Boulder family alleges city officials ‘racist‘ for trying to delay home demolition

A Mexican-American family seeking to sell their century-old Boulder home for the purpose of demolition and redevelopment believes the city‘s opposition to their plan is racist and unfounded.

The property in question — 2122 Goss Circle in central Boulder — is 10,000 square feet in area, with a small, 1,000-square-foot home built in the 1890s and renovated after World War II.

It sits within a neighborhood formerly known as the “Little Rectangle” — a place once heavily populated by black and Hispanic Boulder residents, who were often barred from homeownership elsewhere in the city.

The property was purchased in 1949 by Frank and Mary Chavez, who carried out the home renovation and also added a two-car garage. The home is in poor condition and has been uninhabited since 2016, when Mary Chavez, now 95, moved into assisted living in north Boulder.

Chavez‘s family has a buyer ready to close on the property, which is expected to fetch up to $800,000. The money would be used partially to fund ongoing care for Chavez, who will need between $8,000 and $13,000 per month for assisted living and skilled nursing.

The buyer, meanwhile, intends to demolish the house and garage, then build a new single-family home on the large lot.

This proposed sequence of events will be the subject of a hearing on Wednesday evening before the Boulder Landmarks Board.

City staff has advised the board to issue a 180-day stay of demolition.

“The property may be eligible for individual landmark designation,” staff wrote, in arguing for the stay, “based upon its historic and architectural significance and as a property containing a well-preserved example of a vernacular house associated with the African-American and Hispanic heritage of Boulder in the Goss-Grove neighborhood dating from the turn of the 20th Century to the 1960s.”

The family rejects the idea that the “heritage” of the property necessarily makes it a contender for landmark status, which would thwart the sale in place.

Marissa Garcia, granddaughter of Mary Chavez, said there‘s nothing historically significant about 2122 Goss Circle, except that Mexican-Americans once lived there.

“If they were named Jones, Wilson, something not associated as a Hispanic surname, this wouldn‘t even be a conversation,” Garcia said.

She alleged that it is “racist” and “ironic” that the city may prevent the sale and demolition of a property owned by a Mexican-American woman in order to preserve, against that woman‘s desires, a relic of a once-segregated Boulder neighborhood.

“This is to her detriment,” Garcia said of the potential stay of demolition. “They‘re saying she can‘t recognize all that she earned over a lifetime of living as an American. She‘s can‘t have the same profit someone else in her same position could.”

Garcia‘s mother, Angie Garcia, said the family secured a loan early this year that is contingent upon the house being sold within one year. If they can‘t sell it now, or if the property is eventually landmarked, she fears, it will make it difficult for the family to realize the profit they‘re waiting on now.

“If (the buyer) walks away from this, then we have to put this out there again, try to sell it again, knowing the next buyer would say, ‘Oh, this is a historic structure, so we‘re not going to be able to do what we want to do.‘ The whole thing could snowball and put us very much in debt,” Angie Garcia said.

The home is out of compliance with city code, the family says, adding that they‘ve been advised that necessary improvements would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Garcia said the house has asbestos, wiring and structural issues, and has previously been home to squirrel and rat communities.

This isn‘t the first time a proposed demolition of an old home in the “Little Rectangle” has prompted a controversy. The owners of the house right next door to 2122 Goss Circle, in fact, to the one the Chavez and Garcia family members face now. That home, however, was eventually redeveloped.