In east Denver's City Council District 5, some neighborhoods welcome the prospect of new development while others fight to preserve the single-family character of some of Denver's earliest winding suburban lanes.
But the unifier across the district is the scourge of traffic congestion caused by redevelopment, from older leafy neighborhoods to the build-out of the former Lowry Air Force Base.
It's getting worse — from gnarly, ever-present traffic jams on Colorado Boulevard to knotty rush-hour periods on 13th and 14th avenues, Monaco Parkway and Quebec Street.
"I sometimes say the three biggest issues are traffic, traffic and traffic," says first-term Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman. The 40-year resident of Hilltop is running unopposed on the May 5 ballot.
The city has made some inroads. It's seeking federal funding for a 20-block widening of Quebec to two lanes each way from Sixth to 26th avenues, Susman said, along with adding sidewalks.
In the Bellevue-Hale Neighborhood, Laurie Bogue, the neighborhood association president, applauded police and city officials for studying traffic in her area and stepping up ticketing.
But some thoroughfares still have too many accidents, she said. She also worries about the safety of visitors to a newer Mental Health Center of Denver recovery clinic on 12th Avenue, arriving on foot from nearby buses.
There's also the coming redevelopment of the former University of Colorado hospital site at Ninth Avenue and Colorado, a plan that's drawn favorable neighborhood reviews. Once a new Veterans Affairs hospital opens in Aurora, the old one in her area also is likely to be redeveloped — adding more cars to streets.
"We are anxious about the increase in traffic and widening of streets to accommodate this traffic increase," Bogue said, "even though the developers are making strides to study the issue and to contain the problems associated with this."
Susman has made increasing transit access a priority, supporting city studies recommending fixed bus lines along the Colfax corridor and the possibility of private partners to fill gaps in the Regional Transportation District's bus system.
But she's caught flak from some neighborhood activists and others for suggesting that the city was increasing demand for transit by actively making driving more inconvenient.
Constituents have voiced sometimes-heated frustrations in neighborhoods that, while located far from RTD's light rail lines, have grown quickly. Some have protested lower parking ratios and city rezoning decisions allowing higher-density development.
A controversial rezoning request for apartments on a church site next to Crestmoor Park is pending in the council.
"I don't think that everybody is against density — it's just that it should be in the right places," said John Sadwith, president of the largest Crestmoor Park homes association.
Along the north end of District 5, along Colfax, attitudes toward development are more positive. Many residents hope to extend the revitalization of the sometimes-blighted corridor eastward.
Business owners recently banded together to form an improvement district in which they will tax themselves to pay for beautification projects.
The East Montclair and East Colfax neighborhoods also have worked with police and the city attorney's office to target crime in the area, said Tom Fesing, president of East Montclair's association.
On his wish list: new commercial development and affordable housing that will give more life to that stretch.
Five things to know about district 5
• The district has been home to a large cluster of hospitals east of Colorado Boulevard. Remaining are Rose Medical Center and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, along with medical offices.
• The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center closed in 2007, when it moved to the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. The 26-acre site was the subject of several redevelopment proposals before a new plan was accepted last year from Continuum Partners for a mixed-use community.
• District 5 is dotted by good neighborhood parks, including Crestmoor, Cranmer, Lindsley and new parks in Lowry. It also includes Fairmount Cemetery.
• High Line Canal snakes through the southern part of District 5.
• Schools include George Washington High School and Bishop Machebeuf High School.