Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Zonemaven Takes a Brief Break

I will take a rest until January. I will monitor my site for comments to prior blogs and will post those comments as appropriate.

I wish all a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Letters from the York Neighborhood

These missives come from residents of the York Neighborhood. I will not comment on them as I feel that they speak for themselves quite nicely.

"Last night, just before midnight my mom got a call from a terrified neighbor who's house was being attacked by 20 to 30 Western students. This has happened to my mother many times over the years. Also, there is a rise in home invasions by students who are altered to the point of blackout. The charges that these students get for their increasingly dangerous behavior are minimal. If students are old enough to live in the community, their criminal behavior needs to be charged appropriately. M is going to e-mail you also so please put her comments on your blog. Thanks,

PS Please no names."

And another

"Saturday night's snowfall brought out the York hooligans (students) en masse. Around 10:30 PM a large group of 25+ converged on Potter St. between Grant and Franklin for a noisy, aggressive snowball fight. Their numbers swelled as others, attracted to the melee, arrived from all directions; some armed with bats(baseball?) To me this presented personal danger as well as a threat to my property. I called 911 and requested immediate police protection. When I saw one of the males under my bedroom window, trespassing, I opened the window and yelled "Get off my property". This was met by the usual f--- you and a fusillade of snowballs thrown by him and his friends at me, my window and house. Fearing a visit by the police they quickly dispersed into the night. The police did arrive shortly thereafter.

If anybody wonders why Western students are not welcome in our neighborhoods take a look at the behaviour they display. Aside from the usual drunken disorderly conduct, vandalism and illegally entering private residences etc. we are witness to their ability tof form a large group on any occasion. This presents a real riot potential especially when fueled by alcohol and drugs. The York Neighborhood is not a safe place for people living alone, senior citizens or families with children Who does this leave? STUDENTS. If Western does not own up to its responsibilities and keep them on campus, we might as well all move out and let them have the neighborhood (campus).

Richard, please don't print my name."

And this:

"The crowd had dispersed before the police arrived. Therefore, there was not contact by the police with them. No doubt they knew that I would call 911 after my altercation regarding trespass.

Western students are in over abundance in this neighborhood and responsible for many of the problems here. These people were definitely not of high school age nor were they homeless. No, I can't prove they were Western students since I didn't card them.

There have been several incidents in this neighborhood of drunken individuals either breaking in or entering unlocked doors. One was arrested in someone's living room stark naked. Stoned. The police talked the homeowner out of pressing charges.

My neighbor across the street had their back door kicked in and found someone in their kitchen at 3:00 AM. They did press charges and he was convicted of malicious mischief and required to pay restitution for damages. Several other people I know experienced drunken students entering their homes. Unfortunately, they did not report this to the police. People are afraid to file charges or put their names to anything. I have not experienced any of the above, probably because I have a large dog.

A lot of these kinds of issues go unreported because of fear of reprisals and targeting. I am waiting to see what comes my way after Sat. night.

I am utterly fed up with B'ham, Western and the York neighborhood and look forward to the day I can move out."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Students Plotted?

Click on the image to enlarge the map.

This is an interesting plot of the addresses of WWU students throughout Bellingham based on 2005 data. Although the title at the top of the map indicates that these are student addresses, it is unclear if there are multiple students attributable to some addresses. There are about 4,000 "students" accounted for by the map according to the text boxes for each neighborhood. Since there are about 3,000 to 3,500 students housed at the campus, there seems to be a discrepancy of 5,000 or more students for whom there is no accounting. Perhaps all of those live in the county, be it Whatcom or, perhaps, Skagit. Maybe all 5000 or so use PO Boxes or home addresses in other cities throughout the Pacific Northwest. The figures suggest to me that there are are thousands more grouping at the same addresses plotted, a situation we have come to know as illegal rooming houses. In any event, the map demonstrates the "infill" produced by the university which took place with little planning and which continues in the same way. Could the university publish a map with the true, physical addresses of all its students so that the city managers and the city council become aware of the extent of the problem which is all too apparent to the citizens?

Blog Reader's Letter to the Mayor

The following was sent as a comment to a previous post. I found his presentation compelling and decided to post it as a blog entry. The writer lives on Wildflower Way near the city's Clean Green facility.

"Thought you might be interested in the letter I sent the mayor the day after his "coronation". It is very similar to yours. I don't expect any response or action, just more study groups, steering committees and other useless meetings to defer responsibility away from those who seek to gain or regain political power. Great blog BTW. If I were home more often I would be knocking the door down at city hall.

November 28, 2007

Mayor Dan Pike
City of Bellingham
City Hall
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

RE: Neighborhood Code Enforcement

Dear Mayor Pike:

Congratulations on your recent election to the office of Mayor. For what it’s worth, my wife and I voted for you based on the endorsement of Brett Bonner for your campaign. To be very honest with you, except for Brett’s endorsement, we really didn’t see much difference in the candidates for the office. We are hoping you give us a reason to vote for your re-election in four years.

Now that you have been elected, we are hoping you “hit the ground running”, particularly on issues concerning the neighborhoods in Bellingham that are being overtaken by irresponsible landlords and renters. Of course it’s no secret that we are talking about the student occupied boarding houses that have been proliferating in the city for years. We realize that you have a lot of issues to deal with, many of them fairly new on the agenda like the waterfront and inhibiting legal businesses from operating in the city, but this issue isn’t new, has been festering for many years and needs your attention now. It seems to me you have two choices in this matter. The first is to start enforcing a city code that has been passed by some past council and mayor. The second is to ignore, give citizens the run-a-round, make excuses and watch as good neighborhoods and good neighbors become enemies on an ugly battleground of turf wars.

Allow me to expand this discussion to code enforcement in general. I recently received a letter from Kent Butenschoen, Department of Public Works, Street Division, City of Bellingham. He informed me that a tree that was planted during neighborhood development and required by the city, had grown over the sidewalk and was now a safety hazard. He also informed me that I had until December 13, 2007 to take action to correct this “safety” issue. I had the feeling there would be an “or else” follow up but the letter wasn’t specific. Now I certainly understand safety issues, but in this case, how can this be a safety issue when there is a constant and steady stream of cars parked under the tree, on the sidewalk by the rental neighbors I referred to above. No one can walk on the sidewalk to be struck by the tree to begin with. I have complained about this issue to the Bellingham Police Department in the past but nothing was done. Sometimes the vehicles remain on the sidewalk and under the tree preventing pedestrian traffic (including young children going to school) for days. FYI, the sidewalk is only on one side of the street so this is the only path to walk for the kids, unless they walk in the street.

The “flyer” that was enclosed in the envelope with the “tree” letter also stated it was the City’s responsibility to keep weeds and vegetation out of the sidewalk. I’m the original homeowner and in the thirteen years of living here, the City has never taken care of weeds and other vegetation in the sidewalk. Either I or my wife does this.

I would also note that my yard and property are meticulously maintained, including the tree in question. Since I travel extensively in my profession, I contract with a yard maintenance company to mow, edge, fertilize as necessary and maintain my yard in a manner which not only enhances my property, but the neighborhood in general.

What is my reward for this? I look across the street, up the street and down the street at the WWU student “boarding houses”. We hear the loud parties, the banging of house and card doors at all hours of the night. We have a very hard time getting in and out of our driveway due to the excessive amount of cars, most parked illegally, around or in front of our driveway. We see the trash strewn about the yards and streets due to trash bins overflowing with party material, beer and booze bottles, beer and soda cans and general debris. We see houses that are not maintained, the structures collapsing in some cases with old unused furniture thrown out the front door. And we see yards not maintained, the weeds and dandelions’ growing and blowing all over the neighborhood.

As bad as the appearance and disturbances are, the real insult is the response we get from the City. Our complaints and requests for code and traffic enforcement fall on deaf ears, but we get letters from the City about a beautiful tree that is harming no one.

So is the taxpayer to assume that when there is an issue that requires action by the owner-occupier of a home, the city will enforce or fine, but where there is an issue that requires action by the city to correct the problem, the city will give us no action or answers? I believe that question deserves an answer Mr. Mayor.

As I said above, welcome to the office of Mayor. But please understand this office is not ceremonial in nature. It is not an office designed to only serve those with political clout in the city. It is, in fact, an office that requires strong leadership by the occupant to ensure the average working, taxpaying citizen in this city is served as well as the wealth, the politically connected or the large student population that we seem to be bending over backwards to cater to.

I look forward to seeing action on these issues and to see the leadership from you I voted for.


Larry Miller"

Monday, December 3, 2007

Water and Sewer Rates - Owners Pay & Landlords Walk

There is yet another reason to give a harder look at illegal rooming houses in our neighborhoods – water and sewer bills. Unless you have metered water use, which is not the case with almost all single family homes, you pay a flat rate for water and sewer use. That rental house with 5-6 adults pays the same flat rate even though that single family home has been turned into an illegal rooming house, which is essentially a revenue producing business for the landlord. So, if you have an average sized family, your rates are the same as for that de facto apartment building. As the city council contemplates licensing landlords, it may well consider requiring water meters on all single family rentals within the city limits.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Busted in York Neighborhood Rooming House

I received the following from a resident of the York Neighborhood who asked to remain anonymous. (Attention Mr. Pike and City Council Members - such is the lamentable state of affairs in this city that homeowners with complaints are fearful of identifying themselves.)

“Hi. I live in the 1400 block of Franklin St. On November 20th I had to call the police because of loud music…I haven't needed to this before myself. This [house] is a student rental - Adams Property Management. I spoke with these students soon after they moved in about please no loud parties… gave warning about the fines etc. The police did come and made eight arrests. A twenty-one year old for disorderly conduct, furnishing liquor to minors, obstructing, … possession of marijuana and seven arrests for MIP. We've got to some how STOP!! this. I've lived in Bellingham all my life and the more students we get the more wide spread problems.”

While I have no direct confirmation that the individuals involved are students (I will leave that determination to the officials of WWU and anxiously await their report) a Google search of the names in the police report below associated at least two with the university. I have asked the university in a previous blog entry (click here) to sanction off-campus legal offenses by the students, however, I have had no response to my proposal.

In addition, it may be instructive to look at the property management firm (Adams Property Management) which our York homeowner indicates is in charge of this house of questionable repute. The management’s website (click here) laudably announces that their rental houses are not party houses and then states “We have a 10:00pm noise curfew on weekdays and 1:00am on weekends (Friday & Saturday nights).” Excuse me? The Bellingham Municipal Code states that with certain exceptions, the noise ordinance is applicable 24 hours per day. (Check the code by clicking here) By offering its own version of a “noise curfew” this management company is providing a false notion to its renters. It would be better that Adams Property Management give new renters a copy of the relevant portion of the code. I do like the “two strikes and you’re evicted” tolerance level of Adams Property Management, however, it may prove interesting to know the number of times this rule has been applied. Perhaps the company can inform us of their enforcement efforts. Lastly, this management firm’s rental application allows the primary renter to specify up to nine additional residents of the premises. Doh!

Here are the police reports for that evening on Franklin St. (These are posted publicly on the Police Daily Activity Log -click here)

Reported: Nov 20 2007 11:07PM
Location: 1400 BLK FRANKLIN ST
Case #: 07B48894

Officers responded to a loud and disorderly party. The investigation resulted in the following arrests: (A1) was cited by summons for disorderly conduct (loud party), furnishing liquor to minors, obstructing and possession of marijuana under 40 grams (A2) was cited and released for disorderly conduct (loud party), furnishing liquor to minors, minor in possession, and possession of marijuana under 40 grams (A3) was cited and released for disorderly conduct (loud party), furnishing liquor to minors, minor in possession (A4) was cited and released for disorderly conduct (loud party), furnishing liquor to minors, minor in possession, and obstructing See narrative for further details.

Arrested: SCHAEFER, STEWART LEE Age: 21 (DOB: Sep 16 1986 )
Arrested: BIRNEY, ANDREW MATTHEW Age: 20 (DOB: May 28 1987 )
Arrested: LIEBERT, SARA ASHLEY Age: 20 (DOB: Nov 21 1986 )
Arrested: KNOWLES, TAYLOR LINCOLN Age: 20 (DOB: Apr 29 1987 ) Reported: Nov 20 2007 11:07PM
Location: 1400 BLK FRANKLIN ST
Case #: 07B48895

(A1) was cited and released for minor in possession of alcohol by consumption.

Arrested: GARDNER, JAMIE ANNE Age: 20 (DOB: Oct 3 1987 ) Reported: Nov 20 2007 11:07PM
Location: 1400 BLK FRANKLIN ST
Case #: 07B48896

(A1) was cited for MIP.

Arrested: SANDSTROM, JACQUELINE T Age: 19 (DOB: Apr 21 1988 ) Reported: Nov 20 2007 11:07PM
Location: 1400 BLK FRANKLIN ST
Case #: 07B48897

(A1) was cited for MIP.

Arrested: PALMER, LINDEY LOVERNE Age: 18 (DOB: Jul 21 1989 ) Reported: Nov 20 2007 11:07PM
Location: 1400 BLK FRANKLIN ST
Case #: 07B49323

Officers responded to the above location for a loud noise complaint.

Arrested: FOOS, CORTNEY LEE Age: 20 (DOB: Jan 27 1987 )