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City of Boulder Announces Civil Enforcement Plan to Combat Spike in New COVID-19 Cases

Continued large gatherings, especially on University Hill, continue to be a cause for concern

The City of Boulder today announced plans to implement and leverage an emergency order that amends the definition of Public Nuisance and procedures related to the Abatement of Public Nuisance Code to provide new ways of addressing large and unsafe gatherings in private properties. The action stems from concerns about a lack of compliance to the statewide Public Health Order 20-28, also known as “Safer at Home in the Vast, Great Outdoors.” as well as previous health orders. This order prohibits large gatherings with more than 10 people who do not share a household without adequate physical distancing. Recent incidents in the University Hill neighborhood and a subsequent increase in transmission of COVID-19, particularly among student and youth populations, suggest that warnings and education are not changing behavior.

“It is disheartening that the city is forced to take additional action to gain compliance,” said Jane Brautigam, city manager, “but we will not allow the lives of our community-at-large to be further jeopardized by poor choices made by a few. We are hopeful this civil approach will send a message that there are concrete consequences to ignoring guidelines and regulations that are intended to protect each of us and our neighbors.”

Effective today, the City of Boulder has amended the Abatement of Public Nuisance Code, under Emergency Order 2020-19, which will allow officials to pursue abatement if a property repeatedly has noise violations or hosts large gatherings.

In addition to this, the city is notifying the owners and representatives of 12 residences that have been identified as chronic violators of the code between March 16 and May 25, 2020. The criteria used to determine who received notices was either the number of noise violations or that large gatherings were held violating the health order.

“We want residents and property owners to do the right thing,” said City Attorney Tom Carr. “The goal is to end the dangerous gatherings and parties – and create a safe environment for everyone during these challenging times.”

Any additional violation by properties on this list will trigger potential abatement action. This action is likely to include facilitated conversations and/or mediation with property owners and tenants to address the problem. Failure to comply after that step could result in revocation of rental licenses, which would force tenants to vacate the properties.

A public nuisance is defined as conduct that would annoy residents in the vicinity of the parcel or passersby, which includes violations of public health orders.

“We’re grateful for the city’s partnership in battling this virus,” said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director. “We hope there won’t be any violations; it’s so important that we all work together to protect each other and our economy moving forward.”

“The university supports the city in this action, which reinforces our numerous ongoing communications to students,” said Akirah Bradley, CU Boulder vice chancellor for student affairs. “Each fall, CU Boulder’s Office of Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations has worked closely with the city and the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association to create communication packets landlords can share to help educate their student tenants.  

“The CU Boulder Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution office addressed violations of public health orders as reports were submitted to the office under the current student code of conduct. Next week, it will announce an update to the campus’s student code of conduct to ensure students are held accountable for violating public and campus health orders, and this fall COVID-19 training will be mandatory for all students.”

To report a Public Nuisance Code violation in the City of Boulder, please call 303-441-3333.

The city, in partnership with health officials, will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments and provide updates to the community. Visit bouldercolorado.gov/coronavirus for the latest city information. 

Published: June 19, 2020

Media Contact:

Shannon Aulabaugh, Media Relations, 720-484-9903