Facing the front of 765 13th St., one would see nothing to indicate the home is particularly different from its surrounding properties – except for the gaggle of “mature responsible adults” hanging out on the front porch, the tacky Christmas lights still lit up in the middle of July, untended “gardens” choked with weeds, and several dilapidated vehicles displaying expired neighborhood parking passes.
Yes, I’m talking about the “technically” illegal boarding house known to some as “Picklebric”, recently featured on the front page of the Daily Camera. I’m not sure how something can be “technically” illegal. It’s also technically illegal to drive 60 mph in a 25 mph zone – but if there’s no enforcement, you can often get away with it. That’s how it is with occupancy limits in Boulder, where the only means of enforcement is to rely on neighbors to “tattle” (and even then you can probably get the City Council to squelch the complaint).
Last week as I sat on my front porch, I observed Steven Winter frantically pulling weeds in the front yard of 765 13th St. A bit later, I noticed a gathering of people watching and filming a mattress being carried out of the house – I assumed that they were just creating another one of their famous YouTube videos. It was only after I saw the incredible “news story” in the Daily Camera about 765, that I realized what had occurred – weeds had to be pulled so that Mr. Burness could write his opening paragraph with a straight face. Even so, the photographer had to focus close-up on the house to avoid huge weed patches in the picture.
The current occupants of 765 claim to have been “good neighbors”, but the reason Mr. Burness didn’t include any supporting quotes from neighbors is because he couldn’t get any. Apparently, he didn’t really try. Interesting that Mr. Burness chose to send email to only one neighbor, who happened to be travelling overseas at the time (which the 765 occupants were aware of). Meanwhile, I was sitting on my front porch while the mattress-carrying photo-op was staged, and nobody bothered to walk over to ask what the neighbors think – probably because the 765 occupants already knew what would be said.
The city admits that occupancy limits and many other regulations can only be enforced by complaints from citizens. Yet when a citizen does think about filing a complaint, the Daily Camera refers to it as “tattling”. It is odd that the only daily newspaper in Boulder now applauds self-admitted law-breakers, and then criticizes a landlord who tries to do the right thing for the neighborhood by bringing his property into compliance with applicable laws, and characterizes law-abiding neighbors as “classists” and “tattlers”. Apparently, the Daily Camera is now shifting its editorial policy towards “Advocacy Journalism,” a genre of journalism that intentionally and transparently adopts a non-objective viewpoint, usually for some social or political purpose (definition: Wikipedia).
Ms. Spinrad claims that “Picklebric is believed by many to be among the best-run co-ops in the city” (just who are these “many”, anyway?). If that’s true, then I really have to feel sorry for any neighborhood that gets stuck with one of the average or below average “co-ops”, especially with dozens of new ones scheduled for creation every year from now on.
I don’t know how Mr. Burness could sit through hours of public testimony and read dozens of letters to the editor, and still come to the conclusion that the opposition’s stance has been largely informed by fears of “de facto frat houses” masquerading as “co-ops”. Yes, that is one aspect of the opposition, but a more significant objection is that high-density boarding houses are simply incompatible with single-family residential neighborhoods. Nobody cares whether the occupants of the over-occupied boarding house have democratic meetings or are ruled by an authoritarian matriarch. The problem is the number of people per square yard, the temporary nature of most of the occupants, and the hostel/airbnb-like operation, that is most troubling to the neighbors.
However, there is one group of neighbors who are truly annoyed to see Picklebric move away: the bears living in the woods near Chautauqua (at least the ones that have avoided euthanasia). They could always count on a quick and easy meal from Picklebric’s rarely-latched garbage cans. They are very angry that their fast food service is being taken away.
Steven Meier, Boulder