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Colorado Springs City Council passes first reading of expanded sit-lie ordinance, one more vote needed

Colorado Springs Police say the city's growth is causing more issues with homeless on street
The amendment would expand the Sitting and Lying ordinance North and South in Downtown
Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 10, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs Police are asking the Colorado Springs City Council to consider expanding the controversial Sit-Lie ordinance, which passed in 2016.

On January 25, the council approved the first reading of the ordinance. A second vote is required before it is on the books.

Formally known as the Pedestrian Access Act allows CSPD to cite anyone sitting or lying in the pathway of highly-trafficked areas for pedestrians. Read the Proposed Amendment: Pedestrian Access Act yourself on the City of Colorado Springs website.

It would impact people in violation between 7am-10pm every day of the week, plus 10pm-3am on Friday and Saturday nights. The current areas covered under ordinance include downtown on St. Vrain to Cimmaron Street, and Wahsatch to I-25. In Old Colorado City, the areas are W. Pikes Peak to W. Cucharras, and from 23rd to 28th St.

Old Colorado City Sit-Lie boundary
The current boundaries of the Sit-Lie ordinance in the Old Colorado City neighborhood of Colorado Springs.
Dowtown Colorado Springs Sit-Lie boundaries
Current boundaries of the Sit-Lie ordinance in the downtown area of Colorado Springs.

The ordinance defines a right of way as 'any publicly owned property intended or used for pedestrian, recreational or vehicular travel, to include:

  • Streets
  • Sidewalks
  • Trails
  • Paths
  • Alleys
  • Parkways
  • Curbs
  • Medians
  • Traffic Islands

"It's unsafe for both the people that are engaging in that conduct -It opens them up for being preyed on by other individuals, being hit by vehicles. I know you all are aware of the traffic concerns that we have in the city. But it's also unsafe for business owners, for residents that live in these areas," said Commander John Koch.

Many of the current City Council members, like Member-At-Large Tom Strand, served in 2016 when the original Sitting or Lying Down ordinance sparked backlash from advocates for those experiencing homelessness.

The City Council Representative for District 4, Yolanda Avila, did not serve in 2016 and says she opposes the expansion.

"I guess I would like us as a city to be more compassionate, and figure out... Instead of building more jails or more prisons, how do we stop the bleed at a level? I was never in agreement with the Sit and Lie."

The proposed new boundaries of the area impacted moves north the Cache La Poudre, south to I-25, and includes the west side of the South Nevada corridor from I-25 to E. Cheyenne Road.

Areas proposed in the amendment to expand the Pedestrian Access Act

Member at Large Bill Murray raises concerns over clogging the legal system with extra citations, and the amount of resources CSPD would need to be successful when taking on new areas.

According to the presentation from Colorado Springs Police, the most common areas of complaints for illegal camping, disturbances, suspicious persons, and trespassing come from new developments in the area like the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum, Weidner Field, and the S. Nevada Corridor.

Council members were presented letters and notices from the Switchbacks and Weidner Field, the O'Neill Group, the Norwood Group, and the Equity Group in support of the expanded ordinance.

"If the South Nevada Avenue Urban Renewal Plan is to succeed, we need to discourage unacceptable behaviors that unnecessarily tarnish our community image. It is not too much to ask for people to respect our public corridors in a manner that facilitates a safe and healthy environment for those who want to or have to utilize sidewalks and/or access public transportation," wrote Danny Mientka of The Equity Group.

The Downtown Partnership President and CEO Susan Edmondson wrote in opposition to the proposed boundary changes. Not in opposition to the effort, but asking the council to consider expanding the boundaries to the eastern side of downtown to include apartment complexes, the Catlyst Campus, and new commercial businesses.

If the ordinance is passed on the second reading, the proposal includes a 60 day grace period to warn violators. Those warnings would come from officers assigned to the Homeless Outreach Team and the Downtown Area Response Team.