State Legislature Delays 2021 Session Due of COVID-19
While the state legislature officially began on January 13th, they won’t have a full session right away. As of the time of publication (Jan 12), the legislature’s plan is to work for three days on priority bills and then recess and begin work again mid-February due to concerns around the spread of COVID-19. In December, the legislature met for a special session to pass COVID-19 related relief bills. To read more about the session, see the December issue of The Denver North Star available online. Assuming the legislature meets in February as currently planned, we plan on beginning our full legislative coverage in our February 15 issue.
Denver City Council Grants Denver DA Pay Raise, Declines to Have Public Input
Beth McCann, Denver’s District Attorney, will receive a 1% raise in 2022 and 3% raises in 2023 and 2024, though those raises are contingent on staff pay freezes being lifted. The Denver DA’s current salary is $228,000 per year, the 2nd highest in the state. While the proposed increase was discussed in the Finance and Governance committee, Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca asked for a public hearing before the full council, citing the need for public input. While committee meetings are open to the public, CdeBaca noted the timing and low profile in the middle of the day reduces public input, and zero members of the community signed up to speak in that meeting. In contrast, evening full city council meetings usually have robust community input. CdeBaca requested a public hearing before the full council, but the request was denied by Council President Stacie Gilmore. Council President Gilmore’s office did not respond to an inquiry asking why she denied the request. A spokesperson for Councilwoman CdeBaca said she is exploring a rules change to require more public hearings. At the first council meeting of 2021, CdeBaca was the lone vote against the raise, which passed without commentary.
Council Approves New 325 Unit Apartment Building With 49 Income-Restricted Units
At a heated meeting, the Denver City council approved a rezoning to allow a proposed 16 story, 325 unit building on the west side of 5 points between the River North Art District and Coors Field, located at 3225 Denargo St. The proposed building is expected to have ground floor retail and 49 units (15% of the total units) for rent below market value as income restricted-properties. The developer was obligated to include at least 5 income-restricted units. North and West Denver Councilpersons CdeBaca (who represents the area), Sandoval (whose district begins close to the site), and Torres voted against the rezoning, but were outvoted by the majority of council. Activists from the GES (Globeville Elyria Swansea) Coalition spoke out against the zoning change due to concerns of gentrification and increased density, while other housing advocates from organizations such as YIMBY (Yes in My BackYard) supported the effort, citing the need for more housing in the area and the developer’s commitment to affordable housing. This is the first project in the area to include below market rate units. It was also supported by the Elyria-Swansea-Globeville Business Association. Council members in support of the rezoning noted that the majority of the opposition speakers appeared to come from outside the immediate area. The area currently has several other apartment buildings totaling nearly 1000 units.
Pit Bulls Get Licensing
Denver’s pit bulls can come out of hiding now that the city has begun granting permits to dogs of the previously banned breed. Last November, Denverites voted to lift the ban 66-34%. While City Council had attempted to lift the ban themselves, Mayor Hancock vetoed the effort, resulting in Council placing the measure on the ballot. Beginning this month, Denverites who own pit bulls can apply for a special permit; if the dogs have no problems they are eventually given a full license like other breeds. City staff introduced a pit bull mix named Penguin as the city’s first adoptable pit bull since the ban was enacted in 1989.
Uncommon Nonresidential Plot in Chaffee Park Sold
Much to the disappointment of neighbors who hoped for a community-focused business, and to Fred Glick, the developer who was a partner in the project, a lot at 49th and Zuni in Chaffee Park is being sold. Glick shared his disappointment online with the Chaffee Park community:
Zuni 49 Update
Hi all, this isn’t a note I wanted to write, but after working on this project for over four years, we’re throwing in the towel.
Shifts in the restaurant industry created challenges to our original plans to create a neighborhood retail center. We re-grouped and pursued a few other paths, but COVID has stacked the odds just too far against us. No one likes to lose money (which we have, given what we have put into the project), but more than that I’m disappointed we couldn’t achieve what we, and you in the neighborhood, had hoped.
This weekend the artists to whom we’ve been providing studio space will be moving out and next week we expect to close the sale of the property. We will be providing the new owners with contacts for the RNO and once they have a chance to firm up their plans, I think you can expect to hear from them.
I can’t tell you how much working with the Chaffee Park neighborhood has meant to me. You are a remarkable community, as evidenced by the ADU rezoning you recently achieved, and I know, Denver being the small town it is, that we’ll continue to cross paths.
League of Women Voters Hosting Event on Housing
By The League of Women Voters of Denver
Denver’s housing challenges have increased appreciably in recent years—escalating costs of homes and rents, limited affordable housing, and job insecurity leading to homelessness.
On Tuesday, January 19 at 5:30 p.m., the League of Women Voters of Denver will host a virtual briefing on the city’s current response to these challenges. Jennifer Biess will present on the Denver Department of Housing Stability (HOST) 2021 Action Plan, how the Homelessness Resolution Fund, newly established by ballot measure 2B, will advance the city’s 2021 goals to create a healthy, housed, and connected Denver, and what citizens can do to help.
HOST’s goal is to create a Denver where residents: have a choice to move or remain in their homes and neighborhoods; experience homelessness only rarely and temporarily; and have equitable access to housing options that meet their needs.Guests are welcome to join. The link to the event can be obtained at www.lwvdenver.org.