Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the number of people who spoke in open comment.
In order to live over occupied in Boulder, Aidan Cook said he legally adopted some of his housemates.
“This solution is not practical for everyone,” Cook said in open comment during Tuesday’s Boulder City Council meeting. “Residents of Boulder deserve the same safety, security and peace of mind in our housing that we have.”
Currently, in most areas of Boulder, no more than three unrelated people are allowed to live together.
Bedrooms Are For People, a ballot measure that failed in the recent municipal election, would have relaxed the city’s occupancy limits to allow all housing units to be occupied by a number of people equal to the number of legal bedrooms, plus one additional person per home, provided relevant health and safety codes are met.
Although the measure was unsuccessful with 52% voting in opposition, campaign organizers and activists are continuing to push for reform in Boulder. About a dozen people spoke in open comment, urging the council to consider suspending enforcement of the city’s occupancy restrictions while it evaluates longer-term solutions.
And with a new City Council, six of whom endorsed Bedrooms, it appears there may be support for doing so. In a couple of weeks, Boulder City Council will look for a nod of five to suspend enforcement while occupancy reform work is ongoing.
Activists with the Bedrooms campaign requested an immediate nod of five, though Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend argued it would be more appropriate procedurally to schedule the nod of five in an upcoming meeting.
Councilmember Bob Yates agreed and suggested a public hearing.
However, Friend noted there was no hearing when she previously suggested a discussion on suspension of occupancy limit enforcement because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“(At that time) I was just requesting a nod of five and that’s what I would request again,” she said. “Not an elaborate public hearing but just that we have time to hear from staff and people can email us or sign up for open comment.”
Ambika Kamath, another Bedrooms supporter, also pushed for the city to stop enforcing its occupancy restrictions until other solutions can be implemented.
“In the current climate of fear around enforcement against over occupancy, I worry that it’s going to be very hard for council to collect data to truly understand the negative impact of our harsh occupancy laws on the current residents of Boulder,” she said.
Opponents of Bedrooms Are For People did not speak during Tuesday’s meeting but have previously expressed concerns about the effect of relaxing occupancy limits on noise and traffic and the potential of investors purchasing single-family homes to turn them into dormitories.
While opponents might be interested in different solutions than supporters, they also have said they support working collaboratively with staff and supporters moving forward.
“We look forward to working with the Bedrooms Are for People supporters and the new City Council to create an ordinance that will guarantee greater access to housing that will be both affordable and respectful of our established neighborhoods,” Lisa Spalding said in an earlier statement provided to the Camera. “The process will include professional guidance from the Planning Department staff and robust community participation.”
Before Tuesday’s discussion concluded, Councilmember Tara Winer asked whether the failure of the ballot measure would impact how the city might proceed with discussions about occupancy. However, City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde said she wasn’t sure there would be a correlation.
“Clearly, we’ve heard from the comments … that there is an interest in moving forward for a variety of reasons,” she said. “It is up to the council body in terms of policy direction that they want to give staff as we move forward.”