RL-1 Override (Rishi Raj)
A Trojan Horse:
This initiative is not what it seems to be; it seeks to stealthily intrude into our time-honored residential neighborhoods. It will steal our peace of mind.
Some of our homes have been and always be over-occupied. Enforcement in the city is lackadaisical. If the neighbors do not complain (vociferously) then why not "live and let live". We are used to that.
But giving the landlords carte blanche will create a tsunami of conversions of family homes into pigeonholes (a 1000 sq ft house can potentially house 10 tenants). It will create insecurity in families who pay their taxes and wish to live in peace among their communities. It will be destabilizing.
The following letter published in the Daily Camera on October 2nd, expresses my concern.
Title: Against the Grain
The Boulder charisma is built on three pillars: the open space, our vibrant and innovative business enterprise, and our residential zones, RL-1.
RL-1s are spread up and down the foothills hugging Broadway (see link for the map just above). They include Mapleton, downtown neighborhoods, University Hill, Martin Acres, Table Mesa and some along Baseline. These neighborhoods spell the periods of history of Boulder ranging from circa 1910 into the seventies. Much of what is Boulder is embedded in these neighborhoods.
Now the landlords are trying to run rough shod over Boulder’s heritage by overwriting the zoning ordinance RL-1. They wish to get their fingers into these beloved neighborhoods so that they can dismember them, to destroy what Boulder is, for short term profits.
This is not to say that RL-1s should be exclusive: houses in Martin Acres and on the Hill already have renters. ADUs help to increase housing.
What will do willful harm is to override the mission of RL-1s with a blanket initiative. This initiative is “Bedrooms are for LANDLORDS”. Beware! Please vote against this amendment to avoid the takeover. It will diminish the splendor of Boulder forever.
Rishi Raj 863 14th Street, 80302 (303)447-8831
Lisa Nelson - Guest Opinion - Daily Camera Oct 12
The proponents of 300 make the arguments:
(i) That 300 would legitimize overoccupancy. Actually it will exacerbate overoccupancy because lax enforcement is a deep, deep rooted history in Boulder. The police, the City Council accept it as fait accompli; they have far higher priorities on their minds. "300" will give the landlords a free hand to convert family housing into small cubicles for ultrahigh density rentals.
(ii) That 300 would make housing cheaper by making it more abundant. Rents never go down. They only go up. The principal objective of 300 is the over-ride RL-1, to make all our housing free for all. "300" will destroy the heritage of Boulder deeply ingrained in our old neighborhoods hugging Broadway up and down the foothills.
Guest Opinion By Lisa Nelson
There is a concept in Buddhist thought called foolish compassion. This occurs when, in an effort to ease suffering in the world, compassion is offered without the benefit of wisdom. The Bedrooms Are For People initiative is a perfect example of foolish compassion. Supporters of this initiative earn our sympathy with their stories of hardship. Advocates claim that removing occupancy limits is an answer for our pressing economic, social and environmental problems. Who wouldn’t want to vote for a simple feel good idea that will help so many deserving people and solve the problems ailing us?
Unfortunately, the simplistic approach of Bedrooms is deeply flawed and lacking in wisdom. It completely ignores both the reality of the vastly profitable and ever-expanding rental housing industry in Boulder and the negative impacts that will follow from unlimited occupancy. City and community leaders asked Bedrooms organizers to consider adding provisions to address these concerns, and instead of building some wisdom into their initiative, the organizers declined, instead preferring to send this reckless proposal to the voters.
I have spent the last decade working closely with a wide range of stakeholders on issues related to the impacts and regulation of the rental housing industry in Boulder. Based on my long experience in the trenches of community advocacy around these issues, there is no doubt in my mind that this initiative, as written, will cause substantial harm to our community, which is why I joined the “No On Bedroom” committee (noonbedrooms.org). In their endorsement of Bedrooms, the editorial board of this newspaper jokingly disregarded and minimized the prospect of negative impacts from Bedrooms while laying out a series of arguments in support of it that are completely at odds with what those of us who have been working on these issues for years know to be true.
Supporters of Bedrooms rely on the assertion that the inevitable increase in parking, noise, trash and other nuisance impacts from this initiative will be mitigated by the city’s enforcement processes. This is pure wishful thinking. The city does not prioritize or adequately fund enforcement of quality of life issues. Most relevant ordinances are unenforced, unenforceable, or so weak they have no meaningful effect on the problem. This is why the University Hill neighborhood, where there are many properties currently legally housing six-to-12 residents, recently experienced over 18,000 calls for police service in two years with no noticeable improvement in conditions.
Stakeholders including the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association, CU Student Government and Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold have all urged the city to address the obstacles that stand in the way of effective enforcement of noise and nuisance issues on the Hill, yet nothing has changed even after the overwhelming continuous public health order violations last year and the March 6 riot. The nuisance enforcement system in this city is broken, and the current status of efforts to fix it is a request to the city to allocate resources to study the issue further. Good luck to anyone who lives near a rental property with chronic nuisance activity.
A staff memo to City Council analyzing the impact on the city’s ability to enforce occupancy and health and safety functions if Bedrooms were to pass concluded that significant additional resources will be required to perform basic code enforcement actions such as assessment of existing properties (the city does not currently track the number of bedrooms in dwellings), and inspection and certification of properties for conformity with life safety codes. Staff is already overburdened in their ability to perform these functions due to a heavy workload, staffing reductions and the challenges inherent in determining how many people reside at a property.
This point was emphasized recently by an elected city official who told me that if concerns arise with the number of occupants living at a property, “the city cannot protect you.”
Does Boulder have a housing crisis? Yes. Is Bedrooms the solution? Absolutely not. Vote NO on 300, and urge the new City Council to invest needed resources and put forward solutions informed by collaboration, compassion, and hard earned wisdom.
Lisa Nelson recently relocated to South Boulder after more than 30 years living on the Hill as a long-term renter. She serves on the Hill Revitalization Working Group and completed a term on the University Hill Commercial Area Management Commission in 2020.