During a series of community conversations held across Colorado last year to identify top policy priorities for our elected officials, a group of Latinos in Glenwood Springs prioritized home ownership for our workforce, not simply outside inventors, as among their top policy issues.
Current estimates show a 2,000-unit gap of unmet demand for housing in Glenwood Springs. Voces Unidas Action Fund knows we must begin to narrow that gap, and urges a “No” vote on Issue B in the upcoming special election so that the annexation of 480 Donegan property in West Glenwood can proceed.
And regardless of where you stand on Issue B, we believe the city and our community must do a better job of engaging the city’s Latino residents and avoiding insensitive and racially-charged statements in our public discourse moving forward.
Annexation of 480 Donegan will allow developers to move forward under city regulations and, importantly, will require additional approvals that involve public input for a project that promises a neighborhood of 300 market-rate rental and affordable units, open space, and transportation enhancements, including for pedestrians and bikes. It can also be a driver for redevelopment of the Glenwood Mall property with new grocery and retail stores.
This plan -- and the process that delivered it -- is not perfect. But on balance, developers have made multiple improvements and concessions during the city planning process to help ensure it benefits the community overall. Developers made numerous improvements requested by Glenwood’s Planning and Zoning Commission prior to submitting their current land-use application, including fewer units (a previous plan called for 400), a new fire station and money for a community-evacuation plan.
But the 480 Donegan project also demonstrates the need for the city and developers to do a better job with community engagement - particularly our Latino community - on this and future projects.
Latinos have been absent from these discussions since the beginning, which shows in the type of “affordable housing” it includes.
In the development of this project, there has been ample discussion of the need to provide housing that is within financial reach of our teachers and first responders, which is true. But when we design affordable housing for those in professions where Latinos are underrepresented, we are excluding Latinos from initiatives aimed at addressing the cost of housing.
By default, Latinos are almost entirely pushed to mobile-home parks on the outskirts of town -- or out of town. We need housing solutions that keep Latinos in the community.
To truly address the ongoing challenge of housing affordability in Glenwood Springs, we also need to encourage projects that provide options that are affordable for our workforce -- the laborers and service-industry workers who keep our businesses and community running.
And though opponents of this project deserve credit for the community-organizing efforts that showed elected officials and community leaders that they had come up short on public engagement on 480 Donegan, they ignored Latinos in their "grassroots" organizing and — in a few instances — sought to derail the project with racially charged statements.
I know the group is diverse in its thinking and the statements of a few people shouldn’t taint all members of the Yes on B coalition, but we cannot ignore the undertones and inferences of comments like "we don't want renters" or "those people" in our communities. Dog-whistling statements are not healthy in our public discourse and must be called out when they permeate otherwise thoughtful community-engagement efforts.
The Yes on B supporters have brought up several legitimate points in this process on how the project can be improved. The city and the developer should commit to more discussions in those areas, but with Latinos at the table this time -- something that has been sorely missing from all sides.
Alex Sánchez is the president and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund, two Latino-created, Latino-led advocacy organizations working in Summit, Lake, Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties.