 8 p.m. $23-26.

The Band Perry. Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway. 8 p.m. $29.50-35.

JMSN. Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St. 8 p.m. $15-17.

Felly. Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton St. 7:15 p.m. $20-25.

Ayla Nereo. Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake St. 6 p.m. $20-25.

With Confidence and Broadside. Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer St. 6 p.m. $15-17.

Psyclon Nine. 3 Kings Tavern, 60 S. Broadway.  8 p.m.

Nate Valdez (of In the Whale). Syntax Physic Opera, 554 S. Broadway. 8 p.m. $7.

The Weird. Lion’s Lair, 2022 E. Colfax Ave. 8:30 p.m. $6.


Music in the Galleries with Laughing Hands. Clyfford Still Museum, 1250 Bannock St. 1-3 p.m. Free with admission.

For the family

Snow Cats Convention. EXDO Events Center, 1399 35th St. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $15-105.

“White Christmas.” Buell Theatre, 1350 Curtis St. 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $30-80.

“A Christmas Carol.” Stage Theatre, 1101 Speer Blvd. 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. $40-95.

Blossoms of Light. Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St. 5-9 p.m. $11-19.

Zoo Lights. Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele St. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Free-$20.

Cooking With Your Kids: Pasta. Create Cooking School, 2501 Dallas St. 9-11 a.m. $60.

For your brain

Signing & Reading: “Beagle on Board.” Tattered Cover Colfax Avenue, 2526 E. Colfax Ave. 2-3:30 p.m. 

For a cause

Jingle Bell Run. Washington Park, 701 S. Franklin St. 8 a.m. 

Arts & crafts

Foul-Mouthed Cross-Stitch Sundays. Grandma’s House, 1710 S. Broadway. Noon-10 p.m. Cross-stitching class available for $10 from 1-4 p.m.


Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers, 2:05 p.m.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Here’s a link to Meetups near Denver. Or you might try‘s calendar.

Denver awards $57,500 in P.S. You Are Here public art grants, and there are more to come

Denver Arts & Venues has announced another round of funding public art through its P.S. You Are Here grants.

This round of grantees, are receiving a total of $57,500, include a few way-finding and marking projects — like murals seeing you off and welcoming you back to Montbello, artwork directing people to the various attractions in the Golden Triangle and murals along a stretch of the Lakewood Gulch walking path.

The projects all have to involve the neighborhood they’re in and provide some kind of short-term physical improvement. The grant program is part of Denver’s IMAGINE 2020 cultural plan.

If you for some reason committed it to memory that Arts & Venues said it would award more than $70,000 in P.S. You Are Here grants this go-around, you’re probably wondering what happened (and should probably tell me what your memory strengthening secrets are, please).

Amber Fochi, program manager for Arts & Culture Marketing and Public Relations, said the numbers are off because they’re not done yet. There are projects still being finalized that will be announced in the new year.

For now, here’s what we’ve got:

  • Sloan’s Lake Citizen’s Group: $10,000. Working with Ladies Fancywork Society, Sloan’s Lake Citizen’s Group will create yarn artwork for an unsightly fence surrounding a maintenance yard adjacent to an active sports court, seating area and pedestrian pathway around Sloan’s Lake.
  • The Art Garage, nonprofit: $7,500. The Westwood Arts District “hub” will be an artistically designed structure serving as a resource for local arts and culture information, showcasing curated themes and decorated with symbols and motifs from Latino culture. Sidewalk “paths” with stenciled symbols will lead to several local murals.
  • Birdseed Collective: $10,000. Birdseed Collective, with several artists and Villa Park RNO volunteers, will complete artwork along the long retaining wall of the Lakewood Gulch walking path from 10th Avenue and Osceola Street westward into the Villa Park community. Currently graffiti-filled, this highly-used path will be painted with vibrant designs and colors. Small hand-painted boulders will be placed along the path to create a safer and more colorful walkway for residents.
  • Montbello 2020, RNO: $10,000. Local artist Thomas Evans has designed a color-blended public art mural that will revitalize a major drainage canal with an impactful message. “Seize the Day” will greet residents on their commute out of Montbello, and “Home Sweet Montbello” will welcome them back.
  • Trust for Public Land: $10,000. Trust for Public Land will work with the East Denver community to enhance New Freedom Park, adding distinct and culturally relevant features with youth-led mural creation.
  • Golden Triangle Creative District: $10,000. The Golden Triangle Creative District will create a series of artworks in the Golden Triangle assisting visitors with wayfinding and marking gateway entry and exit points. Using the 2014 Neighborhood Plan to locate sites, the Golden Triangle Creative District will work with local artists for these temporary artworks.

We’ll update here when we learn about the remaining recipients. See you in 2019!

What’s Denver’s style? Affordable, versatile, pragmatic. And don’t forget the slot homes.

Consider the much-maligned slot home.

It may be what stands out about Denver when it comes to architectural style. Longtime Denver realtor Jill Schafer said newcomers she shows around town tell her, “We never see anything like this.”

Schafer, who chairs the market trends committee of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors and is a Kentwood Cherry Creek broker, laughs at the idea that Denver style might be defined by such structures, banned by City Council earlier this year after multiplying in northwest Denver. Still, she said, “I don’t know of a lot of places that have slot homes.”

Brooklyn has its brownstones. Chicago its Frank Lloyd Wright legacy. Instead of something distinct, what’s typical of Denver style can be seen elsewhere. The efficient, forthright Denver Square, for example, is known in other cities as a Foursquare.

Mid-Century House Restoration, 618 S. Monroe Way. (Courtesy of Denver Community Planning and Development)

Mid-Century House Restoration, 618 S. Monroe Way. (Courtesy of Denver Community Planning and Development)

Denver also has its share of Victorians and mid-century moderns. Often, whatever form is chosen is expressed in one material:

“The tradition of the city is masonry,” or brick, said Dick Farley, an architect and urban designer. “If you look at older neighborhoods, you see how much masonry it has.”

Farley points to the 1880s, 1890s and 1900s as the decades that set the city’s style traditions. Denver was founded following the discovery of gold in the Rockies in 1858. The boomtown’s early architecture ran to tents, pine shacks, log cabins. An 1863 blaze that destroyed much of downtown led to ordinances banning flammable building materials.

Stone also became popular and like brick can engage the viewer in subtle ways in the glare of Denver’s sunshine.

“Materials that cast shadows, have some texture to them, they make sense here,” Farley said.

Renowned Denver architect Temple Buell showed that shadow, texture and brick don’t have to be subtle. Among his designs is the Mullen Building on the St. Joseph Hospital campus in Uptown. Buell made the brick undulate like water and contrasted red and light brown colors for the 1930s Art Deco gem that once housed nursing students.

Mary Voelz Chandler, who wrote about art and architecture for the Rocky Mountain News, said fondly that Buell went “crazy with brick.”

“Some of his buildings are stunning,” Chandler added in an interview.

In her Guide to Denver Architecture published by the  Denver Architectural Foundation, Chandler included shout-outs for other influential Denver architects, including Joseph and Louise Marlow, Victor Hornbein and William Muchow.  She also said the city owes a great debt to City Beautiful champion Robert Speer, Denver’s mayor from 1904 to 1912 who is credited with laying the foundation for parks and parkways to set off some of its best buildings. But in Chandler’s opinion, just because Denver has had starchitects and visionaries doesn’t mean it has its own style.

“Denver style? There is no such thing, much as people might try to find one,” she wrote in her guide. “Yet there are remarkable things about this city.”

The Mullen Building on the Saint Joseph Hospital Campus, built by Temple Buell. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

saint joseph hospital; temple buell; architecture; city park west; denver; colorado;

The Mullen Building on the Saint Joseph Hospital Campus, built by Temple Buell. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In the second edition of her guide published in 2013, Chandler expressed concern that what was remarkable would not be preserved, or be drowned out by “a suburban aesthetic, a bland, cheap-material way of doing business that produced projects that are neither urban nor urbane.”

How does Chandler feels things have gone since 2013?

Look no further than the title of a blog she started a few months ago: Denver, what the hell happened to you? 

In conversation she is more equivocal. She said that if she were to write a third edition of her architecture guide, the tone “would either be very hopeful for the future or somewhat distraught. Maybe both.”

She has seen, she said, how much people in Denver, from City Council members to commentators on the Denver FUGLY Facebook group, care about the built environment which “has a huge impact on how we feel, how we behave and how we live our lives.”

That impact has been chronicled by CU Denver planning professor Ken Schroeppel working with photographer and architecture lover Mark Zakrzewski.

In Schroeppel’s blog DenverUrbanism, they describe, for example, the 1990s. That was when, as  Schroeppel  writes, Denver “came roaring back from the difficulties of the 1970s and 1980s.” It was the era of the pop-top. Homeowners who wanted more space added stucco-on-frame second-floors to their brick or stone homes.

The mixing of materials seems to have become a style. Take a look at what’s going up in developments such as  Boulevard One in Lowry. Schafer, the realtor, said designers may not be consciously mimicking the pop-top. Instead, she said, they are using just enough expensive stone or brick facing to give a house a sense of solidity, then mixing in cheaper materials to save money.

Style does impact the bottom line.

For a report earlier this year, researchers Jennifer Newcomer and Phyllis Resnick interviewed people working in the housing industry, including developers, and determined that expensive tastes were impacting affordability.

“Preferences for larger homes and premium finishes, or perhaps perception of such on the part of developers, have contributed more to the cost of construction than the general level of inflation in basic building materials,” Newcomer and Resnick wrote in “Exploring Colorado’s Housing Affordability Challenges in All of Their Complexity.”

The researchers conducted an inventory of the base package of finishes — countertops, flooring, appliances — offered by builders across Colorado. They found that granite countertops, extensive wood and tile flooring, stainless steel appliances and designer details that were considered upgrades before the great recession “are now considered the new standard. In short, the ‘finishes bar’ has been raised, and it appears there is no turning back.”

Recession and recovery. Bust and boom. In Schroeppel’s and Zakrzewski’s telling, the cycle has meant developers build as much as they can as quickly as they can when the economy is strong enough to create demand.

What Denver does have is an architectural attitude. Despite Park Hill’s more fanciful confections from the past and the current penchant for granite countertops, it’s not fussy. While they turned a cold shoulder to passersby, those slot homes were no-nonsense and efficiently maximized expensive land and went up quickly in a city desperate for housing.

What Denver does have is an architectural attitude. Despite Park Hill’s more fanciful confections from the past and the current penchant for granite countertops, it’s not fussy. While they turned a cold shoulder to passersby, those slot homes were no-nonsense and efficiently maximized expensive land and went up quickly in a city desperate for housing.

What Denver does have is an architectural attitude. Despite Park Hill’s more fanciful confections from the past and the current penchant for granite countertops, it’s not fussy. While they turned a cold shoulder to passersby, those slot homes were no-nonsense and efficiently maximized expensive land and went up quickly in a city desperate for housing.

“We were a late-blooming city, and so our architectural vernacular is largely borrowed,” Schroeppel said in an interview, adding he sees influences from the Midwest, the Northwest, southern California and Texas.

“You might say that the Denver style is the eclectic collections of lots of styles.”


Getaround launches in Denver, letting you rent your car to a perfect stranger

Denver got a new transportation disruptor on Thursday. No, not more scooters — this time, it’s Getaround, a decentralized car-sharing system based in the Bay Area that allows you to rent your car out to perfect strangers or, inversely, rent a perfect stranger’s wheels for the day.

Here’s how it works: I, a car owner, register my – let’s say – Subaru with a snowboard rack with the app. Part of this process involves naming your car. We’ll call mine “Steve.” It’s free to list Steve for the first 30 days.

Getaround will come by and take photos of Steve and install hardware that tracks his whereabouts with GPS and allows me to lock the car remotely. Their system can even remotely lock Steve’s engine if necessary.

I get to set the times when Steve will be available and where he’ll be for someone to pick him up. When a car-less snowboarder needs Steve to get to Winter Park, the car will be listed with amenities on the app and ready for a day in the mountains. Getaround provides primary insurance for times when Steve is rented out, and the company says they’ll even “work with you” on repairs if one of those trips goes awry.

If I like using the app, I pay Getaround $99 to cover hardware installation, then it costs $20 a month to keep Steve listed and the app scoops up 40 percent of each rental. My take accrues monthly and is sent as a paycheck on the 15th of the month.

A map of Getaround cars across the country from the company's website. (Getaround)

A map of Getaround cars across the country from the company's website. (Getaround)

Getaround said in a press release they’re currently operating in 90 cities. A map of registered cars on their website shows healthy distribution on the coasts and little dollops here on the Front Range. A look at the app on Thursday afternoon, however, revealed that there were just four cars available in the city.

It is their first day of operation, and the company clearly expects there to me more growth pretty soon. Getaround said in the press release that they “brought on a dozen local employees to help ensure a successful expansion into the area and has secured office space in Denver.”

Cars available on Getaround in Denver (left) and San Fransisco on Dec. 6, 2018. (Getaround)

Cars available on Getaround in Denver (left) and San Fransisco on Dec. 6, 2018. (Getaround)

Those four cars ranged from a 2015 Mercedes SUV that goes for $67 (for an 8-hour shift) to a Jetta that runs for $35. In San Fransisco, where the car share market is thriving, a cherry red BMW was listed at $247 for the day. A spokesperson for the company said rates are decided by a car’s condition and type, and can increase with demand like Lyft and Uber’s surge pricing.

Gov. Hickenlooper staffs up for possible 2020 presidential bid

By Nicholas Riccardi and James Anderson, Associated Press

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and his allies are taking new steps toward launching a presidential campaign, including interviews with dozens of potential staffers and hiring a pollster and national fundraiser, according to a person close to the Democrat.

He’s already launched a political action committee that allows him to raise money nationally and hired his 2014 campaign manager, Brad Komar, to run it. Since the PAC was formed in September, Komar has done 80 interviews with possible campaign staffers, the person said. Of those, Hickenlooper has conducted or participated in 30 interviews. The operation has hired Democratic veteran Anna Greenberg as its pollster and FK & Co. as national fundraisers; it raises money for Democratic senators including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Hickenlooper isn’t expected to make a formal decision on running for president until his term ends on Jan. 8. The person close to the governor requested anonymity because Hickenlooper hasn’t yet formally launched his campaign.

The moves come as potential presidential contenders step up efforts to get their campaign infrastructures into place. With as many as two dozen possible candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, there is a fierce competition playing out for talent.

Hickenlooper’s second term in Colorado has been consumed with speculation over a potential presidential run. But he has sounded less ambiguous in recent days.

“We’re beyond mulling,” Hickenlooper said in an interview this week. “I think we’re engaging people I’ve known and trusted and understand some of the subtleties around running for the highest office.”

Hickenlooper traveled to battleground states like Florida and Georgia during the final weeks of the midterm elections campaign, as well as the key early voting duo of Iowa and New Hampshire to test his expected 2020 message. At one point he flatly told a New Hampshire waitress he was running for president, only to have to add minutes later that he hadn’t formally made a decision and note there were legal issues to saying he was a candidate. It was a typical moment for a notoriously unscripted politician who often quips there’s “no more than five feet between myself and disaster.”

His bid would rely on his unorthodox story and quirky personality to cut through the clutter of a packed Democratic presidential primary field.

“I don’t think anybody else who’s being talked about has been a mayor and a governor and an entrepreneur — not to mention a brewer,” Hickenlooper said in the interview.

Hickenlooper was a laid-off oil geologist who struck it rich founding a brewpub in downtown Denver. He parlayed that into a successful run first for Denver mayor and then governor. In his campaigns, Hickenlooper held himself out as a nonpartisan pragmatist who wouldn’t run negative ads, instead featuring spots that showed him feeding quarters into overpriced parking meters or jumping out of a plane to promote a ballot measure that expanded the state budget.

But there are obvious challenges for an avowedly nonpartisan candidate who spent much of his political career winning the support of Colorado’s Republican business leaders. Despite implementing limits on methane and automobile emissions, Hickenlooper has frustrated some environmentalists with his defense of hydraulic fracturing and the energy industry in general, positions which may put him in a tough spot with a national Democratic primary electorate increasingly agitated about climate change.

His no-negative style of campaigning may be jarring for parts of the primary electorate that yearn for a more aggressive candidate to take on President Donald Trump. His base in Colorado allows him to make a pitch as someone who can speak to the heartland, but it means he’s distant from the financial centers of Democratic fundraising on the coasts. And though he has several locally high-profile African-American backers in Colorado, he has limited ties to black voters, a key slice of the Democratic primary electorate.

Still, Hickenlooper’s record in swing-state Colorado was appealing enough to land him on Hillary Clinton’s final list of potential running mates in 2016. And his folksy demeanor and unpolished manner may play well in the era of Trump.

“That careful staging, carefully managing to be politically correct and never say anything wrong — that’s changed and made it possible for someone like Hickenlooper to shine,” said Alan Salazar, a former Hickenlooper aide and veteran Democratic operative in Colorado.

Hickenlooper’s moves come as his former chief of staff from City Hall, Sen. Michael Bennet, has started to mull his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bennet and Hickenlooper are still close and advisers to both men insist there’s room for two possible Democratic candidates from Colorado.

Any campaign will rely heavily on Hickenlooper’s record in Colorado, which became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana under his watch, although he opposed the ballot measure permitting that step. It would be based in Denver and sell him as a solution-oriented Democrat who can attract support of all stripes while achieving key liberal goals like expanding Medicaid and gay rights.

“A lot of it will come down to how well we can articulate our vision of making America a place where we fulfill our role on the world stage where every human, every person in the country, has an equal shot, a fair shot at creating their own American dream,” Hickenlooper said. “That kind of stuff, there’s a certain amount of poetry to it — and I’m not much of a poet, but if there wasn’t stuff to be learned, how much fun would it be?”

Denver law would legalize what scooter riders are doing away — riding in the streets

The Denver City Council will discuss a bill next Tuesday that would let people on electric scooters ride in city streets and bike lanes.

It’s a policy to catch up with the popularity of free-roaming scooter-share services Lime, Bird and Razor. The companies changed Denver’s transportation landscape overnight, and residents and tourists were quick to adopt and normalize the zippy new option.

The city government was unprepared for the influx in several ways, one of them being that scooters are illegal on Denver’s streets. They’re literally toys, not legitimate transportation options, under the law, and therefore relegated to the sidewalks. But they’re dangerously fast and don’t belong on the same plane as pedestrians, safe streets advocates argued.

Denver Public Works has partnered with Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman and City Councilman Paul Kashmann to hammer out new rules, DPW spokeswoman Heather Burke said in a statement. Here are the basics:

Scooter riders must operate in a bike lane…

But not any faster than 15 mph.

Unless there’s no bike lane…

In that case, you could scoot in the street, on the right side — but only if the speed limit is 30 mph or lower.

If there’s no bike lane or the street is too speedy, hop on the sidewalk.

Riders would have to keep their speed to 6 mph or less, and yield to people walking.

The Land Use and Transportation Committee will discuss the bill next week. After that, the full City Council will take a vote.

The historic, mysterious Yates Theater is on a path to restoration and reopening in Berkeley

The exterior of 4977 W. 44th Ave., a gray-blue old building with a multi-colored shingled roof in Berkeley, barely betrays what’s inside.

A small marquee sign hints at the building’s past, but it’s an otherwise unassuming structure — an old, pretty enough building that fits nicely into the neighborhood of bungalows.

Inside, it’s almost another world. It’s a crumbling, dirty window into 1926: an ornately gold-trimmed stage, gold-trimmed murals, colorful tiling, arched doorways, colorfully painted plaster and an orchestra pit boarded up with wood. There’s a tiny room out front for a box office, a project room on the second floor and an entire apartment, complete with a bathroom — clawfoot tub included — on the third floor. Jerry Theil, a Denver music scene mainstay who is working on the project, estimates the theater could hold 350 to 400 people.

A historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Theil, who came up under iconic Colorado promoter Barry Fey and once ran the Bluebird and Ogden theaters, didn’t know what was there. When she first saw the building, she didn’t understand why developer Ken Wolf had brought her there.

“I went out there and it was this weird looking building, a dollhouse looking space, and I was like, ‘What are you showing me?” she said. “I went into it and I was floored. It was the most gorgeous theater.”

“I was like, ‘There is no way you can condo this or put a micro brewery in it,'” she added. “You have to build it back into a theater.”

So that’s what they’re going to do.

The history of the theater is something of a well-kept secret, too.

Go ahead. Google it. The Yates Theater is a mystery.

Here’s what we know about its recent history: It’s last owner was Frank Schultz, owner of the Soiled Dove Underground and Tavern Hospitality Group. According Westword editor and co-founder Patricia Calhoun, he intended to turn it into a venue and lease the storefronts.

Schultz bought it from Debbie Lease and Erik Satie, who owned it for just two years with the intention of turning it into a jazz club.

“When we bought it, we had big dreams for the theater. We’re musicians,” Lease told Denverite. They ended up selling it because the dreams cost too much.

Lease and Satie bought it from a man who owned it for almost 50 years, she said. Under his ownership, it was a piano shop, and Lease and Satie had to buy his inventory of 66 pianos and sell them off themselves. (Paper evidence of that history can be found on the floors inside the old theater now.)

According to Denver property records, the piano shop owner was Daniel Ferguson. He sold it to Lease and Satie for $575,000. They sold it for $1.5 million in 2014, and the final sale in 2016 brought in $2.6 million.

Jerri Theil gives a tour of a historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jerri Theil gives a tour of a historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

And that’s about where the trail goes cold. A search for the theater in the Denver Public Library’s digital archives turned up nothing. Theil said it was built as a silent movie theater by the Marx Brothers — and indeed there’s a projection booth with a toilet and sink inside. An entry on Cinema Treasures heavily cites Calhoun’s 2014 story, and also says it was renamed the Rex Theatre in 1931 and may at one time have been called the Coronet Theater.

Denverite asked Historic Denver Executive Director Annie Levinsky what the story was, but she and her staff couldn’t come up with any more than we did.

Theil said she wants to pursue a historic designation.

“We are very interested in what will happen, as the theater is quite unique compared to other ‘neighborhood’ theaters of the streetcar era and would be wonderful if restored and reused,” Levinsky said. “It is very likely eligible for landmark designation at either the local or state level, and if an owner pursued a designation the theater renovation could take advantage of the commercial state tax credit.”

This is an unofficial assessment, though, as she hasn’t run it by the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission.

(Do you know more about the history of the Yates Theater? Do you have old photos? Email

A peacock painting inside a historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A peacock painting inside a historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Before work can truly begin, the theater needs a liquor license. And before that can happen, the project needs neighborhood support.

Theil brought the project to Berkeley-Regis United Neighbors during a meeting Tuesday night. They’re generally supportive of the theater’s restoration — especially if the alternative is possible destruction — but they have concerns, primarily about traffic and parking.

“I think one of the neighbors made a really good point,” said Heather Noyes, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and is heavily involved in BRUN. “This is a really old neighborhood and very few of the older homes have usable garages. They’re all sheds. The new million-dollar homes all have garages. They’re not worried about parking.”

Those million-dollar homes also represent what many neighbors consider bad development. And because of it, they’re wary of new projects.

“In Berkeley, very few new projects reflect the vision that this neighborhood had for growth and change. And I want to be very, very, very clear, because we get a bad rap by saying nobody wants change, and that’s so untrue over here. People have been waiting for that neighborhood to evolve,” Noyes said. “… But that potential has not been realized or has been short-changed by really sloppy, horrific design and poor construction. And because of that, because of what’s happened in five years, I think there’s general concern across the board about the overall intent and commitment of developers to the neighborhood.”

It was five years ago that Schultz went to BRUN with his own plans for 4977 W. 44th Ave. He wanted a liquor license, and the group said yes.

“We knew that there was interest percolating from some of the bigger players in the city,” Noyes said.

A historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Still, the ambition of this project came as a surprise and they want more information. The problem is that Theil and Wolf don’t want to spend the considerable amount of time and money required to move forward with planning until they have a liquor license, but BRUN doesn’t want to support the liquor license request until more planning has been done.

It seems like an impasse, but everyone knows how this works.

Theil will continue to provide answers and, as she assured me, has no intention of opening the kind of venue that hosts raves. She also makes it a policy at her venues that security staff need to sweep the neighborhood before they’re done for the night. She makes her cell phone number available to neighbors so she can handle complaints herself.

Noyes said “apprehension” is the best word for what the neighbors are feeling but “I don’t think we heard people saying ‘over my dead body are you going to do this’ because they understand the value of that structure within the context of a historic neighborhood.”

“If we want to keep the building, we as a neighborhood are going to have to compromise,” she said, “and the question is to what degree are people willing to compromise.”

Inside an apartment atop a historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Inside an apartment atop a historic theater on 44th Avenue in Berkeley that may be restored, Dec. 5, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Now what?

“It’s going to be a really nice place. We’re going to spend a lot of money to fix it up,” Theil said.

They still need to work with BRUN to get support for the liquor license. The hearing, according to the sign from the city posted in the window, is scheduled for Dec. 19.

If they’re approved, Theil thinks things will move pretty fast. She’s hoping they can be done in six months.

Kevin J. Beaty contributed to this report.

Denver’s small force of red light cameras and electronic speed traps will grow, but CDOT blocked police from putting them at crucial dangerous intersections

Denver City Council members advanced a contract Wednesday that would add about $1.2 million to the city’s electronic traffic enforcement program for red light cameras at two new intersections and one new van to monitor speeds and ticket offenders.

Some of the city’s most dangerous intersections won’t benefit from the safety measure, though. The Colorado Department of Transportation won’t let the Denver Police Department install cameras where cops think they can do the most good.

The state roads department, which oversees some of the city’s deadliest streets because they double as state highways, denied red light cameras at Alameda and Federal, Colorado and Colfax, and Colfax and Monaco, according to Officer Ted Boras. The move is out of line with the city’s Vision Zero imitative to end traffic deaths.

City Councilman Paul López called the denial “BS” during a Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting Wednesday. He said CDOT’s decision poses risks to pedestrians in his westside district, where Federal Boulevard, a state highway, cuts through residential areas and transit corridors with heavy foot traffic.

“Shame on CDOT if they can’t prioritize a route like this,” said López, who was the sole councilperson to vote against the contract. The city council and the mayor’s office previously denied López’s budget request for cameras at the particularly dangerous intersection of 14th and Federal, the councilman told Denverite.

By preventing T-bone crashes, red light cameras reduce the rate of fatal red-light-running by 24 percent, according to a study of dozens of American cities conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Cameras have changed driving behavior at “key locations” including Sheridan Boulevard, Monaco Parkway, Quebec Street, Colorado Boulevard and Lincoln Street, a DPD report states.

Denver drivers blow through reds a lot. At just one intersection — 13th and Lincoln — drivers ran the red 151 times in one day on October 29, according to DPD data. New cameras will be deployed at that intersection and at Alameda and Santa Fe, where driers blew through reds 108 times the same day.

CDOT has not yet returned requests for the reasoning behind the denial. López has the mind to ignore the order.

“We’ve stepped on CDOT’s toes before,” he said. “What’s to stop us from doing it? Are the CDOT police gonna come out and wave their fingers at us?”

Maybe. The fact that CDOT even lets Denver enforce the law electronically is a win, apparently. Virtually every year, Republicans in the state legislature pitch a bill to outlaw electronic enforcement, even though Denver’s human traffic enforcement officers are down to 50 (from 120 in 2005), according to DPD. One law on the books requires speed-monitoring vans to be manned by an officer.

“I think we are at risk of the state shutting down our ability to have photo enforcement at all, which is always a line we are walking,” said Skye Stewart, legislative director with the mayor’s office.

The Hancock administration’s data-driven Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths shows where crashes end lives — 5 percent of streets account for half of Denver’s traffic deaths. Many are state highways under the control of CDOT, which is listed as a partner in the plan.

“It’s just a mystery why it’s not justifiable,” said City Councilman Wayne New. “It seems political, not practical.”

If the full city council passes the contract, Denver’s electronic traffic enforcement program will include six red light intersections and six photo speed vehicles. A comparison of similarly sized cities: Washington, D.C. has red light cameras at 44 intersections, Seattle has 23 intersections monitored by red light cameras; Austin has 10.

Dear Governor: Here’s what Colorado educators want Jared Polis to know about their schools

By Chalkbeat

We asked Colorado educators to tell us what they want governor-elect Jared Polis to know about their jobs, their schools, and their students as he sets his education agenda, and they had a lot to say. More than 100 teachers, administrators, counselors, and paraprofessionals responded to our request.

Some of the letters we received were startlingly succinct. “It is underfunded,” said one letter in its entirety. “My school needs a full-time school counselor, social worker, and nurse,” said another.

Many expressed great pride in the work being done by their colleagues and their students. Teacher after teacher urged Polis to come to their schools and see for himself what goes on in classrooms.

Polis, who has a long history with education issues and founded two charter schools, takes office with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly but without the added guaranteed revenue for schools that Amendment 73 would have provided. Polis declined to endorse the measure, and voters rejected it. Polis’ platform included funding full-day kindergarten and expanding access to preschool.

Here’s what teachers had to say.

These letters have been edited for length and clarity.

We have done our very best to offer a quality education to students while resources have declined. When Arby’s can pay employees $14 an hour, it makes it difficult to hire a $12-an-hour cook to prepare healthy meals for our students. When our local municipality can pay bus drivers $18 an hour, it makes it difficult to hire a $15-an-hour driver to safely transport our students. When a qualified math teacher can make $100,000 in private industry but only $40,000 with the school district, we have a hard time attracting and retaining qualified instructors for our talented students.

— Stephanie Juneau, business manager, Gunnison Watershed School District

The majority of staff put in many hours outside the school day and on weekends. The workload keeps getting bigger, and the salaries do not measure up. We will lose good teachers soon because of the stress due to extra work and expectations from the state and administration and the lack of resources and compensation. Many of us have second jobs. I, for one, work 18-20 hours a week waiting tables to supplement my salary.

— Stacey Petersen, K-5 counselor, Crested Butte Community School

As a special education teacher, I am the case manager for 27 students this year, but I actually serve many more students and have an “unofficial” caseload of special needs students (i.e. those with speech or affective needs) that numbers in the high 30s.  

This has a significant impact in the classes I am co-teaching simply because of the high number of students with significant needs. For example, in one of my sixth grade co-taught language arts classes, there are 29 students and more than 66 percent of the class is high needs. Getting the necessary support to a student who is reading at a second-grade level or a student who is just learning to write a paragraph in a class of this size is challenging.

My school needs more resources for our highest-needs students. A caseload cap of 20 students and a guarantee that no co-taught class is more than 50 percent high-needs students would go a long way to alleviating this problem.

— Derrick Belanger, sixth-grade special education teacher in the Adams 12 district

Please, spend a week shadowing one of us in schools. The trauma students face, the needs students face, the nonsense that doesn’t help students succeed being pushed onto them, etc. Please, spend some serious time in schools, and see not just what the superintendent or principal wants to show. See what the teachers want to show.

— Bryan Lindstrom, high school social studies teacher, Aurora Public Schools

I believe all children deserve a quality education. I believe strong neighborhood schools are the best way to ensure all kids have access. I believe education should be free and not require parents to transport children across town. I believe in educating the whole child. I believe my students will not excel at tests unless there social-emotional needs are met first. And finally, unfortunately, I know how underserved our low-income schools are and how unfair this is to children because I fight for them every day.  I invite you to spend a day with me in my classroom.

— Amy Bergner, elementary math teacher, Denver Public Schools

We have been raising our test scores, slowly but surely, but the bigger problem is the 40 percent turnover rate at our school. We suffer brain drain, with all of our best teachers leaving for better-paying jobs in places like Shiprock, New Mexico. We need to find a way to raise teachers’ salaries so that we can grow and attract the best educators possible, especially in our rural communities.

— Charles Cody Childers, middle school language arts and computer science, CEA Policy Fellow, Montezuma-Cortez School District

Century is a diverse school at the north end of the Adams 12 district. Students need all the support they can get to prepare them for high school, to help ensure that they graduate, and we can’t afford to provide all the support they need. They also need and deserve extracurricular activities, particularly sports, but those were cut at the middle school level due to funding.

— Karen Cohn, middle school special education teacher Adams 12, 26 years in the profession

Charters schools are vital to education. As someone who has seen firsthand the lack of support kids get in public schools, I’m tired of all the hate toward us. I work with the most incredible staff, but pushing 30-plus kiddos in a classroom is overwhelming at times. We need more funding. Please help education — it is our future!

— Elaine Zimmerman, third-grade teacher in an Aurora charter school

I want to ask you to consider finding a viable, long-term solution to school funding. The approved text for my science class was approved the same year my students were born. We have not had money to adopt newer texts. My books do not address gravitational waves, Pluto is still listed as a planet, and climate change is barely mentioned.

Students in my classroom have never lived in a world without an iPhone. They crave technology in learning, but with current funding levels we are unable to provide students with enough devices to access on a daily basis. We are looking at sharing devices or passing this cost on to families.

All 440 students in our school are serviced by one amazing counselor, but as we expand next year, this ratio will continue to go up.  My students have lived in a world of trauma. Since they started kindergarten, there have been 188 school shootings nationwide. Parents have deployed to Afghanistan, and teen suicide rates have risen. They need more support!

My students have never participated in middle school sports or outdoor education, and have seen average class sizes slowly increase. With the defeat of Amendment 73, future opportunities will continue to be a juggling act for our system as we try to equip students with the needed skills to be successful in the future. Please work with the legislature to find an answer.  

— Jess Noffsinger, eighth-grade science and engineering teacher at the STEM Lab School in Northglenn

I have completely funded my classroom with the exception of furniture and three boxes of curriculum that is too high for my students. Every book, every pencil, every piece of paper, even necessities like Kleenex and Clorox wipes come from my pocket. I get $0 for a classroom budget and recently had to fund my own Donors Choose to get a color printer, which is super important for each of my students.

— Sara Prue, K-5 special education teacher, District 27J

I am the only school psychologist for a school of 1,200 kids. We are impacted [by a high proportion of children from low-income families] and boast a very diverse student body. We are not able to raise sufficient money for the things our kids need — mental health support, food, clothes, showers, school supplies, etc. Although we have fairly new facilities, our bathrooms for our K-2 kids have been closed for two days with a terrible sewer odor. Please listen to actual educators about what needs to happen in our schools.  

— Paula Acker, K-8 school psychologist, Jeffco Public Schools

My students are highly impacted by poverty and trauma. Our work as teachers goes far beyond teaching. We are counselors, nurses, parental figures, hug-givers — sometimes teaching is the last thing I do because my students have such high needs and we have a huge lack of resources.

— Tessa McAleer, sixth grade special education, Strive Prep in Denver

My schools are filled with passionate, hardworking, intelligent professionals who dedicate many hours past their contract to help students and their families. I made more as a barista in Montana and didn’t have to deal with half the b.s. I do with teaching. But I love my students and their families, and I know I’m making a difference in their lives and in our community.

If you truly cared about educators and our children, you’d validate our plight and do something to fix TABOR. It is absolutely unjust and shameful that our state makes the money it does and we’re ranked in the bottom of student expense and teacher pay. Teachers are pissed and you better believe there’s an uprising coming.

— Jill Nichole Ayars, speech-language pathologist, former middle and high school language arts teacher, Poudre School District

I have died and gone to teacher heaven. That is how I often describe my current role preparing the next generation of social studies teachers in the University of Colorado’s School of Education.

I have a group of student teachers who are paying a large tuition bill to student-teach, playing the role of a full-time teacher and then going to work at their regular job so they can afford to eat. Their weekends are filled with lesson planning and paper grading. They are inspiring to watch.  We must reward these teacher candidates by returning teaching to a secure financial footing in two ways: lowering the financial barriers to becoming a teacher and raising the financial rewards for entering the profession.     

— Kent Willmann, senior instructor, University of Colorado, 32-year veteran teacher in the St. Vrain Valley School District

When you think of Catholic education, most folks envision plaid uniforms, strict rules, nuns, and the economic elite. Come to St. Rose and see how we educate over 250 pre-K-8 students each year in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Denver. We graduate successful students to high schools and colleges who are ready to impact their communities, and we do it for less money than public schools. For real.

— Mark Dennis, middle school teacher at St. Rose of Lima in southwest Denver  

We have a high population of students with significant mental health needs who are impacted by traumatic backgrounds of neglect, abuse, abandonment, exposure to drugs pre- and post-natal, homelessness, etc. Currently we do not have a full-time school psychologist or counselor.  These students are in crisis on a daily basis, becoming both verbally and physically aggressive with teachers and peers before running from classrooms and in the case of a couple of students, even the building.

— Kelly Atkinson, elementary special ed, Greeley-Evans School District 6

We are a very successful, innovative example of what can happen when teachers and schools are given the freedom to do what they do best. Our district and school leadership trusts us as professionals, which creates a wonderfully collegial atmosphere where teachers are unafraid to try new things. Education mandates often unintentionally stifle the art of teaching and learning.

— Aaron Hendrikson, social studies, Fairview High School, Boulder Valley School District

Look into funding our schools and raising teachers salaries. Public education is not broken but our spirits are getting that way. Teachers should be paid as the professionals that they are. Schools should be funded so that the kids we teach get what they deserve.

— Lori McCoin, high school computer applications and computer science principles, Elizabeth School District

I started working in public education right after the 9/11 attacks, filled with patriotic desire to change the future. At that time, I made what I thought was an “amazing” salary of $21,000 a year. I was a hardworking “baby” teacher determined to push through the hardships of never owning a house, never buying a new car, and eating very frugally for weeks on end.  

Fast forward to 2018. I’m still an idealist, but the reality of just how poor the wages are for teachers has tempered my initial feelings. The starting teacher wages in my district currently hover around $30,000 a year. Who thinks it’s acceptable for a teacher, a person responsible for the future of society, to make less than someone working in fast food?

My wife and I felt it would be financially irresponsible to have our own children. I still work three separate jobs to make ends meet and sustain a basic middle-class lifestyle, but I do catch myself wondering every now and then: Would I have been a good dad?  

— Eric Eberhardt, sixth-grade language arts teacher, District 11

I am a first-grade teacher in Aurora Public Schools where I teach 28 high-energy, precocious, and curious 6-year-olds. Our classroom is a warm, welcoming place due to myself, parents, and friends who have funded it. But I cannot afford to buy or rent in my school community nor anywhere else in the Denver metro area. How can teachers be agents of change if they can’t even afford to live with those we serve? I should not be put in the position of deciding between my own personal well-being and that of my students. Teachers need to be paid a living wage that supports them and the communities they serve

— Koli Jamerson, first-grade teacher, Altura Elementary, Aurora Public Schools, Teach Plus Fellow

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

The Speer Boulevard corridor goes vertical, adding more than 2,400 housing units over the last half decade

The manager of 7/S Denver Haus says her eight-story, two-year-old apartment building at Seventh and Sherman has one of the best rooftops in the city.

Tenants can take in mountain sunsets, grill a steak on the patio, or warm up next up to the fireplace in the lounge on days less conducive to barbecue. And manager Bethany Anderson can check out the coming competition.

“Sometimes I try to count the cranes,” Anderson said.

It’s an activity that can keep you busy in this neighborhood. By a rough count that the city’s department of Community Planning and Development put together, a dozen towers started since 2015 on or near Speer Boulevard have added or soon will add more than 2,400 apartment units to the Golden Triangle and environs. Urbanist and CU Denver planning professor Ken Schroeppel goes back a few more years and documents several other new buildings on his blog DenverInfill. Schroeppel also counted some hotels, so not all the towers are about long-term housing.

Tony Carnesi, CEO of Keller Williams Denver Tech Center, said the area has “kind of gone vertical.” In the 1950s and ’60s and even into the ’70s and ’80s it was dominated by modest family homes, Carnesi said.

Carnesi added the new apartments are drawing young professionals who want a city lifestyle but perhaps can’t afford – or are saving to buy and don’t want to pay – downtown or Cherry Creek rents. LoDo-like advantages include not having to worry about shoveling or taking care of a yard, without a LoDo scene some find too crowded and noisy. And when they do want the LoDo scene, they can get there on the bike path.

The 7S apartment building on 7th Avenue in Capitol Hill, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The 7S apartment building on 7th Avenue in Capitol Hill, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Not that the apartments along Speer Boulevard are cheap – a 619-square-foot one-bedroom at 7/S Denver Haus is going for $1,670 a month. The Apartment Association of Metro Denver found the Denver area’s average rent in the third quarter was $1,465.

Anderson, who manages 7/S, can look down the street to a construction site that promises to offer “a new perspective on luxury living.” The rendering shows a pool, which 7/S lacks. Anderson knows prospective tenants will be making comparisons and asking for deals. But she has few vacancies at the moment and hers is not among the buildings decorated with banners offering move-in specials or the first month free.

Those banners, Carnesi said, raise questions about the long-term viability of the luxury business plan. But for now, demand is high enough.

Where does that leave the rest of us?

Developers who find the construction costs are much the same no matter what they build can secure profitability by chasing high-paying tenants or by chasing tax credits and subsidies for affordable units. Either way, they’re not likely to build without a good chance of making money, and the city needs them to build.

The new towers, at least, ease competition for older buildings not far away, making units there a bit more affordable. A few of those, such as the grand Colburn Hotel, offer rentals at below-market prices, allowing at least some low-income Denverites to enjoy elements of what the neighborhood has to offer.

Robert W. Speer might be pleased by the embrace of the city that is evident in the new buildings along his namesake boulevard.

Speer, who was Denver’s mayor from 1904 and 1918, was a proponent of the national “City Beautiful” movement. His vision is credited with Civic Center, tree-lined parkways and other streetscapes and architectural elements that make parts of Denver so attractive from a pedestrian’s vantage point.

The new towers’ tenants can walk to Trader Joe’s at 6th and Logan or the King Soopers at 13th and Speer. The Cherry Creek Trail puts LoDo a quick cycle away for those who want a change of scene from myriad nearer-by bars and restaurants. For the culturally minded, the neighborhood is home to the Denver Art Museum, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, History Colorado Center and Clyfford Still Museum, and to parks that include Civic Center and Sunken Gardens, the latter tucked behind Denver Health’s main hospital.

Denver Health and Anthem are among this truly mixed-use area’s major employers. Galleries and architecture’s studios create creative jobs. Government offices have spread from City and County and the state Capitol. Think tanks and other nonprofits that want to influence public occupy space in newer buildings or in some of those single-family Victorians homes now converted to commercial.

BCycles in their stands and their free-range bike and scooter cousins are everywhere. Major bus lines connect to light and commuter rail. The route of the app-based, bus-on-whatever-the-opposite-of-steroids-is Chariot transit system launched last month runs through the area.

Eviva on Cherokee, a 274-unit apartment building at 13th that was completed last spring, offers tenants bus schedules, ETAs for shared cars and other transit information on a touchscreen in the lobby. For those who don’t want to take a bus or an Uber, “it’s a seven-minute walk to downtown,” said Clyt’ta Berg, an Eviva leasing agent.

Yet still they park.

Eviva has five levels of parking. All along Speer, blocks of parking are as common an architectural element as variegated facades. Denver RE/MAX agent Kerron Stokes, though, said they don’t contain typical spaces.

“There’s nuance from builder to builder,” he said.

Some provide just enough space for one car and a bicycle.

“They are built for smaller vehicles,” he said. “You try to put an SUV in there, they’re not going to fit.”

The spaces are an amenity, like a well-appointed rooftop. A choice for those able to pay, not a necessity.

More money, more amenities.

At Evita, which bills itself as a “sanctuary in the city,” a 917-square-foot one-bedroom will cost you about $2,500 a month.

The concrete-and-glass building has views of the Rockies to the west and the Denver Art Museum and the Central Library to the east. Among the amenities included in the rent are regular events such as yoga classes and barbecues. The gym is well-equipped. The pool, heated and saline, shares a deck above the parking block with fire pits, a bocce court and corn hole boards.

A concierge is on duty 24/7 to help with dinner reservations or tickets to a game or maybe wrestle a package up to your home. For an extra fee, the concierge will walk your dog while you’re traveling.

“Hey Reggie, how ya doing?” Berg said, greeting the dog first as she passed a tenant and her pet in the coffee lounge off the lobby.

“If you don’t have a beard or a pet, you’re not a Denverite,” Berg said.

At Eviva, in addition to staff who know the animals by name, “pet friendly” means a room equipped with hoses and other equipment where tenants can bathe their dogs. The building also has a bike shop with pumps and a vending machine stocked with locks, tubes and light batteries.

If it all seems a bit much, it could be more. Berg notes that Eviva does not have a chef-in-residence, one of the perqs at Country Club Towers II and III. That 552-unity twin development completed last year in Washington Park may be what some Speer-area residents secretly aspire to.

Future homes in the Golden Triangle area west of Broadway, Nov. 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Future homes in the Golden Triangle area west of Broadway, Nov. 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

What could be more luxurious than your own elevator?

Liv Sotheby’s agent Deviree Vallejo has been helping buyers snap up new townhouses in the area. Among her buyers are people who were recent renters in some of the properties along Speer.

Vallejo’s listings include three duplexes, each 2,400-square-feet with three bedrooms, about to be completed that feature shafts where buyers have the option of installing elevators. The roof decks offer glimpses of the Rockies, the art museum and many, many cranes. For just over $1 million, the buyers won’t have to share the views.

“They’re expensive. But, that being said, there’ve also been $2 million townhouse sales in the Golden Triangle,” Vallejo said. “The people who want to live down here are passionate about the Golden Triangle.”

At mayoral forum, Jamie Giellis commits to a housing goal and Chairman Seku commits to a revolution

Denverites lined up at Temple Emanuel in South Park Hill on Tuesday night to asked Jamie Giellis and Chairman Seku, two of 11 candidates for mayor, how they would change Denver.

Like last month’s City Park Friends and Neighbors event with candidates Lisa Calderón and Penfield Tate, it was not a debate. The candidates were banned from challenging one another, but repeatedly challenged Mayor Michael Hancock and his administration.

Also, Seku (legal name Stephan Evans) had the audience snap to emulate rain and scream as if they were at a Marvin Gaye concert. A synergy exercise, he said.

Giellis, former president of the RiNo Arts District and a consultant for changing neighborhoods with Centro, covered an expansive platform focusing on housing and homelessness, transportation and decentralizing power in the mayor’s office.

She also made a distinction between gentrification and displacement, calling the former a “challenging prospect in an economy that’s market-driven and doesn’t put it’s people first.”

Giellis committed to creating an affordable housing quota — a percentage of homes set aside for lower-income residents. Giellis would deliver those units by streamlining the bureaucracy, she said, to ensure fees paid by developers translate to brick and mortar. Partnerships with private developers, not just the Denver Housing Authority, would play a role.

Jamie Giellis speaks at City Park Friends and Neighbors' second mayoral candidate forum at Messiah Lutheran Church, Dec. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jamie Giellis speaks at City Park Friends and Neighbors' second mayoral candidate forum at Messiah Lutheran Church, Dec. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Referring to people experiencing homelessness, Giellis said the Hancock administration is “doing nothing but ignoring the problem.”

“I would take away money from incarcerating and sweeping people from public view and put it into fixing the problem,” she said.

Seku, who is not employed, had stark words, too (starker words, really). The Five Points native bashed the city government vociferously for what he called “ethnic cleansing” and “gentrification genocide.” That’s how he characterized what he deemed unfettered growth at the expense of poor residents, often people of color.

The self-described revolutionary called Denver politicians, generally, “scumdog millionaires” looking to get more money. He did not convey specific policy goals, but got the crowd cooing when he said he’d give power to the people of the city.

The audience slaps their knees with Chairman Seku as he  speaks at City Park Friends and Neighbors' second mayoral candidate forum at Messiah Lutheran Church, Dec. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The audience slaps their knees with Chairman Seku as he speaks at City Park Friends and Neighbors' second mayoral candidate forum at Messiah Lutheran Church, Dec. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“I am not competing to the office of mayor,” he said. “I’m not… I’m here to represent you, not me.”

Giellis also conveyed a message of empowering residents — and weakening the mayor’s office.

In her home state of Iowa, Giellis said, helped turn the Cedar Rapids government into a “weak-mayor” and “council-strong” system. Denver has the opposite setup. She would not commit to changing the city’s charter in that vein, but said the mayor’s office should have more checks and balances, whether it’s by day-lighting political appointment decisions or creating a more “community-based” budget process.

“I absolutely believe there should be more checks on the mayor,” Giellis said. “The problem inherent in a charter system is you get the good and bad depending on who’s in the leadership role.”

Chairman Seku speaks at City Park Friends and Neighbors' second mayoral candidate forum at Messiah Lutheran Church, Dec. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Chairman Seku speaks at City Park Friends and Neighbors' second mayoral candidate forum at Messiah Lutheran Church, Dec. 4, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Seku committed to letting the audience ask questions for most of the night, but spoke for 45 minutes, leaving no time for interaction. It was plenty of time to make his case for leadership, though, by relaying much of his life story over a sometimes meandering speech.

He started with his days at Smith Elementary School but spent way more time boasting about his leadership role on the Manuel High School basketball team, where he apparently rocked the nickname “Pretty Evans.”

The chairman went on to the University of Denver where he says John Rice (former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s dad) mentored him. He called himself “a fly in the buttermilk” at the predominately white school. Seku gained a taste for activism there, but didn’t graduate.

“I never gave any of the institutions the honor of me graduating from there,” Seku said, half-jokingly. “I’m not gonna give them credit for my intelligence.”

CPFAN invited Mayor Hancock to speak at its January meeting. The neighborhood organization received a response saying he’d attend if his schedule allows.

Landlords in metro Denver and nonprofit team up to help renters

Landlords in metro Denver are donating $5,000 to help a nonprofit affordable housing developer support renters.

Nancy Burke, vice president of government affairs for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, said her group often directs calls it gets from tenants to Colorado Housing Connects, an information and resources hotline set up by the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center and Brothers Redevelopment. Brothers housing navigators who staff the hotline are knowledgeable about evictions, tenant rights and responsibilities and other issues.

Burke’s trade organization concluded “we should help pick up” some of the cost of running the line, Burke said.

Jeff Martinez, Brothers’ president, said Burke’s group had been generous and he looked forward to the partnership growing. He said he could envision the landlords one day playing a role on the hotline in some way.

“We’re hoping to work with them to so that we can resolve situations when somebody presents with an issue related to where they’re living,” he said. “Our navigators are always working on multiple levels to find resolution.”

Burke said: “Brothers, through their helpline, they do such a great job. We’re hoping to fund them more in the future. This is a nice starting point.”

Burke said Brothers can also be a good resource for landlords. Brothers builds and manages affordable housing as well as providing other services to low-income renters and homeowners.

Brothers’ projects include the Landlords Opening Doors Campaign to recruit landlords willing to rent to people in the Colorado Choice Transitions program. The program supports elderly, blind, physically or developmentally disabled Medicaid recipients, as well as some people receiving mental health care, who are leaving facilities such as nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. Under Colorado Choice, about 70 percent of the rent is paid directly to the landlord while the tenant pays the rest.

Brothers also works with people experiencing homelessness, departing the foster care system or who are in other ways vulnerable.

“We’re working to find ways to get more (housing) units for those who need,” Martinez said.

By working together, Brothers and the apartment association can ensure both landlords and tenants are better informed, Burke said.

“That’s the goal of any good partnership,” she said.

Peg Perl would like to take advantage of new tools available to the Denver clerk’s office

Peg Perl thinks the public generally sees the role of the Denver Clerk and Record as the office responsible for overseeing elections.

That, of course, is true. But Perl, who’s running for Denver Clerk and Record, wants residents to know the job is important for the functioning of daily government. A lot of its work is done behind the scenes, handling public records, licensing and land records.

Perl is an attorney who works as an adjunct teacher at the University of Denver and policy consulting on a contract basis. She’s spent 15 years working areas she thinks are relevant to the clerk’s duties, including working in voting rights, campaign finance reform and public records access, which she sees as the three main pillars of the clerk’s office work.

Perl grew up in Arizona and has been in Denver since 2010. She attended Arizona State before heading out to Washington to attend Georgetown Law School. She returned to the West after spending some 10 years in the Beltway.

“That’s where I started to do government work,” Perl said. “Before I came back to Colorado, I actually had a career in DC where I worked as an attorney for the Federal Election Commission doing campaign finance work.”

She previously worked in political and campaign finance consulting as a senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch and worked for the U.S. House Ethics Committee.

Perl submitted paperwork for her run in January, becoming the first candidate to formally declare their intent to fill the open Denver Clerk and Recorder position. Current Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson said last year she wouldn’t be seeking reelection.

Since announcing, only one other candidate, term-limited City Councilman Paul Lopez, has announced his candidacy for the position. Former Denver Director of Elections Amber McReynolds is eyeing a run as well but hasn’t formally declared.

Perl is especially excited about the new rules the incoming clerk will work with, including ones chosen by voters after last month’s election. That included Referred Measure 2D, which gives the clerk more flexibility for filling the positions.

“The other part of it is it said we’re going to create two new appointed positions and the charter is not going to specify the duties of those positions,” Perl said, meaning it could allow the new clerk to add a new position that could be added later. “It can shift between now and 20 years from now.”

Another new program approved by voters: The Democracy for the People Initiative, which will establish a public funding element to the city’s municipal elections. The initiative won’t be available to candidates until 2020.

“To me, that is a huge part of what the next clerk has to do and I am really excited to do that because I have done campaign finance regulation,” Perl said. “That would be one of the major things I would be expecting any clerk to have to focus on but I am especially excited to focus on.”

There will need to be an enforcement and accountability system for auditing in case something doesn’t go as planned. She feels prepared to handle that due to her past work.

“For me, it’s about bringing that experience which I used under the values of transparency and accessibility and accountability to everything that the clerk’s office does,” Perl said.

While she said Denver has one of the best elections offices in the country, she does have an idea for making Denver’s ballots a little less bulky. This year, the city had its biggest ballot yet, which cost a little more money.

Her idea is relatively simple: Instead of having multiple languages in the same ballot, you can allow voters to pick their preferred language and receive that ballot. Denver ballots are printed in English and Spanish due to a federal mandate.

“There’s best practices out there already to make sure that voter confusion is minimized, but it’s up to the voter’s choice,” Perl said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office just took a hardline stance against Denver’s plan for a supervised drug use site

The United States Attorney’s Office for Colorado came out swinging against Denver’s plan to allow a supervised use site where people can use heroin and other drugs with medical professionals present to intervene in the case of overdoses.

Comparing them to “crack houses,” the joint statement between the attorney’s office and the Denver field office of the Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday said the sites don’t actually reduce the number of drug-related deaths. They said such a site is illegal under federal law and could result in penalties including forfeiture of the property, criminal fines and imprisonment.

Denver City Council voted 12-1 last month to allow a supervised drug use site in the city for two years as a part of a pilot program. It will be happen only if the state’s General Assembly passes complementary legislation authorizing the site.

The release said the two federal agencies support methods “addressing the opioid and methamphetamine crisis in Colorado,” but they must comply with federal law.

The release cited a supervised drug use facility in Vancouver, claiming that the overdose death rate in “the immediate vicinity of the facility was actually the highest in the city.” The release said that while such sites are considered safe because they’re stocked with opioid overdose antidotes like naloxone, they’re not usually limited to opioid users. (Denver’s site would be available for other drug use.) The feds said people may use substances that don’t have antidotes like naloxone.

The feds also suggested the facility could increase public safety risks.

“Just like so-called crack houses, these facilities will attract drug dealers, sexual predators, and other criminals, ultimately destroying the surrounding community,” the release said. “More importantly, the government-sanctioned operation of these facilities serves only to normalize serious drug usage — teaching adults and children alike that so-called ‘safe’ drug usage is somehow appropriate or can actually be done ‘safely.'”

Councilman Albus Brooks, the bill’s sponsor, issued his own statement in response to Tuesday’s statement from the feds. He started by mentioning the more than 1,000 people who died from drug overdoses in Colorado last year.

Denver had 201 fatal drug overdoses in 2017, a record for the city.

“While we recognize the role of the federal government, we cannot wait for federal action while the death toll rises,” Brooks said in his statement. “These people are not simply addicts. They are our neighbors, friends, and family members who are experiencing addiction. As a designated local public health department, the city through the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment has the authority under law to address and regulate this type of emergency.”

Brooks said research and “global precedent” show supervised use sites can save lives.

“Choosing not to save the lives of our neighbors is an injustice that threatens to destabilize the very foundation of our society,” Brooks said in the release. “This is a piece of a larger plan to address this epidemic, and as leaders we know that saving lives takes precedent over politics. Now is the time to act.”

Denver will become the latest city to wipe low-level marijuana offenses from the record

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced today that his administration will “move to vacate low-level marijuana convictions for Denver residents.”

The move follows months of preemptive work done by the Office of Marijuana Policy and the City Attorney’s Office and looks to be the administration’s attempt to provide a progressive solution to the harm caused by the war on drugs. During a panel regarding criminal justice equity back in early November, Ashley Kilroy, Denver’s director of marijuana policy, said the mayor gave her the green light to begin the process of expunging records for low-level offenses — and now here we are.

“For too long, the lives of low-income residents and those living in our communities of color have been negatively affected by low-level marijuana convictions,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a press release. “This is an injustice that needs to be corrected, and we are going to provide a pathway to move on from an era of marijuana prohibition that has impacted the lives of thousands of people.”

The administration has framed this decision as one of many tactics it’s employing to empower the communities that were most heavily affected by what turned out to be race-based policing practices.

There have been other noteworthy decisions to expunge marijuana records recently in states where the drug is now legal. In cities like San Francisco and states like Michigan, they are setting up the framework to begin the process. Just up the road in Boulder, the district attorney’s office is working to seal the records of anyone convicted of marijuana related crimes that would now be legal.

Vacating these records will be no small feat. More than 10,000 people were convicted of low-level marijuana crimes just between 2001 and 2013. Theresa Marchetta, the mayor’s director of strategic communications and media policy, says the administration is still in the process of designing the most efficient way to vacate these records and will provide updates soon about the specific steps Denver residents can take to participate.

Art Way, Colorado’s director for the Drug Policy Alliance, says the ideal way for low-level marijuana offenses to be handled after a state has legalized the substance is to have the protocol and need for vacating records written into the initial legislation.

Nonetheless, he says, the administration should “be applauded for making this decision.”

“If it’s true vacation and people don’t have to actually pay for it and the District Attorney’s office does it themselves, I think that’s leading by example. And hopefully the state can do something in the next legislative session,” Way said.

He says automatic vacation rather than a review process would be the way to go if the city wants to truly engage in equitable drug law reform. He stressed that when the city considers progressive reform regarding marijuana it must engage with equity on the broader level.

Kilroy is currently doing that work in the Office of Marijuana Coordination, according to Way, and has been open to the larger conversation about equity.

Hancock shared the same sentiment in a press release, noting that there are many other hurdles to overcome as the city attempts reconcile the consequences of the drug war with our shift away from prohibition.

“We need to better understand the obstacles, business conditions and regulatory hurdles preventing individuals from seeking employment or business ownership in the cannabis industry,” he said in the release. “We believe in equal opportunity for all, and that includes those working in the cannabis industry.”

Help for those communities will come in a variety of fashions, including using revenue from the industry to improve a plethora of other inequitable conditions in the city. For instance, Denver recently raised the special sales tax on the product and “these new funds are expected to double the amount of money Denver is dedicating to developing more affordable housing options in the city and create more than 6,000 additional units over the next five years.”

Way says it’s important to look at this process holistically because that’s the only way it can really be addressed.

“Marijuana legalization should be done under the lens of racial justice and broader equity,” he said. “So it’s good Denver is moving in this direction and this should be one part of a broader solution of bringing equity solutions to the marijuana industry as a whole.”

Gentrification is changing the essence of 29th and Colorado

Cora Faye’s legendary soul food restaurant moved away from its longtime home on 29th and Colorado Boulevard for greener pastures in Aurora back in July of 2016.

And according to the restaurant’s former neighbor and longtime barber Steve Williams, it wasn’t an isolated incident.

In fact, Williams says Cora Faye’s relocation was emblematic of the large turnover of businesses on the block he’s worked on for more than 15 years. He says his business, Exclusive Cuts, which is across the street from where the restaurant used to be, will be moving shop soon for the same reason so many others have left: overwhelming rent hikes.

“They just out pricing us right now, you know what I mean? When we first started over here, it was like $600 back in the day, 15 years ago, and now it’s moved up every year,” Williams said.

He says rent prices have gone up nearly $1,000 during his time on the strip.

Exclusive Cuts Barber Shop owner Steve Williams poses inside his Colorado Boulevard business, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Exclusive Cuts Barber Shop owner Steve Williams poses inside his Colorado Boulevard business, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Unlike Cora Faye’s, which moved all the way to 16251 E. Colfax Ave. in Aurora, Exclusive Cuts will stay in Denver. This January, it will reopen on Bruce Randolph Avenue and Columbine Street.

I spoke with Shavon Glasper, as she left the Colorado Boulevard Laundromat that has been there as long as anyone could remember. According to Denver’s property records, the building has had the same ownership since 1993. Glasper has lived in the neighborhood her entire life and says it’s been tough to watch some of her old favorites leave but hopes the changes will help bring in new and more diverse businesses.

“I haven’t really been to many of the new businesses, but I did hate to see Cora Faye’s leave and stuff like that. Restaurants would be good, small businesses probably coming back, you know, just small owners,” Glasper said.

Chain franchises occupy three corners of the block, including a KFC-Taco Bell and an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts on the west side and a Grease Monkey and a host of discount appliance stores on the east side.

Connie Lee, owner of Sugar Rush doughnuts, which came to the area several months ago, says the neighbors have been really receptive of her shop because some of them were previously traveling up to 30 minutes just to get a good doughnut. She thinks the heavy traffic in the area works in the store’s favor but would like to see more local businesses, especially the types that drive foot traffic like restaurants.

“If it was just a little revamped, that would really help out the neighborhood,” Lee said.

She says a new look, including new local store fronts, could enhance the aesthetic of the area, getting away from the transient feel chain auto garages and fast food restaurants give the block currently.

Williams says he thought the strip was at its best when it was lined was a plethora of small businesses that reflected the needs of the surrounding community.

The 2800 block of Colorado Boulevard from 2014 to 2017. (Google Maps)

The 2800 block of Colorado Boulevard from 2014 to 2017. (Google Maps)

“I liked it when it was mostly black-owned businesses. That’s what I would want it to be. Horns [soul food restaurant] was black-owned, Cora Faye’s was black-owned. You had the barbershop across the street, they were black-owned. You had the guy that was doing upholstery, that was black-owned. So, all those guys are gone now,” Williams said.

Victory Clothing Boutique co-owners Iman Saks (left) and Jarrett Beasley pose for a portrait inside their, Colorado Boulevard shop, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Victory Clothing Boutique co-owners Iman Saks (left) and Jarrett Beasley pose for a portrait inside their, Colorado Boulevard shop, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jarret Beasley chose to open his store, Victory Clothing, on the block to bring back the vibe Williams feels is missing.

“I just wanted to have a business in the community I grew up in. With gentrification and people being pushed out east towards Green Valley and Aurora and stuff, I wanted to have a business in the community that’s traditionally been black,” Beasley said.

He too feels like “more business, more black business and local small businesses instead of just chains” would be good for the area.

This has a name: retail gentrification.

Carrie Makarewicz, a professor in urban planning at the University of Colorado Denver, says research coming from experts in the emerging study of “retail gentrification” could potentially validate Beasley’s hunches about the effect small businesses would have in the area.

“They’ve studied the value of locally owned businesses versus headquartered or franchised businesses. Through economic analysis [we found that] local business puts more money back into the local economy, even if it’s at a smaller scale,” Makarewicz said.

Makarewicz had previously done some work in Chicago with a primarily Swedish neighborhood where they were trying to keep sweeping changes to the character of the neighborhood at bay. In securing the future of the establishments that had long been in the area, one of the most effective outcomes of their campaign, according to Makarewicz, was passing city level ordinances that limited “formula retail.”  She says those ordinances worked to establish a “zoning overlay that says no more than 10 percent of the buildings can be occupied by formula retail” in certain areas.

But without any type of restrictive of legislation, Beasley doesn’t know if a great return of small business is possible.

“With the rising cost of this neighborhood, I don’t know, I doubt it. That’s just being honest,” Beasley said.

He says with prices continuing to rise, the strip could see a similar story to that of Welton Street, where people buy properties at low values and later others aren’t able to purchase because prices have inflated so much.

Makarewicz noted that concerned residents may be able to take cues from cities like San Francisco. Residents have recently taken on the problem of “legacy businesses” being priced out and have just moved to provide financial support to keep those establishments in place.

A Community Brand shirt for sale at Victory Clothing Boutique on Colorado Boulevard, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A Community Brand shirt for sale at Victory Clothing Boutique on Colorado Boulevard, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

While far from being a legacy business, as it’s in its second year, Victory Clothing does its best to promote and thus sustain local businesses. They sell local brands and provide space for events. Beasly knows that his store caters to younger people, as evidenced by the clothing selection and Sauce Walka playing in the room, so he would like to see other local businesses provide things the neighborhood needs, like food and family needs.

He noted that it was unfortunate to see the next door Mini-Market, which was black-owned, close down, because it helped cater to the needs of the entire area.

Meanwhile, even some new businesses aren’t sticking around.

Meredith Gerdes, an account executive at Arena Life, says they’re considering leaving the area because the demographics of the neighborhood aren’t a good fit for their CBD product and the location doesn’t provide as much foot traffic as they would have hoped.

Meredith Gerdes poses for a portrait inside ArenaLife CBD shop on Colorado Boulevard, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Meredith Gerdes poses for a portrait inside ArenaLife CBD shop on Colorado Boulevard, Nov. 27, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“The truth of the matter is we’re looking for new places right now. Maybe in like RiNo or in a place where it has more heavy foot traffic, because right here no one ever walks by except for homeless people. It’s actually a pretty dangerous area. It’s weird because there’s so much wealth right here,” Gerdes said, pointing toward City Park, “but then all of sudden there isn’t,” she said, looking back toward the east side of Colorado Boulevard.

Denver City Council allows dense retrofit to several Virginia Village blocks, with 150 affordable homes

The Denver City Council on Monday cleared the way for a group of languishing, tan buildings and bare surface parking lots in Virginia Village to become a dense community of hundreds of homes — 150 of them affordable — with restaurants, shops and offices.

Most of the land sits at 4201 E. Arkansas Ave., the Colorado Department of Transportation’s former headquarters. Kentro Group, a developer, needed the council to rezone the 1950s campus in order to realize its vision, which includes buildings up to eight stories high and 150,000 square feet of commercial space. (The site spans 12 acres, but Kentro plans to redevelop 2000 S. Holly St., an 11-acre site owned by CDOT, as well.)

The goal is to add homes and people to a more walkable district on what is now a sprawling segment near south Colorado Boulevard “characterized by auto-oriented strip development,” Denver city planner Andrew Webb said.

Council members voted 11 to 1 to rezone the area, with City Councilman Albus Brooks absent. Thirty-one people spoke in favor during a public hearing, 15 spoke against. Denver Community and Development received 18 letters of opposition and 42 in support.

“We do have a housing crisis in Denver. It’s something we talk about that every single day, and the answer is to build more housing,” said City Councilwoman Kendra Black, who voted for the zoning change. “Denver is land locked. We need more supply … The only we’re gonna get more is through density.”

The site falls in City Councilman Paul Kashmann’s district. Kashmann voted no, saying he wanted density “stepped down” and a requirement for more open space. The local streets can’t handle the additional traffic, he said.

“We have the right developer, the right concept,” Kashmann said. “But the wrong zoning.”

Kentro made concessions to win the council vote.

The developer must build 150 homes that are affordable for households making no more than 60 percent of the area median income — about $48,000 for a family of three — according to its signed agreement with the city. Kentro must make 10 percent of the development public open space and create a plan to manage traffic.

The developer also lowered its rezoning request from 12 stories to eight. (If the current zoning rules stuck, the property owner could build up to 12 stories tomorrow.)

“My reservation isn’t a dense place-making project,” said City Councilman Rafael Espinoza. “My concern is that market forces in that area would result in something far less dense and more transient, and lacking any sort of destination aspect.”

While single-family homes reign south and east of the site, apartment buildings, stores and hotels surround it too.

The closed CDOT headquarters near Arkansas and Colorado (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

The closed CDOT headquarters near Arkansas and Colorado (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Several neighbors remain opposed to the development, however, and they made it clear during a public hearing Monday.

“This is an attempt to shoehorn in something that is oversized and doesn’t fit with this residential neighborhood,” said Diane Wolta, a Virginia Village resident. “Yes, we all want cute retail shops and affordable housing to be built, but this plan is too dense for the area.”

Wolta and others opposed the project on the grounds of more people, more traffic, and change in general. Some residents feared “ugly” buildings and rising crime, but did not elaborate on their reasoning. Loyal Merrick, a Virginia Village resident, said burglary is already common and more people are “just gonna add to that problem.”

“We’re gonna have to live with them and we’re all gonna resent them forever,” Merrick told the council, referring to future residents.

Deb Powers (left) speaks with Kentro Group director of development Chris Viscardi at a community meeting to discuss the future of the old CDOT headquarters in Virginia Village near Colorado Boulevard, Nov. 16, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Deb Powers (left) speaks with Kentro Group director of development Chris Viscardi at a community meeting to discuss the future of the old CDOT headquarters in Virginia Village near Colorado Boulevard, Nov. 16, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

While some aimed to stop the project, others saw change as inevitable and aimed to get something good out of it.

Supporters said they liked the idea of mixing incomes, deepening the city’s shallow housing stock and creating a compact district where people can live in walking distance from new jobs, transit and places to eat and shop.

“For some of us who have been longtime residents, change is hard to see,” said Virginia Village resident Nancy Csuti.  “It’s hard to sit in traffic and it’s hard to see unfamiliar things going up, but I’m here to speak in favor of the new development and new zoning. I think it’s time to embrace change and make sure there are places for people of all types to live.”

Said Gerald Walshe, another local: “We all say we want to be part of the solution. As a community, the way we show that support is with developments like this.”

The Virginia Village Ellis Neighborhood Association disbanded last month amid disagreement over the project as neighbors fought over the organization’s official stance. Power and influence were a topic Monday as well. One resident pointed to a diverse neighborhood that was not reflected in the speakers at the City and County Building.

“The demographics of the people who are speaking tonight don’t match the demographics of our neighbors,” said Kristin Jones. “You’re hearing from a lot of white homeowners and that is not what our neighborhood is.”

The move clears the way for Kentro to buy both properties from CDOT, currently under contract, for about $19 million. The city government brokered the deal to ensure affordable housing. Kentro and CDOT plan to close on the deal, which hinged largely on the rezoning, in February or March, Kentro co-founder Jimmy Balafas said.

A Littleton apartment building has been condemned following a fire last month, leaving 163 seniors without permanent homes

A Littleton apartment building has been condemned because of asbestos contamination during a fire last month, leaving 163 seniors without a permanent place to stay in a metro region experiencing a housing crisis.

Residents let out soft groans after they learned the news Monday in a meeting in a church decorated for Christmas. About 100 people  — residents as well as relatives and friends who had come to support them — were gathered across the street from  the Windermere senior apartments, where a fire early on Nov.17 killed one resident.

Thirteen other people were injured in the fire, which was deemed accidental and has caused extensive smoke damage as well as the asbestos spill. The five-story, 134-unit building  has been closed since the fire and residents have moved to hotels or in with friends or family.

“The building has been deemed uninhabitable,”  said Andy Boian, a spokesman for the building’s owner. “That was the decision made by the city. That is something we have no control over.”

The building management team moved among the pews distributing copies of a letter notifying tenants that their leases had been terminated and that they would be reimbursed security deposits and half November’s rent. Boian said the building owners also would pay each tenant $500.

Hands and at least one cane were raised as people clamored to ask questions for an anxious, sometimes angry hour or so. Cell phones were raised by tenants who used them to record the exchanges.

Tenants wanted to know when they would be able to retrieve their belongings, including a green card and passport one woman said she needed in order to work.  Hearing the promised reimbursements and payments would come only after they had moved out, they asked where they would get money they would need to secure new housing. They wanted to know where to turn for help.

Such a situation would be hard for anyone, but in particular older people on fixed incomes, said Ann Ross. Ross came to the meeting to take notes for a friend, Carolyn Vierling, who has been hospitalized with smoke injuries since the fire. Ross has set up a GoFundMe campaign for her friend, who she said was using federal housing vouchers referred to as Section 8 and intended to help low-income people.

“There’s nowhere to go because there’s no Section 8 housing available,” Ross said.

Residents learned at Monday’s meeting that Arapahoe County officials were working to organize loans they could use for deposits on new housing. There was talk of a fundraiser and calls on landlords with free units to step forward.

A coalition of churches pledged support, including transportation to future meetings about the fire’s aftermath. Boian said all those meetings were likely to be one-on-one at a resource center being established at a church facility next door that would be staffed by insurance experts, Arapahoe County Housing staff and other counselors. A telephone line tenants could call to get recorded updates also was being set up, Boian said.

He said schedules for moving out would be finalized once it was determined how tenants, insurance adjustors and movers could safely enter the building. It was already clear no one would be able to use the main entrance or central stairs, leaving only fire stairs and exits available for moving. Nine apartments had been found too damaged ever to be reentered.

Boian said it could take at least a year to renovate the building. Those displaced would have “first right of refusal” when units were again ready to rent, he said.

A fire two years ago in the complex’s other building had caused a similar displacement.

“I am so sorry that we are having to go through this again,” Boian said Monday. “We will do everything we can to help folks get their lives back and stable.”