Socialists and Republicans agree on something: both oppose developing the Park Hill Golf Course

Habitat for Humanity, the Denver Streets Partnership and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association say vote yes.
4 min. read
The Park Hill Golf Course. June 4, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Not every day do the Denver Republican Party and the Denver Democratic Socialists of America find themselves on the same side of an electoral fight.

But that's what the debate  over Referred Question 2O, that would allow Westside Investment Partners to turn the former Park Hill Golf Course site into a mixed-use development with affordable and market-rate housing, retail and park space, has led to.

The issue has created mincemeat out of traditional political divides, demonstrating that sometimes things are way more complicated than progressive, liberal and conservative -- even in a country where left and right clearly stake opposing claims.

"We are aware of the irony of the Denver Republican Party supporting the environmental concept of open space," wrote Roger B. Rowland, chair of the Denver Republican Party, in a statement. "The Denver Republican Party believes the voters have been very clear on the preservation of open space."

How so?

"In 2021 there were two different referendums that Denver voters decisively decided to preserve the Park Hill open space conservation easement," Rowland wrote. "The Hancock administration has continued to pursue the development of the Park Hill open space despite the voter statement in support of the open space."

Neither of the two measures directly addressed the golf course, but both were very much about its future.

The first, 301, filed by opponents of the development, gave Denver voters the power to decide whether city-owned conservation easements should be lifted. The second, 302, backed by Westside, would have blocked 301, had it passed.

"2O is another attempt to end run the preservation of open space to the benefit of a speculative development under the guise of affordable housing," Rowland wrote. "The Hancock administration has an abysmal track record providing affordable housing. Continued aggressive over development by the Hancock administration has caused skyrocketing taxes and increase of the cost of living in Denver."

Here's what a Democratic Socialists of America spokesperson said about the group's opposition.

"From a socialist perspective, it seems kind of naïve and silly that people are like, 'The market got us into this crisis, and by God, the market's gonna get us back out of it,'" said DSA spokesperson Mary Imgrund.

The 25% of income-restricted housing Westside pledges isn't affordable enough for everybody who needs it, according to the DSA. Instead, the group wants to see publicly funded housing.

Imgrund said we've all seen the effects of a "religious take" on "depending on the market."

"We reviewed it, and it just seems like this is not going to solve our housing crisis," Imgrund said. "And it'll be a big corporate handout, too."

Here's what the Yes on 2O campaign says about the endorsements.

"Every poll in Denver consistently shows that affordable housing and homelessness are the two top issues today," said spokesperson William Rigler. "These two endorsements are out of touch with the times and every resident in Denver who needs affordable housing."

The campaign pointed toward other groups that have endorsed development at the golf course, including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Denver Streets Partnership, and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver and the Urban Land Conservancy.

"After a long history of redlining and disinvestment, these communities have a clear need for affordable housing, economic opportunities, and urban amenities including neighborhood-serving retail, namely a grocery store, and accessible parks and open space," noted the Denver Streets Partnership in a statement. "The debate is not which of these needs is most important, but rather what is the best role of the former Park Hill Golf Course in helping meet those needs."

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