The Boulder City Council ignited a firestorm on Sept. 1 when it gave initial approval to an ordinance that would require transparent advertising of housing occupancy limits and increased penalties for violators.
A significant number of Boulder rental homes are suspected to be in violation of these limits, and concerned student occupants flooded Tuesday’s city council meeting to speak out against enforcement.
As a rookie on the Government and Politics beat, I was gambling that this emotionally charged issue would draw out long-term Boulder residents as well, a demographic I hoped to tap for story ideas.
I arrived at the Municipal Building 30 minutes early, got my bearings, and introduced myself to a man in the front row.
Marcelo Mainzer runs a one-man concierge and errand service called Just Task Me. He said he came to the meeting to speak on the occupancy-enforcement ordinance.
I asked, “For or against?”
He raised his eyebrow. “What do you think?”
“Against,” he said solemnly.
A former member of the Ostara Co-op in North Boulder, Mainzer drew a parallel between the limitation of three to four unrelated housing occupants to the fight for marriage equality.
As he later told the council, “The occupancy limit ordinance impinges on property and individual rights: the right to choose who we call family.”
Mainzer was the first person to speak on the occupancy issue, taking the podium at 8:52 p.m.
Next I spoke to a long-haired man carrying a backpack and a motorcycle helmet.
Darren O’Connor is a 21-year Boulder resident, an electrical engineer at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, and a member of several advocacy groups, including Boulder Rights Watch.
I asked him why he was at the meeting, and he said he came to show a video of police beating a homeless man. I asked him where it happened.
“Here,” he said. “Boulder.”
Police oversight needs more media attention, he said. “I think there’s a lot of room for looking into how our D.A. is getting data on when to charge police” for crimes, he said.
“You can watch police in England taking people out with just a baton,” he said. “It’s all about training and intent.”
I had time to squeeze in another interview before the session started, so I sat down next to a woman in the last row of floor seating.
Instead of introducing myself, like I had before, I began by asking whether I could ask her a few questions.
She was reluctant to talk, saying she’s a quiet person and she’d have to know what I’d be asking about. Realizing my mistake, I told her who I was and why I was there.
She relaxed and introduced herself as Annie Fox, a 35-year Boulder resident who has raised a family on University Hill.
Unlike Mainzer, she’s in favor of occupancy-limit enforcement. She compared University Hill to wilderness, saying, “You have to permit camping in a wilderness area, otherwise you’ll ruin what’s so beautiful about it.”
“I used to live across the alley from a co-op,” she said. “I’m totally fine with legal, registered co-ops. Amen!”
“But a lot of people don’t want to live in a co-op,” she said.
Fox left the meeting just after 9:30 p.m. without getting a chance to speak.