Q&A with Denver City Council At-Large candidate Will Chan

Will Chan

City administrator
George Washington High School, Colgate University (BA), University of Denver (MA)
Public servant of nearly 20 years: labor organizer, expanded immigration services in libraries, city administrator in economic mobility for City and County of Denver

Briefly describe the single most urgent issue facing the city of Denver and how it should be addressed.
As a Denver-born first-generation American, I worry that the Denver of today does not afford the same opportunities for upward mobility that my immigrant parents used to lift themselves out of poverty. Denver has experienced rapid growth over the past few years and we have significant work ahead to prepare Denver for the future and protect families who are struggling to make ends meet. We need creative problem-solving to invest in housing availability, a next-generation workforce, critical physical infrastructure, and a revitalized system of social services that reduces poverty and improves the path to self-sufficiency.
What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?
Denver residents need abundant housing options to reflect their needs, lifestyles, and income levels. We can address housing scarcity through zoning reforms to enable thoughtful density, such as eliminating parking minimums and allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) city-wide. In addition, many multifamily properties are held by massive corporations that rely on software to maximize profits by keeping units vacant. The city must use its power to rebalance the market and make more housing units available for Denverites, up to and including a potential vacancy tax. I will also work to improve the construction permitting process, which can be unreasonably slow and confusing, to expand our supply of both affordable and market-rate housing.
Do you support redevelopment at the Park Hill golf course property? Why or why not?
I support redeveloping the Park Hill golf course property because the plan being presented to voters addresses gaps in food security, provides critical housing availability, and creates one of the city’s largest parks. The proposal was thoughtfully constructed with input from constituents across the city and in this community. However, it is not perfect, and I am concerned about displacement of both families and small businesses. If Denver voters choose to remove the conservation easement and allow the development, I will hold both the developer and the City accountable to keep their promises to Park Hill neighbors.
What should Denver leaders do to revitalize downtown Denver?
In the post-pandemic economy, Denver seems to have a great deal of unused commercial real estate. Central downtown needs to adapt and grow into a more complete neighborhood with more housing (including adaptive reuse of some commercial buildings), new business developments, city facilities, infrastructure, and entertainment options. We need to make it easier for commuters, families and visitors to navigate to downtown Denver by improving safe, inexpensive, and reliable public transit, opening up more childcare centers, and supporting local businesses to create a sense of place unique to Denver.
What is Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?
Not every problem needs a cop. We rely too heavily on our police in Denver, and I believe we can more thoughtfully address issues linked to a weak safety net and systemic underinvestment of resources. Building on the successful STAR program, we can expand alternative interventions and address the root causes behind why crime is occurring in both the short and long term. Using community resources and direct service professionals to address mental health, substance misuse, and housing needs will directly strengthen our public safety net while also reducing crime and promoting prosperity across the city.
Should neighborhoods help absorb population growth through permissive zoning, or do you favor protections for single-family neighborhoods?
I am proud to be a Denverite and I love our city’s history and its modern-day vibrancy. To preserve our values and urban identity, we must keep growing in a way that maintains strong, healthy, resilient neighborhoods. We should be intentional in encouraging growth that accommodates everyone in our city at all stages of their lives. To achieve these goals, we need to evaluate and modernize our zoning code and practices to enable gentle density, address the “missing middle,” and diversify our housing options. In this way, we can build distinctive, attractive neighborhoods which protect longtime Denverites and support newcomers.
Should the city’s policy of sweeping homeless encampments continue unchanged? Why or why not?
Homelessness is a complex problem and I wish there was a single solution. People are unhoused for a variety of reasons and sweeps as they exist today are not effective. Instead, they ignore the root issues and move our unhoused residents from one neighborhood to the next. I will work to include case management in the city’s approach to addressing encampments, while also encouraging a housing-first model that involves wraparound services. We need to tackle homelessness in a holistic manner, delivering short- and long-term solutions throughout our entire public services ecosystem.
Should Denver change its snow plowing policy? Why or why not.
Denver’s current snow plowing policy is well-intentioned but outdated, based historically on air particulates and runoff. We need to reevaluate our climate and air pollution data, rely on modern technologies to determine street usage needs, and revise our approach. One simple improvement would be to provide real-time plowing updates so Denverites and the navigation technology tools they rely on know in which order streets are slotted to be plowed.
What’s your vision for Denver in 20 years, and what would you do to help the city get there?
Denver is at a tipping point, and we need an intentional approach to sustain our values and sense of community while protecting and expanding Denver’s economic opportunities. I will fight for a greener, more affordable, more prosperous, and safer Denver for current and future generations. In my vision for Denver’s future, we will have frequent, reliable, and fare-free public transportation; subsidized childcare; reduce our over-reliance on police by building out alternative interventions; and streamline permitting and licensing processes to support businesses large and small. Denver is a great city today and we can be even better in the future.
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?
Private cars comprise Denver’s largest source of greenhouse gases and ozone pollution. We can and must do more to enable Denverites to move around the city without an over-reliance on cars. The city’s ebike rebates have been wildly popular, but too many streets lack safe biking infrastructure to enable everyone to ride. I will improve public transportation and encourage diverse micro-mobility and multimodal options. I will also put us on a path to plant 250,000 more trees to reduce heat island effects, defend against Denver’s historic smog, and improve public health and well-being.

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