City Council President Jamie Torres is running unopposed in District 3. She hopes that means voters are “pretty satisfied” with her work
“We can’t get what we need by being quiet but we definitely do get what we need by being persistent and determined.”
Halting displacement. Increasing affordability. Job creation. Neighborhood investment and erasing inequalities.
Those were the main focuses of Councilmember Jamie Torres’ campaign when she ran for and won District 3 in 2019. This election year, the district is slightly different. Due to redistricting, it now includes Auraria, Valverde and West Colfax. And it looks a little different now with new developments having been completed, being created or being in the works
Though Torres is running unopposed, she said her focuses are still the same.
“Maybe this is a sign that folks are pretty satisfied with the work I’ve been doing and how I’ve been doing it and I take that pretty seriously,” Torres said. “I’m really proud of the last three and a half years…Every district is busy in its own way, but the things that are happening in my district are giant. They are huge developments. They are catalytic projects. They really do help define what the future of this district is going to look like.”
Torres grew up in Villa Park, a District 3 neighborhood, and first joined city government as an investigator for a police oversight group and later served on the board of the Denver Housing Authority. Before being elected, she was the director of the city’s Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs and the deputy director of the city’s agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships.
Looking back at the last three years, Torres said one of the major challenges in the beginning of her candidacy was the pandemic. District 3 is a predominantly Hispanic area and families of color were disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. In May 2020, Latinos made up 45.8% of all COVID-19 positive cases, while representing only 29.7% of Denver’s overall population. Torres said her district experienced a high number of cases and, when vaccines became available, they weren’t readily accessible in her area.
“We are home to essential workers and most of them did not stop working during the pandemic,” Torres said. “It showed what me and my predecessors in this office have always tried to reinforce to the city is that when you under invest in a community, you end up with severe disadvantages across the board.”
In response to the need for vaccines, specifically for non-white communities, Torres, along with State Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, District 1 City Councilmember Amanda Sandoval and former Denver Public Schools board member Angela Cobián launched drive-through clinics on the west and northside of Denver.
“We ended up doing 20 clinics and vaccinated 3,000 people ourselves,” Torres said. “This was our attempt to intervene and make sure folks had a vaccine available to them.”
There are also other moments she points to during the past three years, like assisting the community with the creation of the La Alma Lincoln Park Historic Cultural District, a project that was in the works for several years. The district was approved in 2021 and is the second historic cultural district in the city.
“Working with community to pass the La Alma Lincoln Park Historic Cultural District was a feat,” Torres said. “It was impressive. It was powerful and it was amazing to be able to do that with minimal opposition. That was testament to how well engagement was done over many years.”
On the policy side, Torres said some of the highlights include the new wage theft ordinance, which provides stronger protections for workers against theft and the ballot measure she co-sponsored regarding the Office of the Independent Monitor. The measure, which Denverites approved in 2021, switched the hiring power from the mayor’s office to the nine-person Citizen Oversight Board and City Council approval.
Torres said her biggest policy success has been advocating for accessory dwelling units in her district.
Torres said that effort started in 2019 with a working group focused on housing affordability and displacement. That same year, the West Denver Single Family Plus (WDSF+) ADU Pilot Program was launched, which focused on assisting low- to moderate-income West Denver residents with developing, designing, financing and constructing detached ADUs.
Torres said with that program assisting Westsiders, the only thing slowing the process was zoning. In May, Torres spearheaded blanket ADU rezoning for Villa Park, Barnum, and Barnum West and the proposal was later approved by council.
“Being able to rezone three neighborhoods… opens the door for brand new conversations about what folks can do on their properties,” Torres said.
Since Torres is running unopposed, she said she has time to work on her future projects, which includes finding new ways to provide food access to the district. She also wants to continue introducing herself to new District 3 residents or those who aren’t as plugged into politics.
Before the April 4 election, Torres is hoping to finalize a text amendment that would allow mobile home park residents to renovate or replace their existing units. Torres, along with Councilmembers Candi CdeBaca and Jolon Clark have been working on preserving mobile home parks in the city. But preserving the parks in Denver is a bit difficult considering they essentially aren’t allowed according to the zoning code.
Also coming to the district will be a new library and recreation center, plus a ton of development with projects such as the Denver Housing Authority’s redevelopment of Sun Valley and proposed developments around Empower Field at Mile High.
Torres said the neighborhood investments of a library and rec center, along with ensuring all new developments have affordable options to keep current residents in the district, are just some of the ways she intends to continue being a voice for a district that historically has not been the city’s concern.
“It’s about constantly cheerleading and championing the things that my residents are talking about, that my community leaders are talking about in every location that I can,” Torres said. “That’s the responsibility that I have to best represent District 3 is to be constantly putting that foot forward. We can’t get what we need by being quiet but we definitely do get what we need by being persistent and determined.”