Renters living on the Hill — most of them students — voiced concerns that a new trash ordinance doesn’t address root causes of the problem and will simply push new costs onto them.
Council voted 6-2 on Feb. 16 to update the city-wide weed and trash ordinances to address ongoing issues with compliance, efficiency and repeat violations.
The new ordinance adds a civil citation process and a fine escalation schedule.
While the updates to the ordinance are city-wide, the changes aim at addressing trash issues in the Hill neighborhood, where about 75% of all trash violations city-wide were located from October 2020 to September 2022, according to the City. More than 80% of trash violations are from rentals.
Chase Cronwell is part of CU’s student government. At the Feb. 16 meeting, he advocated for Council to reject the ordinance.
“If we want to address residents who are creating safety, health or other concerns in the community, we should look for solutions that actually engage with them,” he said, “not just an administratively simpler way to issue fines.”
Councilmembers Nicole Speer and Lauren Folkerts voted against the ordinance.
Speer said she wanted to see more input from students.
“The main issue that I had was around who we’re listening to when we’re creating rules and policies,” Speer said. “What I think is the right thing to do is to make sure that we are including the people who are most impacted in the solutions that we’re creating.”
The Code Enforcement Unit, which responds to ordinance violations like these, proposed the update with “input from the Hill Revitalization Working Group and feedback heard from residents and students.” The unit consists of four enforcement officers, a supervisor and a part-time administrative assistant.
Jennifer Riley, code enforcement supervisor, said at the Feb. 16 meeting that the previous criminal process was inefficient, unpredictable and unreliable.
Previously, if violation warnings were not addressed, a criminal summons would be issued which could result in a maximum fine of $2,650 and/or 90 days in jail (assigned at the discretion of the municipal judge). Most first offenses were $100 fines.
When no one was home, code enforcement officers had to return to attempt to serve a summons. Sandra Yaz, deputy city attorney, said there was also a high failure rate of attempting to serve criminal summons through the mailing process.
According to the City, 32% of trash violation addresses were from repeat offenders.
The updated ordinance will allow the Code Enforcement Unit to utilize the “less cumbersome” civil citation process, while keeping criminal summons as an option for extreme cases. A civil citation could be resolved by the property owner correcting the violation and paying the fine.
Quin Fellows, who is involved with CU student government, said at the Feb. 16 meeting that the updated ordinance could encourage fines issued to landlords to be pushed onto student renters.
“We can’t expect Boulder Property Management or Four Star [Realty Boulder] to seriously work with every single one of their tenants to fairly adjudicate the issue,” he said.
Speer says she is in favor of getting rid of criminal penalties for things like trash and weed violations, but her ‘no’ vote was more of a “not yet.”
“Let’s get buy-in from the groups that are being disproportionately affected by these ordinances,” she says, “and at that point … we’ve got the