Faced with a deluge of complaints from angry residents, Boulder officials on Thursday vowed to change the city’s notification policies and temporarily stop cleaning up trees, shrubs, flowers, gardens and other “invasions” on neighborhood streets.
The city’s transportation maintenance department left Seventh Street’s 2700 block on Thursday morning – and later Dellwood Avenue’s 600 block – after several residents called the city manager’s office to complain. -I know they were never given any warning about the alley maintenance work.
Owners in both neighborhoods said they went outside after hearing heavy equipment, including a large dump truck, a utility vehicle, a backhoe and a road leveler, uprooting gardens, flowers and trees adjacent to their backyards.
City spokesman Jody Jacobson said the work was motivated by requests from residents to fill the gaps that have developed along the dirt alleys. When they arrived, crews found a large number of invasive plants, vehicles and other items that reduced the required city pass permit from 20 feet to about 12 feet in some places.
“They started clearing the alley,” Jacobson said. “The main concern is that emergency vehicles have to get in there and we have to keep access for those vehicles.”
He said the upper floors could also cause safety problems for residents driving through narrow alleys or create dangers for snowplows in the winter.
“We don’t want to set that expectation that this land belongs to the owner next door,” he said, noting that the city code gives the city the right to clear the right-of-way.
But some residents say the work is unnecessary and they are even more upset that the city has not warned them.
Jacobson said the city used to issue letters to residents before doing this work, but the practice ended in 2005 amid budget cuts. Because of the outrage expressed Thursday, the city will again provide formal notices, he said.
“We realize that even though we made cuts … we need to let people know who does this work and who to contact if there are questions,” he said.
The clean-up of alley attacks will be temporarily completed until the city develops door hangers that give homeowners ten days to voluntarily remove plants and other items from the city’s right-of-way, Jacobson said. Crews will continue to fill potholes and level dirt roads.
Kim Dubin, who lives on Seventh Street, said it’s a good step forward, but is still worried about workers cutting her bushes.
“They should fill holes, not kill our flowers,” Dubin said. “If we had to get off a fire truck (the alley), it could go over our irises.”
He also questioned the need to remove the vines that grew on the fences and the small gardens that are outside the fences; things he said that make the neighborhood alley a little nicer to look at.
“I just thought it was something anti-pedestrian, anti-bike, anti-boulder,” he said of the work.
Kathi Karr, who lives in the Newlands neighborhood, said she was also surprised to see her flowers and start a shake on Thursday.
“It’s a shame, without any warning, to come and plow things,” he said. “This is not Boulder.”
But others said they understood the city’s desire to have clear access points.
“It’s good maintenance,” said Brett Skraban, who rents a house along Seventh Street alley.
Neighbor Josh Weinstein said he was happy to pull out a small garden he had planted right at the exit of his driveway because he built it knowing it was on the way to town.
Still, he said, the plants were a nice addition to the alley that was otherwise barren.
Polly Rothberg, who also lives on Seventh Street, said an intermediate point is likely to be found.
“I’m in conflict because the road was very bad with potholes; it had to be fixed,” he said.
But, he added that “some people have very nice lilac bushes” and “privacy issues are certainly a concern” that exaggerated vineyards help.
“I think there can probably be some compromise,” he said, suggesting to the city that he consider cutting back, but not removing, some of the smaller plants in the alleys.
Contact camera staff writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or [email protected]