Ballot Issues to Override Occupancy Limits

There are currently two petitions being circulated that seek to place items on the ballot this November related to Boulder’s occupancy limit ordinances.  These petitions seek to undermine or completely eliminate the occupancy limits that are now in place.  BNA opposes these initiatives.  Occupancy limits are a very important safeguard for maintaining the integrity of neighborhoods zoned for single-family residential, by discouraging the conversion of existing single family homes into high-occupancy rental units.   Either or both of these ballot proposals would remove that safeguard, and make rental conversions very lucrative for investor landlords, accelerating the erosion of many Boulder neighborhoods.

Update: neither of these petitions had enough signatures as of July 11, 2016 to make it onto the 2016 ballot.  But they are not dead yet – they can still continue to gather signatures to get onto next year’s (2017) ballot.  Stay tuned.

One person per bedroom

This would prohibit the city from setting occupancy limits to anything less than one person per bedroom in a dwelling unit.  Sounds almost reasonable, except that the definition of “bedroom” comes from the International Residential Code, which defines a bedroom as 70 square feet with two means of egress.  This would mean that any rental house could convert as many rooms into “bedrooms” as they can fit – every living room, dining room, den, basement, and garage could be a “bedroom”, while existing bedrooms could be split into two or three.  That 3-bedroom rental house next door to you will quickly turn into a 8-bedroom if this train-wreck of a ballot issue passes.

Remove the concept of “unrelated persons”

Boulder’s current occupancy limits state that no more than three unrelated people may occupy a rental dwelling unit.  This initiative would make it illegal to base occupancy limits on the relationship among the occupants.  If this ballot measure is passed, the current occupancy limit ordinance would be void.   Any number of people with no relationship whatsoever could be crammed into a rental unit, no matter how small.

According to Gregor Robinson, the initiator of this ballot petition, they hope to get City Council to take up this measure, even if they don’t get enough signatures:

There are lots of reasons to sign both (or one) anyway. Not least of which is that it demonstrates your opinion to City Council, who have the option to place the issues on the ballot — even if the petition doesn’t force the issue onto the ballot by reaching a threshold 5% of registered voters.

Since we are not hiring circulators, I am inclined to think some on council will be open to this option.

In poker language: circulating and signing is even a good way to make council members show their hand with a public vote, rather than folding their cards of political opinion. And if they are not willing to put an important issue on the ballot for formal public opinion, it could be sufficient grounds for council members to lose their seat in a subsequent election.