About 6.5 inches of snow usually dumps on Denver in January, according to the National Weather Service. It’s typically one of the least snowiest months of the season. But this year, Denver received about 13.4 inches of snow in January.
The above average snowfall may be the reason why 311 has received over 2,000 complaints this year about unshoveled sidewalks. Last year about 2,337 calls were made about snow removal all year.
About 243 of the calls this year came from the 80211 zip code in northwest Denver, which encompasses parts of the Highlands and Sunnyside. The other zip codes with a high call volume include 80210, which includes University Park and Cory-Merrill; 80206, which includes Congress Park and Cherry Creek; 80209, which is Washington Park and Belcaro, and 80212, which includes Sloan’s Lake and Regis.
With a slow start to the snow season, have Denverites forgotten the shoveling rules? Or are residents calling on their neighbors a bit too soon?
It might be the latter, Laura Dunwoody, director of resident engagement for the city.
“People start calling the minute the snow is about a half-inch deep,” Dunwoody said. “A lot of times, we tell (callers) to give them a little bit of time. A lot of people don’t get to it until they get home at night or maybe they shovel in the morning before they go to work the next day. A lot of the calls have to do with the patience or lack thereof of residents in our neighborhoods.”
Dunwoody said some of the calls do come from Denverites who are disproportionately affected by the snow, such as wheel-chair bound residents, or the calls are about neighbors who face their own disabilities. In those cases, the city will deploy Snow Angels, volunteers who help those who are physically unable to shovel or cannot financially afford a shoveling service.
But sometimes those calls are about Denverites who may have forgotten the rules, so let’s go over them.
According to Laura Swartz, communications director for Community Planning and Development, homeowners and business owners are responsible for clearing the walkways adjacent to their properties of snow and ice. That would include sidewalks, curb cuts and unsheltered bus stops (the last one surprised us too!).
After the snow has stopped, inspectors with CPD will go out and perform general inspections of high traffic areas, such as Colorado Boulevard and Colfax. Inspectors will also respond to complaints from 311 or social media.
Swartz said if inspectors notice violations, property owners will be given a time-stamped notice. Business owners will have four hours to clear the snow, while residential properties have 24 hours.
If the snow isn’t cleared by that time, property owners will receive a $150 citation.
According to CPD data, inspectors have completed 2,513 inspections this year with another 301 scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Of those, 689 were found to be in compliance, which Swartz said means the snow had either melted or was cleared by the owner.
In January, 97 properties did not clear the sidewalks in time and received the $150 citation. Last year, out of 3,467 inspections, 126 properties received a citation and 11 of those received an additional citation of $500 for continued violation.
So about 3.86% of inspections this year have resulted in a citation.
Swartz said inspectors will also tell residents to give their neighbors some grace when reporting unshoveled sidewalks.
“We do encourage people to wait before calling, especially if it’s your neighbors,” Swartz said. “Give people time to shovel but we also recognize that sometimes getting an inspector out there to let people know they are responsible for shoveling their sidewalks is a great intervention… We want our city to be a great place to get around, whether you’re traveling on foot, rolling or by car. We encourage everyone to be a good neighbor.”
Kevin Beaty contributed data analysis to this story.