Hispanic family claims last name is keeping them from selling Boulder home

Posted at 6:48 PM, Apr 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-28 20:48:25-04

(CBS Denver photo)

The Garcias hope to sell and demolish a family home so they can pay for the care of a loved one, but city staff are recommending a delay of six months.

The reason for the delay, the potential for historical preservation of original architecture and Hispanic heritage. That could affect the family’s ability to pay for the cost of assisted living.

“Building themselves up from their bootstraps,” said Marissa Garcia. “That’s kind of the American Dream and here they’re telling her she can’t realize all of the fruits of her labor because her last name is Chavez.”

Marissa Garcia’s grandmother, Mary Chavez, moved into the house in 1949. She is now one of the names on the application to demolish that home. The Garcias say they need to allow a new buyer to clear the land and use it how they prefer in order to make the largest possible profit on the property.

“My parents have cosigned on a bridge loan which depends on the sale of this home,” explained Garcia. “We want to actually realize the sale of the home so we can take the proceeds from that and actually apply that to her assisted living.”

The recommendation given by city staff identifies some aspects of the building may be worth preserving and also considers the history of underrepresented populations in that part of Boulder in the 1960s. A neighborhood known as the “Little Rectangle” was where black and Latino families lived in town.

The Garcia family challenges both of those considerations, stating that the family added stucco to the original framing of the house a few years after Chavez moved into the neighborhood. Chavez’s husband added a garage because he operated a shop, according to Garcia. The family changed the look of the house permanently and the addition of the garage was just for a source of income.

“It’s not like there’s a Mexican flag painted on the side of the garage,” said Garcia. “It’s not like there is anything that represented of actual heritage, or actual culture.”

The city has identified the garage as one aspect of the property that may represent the culture of the community at that time in history. If the stay of demolition is granted, the family and city staff would have six months to identify alternatives for the property. Garcia says they would have to wait until at least September to try to sell the land, eventually getting permission to demolish the house. They think trying to sell the house in the fall will be much more challenging than in the spring.

“Solely for the reason that their last names are Chavez, the addition that they put on the house and the garage somehow make this representative of Hispanic heritage in Boulder.”

Garcia worries that her family is facing a unique circumstance that others in the city would not have to deal with if they had the same goals at the same location.

“If their last names had been Smith, if their last names had been Jones, what I want to know is this historic?” she said.

The frustration has reached a new level because the family says they have tried to explain their circumstances to city officials without any success. They argue the history of their family that is most important to preserve is Chavez’s health.

“Hispanic heritage is sitting in an assisted living facility on the north side of Boulder,” said Garcia. “That’s where our Hispanic heritage is, it’s not that garage.”

A public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, May 2 could rule in favor for the Garcias. The Landmarks Board could also grant the stay of demolition at that meeting.

“It’s incredibly insulting,” said Garica. “It’s just a difficult position to be put in, to be told what your heritage is.”