District 9 Denver City Council race: Who’s running and what you need to know
One newcomer, a past candidate and an incumbent are hoping to get the North Denver seat.
District 9 covers North Denver and experienced the most change during the redistricting process. The current neighborhoods in the area are a portion of City Park, Clayton, Cole, Elyria-Swansea, Five Points, Globeville, Skyland, Whittier. The district gained North Park Hill and South Park Hill but it lost Auraria, Central Businesses District, City Park West, Union Station and the other portion of City Park.
A newcomer, a previous council candidate and an incumbent are running for the District 9 seat. Here’s who’s running, in the order you’ll see them on the ballot:
Incumbent Candi CdeBaca
CdeBaca grew up in Swansea and is the first queer Latina and Democratic Socialist to sit on the dais.
Prior to becoming a city councilmember she was a social worker and community activist. She co-founded the GES Community Land Trust, now called Tierra Colectiva, and Project VOYCE, a youth empowerment organization. She also headed the Cross Community Coalition, a group that strongly opposed the Interstate 70 expansion.
CdeBaca is focused on creating more “deeply affordable” housing, preserving that housing and ensuring community members get a say in new developments. Deeply affordable housing focuses on those making 30% to 50% of the area median income. For a family of three, 30% AMI is $31,650.
“When I educate people about what AMI is and how it fluctuates from year to year as we grow and gentrify on a larger scale, it’s easier for people to recognize that affordability is always reliant on the unaffordable units we’re creating,” CdeBaca said.
Atlas is a Five Points resident who has been a consistent face in Colorado politics having worked with State Sen. James Coleman as a legislative aide, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet as a community liaison and most recently he served as the Senior Advisor on Community-Based Initiatives and Special Projects in the mayor’s office.
On the city level, Atlas is the founder and chief editor of the Five Points Atlas, a hyperlocal newspaper, he helped create Metro DEEP, a nonprofit geared toward improving the economic status of Black Denverites and he’s the director of the Montbello Building Wealth Center.
Building wealth in minority communities is Atlas’ main focal point. He wants to empower small businesses, especially Black-owned businesses on the Welton Street corridor. Atlas is also focused on assisting those who are experiencing homelessness with mental and medical care.
“If we value small businesses and value businesses run by people of color, we have to move differently,” Atlas said. “We can’t treat the big-box businesses the same way we treat the small businesses.”
Watson was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and moved to Whittier in 1997. Watson currently serves on the Housing Stability Strategic Advisors board. He’s also the board chair of the Denver Park Trust and previously served as a co-chair on the Denver Game Plan for a Healthy City task force, which created a 20-year plan for the city’s parks and recreation system.
Watson previously ran twice for council. Once in 2007 but he lost to Carla Madison and again in 2011, but he dropped out of the race due to a cancer diagnosis.
Watson is focused on housing, healthy living and public safety. With healthy living, Watson wants to increase green space and more funding for healthcare providers. In terms of public safety, Watson said ensuring Denver Police have the assets they need to stop crime, especially property crime, is vital. On the other side of public safety, Watson said more funding needs to be provided for Vision Zero and infrastructure changes that would allow Denverites to ride, walk and scoot safely.
With housing, Watson said slow permitting times are delaying affordable housing and making it more expensive. Permitting times are also delaying the construction of accessory dwelling units.
“I think this is the time for us to have real progress on these big issues,” Watson said.
What’s going on in the district?
Land use is the most talked about issue in District 9, especially when it comes to housing, development-type, small businesses and land ownership.
Several affordable housing projects are in the works in two areas in desperate need, in Globeville and Five Points. The latter will see the completion of Charity House, a 36-unit affordable housing complex available only to the city’s poorest residents, including people who have experienced homelessness or were formerly incarcerated. The development will be run by the Community Outreach Service Center, which focuses on providing support for those reentering society.
In Globeville, 4995 Washington will be a new mixed-use site in partnership with Denver’s Department of Housing Stability and Globeville Redevelopment Partners, a group consisting of Evergreen Real Estate Group, Rocky Mountain Communities, and the GES Coalition. There will be at least 170 income restricted units for those making 30% to 80% of the area median income.
The site may also be the home to the new Globeville library branch, a long-awaited community need.
Possible developments may also include the Park Hill Golf Course. The Golf Course lies on the border of District 8 and 9 but constituents in North Park Hill and South Park Hill are still concerned with the space’s outcome.
The land was purchased by Westside Investment Partners for $24 million in 2019 but a conservation easement blocks development on the site. Whether the easement should be lifted is a topic of contention. With the site sitting in a historically Black community and that community being one of the last Black neighborhoods in the city, some are pushing back on development plans that will remove a large portion of the green space and could possibly cause displacement.
On the other side, the developer has promised to keep some open space, have affordable units and ultimately provide some investment in an underinvested part of the city.
The decision on what to do with the site will be up to voters in April.
The Park Hill Golf Course debate also centers around food access, which is another issue in the District. Westside has said a grocer may anchor the site, providing a much-needed grocery store to the area.
In Globeville, a grocery is in the works at the base of the Viña Apartments.
Small businesses are also a major topic. Many neighborhoods of the district are predominantly minority communities and increasing assistance to Black and brown business owners to keep them afloat has been an issue all the candidates have touched on.
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