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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 12, 20182min1943

The story of a Denver woman told by the city she couldn’t sell her Green Valley Ranch home for market value because of affordable housing rules got more complicated last week.

We shared FOX31’s scoop in January on Cynthia Lopez, who in the process of selling her home was surprised to learn the property was a part of the city’s affordable-housing program. While she intended to sell for $265,000, Denver said she couldn’t sell for more than $179,000. When Lopez bought her home in 2012, she said wasn’t aware it was classified as affordable housing.

But as we discovered over the weekend courtesy of Denverite, Lopez could have also been forced out of her home due to income limits associated with the affordable-housing program. As Andrew Kenney over at the online publication put it, Lopez dodged a bullet.

Basically, she proved that she met the income requirements at the time she bought the home — even though she didn’t know about them. It doesn’t matter whether she currently exceeds those limits; it’s all about your income at the time of purchase.

“Thus, she has been retroactively approved,” wrote Derek Woodbury, a spokesman for the Office of Economic Development, in an email to Denverite.

Kenney also reported other cases have surfaced of homeowners being surprised by the affordable housing status of their property and the fact could be subject to the same income restrictions.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 19, 20183min573

Government proceedings can typically be filed away in the mundane or tedious category, that is unless you’re attending a Denver City Council budget planning retreat.

Denverite’s Andrew Kenney detailed the “exciting” proceedings earlier this week — which he said included free coffee and at least one handstand — as the council hashed out its budgetary wish list for 2019.

Topping the list, was housing, development and transportation improvements, but council members are also interested in bolstering the city’s recycling program and rebuilding the Denver Police Department training academy.

In 2019, officials say they want to ask more of the Regional Transportation District. As Kenny notes:

“We are the largest city in the district … but we are not taking positions,” said Councilwoman At large Robin Kniech. “It’s good to be respectful … I would like us to be more assertive.”

Others agreed. “They just elected new leadership of their board, and some of them are people who don’t even advocate for transit, for mobility. They’re more ‘anti’ people than they are ‘pro,’” said Councilwoman At-large Debbie Ortega. “We need to gather and be really vocal and obnoxious.”

And on housing, the council members wants to explore more funding for affordable housing.

The advocacy group All In Denver wants the city to issue new debt — and potentially raise taxes — in order to raise tens or hundreds of millions more dollars to pay for affordable housing, potentially doubling the city’s current affordable housing plan.

(Council President Albus) Brooks said that he wanted to figure out some potential “internal” funding sources for housing, but he acknowledged that the city “may have to go out and ask the voters for something,” such as new bonds.

(Councilmember Paul) Kashmann said the city has “to be more aggressive in providing permanent supportive housing for our community,” adding that the council “is missing an opportunity and a responsibility.”

Read Kenney’s full report here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 12, 20183min970

It’s a one-of-a-kind project. A village of nearly one dozen tiny homes serving Denverites who were once homeless.

The 11-tiny-home Beloved Community Village touts itself as a “democratically self-governed” community giving people without homes a chance to re-establish their place in a community, renew their purpose and restore their dignity, and most importantly, have a place to call home,” according to Beloved’s website.

But while it provides stability for its residents, the village doesn’t yet have permanency. As Denverite’s Andrew Kenney detailed this week, Beloved is a pilot project, bounded by a six-month time limit set by city planners. The village was on its lot temporarily.

Over the weekend, Beloved’s community of  96-square-foot tiny homes had to move about 100 feet with the expiration date looming. The city fast-tracked re-zoning of the new lot, and residents should move back in within the next week, but as Kenney reports, the city would like to establish a permanent location for Beloved.

The whole process struck some council members as unnecessary. Councilman Paul Kashmann suggested on Monday that the law be changed, and several others joined in.

“What is the difference between six months on one site and six months on another site … ?” asked Councilman Rafael Espinoza.

At least four other council members agreed, and none expressed opposition. Council members Albus Brooks, Kevin Flynn and Chris Herndon were not at the meeting. Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech said the city should make the permits for the village renewable.

Though the city OK’d Beloved’s new location, they’ll likely have to move again, with both the village’s old and new lots slated for development later this year, Denverite reports.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyDecember 29, 20173min2120

The election isn’t until May 2019, but one community activist is already eyeing Albus Brooks’ seat on the Denver City Council.

Denverite has the report about Candi CdeBaca, founder of the Cross Community Coalition and executive director of Project VOYCE, who told the online news outlet her decision to file paperwork to run for District 9 was centered on gentrification in the city. More so, an interview Brooks gave Colorado Public Radio on gentrification following the Ink! Coffee controversy spurred her to file.

Here’s more from Denverite’s Erica Meltzer:

“He didn’t understand the nuances of involuntary displacement,” she said. “That is directly connected to his power and his purview. He should know all of the ins and outs of it.”

In particular, she was struck by a comment Brooks made that displacement doesn’t affect homeowners.

“Displacement is not in the homeownership category,” Brooks said. “It’s in the rental category and someone cannot afford what their landowner is jacking up the price with, right? And so, that is something that we are working very hard on.”

Brooks has served on the council since 2011, representing a district that encompasses downtown Denver, Five Points and Globeville and Elyria-Swansea. In the midst of battling cancer, Brooks was selected as council president by his peers in 2016.

CdeBaca, who grew up in Elyria-Swansea, told Denverite she opposes the I-70 expansion project and wants to alter the city’s approach to development and growth, Denverite writes. She noted her winning alone wouldn’t effect the change she wants, but rather a slew of like-minded candidates for council and a “strong candidate for mayor” would

Read Denverite’s full report here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyDecember 21, 20173min356

The Denver City Council approved new rules this week to give more leverage to women- and minority-owned small businesses that subcontract with big firms on city-funded municipal projects.

That news comes from Denverite, which reports the changes will ensure subcontractors get paid quicker and are protected from retaliation if they complain about getting pushed around by the general contractors that do the bulk of construction work in Denver. Current city policy requires that a certain amount of Denver-funded projects go to businesses owned by women and minorities.

The changes will, among other changes, require all parties to submit billing information; prohibit retaliation, and kick off an evaluation of the city’s Division of Small Business Opportunity.

Officials say the new rules are needed, as Denverite notes, partly because smaller minority- and women-owned businesses have been wary about coming forward out of fear of retaliation by general contractors:

One major issue: In some cases subcontractors aren’t getting fully paid when their work is done. Portions of their pay can be retained for years until the full project — an airport expansion, for example — is done.

In one recent instance, money was withheld for more than two years, (Councilman Wayne) New said.

Another major problem, he said, is that contractors will issue “change orders” — asking for additional work — and force the subcontractor to negotiate the price after the project is done, when the subcontractors have little leverage. This legislation doesn’t prohibit change orders, but it requires new data collection that the city could use to prevent abuse.

Read Denverite’s full report here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyDecember 13, 20173min1330

What’s in a name? While some people might hear Stapleton and think of the old Denver airport or the burgeoning Denver neighborhood, others cringe at its origins.

Named after the five-term Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton starting in the 1920s — and member of the Ku Klux Klan who helped position Klan members throughout city government —  some Denverites have in the past unsuccessfully tried to spur a name change. During the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, the Klan had its hand in every pocket of state and city government, the Colorado Independent reports.

However, there’s promising movement for proponents of a name change. Signage was recently removed from the shopping center at East 29th Avenue and Quebec Street, though Forest City Stapleton Vice President Tom Gleason, the upscale infill neighborhood’s developer, downplayed any perceived significance, Denverite reports.

Community forums were also set up earlier this week to discuss a name change. They were hosted by Nita Mosby Tyler of the Equity Project, an expert in driving difficult conversations surrounding race and diversity. The meetings will “inform the next steps, but they won’t determine it,” according to Denverite.

The time might be right considering the national atmosphere and focus on removing symbols of our history with origins in racism. However, there are still residents on the other side of the discussion. Even the leaders behind the movement argue there are more important issues to tackle, as Denverite notes:

“Changing the name is more symbolic than substantive,” said Gregory Diggs, a leader in Rename St*pleton. “My personal position is that there’s a lot of more meaningful work that needs to be done on housing and programming and relationships and education than changing the name. But if people don’t want to change the name, how can that more substantive work be done?”

 


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 14, 20172min540

While much of Denver has been undergoing a facelift of sorts for some time, enjoying (or not enjoying) booming development and investment in new infrastructure, some southwest city neighborhoods feel left behind.

Denverite’s Andrew Kenney wrote last week about a stretch of Denver, largely constructed in the 1950s and 60s, that feel caught in limbo. They don’t have many of the amenities new subdivisions enjoy and have missed out on investment. However, they are ready to take funding improvements like new sidewalks into their own hands. In fact, Denver Councilman Jolon Clark and community leaders are spearheading a plan which would bring millions to the area.

As Clark discovered, a lot of the money pouring into projects around the city doesn’t actually come from the city.

It often comes from the districts — pseudo-governmental organizations organized as business improvement districts or general improvement districts that collect extra property taxes. They’ve multiplied in Denver lately. The largest have budgets approaching $1 million per year, and they’re using it to take out tens of millions in debt for everything from sidewalks to marketing.

Those unique pseudo-governmental organization aren’t so unique afterall. They’ve been created in other neighborhoods like Stapleton and Five Points, among others, Kenney reports.

Clark is working with the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association, which has already hired a consultant to help plan for a potential district. Kenney writes while the plan could bring millions to the neighborhood, it would also ask for about $60 per households and require a vote from residents to create a district.

Read Kenney’s full story here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoySeptember 15, 20173min1112

Per a new rule in Denver city government, City Council members and Mayor Michael Hancock must report all gifts received. And while the value of the gifts won’t jump off the page, it’s the details that make the report worth a read.

Denverite’s got the interesting scoop on the tally of the value of gifts to City Council and Hancock so far this year.

The highlights: Hancock is a steak man (obviously), and his report showed being taken out for dinner at “Ocean Prime the most, five times,” and “STK Denver three times,” Denverite’s Megan Arellano reports.

And, City Council member Rafael Espinoza far outpaced his colleagues, reporting gifts valued at $552,778. But as Espinoza explained to Arellano, it was part of a large donation to North High School.

It’s because Espinoza reported getting a $550,000 gift from Rhys Duggans, who is a part of the ownership group of Elitch Gardens.

The May 26 gift is reported as a “donation to the HUNI foundation to benefit North High School. Donated 10,000 single-day admission tickets. If all are sold value would be $550,000.”

Per the city’s ethics handbook, city officials, or immediate family members, cannot receive gifts if they are in a “position to take direct official action toward the giver and the giver has (or is about to have) a business, contract, or regulatory relationship with the City.”

The handbook details a long list of appropriate gifts, including those from other council members and “meals and event admissions (including parking), but no more than four may be accepted from the same giver in any calendar year, regardless of the value” and unsolicited gifts valued at $25 or less. Memberships or passes to the Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanical Gardens, Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Denver Zoo are also considered appropriate.

Read the full count of gifts to city officials halfway through 2017, and view Denverite’s handy chart detailing their value, here.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 1, 20173min355

Denverite’s Erica Meltzer reports that Denver residents once again won’t get to vote on a wide-ranging campaign-reform proposal that, among other features, would have introduced public funding for campaigns. When all the tallying was done at the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office, the ballot initiative and petition drive by the group Clean Slate Now had fallen just shy of the 4,726-signature threshold needed to make it onto the fall ballot.

The proposal had a lot of moving parts. Among which, it would have banned corporate and union donations to candidates in Denver municipal races; it would have lowered limits on individual contributions to candidates, and — in what was probably the most progressive provision — it would have set up an $8 million fund to allow for public financing of elections. Candidates who opted in would have had to agree to a certain number of public debates and accept an even lower limit on individual contributions.

As we’ve noted before, asking the public to foot some of the bill for political campaigns is a touchstone in some political circles — viewed as a last, best hope for curbing the influence of special interests on candidates and their campaigns. If the money comes from the public till, the reasoning goes, the candidates are less likely to be beholden to anyone in particular. And, ideally, office seekers also would spend less time dialing for dollars.

Of course, dinging the public for political speech doesn’t sit well with many who reside elsewhere on the political spectrum, particularly on the right. And it may affront the sensibilities of centrist voters, too, who may feel the last thing they want to do is be forced to pay for all those obnoxious campaign mailers that usually go straight to the recycle bin.

A similar proposal headed for last year’s municipal ballot was derailed by a court challenge. Perhaps next year?


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyAugust 22, 20174min467

In the progressive, environmentally conscious way it often does things, Denver is trying to make life a bit more convenient for electric car owners in the city.

Many of the 55 existing public places for charging electric vehicles in Denver aren’t especially accessible or convenient, and with that in mind city officials hope to influence a more strategic approach to placement of the next 300, Denverite reports.

Denver recently commissioned a study, funded by a grant from the Regional Air Quality Council, that noted that fast charging stations in dense areas would be most beneficial, and recommended requiring new multi-family home and commercial construction be built charging-station ready, and expanding fast charging stations along highways.

As Andrew Kinney over at Denverite reports:

The goal is to get ahead of surging electric vehicle sales, which rose by 60 percent worldwide in 2016.

It’s an especially important question because the Denver area is expected to get 300 new electric vehicle charging plugs through Electrify America over the next two and a half years, according to city staff. (That’s the $2 billion program Volkswagen has to fund because they cheated on emissions tests.) Denver doesn’t get to decide where those will go, but city officials will have some influence.

Mayor Michael Hancock recently promised to honor the Paris Climate Accord following the White House’s withdrawal. In a statement about the study, Hancock vowed Denver would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent and expand use of electric cars to improve air quality and fight climate change.

“Electric vehicles are an important component of Denver’s newly released Mobility Action Plan, and the market opportunities identified for charging infrastructure throughout Denver and Colorado shows consumers and businesses that choosing EVs is not just an environmentally-conscious choice, but an economical one,” he said.

By 2025, electric vehicles are expected to produce 84 percent fewer nitrogen oxides and 49 percent fewer greenhouse gases than new gasoline automobile meeting 2025 emissions standards, the study noted.