Colorado

Boulder Refuses To Lift the Cap on Unrelated People Living Together. Housing Advocates Plan To Sue the City.

The Bedrooms Are For People campaign would repeal the city's existing limits on unrelated people living in the same house.

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The Boulder City Council in Colorado has set itself up to be sued by housing activists after a majority of the council declined to endorse a plan to place an initiative reforming limits on unrelated people living together on the city's November ballot.

Officials had told the Bedrooms Are For People campaign that they needed to turn in signatures by August 5 in order to qualify for this year's ballot. The city determined this month, however, that the actual deadline was back in June. Upon learning they'd been given the wrong deadline, activists asked the city council to use its power to refer their initiative directly to voters. On Tuesday, the council refused to do that, so the Bedrooms Are For People campaign is now preparing to sue Boulder.

"We feel this is incredibly anti-democratic for the council to do this," says Eric Budd, one of the petitioners for Bedrooms Are For People. "[The city council has] known about this error, and we thought this would be a time that they'd take it head-on."

Boulder City Council members candidly acknowledged that a failure to place the Bedrooms Are For People initiative on the ballot would likely result in litigation, according to live tweets of yesterday's meeting from Boulder-based reporter Shay Castle.

Nevertheless, the majority argued that it would be unfair to send the proposal to voters if the required number of signatures hadn't been reached, that the campaign had ignored early warnings that the city's election guidance might not be accurate, and that occupancy limits would be better dealt with legislatively, rather than at the ballot box.

Like many college towns, Boulder limits the number of unrelated people who can live in the same house, with only three or four unrelated people allowed to room together in most of the city.

The Bedrooms Are For People campaign would amend the city's charter to allow one person per bedroom, plus an additional person. A maximum of four people would be allowed in homes with fewer than four bedrooms. These occupancy limits would not apply to members of the same family.

The campaign received permission to start collecting signatures on March 23, the same day that Boulder issued its stay-at-home order. Despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, Bedroom activists still managed to collect some 6,000 signatures and believed they were on track to qualify for the November ballot.

Thanks to a series of changes to Boulder Charter's rules for municipal elections in 2017 and 2018, however, no one seemed to know whether state or local law should determine when these signatures had to be turned in, or indeed how many signatures activists needed to collect.

As Reason reported, the city initially released election guidance that attempted to split the difference between conflicting state and local election laws in an effort to give campaigns as much time as possible to qualify for the ballot. On multiple occasions, Boulder municipal employees told the campaign they had to collect 4,048 signatures by August 5 in order to qualify for the ballot.

The deadline and signature threshold were challenged by opponents of Bedrooms Are For People, however, who threatened their own lawsuit if the initiative was allowed onto the ballot under the city's initial guidance. In response, Boulder City Attorney Thomas Carr released new guidance in early July saying that the city had goofed in establishing the August 5 deadline and that a June 5 deadline for submitting signatures, as dictated by the city's charter, superseded it.

The Daily Camera reports that guidance by the council given on Tuesday also means that the Bedrooms Are For People campaign had to collect over 8,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The Bedrooms Are For People campaign is now arguing that a failure by the city to abide by the August 5 deadline is not just unfair, but also illegal.

"We do not believe that the City may lawfully reset the petition deadline to a date that has already passed," reads a Tuesday letter from the law firm Hutchinson, Black, and Cook, which is representing the Bedrooms Are For People campaign, to Boulder City Attorney Thomas Carr. "Bedrooms relied on the August 5 deadline that the City established in its Guidelines, and the multiple communications reiterating that deadline, when incurring the expense to circulate its petition, and when undertaking the Herculean effort of collecting over 4,048 signatures in the midst of a pandemic."

That letter says that the campaign plans to submit its signatures to the city clerk by July 29, and—provided they hit the 4,048-signature threshold—asks that the city council place the initiative on the ballot as "an alternative to litigation."

Now that the Boulder City Council has refused to do that, a lawsuit is all but inevitable.

Budd says that their efforts to reform the city's occupancy limits are crucial at a time when coronavirus has made it difficult for people to afford shelter.

"Given the pandemic, we are now seeing more people losing their jobs, not able to find work, they are facing eviction," he says. "this would allow people more housing options, it would allow people to share resources, allow people to help each other if they come into financial trouble."

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  1. We’re all part of the family of man

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  2. Racist Boulder; don’t they acknowledge that Blacks (or blacks) refer to each other as “sister” and “brother”?

    1. There might be ten black people in that city, and they’re all college students.

      Mexicans on the other hand? They’re the ones targeted by this law.

      1. Like Minadin details in his comment below, I’ll bet college students in general were the impetus behind it (very little or nothing to do with racism).

        As a former college student and a current family man/homeowner, I understand the desire for such laws. Regardless, I vehemently disagree with them, on principle.

        1. I can see that. I lived in that city for five years working in restaurants. I was thinking of my Mexican coworkers who were living ten people per apartment. But you’re probably right.

          1. I worked with a lot of Mexican folks in restaurants when I was in college, and then in grain elevators afterwards. Seems like it was usually (anecdotally speaking) family groups living together like that; so I think they would have been exempt anyway.

          2. There is probably something to your thinking here. The Mexican side of my family used to split 2-bedroom apartments between 6 adults at the same time, fairly often. It works out better than you would think for people who are doing shift work and / or working at restaurants.

            But I’m not sure how easy it would be to track. In our case in college, all 4 of us were on the lease. In the case of my cousins, only one of them actually leased the apartment, and he / she usually wasn’t living there.

      2. Most of Boulder’s mestizo service class lives in either Lafayette or Longmont, since those are the most affordable large communities near the city (there’s also a pretty long history of migrant Hispanic farm workers in the area, and the county still has a fairly sizeable land area devoted to agriculture). Longmont High School, for instance, has gone from 10% to 35% Hispanic in the last 20 years. Centaurus High, which is Lafayette’s high school, has had at least a 20% or higher Hispanic population for longer than that.

  3. Boulder is establishing the religion of secularism, discriminating against Christians, who refer to each other as “sister” and “brother”.

  4. In our new age, imagination is the same as reality. If I can self-identify as a hermaphroditic unicorn, and others must accept that, the surely any eight people can declare themselves octuplets.

  5. “The Bedrooms Are For People campaign would amend the city’s charter to allow one person per bedroom, plus an additional person. A maximum of four people would be allowed in homes with fewer than four bedrooms.”

    Damn, so the choices on the ballot are going to be: Statist control over private contracts involving private property of this variety… or… Statist control over private contracts involving private property of that variety.

    1. Not quite. The choices on the ballot are going to be: Statist control over private contracts involving private property of this degree … or… Statist control over private contracts involving private property of that lesser degree.

      1. True. Still, would be nice to see a “fuck off” initiative on the ballot.

    2. It’s Boulder. Statist control over private contracts involving private property of some variety is the only thing on the menu.

      1. The Spam sketch is *comedy*, not an instruction manual!

  6. Good hope Boulder stands up to the mob. The mob wants multiple families living in hovels.

  7. You think the Boulder city council give any fucks what the hipster ‘kids’ in their mid-30’s living off a trust fund think about living with other hipster kids in their mid-30’s living off a trust fund?

    No, they plan to keep property so expensive that even a hipster kid with a trust fund can’t live alone.

    The horror.

    1. Boulder was the internal vector by which the Progressive Pox infected the rest of Boulder County, followed by the Front Range.

      1. The Denver Post didn’t refer to the city as “The People’s Republic” for nuthin..

    2. Nothing in the story about why this is Trump’s fault and that of his cronies on the Republican city council of Boulder.

      1. Republicans in Boulder? Haaaa ha ha ha ha ha! They’ll throw you in jail for that!

  8. >>limits on unrelated people living together

    identify as kin. fuck you, Boulder what the fucking fuck?

  9. Boulder is a college town. When I was in college, the city of Lawrence, KS passed a similar law – they did it primarily to keep college kids from renting 4-bedroom houses together in the ‘single-family’ (suburban) parts of town.

    They wanted us to stick to apartments and dorms, and not be noisy in their quiet bedroom communities. They also passed the measure over the summer, when about half of the students are typically not in town – but also well after they have made rental arrangements for the following school year.

    My roommates and I, as well as several similar groups of our friends, ended up living ‘illegally’ together for my senior year, because you can’t just break a lease and make other arrangements with no notice at the whim of the city council. Some people got fined and / or evicted. It was some bullshit.

    1. “When I was in college, the city of Lawrence, KS”

      Well there was your first mistake… Go State!

      1. yeah go Cats. although the football team walking off over tweets is painful.

        1. For sure. Seems like that kid was just trying to stir shit up, and he succeeded.

          At least the University didn’t completely cave to the pressure and try to expel the kid.

          1. I’m shocked the coach didn’t use it as a lesson in free expression.

            1. One would have hoped. I like Klieman, and I think he’ll do great things with K-State Football, but that whole debacle sure made me miss Fort Snyder. Bill kept a pretty tight lid on the program.

    2. The Wheel was a hoot.

      1. Not my favorite pizza place / bar but I’ve been there a few times – I used to live about a block away.

  10. Residential rents in Boulder are completely ridiculous, and landlords will stop at nothing to keep it that way. Talk to a landlord sometime; it’s hilarious how they see anything that might put downward pressure on rents as the work of Satan himself. Money in my bank account = good policy. Anything that might slow down the flow of money into my bank account = moral evil. Millennials ain’t the only ones with an undue sense of entitlement.

    I’m guessing that landlords and property managers have more influence with the Boulder City Council than college students and other renters do.

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    2. Everything is so terrible and unfair.

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  13. Seems like it wouldn’t be all that hard for people to just claim they are related and force the city to do the legwork to find out if they are.

    I am reminded of the M*A*S*H* episode where some general built them an officers club and the enlisted weren’t allowed to go there until the officers started claiming they were long lost sons, cousins, etc.

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