Skip to content

Breaking News


The 2022-2023 collegiate school year has started with a rash of parties on the Hill. On my own block, a fraternity annex (nine members of the same fraternity, living in a single-family home) held a party in their backyard because it was larger than the yard of their main fraternity house. My neighbors and I endured amplified music, screaming and yelling, and a party buzz for over four hours. After nine calls from impacted neighbors, the police visited the home three times but did not issue a ticket. This is consistent with previous years. “Chaos” is the word one of our police officers used to describe that Friday night on the Hill.

Jan Burton For the Camera
Jan Burton For the Camera

Not that these parties didn’t happen during the summer. On July 4, music blared all day on the Hill. But due to a seemingly innocent social media post, one party blew up, with party-seekers from Denver and other cities joining in (reported by Boulder Police and the Daily Camera). Despite police attempts to shut it down, party-goers set bushes on fire, jumped on cars and set off fireworks. Just a few blocks away, in the middle of the neighborhood, witnesses reported at least one exchange of gunfire, and one man reportedly pulled out an AR-15-style long gun. Police recovered more than 80 shell casings from the area. This was in close proximity to a church, Beach Park, and the Hill commercial district.

According to city data, 62% of all noise violations and 83% of fireworks violations for the entire city come from rentals on the Hill. I hope my fellow Boulder residents agree that guns, fireworks and fires are not just a nuisance to be suffered by Hill residents, but are serious public safety issues for the entire city. As we saw with the Marshall Fire, a windy night and dry conditions can cause fire to spread rapidly. 

In addition to the significant risks of fires and firearms, health and safety concerns include the mental health of all residents and animals. The constant barrage of fireworks can cause people sleepless nights and dogs to cower inside their homes. In fact, Hill residents are so used to fireworks, nobody even reported one shootout that likely involved more than 70 rounds being fired until the following morning! 

You might be thinking there have been parties on the Hill for more than 30 years, and many of us were party-goers and pranksters during our college years. And you would be right. But, there’s something different now with the prevalence of social media, amplified outdoor speakers and factors not in our control: more firearms and fire danger. 

But finally, change is in the air. The Hill Revitalization Working Group, which has been meeting since 2015, is finally getting traction with CU and the city staff. This working group — which consists of neighborhood representatives, student leaders, CU and City of Boulder department leaders, and two City Council representatives, Rachel Friend and Mark Wallach — has displayed a true sense of urgency and has energized the council and staff to take action. 

The first step is a revised Noise Ordinance, scheduled for a vote by the City Council on Sept. 1. If passed on an “emergency” basis, it could take effect immediately. The current code, which is decades old, prohibits “unreasonable noise” from 11 p.m. through 7 a.m. The new legislation would allow police to ticket residents for noise violations during the day, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., without waiting for a resident to complain. This would “nip it in the bud” before parties get out of control. Though a $150 ticket may not mean much to a student with plenty of money, follow-on ramifications from CU or their property manager might be meaningful. 

Boulder’s City Manager, Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, and Police Chief Maris Herold both have experience in code enforcement in university settings and are committed to data analysis, new approaches, and changes. At their direction, the city’s Police Department, Planning and Development Services, and IT are currently working to combine multiple nuisance-related databases citywide. Once completed, they will have detailed intelligence on the type and distribution of nuisance issues. This type of data will allow the city to revise policies and ordinances surgically to target the most egregious properties. 

To their credit, the University is committed to working with the city to hold students accountable, as indicated in their welcome letter to students.

On a personal basis, I am actively involved with CU students through the College of Music and the Center for Leadership, and I find most of them to be caring community members and future leaders. For those not choosing that path, let’s hope the city and University continue to make noticeable progress in ordinances, code enforcement, and disciplinary measures. The health and safety of the entire community depend on these actions.

Jan Burton is a former member of the Boulder City Council. Email: