Council President Pro Tem Amanda Sandoval is running again for the District 1 seat to continue changing zoning laws
Incumbent Sandoval is up against Ava Truckey for the Northwest Denver district.
Council President Pro Tem Amanda Sandoval is into two major things: preserving neighborhoods and zoning laws. She admits zoning may not be the “sexiest” topic, but she accepts the zoning geek moniker with pride.
Sandoval’s looking to keep pushing both topics as she seeks reelection in District 1, which encompasses northwest Denver, against Ava Truckey.
She grew up on the Northside graduating from North High School and working at her family’s restaurant.
She first started working with City Council in 2012 as an aide to former District 9 Councilmember Judy Montero. Before being elected, Sandoval was the legislative liaison and outreach program coordinator for the Denver Fire Department. She also worked under her predecessor Councilmember Rafael Espinoza, who also focused on land-use and zoning codes.
Sandoval said part of the reason she’s immersed herself in learning about Denver’s codes is because zoning laws aren’t a known thing in communities of color and, particularly in the Northside. Not having that knowledge has led to “bad forms of redevelopment or developers taking advantage of our neighborhoods,” she said.
Sandoval said her constituents know she’s “well-versed” in the language and can ultimately “hold the developer community accountable.”
The solutions needed to meet Denver’s housing supply issues and cost aren’t possible with the current zoning law, she added.
“The zoning code hasn’t been updated since 1923… and it was based on redlining and racism,” Sandoval said. “And think about what happened in 1923…yet we don’t have our rules updated. Then, [during] these planning processes you hear, ‘Oh, it matches Blueprint Denver, it matches our sustainability plan.’ But then we have these antiquated rules that don’t actually allow us to fulfill these plans.”
One of the plans Sandoval has worked to fulfill is the usage of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which Blueprint Denver, the city’s 20-year plan, says could help with growth, gentrification and displacement throughout the city by allowing property owners to collect additional income through rent.
But ADUs weren’t allowed in many areas across the city, so if homeowners were interested, they’d have to apply for a zoning change. That slowed down the building process and made it more expensive.
Sandoval was the first council member to push for neighborhood rezoning for ADUs, starting with Chaffee Park, and so far, she has rezoned almost 75% of her district. She said she also suggested that Community Planning and Development start-up a task force to work on streamlining the process of building an ADU.
“Because gentrification has been so rapid in Northwest Denver, I want to make sure that my community, who’s been there for a long time like I have, has the opportunity, if they want to, to build an accessory dwelling unit,” Sandoval said. “In case they want to age in place or they want their mom to live there or maybe they need a little bit of extra money because Denver has become so expensive.”
Sandoval said she’s extremely proud of the progress she’s made with ADUs, but she’s also points to the “Active Centers and Corridors Design Overlay” she helped create and place on Tennyson Street between 38th and 46th Avenues in Berkeley as a success. The overlay works with the existing zoning and requires new developments to include retail on the first floor.
It’s goal is to allow growth while preserving the neighborhood’s character.
Sandoval has also worked on neighborhood and cultural preservation.
Sandoval is currently working on turning a section of West Colfax into a Jewish Historic Cultural District, though that area won’t be in District 1 come June due to redistricting. One promise Sandoval made before entering office was officially getting the name of Columbus Park in the Sunnyside neighborhood changed to La Raza Park. Renaming the Northside community staple that has been the epicenter of activism, history, riots, summer solstice celebrations and community had been in the works for 50 years.
The park was officially renamed in December 2020 and a new marker was revealed in July 2021. Now, Sandoval is working on making the park a historic landmark.
“We were able to do that in the midst of a pandemic,” Sandoval said. “Constituent services and quality of life is what makes up our daily work, and that matters to people. Your municipal government is where the rubber hits the road.”
Sandoval said being elected as President Pro Tem on council and starting drive-through vaccine clinics with Councilpresident Jamie Torres, State Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and former Denver Public Schools board member Angela Cobián are big highlights of her current term.
If reelected, Sandoval said she has a few more updates she wants to work on, starting with the Civil Service Commission, which was created in 1904.
The Commission is an independent agency governed by the City Charter who reviews the applications for the Fire and Police departments.
Sandoval said residents in her district have been able to pass the testing portion of police and fire exams but not the civil service evaluation. Many of those constituents were people of color, Sandoval said.
“I want to look at what that evaluation is and when was the last time it was updated and can we modernize it,” Sandoval said.
She also wants to work on increasing the amount of safer routes to schools, beef up recycling requirements for construction sites and explore term limits for the mayoral and city council positions.
“I just want to look at that research…and would it work better to align [limits] with other offices such as our state senator and our governor,” Sandoval said
Sandoval said if she’s reelected, the district would have a consistent council member looking to change antiquated policies that are slowing down needed improvements.
“A lot of time bureaucrats will say, ‘Oh that’s been that way forever but that doesn’t mean it should still be that way.’ That doesn’t mean it’s working for the 2023 landscape,” Sandoval said. “We have some of these old antiquated laws based in racism, rooted in racism, and discrimination, inequities and if I were to be reelected I want to continue modernizing them.”