Espinoza opines on historic designation



  • Rafael Espinoza, District 1 City Councilman, editorial on historic designation for Jefferson Park home.
  • Espinoza has recused himself from voting on historic designation for “Anderson” house.
  • The council will vote on the “hostile” historic designation on Nov. 16.

By Rafael Espinoza

Special to Denver Real Estate Watch

Rafael Espinoza

Rafael Espinoza on why he thinks a historic designation for a home in Jefferson Park is appropriate

The landmark designation process is a tool developed to allow Denver to protect valuable linkages to its history.

The Queen Anne-style Victorian home at 2329 Eliot St., known as the  “Anderson House” in Jefferson Park, meets all criteria for historic designation eligible for consideration be it architectural, geographic, or historical significance.

If this were simply a matter of those three criteria, this case is open and shut.

However, rightly, the law requires consideration of the concerns of the owner, and the owner has articulated his desire to sell his land – three parcels plus a city-vacated right-of-way – for $1 million.

Despite claims to the contrary, with the landmark designation of the “Anderson House,” this 21,000 square feet of densely developable land in Jefferson Park will continue to be worth well in excess of $1 million dollars.

I believe that negotiated outcomes resulting in preservation are a preferred solution to the complete legal processes afforded to qualified properties.

At the time I stepped up on behalf of then-future constituents to resubmit a withdrawn (historic designation) application initiated by others, I did so, cognizant that between the owner’s asking price, and the community’s desire to see only one of the three existing structures protected, there was, and remains, room for all parties to win.

Following my own unsuccessful attempts trying to contact the owner, I twice asked the developer, Nathan Adams of Adams Development, to arrange such a meeting with the owner in the days following the application (it couldn’t happen before,as the developer tried to time the withdrawal of the application to prevent reapplication).

The first request was in public at a neighborhood meeting, and Adams expressed willingness, however at the more private follow-up request, Nathan’s response was “I can assure you Jim Sonnleitner has no interest in talking to you.”

Since that time, all efforts I am aware of to negotiate or develop backup offers that would allow the Anderson House to be preserved and secure a $1 million sales price have been impeded.

Instead, the developer, not the owner, has invested capital and resources in staffing public meetings and producing irrelevant research; while unethically manipulating an RNO vote; hiring PR firms to write negative editorials, conduct press outreach and produce videos; paying attorneys for the failed attempt to sue the city; and personally trying to bully myself through the media and one of the other applicant’s through their employer, all under the auspices of his concern for the property’s owner.

Nathan Adams could have purchased this property and sought non-historic certification without using Jim’s name and likeness to embattle thoughtful preservationists acting on behalf of their community in a manner that is sensitive to the financial needs of Jim.

Had a preservation-minded developer been truly allowed the opportunity to purchase, Jim could be retired, resting with his desired $1 million, right now.

Meanwhile his former home, protected with a landmark designation, could be undergoing restoration while a development team moves on plans for the rest of the property. That is the win-win-win that residents believe their community deserves.

Recusing myself from this matter as a member of City Council was not an easy decision for me.

My willingness to stand up against the improper use of power and resources is, in part, why I was elected to represent District 1.

While the ethics committee has ruled that I can decide on this as a member of Council, because I applied as a non-public official, to do so could imperil the decision by Council and prolong the resolution of this matter for the community and for Jim Sonnleitner.

Courageous residents and preservationists have done yeoman’s work in running a gauntlet set out by a self-interested developer who makes his own home outside the city’s borders.

Instead of seeking compromise, he has consumed substantial resources to squelch community voice. Fortunately for the community this ordinance is in place to protect worthy structures from this type of manipulation, and, based on the facts, the case for designation can clearly be made.

While District 1 deserves direct representation on Council, the Northwest Denver community will represent their solutions on the podium Nov. 16. I hope many of you can join.

Rafael Espinoza, City Councilman for District 1, is an architect with 20-years of experience, authored the Historic Structures Assessment for the Colorado State Capitol. His project history includes adaptive reuse and restoration work of historic structures in New York and Colorado, in addition to numerous new construction projects from airports and office buildings to single and multi-family housing, including condo buildings and townhomes.

Interested in buying a home in Jefferson Park? Please visit

 Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.






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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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