Q&A with Denver City Council At-Large candidate Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez

Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez

State Representative
BA Psychology, CSU
Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez is a 3rd-generation North High School graduate and State Representative.

Briefly describe the single most urgent issue facing the city of Denver and how it should be addressed.
Housing is the most pressing issue facing our city today, and also the starting place to solving many of our other related challenges. When people experiencing homelessness are offered housing and services; they keep housing and stay in it; they spend less time in shelters, emergency rooms, and city detox facilities; and they are less likely to get caught up in the criminal legal system. Dense housing reduces our city’s climate impact, and affordable housing allows teachers to live in the neighborhoods where they teach. For families to put down generational roots in our city, we must first tackle our affordable housing crisis.
What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?
Denver should pursue three concurrent strategies to address our city’s affordable housing crisis: strengthen protections for renters like funding eviction defense and considering a citywide rent stabilization policy, reforming land use and permitting to rezone for ADUs and increase supply, and increasing supports like rehousing response and wraparound services for people in need.
Do you support redevelopment at the Park Hill golf course property? Why or why not?
Our city needs more affordable housing to support our working families and keep people in their communities. As a Denver city councilmember, I will work to increase the number of units set aside at affordable AMI levels in future projects like the Park Hill golf course redevelopment.
What should Denver leaders do to revitalize downtown Denver?
Growing up, I worked at our family flower shop, restaurant and various other small businesses in North Denver. I know the challenges that small business owners face, and those have only increased as our downtown core has become increasingly expensive and inaccessible for the local businesses that are the core of our city’s vibrant economy. As your next Denver councilperson at-large, I would increase options and support for small businesses to occupy key storefronts downtown, infusing our city’s busiest commercial area with local energy and culture.
What is Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?
We know what makes communities unsafe: a mixture of root causes like housing instability, a lack of access to behavioral health treatment, unemployment and exploitative jobs, and access to guns. I will tackle community safety at the root level with targeted investments to keep people housed, increase access to behavioral health services, secure good jobs that pay a living wage, and reduce gun violence.
Should neighborhoods help absorb population growth through permissive zoning, or do you favor protections for single-family neighborhoods?
Although each neighborhood has unique needs, our city as a whole is experiencing an acute lack of affordable housing. Denverites should have the choice to add an accessory dwelling unit to their property, or to put multiple units on one lot instead of just one. This should be done responsibly, ensuring neighborhoods and communities are not disrupted and people are not displaced. Adding more units responsibly and with intention can increase our housing supply and reduce costs.
Should the city’s policy of sweeping homeless encampments continue unchanged? Why or why not?
There are three primary drivers of housing instability and homelessness: housing costs, lack of affordable wages, and evictions. Until we address these root causes, the practice of homeless sweeps only serves to move people from street corner to another. This is not only cruel but ineffective. My focus will be on addressing the root causes of homelessness by increasing our supply of affordable housing, supporting workforce development and pipelines to good-paying jobs, and strengthening protections for renters to prevent cycles of eviction and housing instability.
Should Denver change its snow plowing policy? Why or why not.
What plowing policy? There are parts of our city that do not see plows for days after a snowstorm, by which time we have ice packed onto our streets and sidewalks, making travel unsafe and inaccessible for many. This is a continuation of our city’s chronic disinvestment in communities of color and areas where working people live. We don’t have transit, we don’t have sidewalks, we don’t have clean air. Sometimes, we don’t have access to a grocery store. On City Council, I’ll work to rectify this chronic disparity of resource allocation.
What’s your vision for Denver in 20 years, and what would you do to help the city get there?
Denver must become a city where working people can put down generational roots. We get there with bold policies to address our two most pressing issues: an affordable housing crisis and a desperate need to address the root causes of crime. I have the experience and track record of delivering on these two priorities at the State Legislature, and I’ll continue to do the same on Denver City Council.
How better can city officials protect Denver’s environment — air quality, water supply, ground contamination? And should the city take a more active role in transit?
At the State Legislature, I’ve run numerous policies to hold corporate polluters accountable, establishing a statewide framework for regulating corporations that spew deadly air toxins into areas like North Denver. Similarly, we must make the necessary investments to create a thriving public transportation system that provides regular and consistent transit options, reducing our dependency on cars and providing equitable, affordable, safe, and clean transit options in every corner of the city.

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