Jim Coonradt is tired of the police coming to his apartment complex.
In less than a year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 22, 2020, Colorado Springs Police officers responded 361 times to Meadows Pointe in the 200 block of East Arvada Street — about once a day. They were called to the two buildings for a variety of issues, including domestic disturbances, home invasions, trespassing, threats and harassment, shots fired and “drugs/narcotics.”
And that doesn’t include 11 reports residents made to the city’s code enforcement division since 2002 regarding dirty hallways, abandoned vehicles, cockroaches and no heat.
“It’s a game of whack-a-mole,” Coonradt says. “I’ve informed them [landlords] numerous times it’s not safe.”
He’s found drug needles in the laundry room and witnessed cops using a battering ram to crash through an apartment door to make an arrest.
“Management just blows me off,” he says.
So far, the landlords haven’t been fined for code violations, and there appears to be no consequence for the demands the complex places on the city’s police force.
Moreover, the complex receives taxpayer subsidies via federal housing vouchers, leading Coonradt to conclude, “They’re getting government money to run a slum.”
The complex, which charges $848 to $868 for rent, is considered affordable, a commodity that’s in short supply in Colorado Springs where rents average nearly $1,300 a month for a one-bedroom unit.
It’s unclear how many other complexes see similar problems, but the city’s code enforcement official called Meadows Pointe “typical” for the types of complaints received.
The complex’s operations director, Vicky Pelton, blames the problems on the city’s burgeoning homeless population and bad renters she’d like to kick out but can’t under an eviction moratorium imposed during the pandemic.
“If we could evict, we wouldn’t have a problem,” she says.
After Colorado springs-based Woods Apartments LLC owned the 76-unit Meadows Pointe at 215 and 233 E. Arvada, from 1997-2013, they were sold for $2.6 million to three LLCs based in Denver that have since dissolved.
Two years later, in 2015, the buildings were sold to Logan Apartments LLC, of Aurora for $3.2 million. Logan sold them in 2017 to Parpas LLC of Nashville, Tennessee, for nearly $6 million. A year later, Parpas sold them to Meadows Pointe LLC, based in Lakewood, for $7 million. (El Paso County Assessor records show the comlex has a market value $3.8 million.) Meadows Pointe LLC was established by Westwind Investment Group LLC of Lakewood in June 2018, about six months before it acquired the complex.
Pelton, who lives in Denver, says the company owns seven other properties in Colorado Springs, as well as six in the Denver area.
Over the 12 years he’s lived at Meadows Pointe, Coonradt has seen rents rise while the property’s condition has declined. When he moved in, he paid $500 a month; now, he pays $848 a month. “The more you pay, the worse it gets,” he says.
His repeated calls to management get ignored, he says. “All they do is send the email up to Denver,” he says.
Loitering by homeless people and drug dealing have gotten so bad, he says, that he took it upon himself to post hand-written signs in the hallways. One says, “Homeless bums need to GTFO and STFO. You are not welcome here.”
One resident posted a hand-written note on their door that says, “Do not leave package. Knock first. Crack heads and homeless will steal it!”
A resident named Michael, who didn’t want to give his last name, tells the Indy, “The cops chase 30 people out of the building every day. I understand the homeless need a warm place to be, but this is not the place.”
One problem, Coonradt says, is that management converted from issuing residents keys to outside doors to keypads requiring a code. He says residents who used to be homeless or who deal drugs give the code to their friends.
“If they had key locks, it would get rid of 80 percent of this,” he says.
During the Indy’s visit to the property, several men carrying multiple bags, who Coonradt identified as probable homeless people, used the code to enter, and two men were found smoking in the laundry room. They left when Coonradt told them to get out.
The laundry room contains an electrical control panel with a tangle of wires hanging loosely next to the dryers, two of which had their exhaust pipes removed. Coonradt says homeless people removed them to make room for them to sleep behind the dryers.
On the first floor of one building, the metal case for the fire extinguisher was badly bent and empty, while a fire extinguisher on the third floor had been inspected by the Fire Department just last year.
Coonradt says he’s emailed City Council 15 times in recent months but got no response. He says he talked with City Council President Richard Skorman by phone recently, but Skorman only expressed concern to Coonradt that the city could see homeless numbers rise when the evictions ban expires.
Coonradt understands that, but notes, “Who cares about me?”
Complaints filed with the city’s code enforcement division over the years have alleged a variety of issues, such as sanitation, trash dumped on the property including three sofas and a mattress, a lack of heating and bugs.
For example, on Nov. 9, 2018, a resident complained the complex was without heat.
The next day, Fire Marshall Brett Lacey reported to code enforcement that fire officials responded to a call at 4 a.m. that day about lack of heat and “found a 32 unit complex without heat and one unit with an 80-year-old female tenant who was using the gas stove as a heat source.
“They asked if/what resources Neighborhood Services could employ to assist with this case,” the inspection record states. “I [code enforcement officer] advised that we could not relocate tenants from 32 units, but that I would see what we could do...”
The report shows the property manager told the city heat would be restored that day, Nov. 10, but three days later, a heating company worker was still trying to get the heat turned on. The property manager didn’t return code enforcement’s calls after the initial Nov. 10 contact, the report says; the case was closed without taking any punitive action.
On Dec. 30, 2019, a resident complained about an “out-of-date fuse box, exposed wiring. ... and possible mold/mildew,” as well as a damaged window casing, a light switch that popped when it was turned on and noise from water pipes.
A code enforcement officer couldn’t recreate the light switch problem, though he did observe several of the other problems. He called the property manager eight days later; the manager returned the call the following day, Jan. 9, 2020, saying all the windows would be replaced that spring. The tenant was evicted in the next two weeks. No enforcement action was taken.
On May 11, 2020, Coonradt filed a complaint, saying, “This place is now a dump. Broken doors that are no longer secure. Cars on the property that are not registered or licensed.” He also complained about a cockroach infestation that he said had spanned more than two years.
Despite management hiring pest control for building-wide treatment in May and July of last year, on Aug. 21, 2020,Coonradt showed a code officer roaches in his apartment and another tenant “approached me and stated that they have multiple roaches within his apartment as well,” the officer’s report says.
The officer contacted the property manager, who said another building-wide treatment wold take place Aug. 31, with another in October. OnNov. 11, the officer closed the case, “pending possible future complaints.”
On Dec. 1 Coonradt again filed a complaint, noting no fire extinguishers on the first and second floors and an inoperable and unregistered vehicle on the premises.
The code officer observed the vehicle and prepared a Notice of Violation but found the vehicle removed on Dec. 18.
During a Dec. 4 visit, the code officer also observed dead roaches in Coonradt’s apartment — Coonradt told him the building hadn’t been treated in several months — and “scattered litter and filthy floor surfaces” in hallways and entries, a broken exit light, dog feces on the property, broken window, yard rubbish and damaged roof flashing.
On Dec. 7, he posted a notice of violation, and during a Dec. 18 follow-up visit found little change. The officer then noted in his report he would “request an assessment for re-inspection fees.”
Mitch Hammes, Neighborhood Services manager who oversees code enforcement, tells the Indy via email the $100 reinspection charge is pending.
The city’s Housing Code “is intended to protect the public health, safety and general welfare and to provide a healthful, sanitary and clean environment for the residents of the City.”
It allows the city to assess a $100 reinspection fee necessitated by noncompliance with a notice of violation, a $250 reinspection fee for continued noncompliance and a $500 fee for chronic noncompliance.
Nonpayment can result in filing a lien against the property that includes cost of abating the problems for which the city can hire outside contractors.
Pelton says she received notice of the $100 reinspection fee on Jan. 4 and will pay it.
Hammes says the number of complaints about Meadows Pointe, eight since 2017, is “typical for our city.”
Asked why the heating issue in 2018 didn’t trigger an enforcement action, Hammes says the owner was “actively pursuing repairs” and adds, “Tenants can always pursue civil action” if not satisfied with the city’s response.
Pelton, the operations manager for Meadows Pointe, says in a phone interview, “Each property has its own challenges.”
The Meadows Pointe complex’s problems, she says, stem from vagrants and the residents themselves.
“The homeless situation is not my problem,” she says. “The homeless situation is the city of Colorado Springs’ problem. Ninety percent of them [problems] are the fault of the homeless.”
Andy Phelps, the city’s Homeless Response and Prevention Coordinator, says in a statement, “The City has invested in the development of additional shelter beds in our community so that no one in our community is forced to survive outside. We now have over 750 shelter beds and have triple digit vacancies every night of the year. Our shelters provide more than a warm bed, but also a connection to case management and various other types of assistance. We have seen promising numbers from our recent 2020 Point in Time count. Specifically, our unsheltered count went from 444 in 2019 to 358 in 2020.”
Pelton adds there are seven residents at Meadows Pointe awaiting eviction due to violating the rules by destroying property, allowing dogs to defecate on the premises, breaking into vacant apartments and taking fire extinguishers off the walls.
Meadows Pointe draws vagrants because of its proximity to Interstate 25 and a park-and-ride lot where they hang out, she says.
Regarding bugs, Pelton explains, “The cockroach issue, again, is Colorado Springs-wide, as far as I’ve been able to tell. Older buildings have cockroaches.” She says pest control is called when residents complain; the buildings also are treated monthly, but the pandemic prevents pest control workers from entering individual units unless there’s a known infestation.
Asked about the keypad issue, she says, “We had keys, but they still got copied and given to the homeless.”
Installing electronic access card readers would be “ridiculously expensive,” she says and estimates the cost at $4,800 for the buildings’ four outside doors.
Even if you can’t duplicate the card, there are those living there who will open doors to friends or even prop them open, she says.
Pelton acknowledges outsiders have shot up drugs in the laundry room and been menacing to residents. “Trust me, we know about it,” Pelton says. “But by the time police get there, they’re gone.”
Asked about hiring on-site security guards, she says that strategy hasn’t been effective. “It means they sit in their truck in the parking lot, and if they happen to see something they might investigate,” she says.
“I would love for somebody to give me some solutions on how to get rid of this problem,” she says. “Police have been there millions of times. Nobody has any answers.”
In fact, Police Department records show 231 responses to 233 E. Arvada, which has 47 units, and 130 responses to the 29-unit building at 215 E. Arvada from Jan. 1 to Dec. 22.
Of those, 74 — or one in five — were calls for trespassing.
Police Lt. Jim Sokolik says Colorado Springs Police Department has various types of services to help quell issues that create a constant drain on police.
“If we have a location that has a high number of calls for service or uses a lot of police resources, we will work with management and neighbors to see what we can do to address those problems,” he says. Among those are crime prevention officers and the Homeless Outreach Team. Those efforts aren’t reliant on a request from a property owner, he notes. “If we have something that’s a large drain on our resources, we will initiate that program ourselves,” he says, and adds that the crime prevention unit is currently working with Meadows Pointe.
How widespread problems like those at Meadows Pointe are in Colorado Springs is hard to determine. Hammes, with Neighborhood Services, says via email that a report of complaints and violations over the past year at complexes citywide would require “significant time and resources” and would be provided only under a Colorado Open Records request. The city cited a figure of $975 to produce the records; the Indy declined.
It’s no secret that Colorado Springs and the nation are fighting a severe affordable housing shortage.
The Colorado Division of Housing reports a shortfall of more than 200,000 affordable housing units, while that number in El Paso County exceeds 24,000.
Chad Wright, executive director of the Colorado Springs Housing Authority (CSHA), says only one-fifth of people who live at 30 percent of area median income have been able to access an affordable rental.
The CSHA waiting list for government help with housing exceeds 1,000 for the public housing program, which includes 706 public housing units, and more than 2,300 for Housing and Urban Development Department vouchers, allotments assigned to low-income households to help pay rent. The CSHA has about 2,290 vouchers, but not that many households can be accommodated, because rents are so high here that the money available will only go so far, Wright says.
Wright says four HUD vouchers are being used at Meadows Pointe.
HUD vouchers are approved only after a property is inspected, and Wright says Meadows Pointe passed inspection, which is based on habitability standards, such as sanitation and safety. Those inspections, which he says are audited by third parties, are available to the public only through a Freedom of Information Act request to HUD.
“The subsidy goes with the tenant, and doesn’t stay with the property,” Wright says. “We’re not directly subsidizing the project at all.”
The city has repeatedly acknowledged the affordable housing problem, and Mayor John Suthers set a goal in 2018 to add 1,000 units per year.
During his 2020 State of the City address, Suthers reiterated the city’s commitment to making its private activity bonds available via HUD to finance affordable housing projects.
“Using these funds to date, the City has been able to leverage $250,000,000 in development activity, making construction of new affordable housing a significant contributor to the region’s economic recovery,” he said. Fees from that program are then used to help local nonprofit housing providers by giving them access to resources to work toward providing additional affordable housing.
None of that solves Coonradt’s problem right now. He’s so frustrated, he decided to withhold his January rent as leverage in an attempt to force action and has plans to consult with an attorney.
One recent day, he says, he observed three drug deals take place.
“It’s a terrible use of our resources,” he says. “How is the city holding a slum lord accountable? I was out walking yesterday with some of the other residents, and they were saying this is a dangerous place. That really sums it up.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated with the response to the Indy's records request.