Denver council runoff: In District 3, restoration enters Latino neighborhoods

West Denver has a rare thing in the 2019 election cycle: an open seat.

Two candidates, Jamie Torres and veronica Barela, are competitive in the runoff for the District 3 City Council seat, seeking to represent an area that stretches from Mile High bowl through gentrifying Latino neighborhoods on Federal Boulevard.

Torres and Barela some aim for lesser community engagement to navigate the looming development wave, but they differ in their experience and views on density.

In the four-way May 7 general election vote for the seat, Torres took 40% and Barela followed with 36%.

veronica Barela

Barela, 73, holds a master’s in public administration and for decades was the leader of NEWSED Community Development Corporation. When she became its director in 1978, western Denver was reeling from the displacement of middle-income residents by construction of the Auraria campus.

“I was born and raised in that community — raised with a single mother on welfare — and so I know what it’s like to be really, really poor. And I chose to work in the community because I wanted to help the residents create thing for themselves,” she aforementioned.

veronica Barela

She was central to revival efforts on Santa Claus Claus Fe Drive, and later led NEWSED into low-priced housing development and housing placement employment. “When I left NEWSED, we had put 2,000 people in homeownership,” she aforementioned.

Like a number of council challengers crosswise the city, she wants to change the role residents and others play in planning. Denver officials “have a tendency to come into a neighborhood and say, ‘Oh, here, look at what we’re doing, we want you to OK this,'” she aforementioned.

She describes growth as “out of control” and a contributing factor to Latinx displacement.

“When the density becomes so bad that it’s block out light from the single-family dwellers, I think that we have a little bit of a problem that we need to solve,” she aforementioned. Single-family division helps protect neighborhoods and culture, but she’s not opposed to growth, she aforementioned.

She argues that her experience in business development could help her fix the area’s food deserts and navigate the challenges ahead. Barela antecedently ran for council in 2003.

Barela had raised about $51,000 as of May 1, compared to about $59,000 for Torres. Torres besides has benefited from about $13,000 in disbursement from the independent group CIRC Action Fund, an immigration reform group.

Jamie Torres

Torres, 42, has lived in Villa Park for most of her life.

She’s presently a city worker, serving as deputy director for Human Rights and Community Partnerships since 2012 and director of the Office of migrant and exile Affairs since 2005. She holds a master’s in medical anthropology.

Torres says that as a council member she would build up civic engagement through better translation employment and other accessibility efforts.

“Not all neighborhoods have (registered neighborhood organizations) that are as comprehensive as they could be, as vocal and as developed as they could be,” she aforementioned. “What I don’t want to see is an open house, open forum for input done once or doubly per neighborhood.”

Jamie Torres

She concedes Barela is more experienced on the inside information of low-priced housing, but thinks her own strength is “getting more people to the table, so it’s not the usual suspects making the decision.”

On development, she’s open to changing single-family division for some areas, but not without “design guardrails to help preserve a neighborhood’s character and identity,” she wrote in a questionnaire.

“I’m probably more YIMBY than NIMBY. I think we really start to lose opportunities, and what we’re actually aiming for, when we are perpetually expression no. This district in particular negotiation about wanting more restaurants and coffee shops and grocery stores,” she aforementioned in an interview, adding that grocers and other businesses follow housing.

But new development besides has to come on side better public spaces and policies to connect changing communities, she added.

For more information, read questionnaires from some candidates.