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Two Boulder City Council members propose action on University Hill code changes, enforcement

Council will vote on Tuesday by a nod of five to request staff research solutions

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In the aftermath of Saturday’s riot on University Hill, Rachel Friend and Mark Wallach were among the Boulder City Council members who showed up the next morning to help clean up the beer cans, broken glass and other trash that littered the streets.

The two City Council members on Tuesday will request a nod of five from their colleagues that would allow city staff to begin researching ideas that could be implemented to prevent such a situation from happening again. An estimated 500 to 800 college-age people gathered near Pennsylvania Avenue and 10th Street on Saturday evening in a large outdoor party that became destructive, with people flipping a car and damaging other vehicles and property.

“There’s a greater sense that now is the time to really look at it because what happened Saturday is just highly unfortunate and really not acceptable,” Wallach said.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Boulder has enacted new city codes to try to change behavior in the University Hill neighborhood. Boulder residents are not allowed to place indoor furniture in their yard or on their porch because late-night passersby were prone to lighting the furniture on fire.

Friend, who is the council liaison on the Hill Revitalization Working Group, envisions three potential solutions: better enforcement of the city’s current ordinances; revised or new ordinances; and better collaboration with landlords to ensure “that their tenants are good neighbors.”

However, considering she does not live in the University Hill neighborhood, Friend said she’s open to any suggestions that might be workable.

“It’s a nuanced situation,” Wallach agreed. “If there were a silver bullet, we’d be jumping on it. But there isn’t.”

He recommended some of the same ideas as Friend and also referenced his desire to ensure the neighborhood continues to host an array of people.

In a community meeting with University Hill residents on Monday, a neighborhood association representative expressed the importance of ensuring the burden of enforcement no longer falls on residents. Residents now must make complaints, which requires making a phone call and can place neighbors at risk for retaliation. Some have reported having their tires slashed after making a complaint, said Friend and Wallach.

“It’s all their burden right now,” Friend said. “It’s their burden to sound the alarm, but it’s also their burden to live in uncomfortable situations.”

And as a member of the working group, Friend said she recognizes that there are many CU Boulder students who live in the neighborhood and feel similarly to other neighbors.

It’s unclear how quickly this project would move forward. Friend said she hoped at least some of the changes could happen quickly. Tightening up enforcement is one example of that.

Others, such as crafting new ordinances or working with landlords, might take more time.

Boulder’s Director of Communications and Engagement Sarah Huntley said the city has been having this dialogue for some time, largely through it’s Hill Revitalization Working Group, which includes university and city representatives, residents, landlords, property owners and more.

She said staff proposes leaning into that group’s teamwork and leveraging its existing framework to bring forward and consider potential solutions.

“Giving this work the attention it deserves will require re-prioritizing other workplan items, and at this time, I am not comfortable speculating on any timeline,” Huntley said.

No matter what happens, both Friend and Wallach recognized that what happened Saturday included a small percentage of CU students — fewer than 1,000 at a university with more than 30,000 students.

“This is not coming from a place of hatefulness against students broadly,” Friend said. “The vast majority of students are following health orders and not engaging in bad behavior overall.”

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