Noticing the people living at Sloan’s Lake

SLOAN LAKE — For many years, I have walked around Sloan’s Lake three or four times a week, in all kinds of weather, and at all hours of the day and night.  I’m usually lost in my own world, listening to Shakira on my iPod, or walking with to my best friend at 5am, engrossed in our conversations about life and love and our children. This summer, we started to notice that tents were set up along the perimeter of the lake… but it didn’t merit much more than a passing comment: we are both very busy and we have so much to talk about when we see each other that we don’t usually notice what is going on around us. Then this fall my friend got too busy to walk much, and I lost my iPod, so I began to notice more.

First I noticed that the brush had been cut around the lake and that all of the tents had disappeared. Except one. There was one tent, near the bridge off Sheridan, that was there day after day. The man and woman who lived there were often sitting outside, and I felt like I was walking through their yard, so we started to say hello.  Then November came, and as I talked to my students and my own children about all of the blessings in our lives, I realized that I knew nothing about these people who I greeted every day, and what led them to be living in a park. So I began to bring them food, (Tamale Kitchen is their favorite!), and the conversation began.

At first, we talked about how the lights from the businesses on Sheridan look like Christmas lights.  Todd and Kim, it turns out, are very positive.  Then one day, I asked how it was that their tent was still up when everyone else had left.  Todd shared that he was a Lieutenant, and had done two tours of duty in Afghanistan, so the police officers respect him and usually leave him alone.  And their story began to unfold.

Todd is a caretaker of all of the people that live in his corner of the park, some of whom have lived at Sloan’s Lake for years.  He and Kim, who are not a couple, came to live together in the most tragic of ways. Todd was good friends with Kim’s husband Joe, who was also a veteran.  Joe had a spinal injury he sustained in the Vietnam War and confined to a wheelchair.  Todd tells me that when Joe would fall asleep at night, all of his worldly possessions would fall out of his chair, and so Todd would pick them up for him and make sure that he kept everything together. As he tells it, Joe and Kim were always together, until a month ago when Kim had to spend some time in jail for vagrancy. When she was gone, Joe was fatally shot in a fight and pushed into the lake.  When Kim got out, she was inconsolable. “She was lost and needed somebody and had nowhere else to go, so I take care of her,” said Todd.

Todd and others who I have met at their tent, have such tenderness for Kim that it gives me faith in the human spirit.  “She’s grieving hard and I don’t know what to do for her,” he says.  He knows something about grief.  Todd had a full life as a fly-fishing and elk hunting guide outside of Glenwood Springs.  He had a wife and two children.  But memories of losing troops in Afghanistan haunted him constantly, and then a year ago, his mother and two sisters were killed in a car accident.  “I got really depressed and started drinking,” he said.  “I could get help, but I’m too proud.  I’m trying to handle this on my own.”

Todd and Kim say that many people come by and offer food or blankets.  “We call them angels,” she says.  Others ignore them or treat them “like lowlifes.”  Life in the park is very dangerous, “sometimes more dangerous than Afghanistan.” People get in fights; they get shot, and they are continually worried about their possessions being stolen.  Todd tells me about a friend of his named Dreamer, who is Lakota.  He was a staff sergeant serving in Iraq, and they bonded over this.  Todd worries because Dreamer disappears for days.  He also says that he knows he can “get it together.”  He longs for a normal life again.

I walked by yesterday, and the tent was gone.  I hope that Todd and Kim are safe and warm.  They knew where the shelters are located, but preferred to be in the park.  I’ll look for them again in the morning, and from now on I will keep my eyes open.  How did I not notice that there was someone living in a wheelchair at Sloan’s Lake? How many times did I walk past him over the years?  So often we don’t see, or we avoid looking.  It’s raw. It’s uncomfortable.  But when we do take the time, it can be inspiring.

By: Morgain Sanchez

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Sloan’s Lake lawsuit moves to Colorado Court of Appeals

By Larry Ambrose

Lawsuits originally filed against the City of Denver and EnviroFinance Group (EFG), developer of the old St. Anthony Hospital site, to stop the development of up to 12 story buildings on 17th Avenue across from Sloan’s Lake Park, have moved to the Colorado Court of Appeals with legal representation by attorney Gregory Kerwin from the Denver office of the international law firm of Gibson Dunn.  The law suits were originally filed in March and December of 2015 by long-time NW Denver resident and attorney, David R. Medina who represented the Plaintiff’s in the suit, the Sloan’s Lake Neighborhood Association and nearby residents’ pro bono publico (without charge for the public good).

Mr. Medina passed away unexpectedly on September 26, 2016.  Originally from Pueblo, David rose from the ranks as a carpenter to become business manager for the Carpenters Union.  After attending law school at the University of Nebraska he served as an Assistant District Attorney in Pueblo and labor union lawyer. He is survived by his children who grew up in NW Denver, Tone and Jose Medina and Olga Avila as well as many loving grandchildren.

The lawsuits challenge the February 17, 2015 and November 23, 2015 Denver City Council decisions to approve rezoning of two square blocks across from Sloan’s Lake Park for 8-to-12 story luxury high rise condominiums and apartments. The basis for the suits has been the resident’s contention that the City Council decisions were not consistent with a prior City Council approved and adopted plan stemming from a two-year community based planning process in 2005 and 2006.  The primary feature of that plan called for taller buildings and high-density to be placed close to West Colfax and away from Sloan’s Lake Park.

In order to overturn a zoning decision by Denver City Council, a Plaintiff must show the City of Denver erred as a matter of law, and abused its discretion, in failing correctly to enforce the Denver Zoning Code’s requirement that zoning changes be consistent with “adopted plans.”  However, Denver District Court Judge Eric Elliff ruled against the neighborhood Plaintiffs giving Denver unlimited discretion to adopt any zoning change, regardless of obvious conflicts with adopted plans, by deferring to the Denver City Council’s own “judgment in determining if the amendments are consistent with the relevant guidance.”

The precedent being set in this case is, therefore, of citywide importance.  The issue at stake here is that, inasmuch as where there is a community based planning process that results in a plan that is adopted by City Council as an ordinance and which becomes part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, can the Council ignore and not follow that plan when considering a future rezoning request? The Plaintiffs in this case maintain that to allow the City Council to ignore specific requirements in adopted neighborhood plans will make meaningless, community involvement in the planning process. 

Meanwhile, the block bounded by Stuart Street on the west and Raleigh on the east and 16th and 17th Avenues on the south and north, touted by its developer/promoter NAVA Development as the “Lakehouse” features a sales office with fancy models of the high-rise development with units selling for more than $ 1 million and for more than $ 600 per square foot.  It is not clear, however, that NAVA has actually purchased the land from EFG and groundbreaking is not scheduled until spring of 2017.  The same is true of the block just to the east along 17th Avenue which is to be developed by Houston based Hines Development.  It appears that the land has yet to transfer title from EFG to Hines and groundbreaking is not scheduled until the summer of 2017.

Larry Ambrose is Vice President of the Sloan’s Lake Neighborhood Association.  A copy of the Opening Brief to the Colorado Court of Appeals referenced above is available as an October 7 post on the Sloan’s Lake Neighborhood Association Facebook page. 

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Neighborhood awakens with Sloan’s Lake Tap & Burger

SLOAN’S LAKE — It’s getting real now. St. Anthony’s is gone and in its place is a new hipster city neighborhood awakening on the south shore of Sloan’s Lake. Gone are the cracked seas of parking and steady hum from the hive of healthcare workers and their patients buzzing in and out at all hours of the day including by air from the helicopter pad. A new section of Raleigh Street that had, for 100 years, been blocked by the hospital is now open with romantic apartment balconies, a pedestrian suspended bridge linking the apartments, and Sloan’s Lake Tap and Burger bustling with the new business of the day – food and drink with lots of televised entertainment at every angle.

Taking advantage of a car-free evening, my husband and I met after work. We needed to lock our bicycles across the street as the bike racks had not yet been installed on the northwest corner of Conejos and Raleigh. There is a parking structure to the west of the building that is dedicated to patrons of the businesses on the street.

The restaurant space looms large. Very tall ceilings have large industrial pipes leading from the back rooms to the center of the bar where over 40 different beers await. There is a wall of floor to ceiling windows with two-seat and four-top tables, as well as a long patio overlooking Raleigh. On the other side of the bar, there are large comfortable booths for parties of six and more. There is also a private space that can be closed off for a private party. Every seat in the house offers a view of large screen TVs. I get overwhelmed by so many TVs but the fans appreciated watching the World Series there along with other sporting events.

We came for the food. On the first night we dined, I selected a burger, well because its name is Sloan’s Lake Tap and Burger so it seemed prudent to think they might be good at the burger. And sure enough, the Shroom Luva’s, $ 10.50, was one creamy, mushroomy, delicious combination of a beef patty topped with a plentiful pile of sautéed mushrooms with melted Swiss Cheese and truffle oil. It was a juicy, filling and overall satisfying experience. It was definitely not a first date burger as so much creamy deliciousness was hard to corral to my mouth without dripping back down on the plate. The hand cut fries that accompanied the burger were thin and crispy, but they seemed a bit dried out and cool.

My husband selected the Tuna Poke Burger, $ 13. It came topped with jalapeno tempura, radish sprouts, a black sesame sauce, and caramelized onions on a bun. Although it sounded really zesty, my husband said it did not have as much flavor as he expected. The tuna was plentiful and seared on the outside as forewarned by the waitress.

On a return visit, we shared a three meat BBQ platter, $ 23, that included BBQ bison brisket, BBQ lamb, and a Hatch Chili pale ale and cheddar hot link. A plentiful square plate arrived filled with the sliced and pulled meats as well as the sides we ordered: corn bread hot cakes and Pilsner battered onion rings. The meat comes unadorned with sauce. Instead, three house-made BBQ sauces range from sweet to spicy to tangy. I thought this was a good value and something to share while watching a game. On this night, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association took advantage of the space and packed the place with hooting fans.

We also ordered two salads. The Beets by Tap, $ 11, came beautifully arranged on the plate with fennel, orange, almonds, aged goat gouda, with a light sherry vinaigrette. My husband tried the Baby Kale and Arugula Salad, $ 10. This salad was more heavily dressed in a good way with a honey miso dressing that added richness to the zesty pomegranate, ginger beer apples, puffed quinoa, and goat cheese. For a sports bar, this salad hit the spot.

As we sat on the edge of the action while two college teams battled it out on the field, it felt as if the bartenders were in the middle of the field with so many sets tuned to football action. While I am not a big sports fan, the food, beers and gracious seating will make this a winning spot for anyone seeking out a venue from which to take in a game.

Sloan’s Lake Tap & Burger | 1565 Raleigh Street | (720) 456-6779

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