Grow­ing pains per­sonal

Han­cock says run­away un­af­ford­abil­ity of hous­ing in Den­ver “cuts me to the core”

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Jon Mur­ray He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Mayor Michael Han­cock has fo­cused in sev­eral speeches on the need to ad­dress the down­sides of Den­ver’s re­cent pop­u­la­tion boom and devel­op­ment surge. It’s a peren­nial, tough-to-ad­dress is­sue.

But on Mon­day, his ap­peals — on deal­ing with clogged traf­fic, ad­dress­ing threats to the en­vi­ron­ment and, most of all, the run­away un­af­ford­abil­ity of much of the city — ap­peared more per­sonal dur­ing his State of the City ad­dress. Han­cock ref­er­enced his sis­ter Car­lyne’s re­cent move back to Den­ver, only to find that “hous­ing prices were out of her reach.”

“It cuts me to the core as I wit­ness my friends and fam­ily mem­bers get priced out of their homes, and en­tire mi­nor­ity neigh­bor­hoods strug­gle just to get by,” Han­cock said in the speech.

About the devel­op­ment that has ren­dered some blocks un­rec­og­niz­able to long­time res­i­dents, he said: “Like you, I find the pace shock­ing.”

Han­cock struck op­ti­mistic tones, re­count­ing gains on a num­ber of fronts while out­lin­ing new ini­tia­tives aimed at help­ing more fam­i­lies af­ford to stay in Den­ver. One plan of un­de­ter­mined cost would sub­si­dize the rent gaps for 400 va­cant mar­ket-rate apart­ments to en­able low- and moder­ate-in­come fam­i­lies to live in them. That is part of early plans for the city’s 10-year, $150 mil­lion hous­ing fund, cre­ated by the City Coun­cil last year.

“We are pulling ev­ery lever we can to of­fer more af­ford­able op­tions to our peo­ple,” Han­cock said, cit­ing the early at­tain­ment of pre­vi­ously an­nounced ini­tia­tive to help build or cre--

ate 3,000 af­ford­able homes.

Other new an­nounce­ments Mon­day were aimed at un­clog­ging traf­fic with a $2 bil­lion, 12-year mo­bil­ity plan — re­ported by The Den­ver Post be­fore the speech — and get­ting the city on a path to­ward us­ing 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy for its power gen­er­a­tion. An­other ini­tia­tive would raise an es­ti­mated $200,000 a year for a Na­tional Western Cen­ter com­mu­nity investment fund to help north­ern neigh­bor­hoods af­fected by the 10year project to ex­pand and re­make the stock show cam­pus.

“This city will show how devel­op­ment can serve our needs, not vic­tim­ize us,” the mayor said be­fore a packed gym at Park Hill’s Hi­awatha Davis Jr. Re­cre­ation Cen­ter. “And how change can hap­pen the Den­ver way, so that we re­main connected to our past, to our neigh­bor­hoods and to one an­other. The change we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing must re­flect the heart and pas­sion of our city and her peo­ple.

“This is not an easy task. But time and again, Den­ver has stepped up and turned our chal­lenges into op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

To seize on some of those, he said his 2018 bud­get pro­posal would re­flect in­creased spend­ing on hous­ing, anti-dis­place­ment and trans­porta­tion ini­tia­tives, though de­tails are still short.

Han­cock capped off his nearly 40-minute speech by get­ting po­lit­i­cal — de­fend­ing lib­eral poli­cies and nod­ding to, if not nam­ing, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s administration. The mayor ex­pressed worry about how Den­ver res­i­dents would be af­fected by Repub­li­cans’ at­tempts to dis­man­tle the Af­ford­able Care Act and dep­u­tize cities to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws.

“They say cities and pro­gres­sive ideas don’t work. Well, in Den­ver they do,” Han­cock said. “If 2.3 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment, in­clu­sive poli­cies and a drive for eco­nomic eq­uity are their idea of what doesn’t work, then we’re not buy­ing what they’re sell­ing.”

The mayor, who has two years left in his sec­ond term and is con­sid­er­ing a run for a third, found a mostly friendly, re­cep­tive au­di­ence ready to ap­plaud and cheer, save for a clutch of pro­test­ers against the In­ter­state 70 ex­pan­sion project. Many stayed for an out­door cook­out af­ter the speech.

But in one mo­ment early in the speech, Han­cock paused af­ter the crowd greeted with si­lence his dec­la­ra­tion that the state of the city was strong.

“I said, the state of our city is in­deed strong,” he re­peated — and that time he re­ceived rap­tur­ous ap­plause.

Here is what Han­cock an­nounced

Some de­tails about Han­cock’s new ini­tia­tives re­main to be an­swered in com­ing months — in­clud­ing how his administration will fill an es­ti­mated $350 mil­lion gap in the $2 bil­lion Mo­bil­ity Ac­tion Plan he an­nounced. Of­fi­cials plan to boost the an­nual trans­porta­tion bud­get from roughly $75 mil­lion to $100 mil­lion, tap hun­dreds of mil­lions from this year’s $900 bil­lion bond pack­age and scour lo­cal, state and fed­eral fund­ing sources for more.

Han­cock says he doesn’t want to raise prop­erty taxes, but other op­tions — such as higher park­ing fees down­town — are on the ta- ble.

By 2030, the mo­bil­ity plan aims to ex­pand tran­sit op­tions and bik­ing and pedes­trian ac­cess across the city to get more com­muters who drive alone out of their cars. It also aims to elim­i­nate traf­fic-re­lated deaths by that year — an ini­tia­tive called “Vi­sion Zero” — and to ad­dress Den­ver’s se­ri­ous back­log of street and bridge re­pairs.

“We are ex­cited to see the mayor’s plan to el­e­vate the De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion to a stand-alone de­part­ment, and to in­vest a sig­nif­i­cant amount of fund­ing in trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing side­walks and bike lanes, over the next 12 years,” said Jill Lo­can­tore, the as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of pedes­trian ad­vo­cacy group WalkDen­ver. “These ac­tions are crit­i­cal to im­prov­ing the safety of Den­ver’s streets and pro­vid­ing real mo­bil­ity op­tions for Den­ver res­i­dents.”

Han­cock’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pledges built on a com­mit­ment he made last month af­ter the U.S. an­nounced it was with­draw­ing from Paris cli­mate agree­ment.

“We have fought too hard to es­tab­lish Den­ver as an en­vi­ron­men­tal and sus­tain­abil­ity leader,” Han­cock said. “If Washington won’t stand by the Clean Power Plan or Paris cli­mate ac­cord, we will. We will re­duce our car­bon foot­print and find a way to make Den­ver 100 per­cent re­new­able — very soon.”

Han­cock didn’t spec­ify a tar­get date for con­vert­ing Den­ver’s power sources to re­new­able en­ergy (other cities, in­clud­ing Boul­der, have cho­sen 2030), say­ing in an in­ter­view that it was too soon to know what time frame is re­al­is­tic to tran­si­tion away from fos­sil fu­els.

But the Sierra Club’s Colorado chap­ter di­rec­tor Jim Alexee called Han­cock’s state­ment “a big step for­ward for Den­ver and Colorado.”

Among Han­cock’s other an­nounce­ments:

•The city plans to re­store the orig­i­nal Mount Mor­ri­son Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps camp, which housed work crews that built the Red Rocks Am­phithe­atre in the 1930s. Work­ing with Den­ver preser­va­tion group His­toriCorps, the project will of­fer skills train­ing to veter­ans’ groups and the home­less so they can ren­o­vate the lodges; the ren­o­vated area will be avail­able for ac­tiv­i­ties, week­end get­aways, and week­end camps and pro­grams for youth.

•A mo­bil­ity pi­lot project will pro­vide 1,500 free bus passes to high school stu­dents for the sum­mer. Four rec cen­ters — Hi­awatha Davis, Mont­bello, La Alma and St. Charles — will of­fer week-long bi­cy­cle safety classes to mid­dle school stu­dents as part of a DaVita part­ner­ship that also will pro­vide 100 moun­tain bikes and hel­mets for kids.

•Sim­i­lar to the My Den­ver Card pro­gram for youth, the new “My Den­ver Prime” pro­gram will pro­vide dis­counted ac­cess to re­cre­ation cen­ters for res­i­dents age 60 and older.

Mayor Michael Han­cock makes his State of the City ad­dress in the gym­na­sium at the Hi­awatha Davis Jr. Re­cre­ation Cen­ter on Mon­day. Han­cock made a ref­er­ence to his sis­ter’s re­cent move back to Den­ver, only to find that “hous­ing prices were out of her reach.” As for the city’s boom­ing devel­op­ment, “I find the pace shock­ing.”

Welling­ton Webb, a for­mer Den­ver mayor, third from right, and for­mer NBA star Chauncey Billups, right, stand at at­ten­tion be­fore Mayor Michael Han­cock’s State of the City ad­dress Mon­day in Den­ver.

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