Author Archives: Deyanira Zavala

Bringing Little Free Libraries to Your RTD Station

Community artist & leader Nikki Biefel has started a movement, transforming newspaper boxes at RTD stations into mini works of art, filled with books and treasures for the community! Little free libraries are found throughout RTD, including Gold Strike Station in Arvada, Sheridan Station in Westminster, Clear Creek Station, and Pecos Junction, just to name a few.

Nikki shared her tips with Mile High Connects in the hopes that others will find inspiration in transforming these spaces into community centerpieces.

Celebrating the Power of Hispanic & Latino Entrepreneurs

From our October 2021 Newsletter:

A word from our Executive Director, Deyanira Zavala

This week, we wind down National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, a month-long celebration on the experience and imprints that Hispanic and Latinx culture leave on all of us. The Hispanic/Latinx cultural legacy is one of the reasons we found our way to this great city – from the Chican@ murals to the thriving businesses along Morrison Road, it felt like home. My summers with family working in their businesses shaped the person I am today and why spotlighting the resilience of Hispanic & Latinx businesses is so important to me. We are excited to share with you all a few ways you can continue to keep our community thriving, long after October 15th.

Entrepreneurs & Small Business: The Fabric of Community

One thing is certain – the Hispanic & Latinxs communities are not a monolith. But the strong practices & principles of community, family, and sharing are deeply woven into our everyday life. It is why so many turn to entrepreneurship and cooperative ownership as a path towards economic prosperity. However, access to capital still presents barriers and challenges.

One way forward is through Legacy Business Preservation programs. Check out Small Business Anti-Displacement Network‘s #ToolkitTuesday Twitter thread on this.

Community Spotlight: Raices Brewery

Among the vibrant landscape of Hispanic and Latinx local businesses, check out Sun Valley-based Raices Brewerywhere community and craft beer come together. With a small grant from Denver Arts & Venues, they were able to transform their space into a community hub.

Community Stewardship: What’s Inspiring Us

Women Helping Women Build Financial Defenses in Westwood

Latino Rebels:What Latinos Look Like

SMOKING MIRRORS: Visual Histories of Identity, Resistance, and Resilience

Connective Tissue: Opportunities to Connect

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rulemaking – Centering Equity in the Process

Subject: Green House Gas Emissions Rulemaking – Recommendations for a more equitable process

The undersigned members of the Denver-based Land Use Work Group (LUWG) led by Mile High Connects, Denver Streets Partnership, and YIMBY Denver applauds CDOT in its stakeholder outreach and thank you for the opportunity to provide input on the draft Rules Governing Statewide Transportation Planning Process and Transportation Planning Regions. The LUWG is a Denver-based group of nonprofit advocacy organizations, nonprofit developers, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and residents tracking and amplifying local efforts while advocating for policy change to reflect the nexus of housing and transportation and ensure that investments in the built environment reduce racial disparities, maintain community, build a culture of health, and respond to the climate crisis.

While the draft rule proposes important policies to mitigate transportation pollution, it fails to adequately and directly promote climate-friendly land use, a key near-term strategy listed in the state’s GHG Pollution Reduction Roadmap.

More investment in multimodal transportation is essential to reducing VMT and should be coupled with smart land-use policies to locate housing, jobs, schools, goods, and services near one another. Achieving an 11% VMT reduction target by 2030 requires a comprehensive approach that integrates transportation and smart land use planning.

The following recommendations seek to create a more equitable approach that responds to the needs of the community:

  • Strengthen and Review Travel Demand Modeling: Fundamentally, the success or failure of a project depends on the modeling involved, and yet state DOT models have a track record of being inaccurate. To improve the accuracy of project assumptions, modeling scenarios must be strengthened and periodically reviewed to ensure that modeling results reflect real world data. Additionally, Both CDOT and MPOs should be required to model the impacts of transportation projects to evaluate plans for compliance. CDOT should also maintain its commitment to project-level modeling in addition to program or transportation-plan level modeling. Finally, to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure accuracy, CDOT should require an independent agency to verify and validate results produced by all compliance models.
  • Center People and Climate Justice for Greater Equity: CDOT should seek to strengthen public engagement in the decision-making process, with an emphasis on climate resilience and advancing equity. We believe that, while engagement has been positive, this is an opportunity to test innovative solutions to gather meaningful input. The rule should incorporate the following:
    • Adopt a transportation equity framework identifying equity-related performance measures adopted at the state and national level, and indicators that drive local decision-making. Assessing equity includes quantitative and qualitative analysis, and a decision-making process that is inclusive and representative of communities that are most burdened, leading to a more equitable outcome. Incorporating an equity lens provides a complete picture of the overall impact.
    • Support capacity building, including education about planning processes, to realize meaningful engagement and powerful collaboration among community organizations and CDOT in implementing the rulemaking.
    • Transparency in the equity evaluation process is crucial to emphasize inclusion in numerous ways – at the staff level, decision-making level, and through deliberate community engagement.
  • Lead with Smart Land Use Strategies: DRCOG’s Metro Vision 2050 Scenario Modeling compares different transportation and land use scenarios to identify pathways to achieve their Metro Vision GHG and VMT targets. One scenario would invest $16 billion in transit over 30 years, resulting in a 2% decrease in VMT per capita by 2050. A second scenario combines the same $16 billion transit investment with a land use scenario that focuses two-thirds of all new housing and employment in existing urban centers and along high-frequency transit corridors. The result is a 25% reduction in VMT per capita. CDOT and MPOs are required by Senate Bill 21-260 to “consider the role of land use in the transportation planning process and development strategies to encourage land use decisions that reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.” Reports have shown that daily VMT are about three times higher in suburban areas, than in compact multimodal neighborhoods (VTPI, 2021). Therefore, CDOT should aim to incorporate smart land use policies within transportation funding to reduce car dependence and overall VMT, specifically among suburban locations. Furthermore, CDOT should consider the role of specific land use policies such as ADUs, equitable transit-oriented development, up zoning in dense urban areas, reduced parking requirements, etc. in transportation planning efforts. The rule should incorporate land use metrics in the evaluation of each transportation project by requiring CDOT and MPOs to:
    • Measure the VMT and VMT per capita impacts of individual transportation projects in all planning and programming, including the RTPs and 10 Year Plans, and the TIP and Four-Year Prioritized Plan project selection process.
    • Gather baseline data on transportation-efficient land use for each local government in Colorado.
      • Once baseline data is determined, local governments should be required to report on specific land use metrics in each plan to demonstrate progress toward VMT and GHG reduction targets.
    • Consider local land use and development patterns and the extent to which they contribute to VMT per capita reductions for the proposed transportation project.
    • Prioritize projects that incorporate additional smart growth strategies such as up zoning, mixed-use infill development, and transit-oriented development.
    • Create a bonus for projects that advance equity by incorporating affordable housing and TDM programs that lower the combined housing and transportation costs for low-income households.

We appreciate your commitment and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, improve air quality, and provide more travel options throughout Colorado, and your consideration of these recommendations.

Mile High Connects
YIMBY Denver
Denver Streets Partnership
All In Denver
JJK Places

Equitable Community Spaces in a Post-Pandemic World

One thing we know is that Coronavirus/COVID-19 is here to stay – but the way we began to engage with institutions in virtual and hybrid spaces may not. Earlier this month, Mile High Connects and our Bay Area friend Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative hosted a conversation with a handful of community leaders from both cities to lift up what a truly equitable public engagement will look like into the future.

Visual notes from the event held Sept. 2021.

This event was just the beginning of the conversation – let’s continue to find ways to keep what we’ve learned. That community engagement isn’t just in-person meetings but creating new, alternative spaces for residents to engage authentically in processes.

This is our future – equitable community engagement.

Meeting the Moment: MHC 2019-2020 Community Impact Report

Last year was difficult for everyone. But through the efforts of those around the Mile High Connects collaborative table, we were able to come together to ensure our region’s residents had a roof over their heads, food on their table, and access to transit. Mile High Connects is pleased to share it’s 2019-2020 Impact Report with our community.

Highlights include:

Photo: Highlights six key areas of work MHC led in 2020.

Still time to apply!

Come work with Mile High Connects! We are hiring a Grants Manager and Program Officer. These roles will collaborate with the Executive Director and senior leadership to execute the collaborative’s strategic direction and programs. Mile High Connects (MHC) is a broad collaborative of private, public, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders committed to ensuring that all residents of the Metro Denver region have access to affordable transit, affordable housing, and economic opportunity.

View the complete job description and apply:

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What’s Mile High Connects up to?

The Mile High Connects coalition has been hard at work outlining its priorities for the next year. This workplan represents the work of our steering committee and partners, coming together to advance equitable development in the Denver metro region.

Who are our partners coming together with Mile High Connects?

(Note: These partners are working on components of our joint workplan to advance our collective priorities. Additional collaborators may be engaged to move the work forward. * indicates the partner is a steering committee member and/or member of our sub-governance committees)

Get on the Bus with Us: It’s a Transit Justice Forum!

Mile High Connects and Denver Streets Partnership joined forces to host Get on the Bus: Transit Justice Forum. This conversation honed in on the connection between public transit, workforce, and the climate crisis.

“This is a dramatical different conversation at the federal level when it comes to funding for transportation,” said Ariana Gonzalez, moderator and Colorado Policy Director with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“This is about dignity”, said Paolo Solorzano, community leader and transit advocate.

“If we increase RTD service by 40%, for a resident in Westwood, the number of jobs would increase to about 16,000,” said Matt Frommer with Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), “it really is significant.”

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In solidarity with our Asian-American and Pacific Islander Community

As a collaborative committed to a racially equitable and resilient Denver region, we stand with the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community as we collectively grieve the horrific acts of violence in Georgia.

While it may be difficult for some to believe the horrors of Tuesday following this summer’s racial awakening, people of color know all too well the history of hate and violence perpetuated on our bodies as a result of systemic racism, sexism, and discrimination. The history of xenophobia towards the AAPI community in the United States did not begin on Tuesday in Georgia. It permeates US history, from the bubonic plague of the early 1900s to the more recent Coronavirus . Recent data by Stop AAPI Hate shows that harassment and violence towards the Asian American community has dramatic increased over the last year, with attacks towards those of East Asian descent being fueled by a former President that uses hateful, racist rhetoric when speaking about the Coronavirus pandemic. 

We urge you to center the voices of the AAPI community in this conversation and support in whatever way you can.

Mile High Connects partner 9to5 Colorado’s National Office in Georgia is working with the AAPI community on the ground and nationally to center the needs of those impacted. You can help by contributing towards the ongoing healing of the Atlanta AAPI Community. Take immediate action to show solidarity with AAPI communities by adding your name to the list of individuals and organizations calling for a community response to AAPI violence. Nationally and locally, support organizations that advocate for economic and social justice with and in low-income AAPI communities such National CAPACD, Asian Pacific Development Center, Vietnamese American Community of Colorado, Boulder Asian Pacific Alliance, and the Asian Chamber of Commerce. Our Asian-owned small businesses need our support now more than ever – consider spending your dollars at locally owned AAPI restaurants and businesses.

We hope for healing, justice, and a more equitable future for all.

In solidarity,

Deyanira Zavala

Executive Director, Mile High Connects

We’re Hiring

The Mile High Connects is hiring a Grants Manager and Program Officer. These roles will collaborate with the Executive Director and senior leadership to execute the collaborative’s strategic direction and programs. Mile High Connects (MHC) is a broad collaborative of private, public, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders committed to ensuring that all residents of the Metro Denver region have access to affordable transit, affordable housing, and economic opportunity.

View the complete job description and apply:

Categories: Uncategorized