Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Sting - Bellingham Style

The folks, who gave landlords a multi-million dollar gift this summer by agreeing that the citizens will pay for the placement of water meters ($8,000,000) on all single family home properties, have now handed another gift to other selected landlords. (Note: Since about 50% of single family homes are rented, up to half of that $8,000,000 will be used to pay for meters on income producing properties, i.e., rentals.) Click here to read my prior blog entry on this giveaway. You can also read a discussion of this issue at Eye on Whatcom (Click here to read the thread.)

Now, the city plans to spend about $500,000 of your tax money to replace private sewer lateral lines which then would come under city ownership. (Click here to read the Herald article on this subject) Again, since half of those properties are putative rentals, the city will provide another gift, this time up to $250,000, to the landlords, many of whom do not even live here.

Lest I be misunderstood, I agree in principle with this arrangement for live-in homeowners, however, I do not believe that a landlord (in the guise of a simple property owner) who is making money on her property, should get a free ride at our expense, while pocketing a monthly rental check. These money making operations (some are Limited Liability Companies, LLCs) ought to be paying a proportional share of the cost of replacement of these sewer lines.

Remember also, that these giveaways to rental home owners come from a city that told its citizens earlier this year that they could not afford to hire an additional code enforcement officer to ride herd on scofflaw landlords.

Monday, September 29, 2008

WWU Action on Rental Advertising

Western Washington University's Viking Union (VU) is taking action on advertising rentals for property whose terms violate the Bellingham City Code (BMC) regarding the number of unrelated persons (3 maximum) who can inhabit a single family home. Until this year, ads for such rentals were posted on the VU bulletin boards (with VU approval) and were listed on the WWU off-campus housing registry site. (Click here and here to read my blog entries on the subject)

Late last week, I spoke on the phone with Mr. Jim Schuster, Director of Viking Union Facilities, who said that these changes have already been made on the VU bulletin boards where ads for rentals whose terms are in not in accord with the BMC have been removed. A sign indicating that such ads will be taken off is also posted as a warning, according to Mr. Schuster.

In addition, a notice regarding ads whose terms violate the code will also be posted on the Viking Union off-campus housing registry website. Ads from landlords which propose rentals violating the code will no longer be accepted. This policy may take a bit longer to put into place as the website is updated by a third party.

This is encouraging news as it sends a message, not only to landlords, but to the students, that an atmosphere of permissiveness which had permeated the illegal rooming house problem is no longer acceptable. I will continue to monitor compliance by the VU.

On the other hand, unfortunately, I have yet to hear from the responsible persons at the offices of the Western Front, the student newspaper, which has also accepted similar rental advertising at least as late as last spring. Recent editions of the newspaper have not included such advertising, however, this is no longer the period in which students are seeking housing, so a dearth of such ads may be a function of the market and not of a policy of the newspaper not to accept them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Epihany at Planning?

Has there been an epiphany at the Planning Department or are we observing a manifestation of dysfunction?

On Friday, 19 September, the Planning Director sent the email quoted below to Linda Stewart, who handles neighborhood services for Mayor Pike. (This email was reported in Dean Kahn’s blog entry entitled “Will Neighborhoods Bite the Bullet?”. Click here to read his blog entry.) It appears that the city is doing a bit of back-peddling on its much vaunted “tool kit”, which, Mr. Stewart now proposes, should not apply to single family districts (whatever that means since illegal rooming houses still proliferate - and where does one put an ADU or a carriage house, if not on a single family home lot?).

He also states that the underlying density [will, should?] not change with the toolkit. It would be useful to know the meaning of "underlying density" since there are many areas whose density has already been subverted by illegal rooming houses. Somewhat encouraging is his statement that a Type VI process would be needed for changes in “single family areas” (click here to read about the Type VI process) but processes can go awry or be undermined . Follow the dollar signs for clues. Do not underestimate the economic pressure to create neighborhood blivets.

Mr. Stewart goes on, “The Sunnyland project has received a great deal of attention from the City, the neighbors and the property owners.” You betcha! A translation of his statement is that the city and Sunset Commons LLC just got "whupped upside" their collective head by a 2X4 wielded by a neighborhood not inclined to just roll over, Planning Academy or not. This is the result of presenting a neighborhood development project with eyes wide shut. For more on Sunnyland you can read my blog posts by clicking here, here, here and here.

NOTE: The following is the referenced excerpt from Mr. Stewart’s email.

“The Toolkit project is still underway, but major work is needed crafting the final ordinance and integrating the new housing forms with engineering standards for streets and utilities.

It is likely that final adoption of the Toolkit will not occur until 2009.

Because the community has not yet had a chance to review the actual ordinance, I proposed a 60 day advance release of the Final Draft Staff Recommendation before Planning Commission Hearing.

The Final Draft Ordinance will be released only after we have agreement on content and form from Planning, Public Works, Fire and Law.

I also clarified the “applicability” issue (or where will these new housing types will be permitted). I will recommend to the community, Planning Commission and Council that:

The Toolkit housing types be applicable:

1) in “Planned Commercial” and mixed use districts,

2) in Multifamily Residential Districts and

3) as a “vocabulary” for contract rezones or other legislative actions subject to a Type VI process.

I will also recommend that the Toolkit NOT apply:

1) In any single family district, and that

2) The underlying density of the zone not change with the toolkit.

(Please note that changes to single family or density might occur in the future but it would not be part of this legislative package for the toolkit.

Each change would require a separate Type VI. This additional process in single family areas is where I hope we can work with neighbors to find appropriate places for additional density and infill).

The Sunnyland project has received a great deal of attention from the City, the neighbors and the property owners.

Yesterday we received a letter from the owners, Sunset Commons, LLC requesting the proposal be tabled until 2009 “… to have more time to work with the neighborhood and City staff on a site plan that is mutually beneficial, and that sets a high standard of how infill can be accomplished in Bellingham. The current time frame is not sufficient to attend to the details that this site and the neighborhood deserve.”

I agree completely with this request. The project will be held over into the 2009 Annual Review.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Neighborhood Character - Defined at Last

It seems that I have been misled by the City of Bellingham, the City Council and the Mayor on the true meaning of preserving the character of a neighborhood. All the while, I assumed they were speaking of the singular attributes offered to residents by being in Happy Valley, York, Samish or Lettered Streets or wherever. This week I finally broke the code. The character of a neighborhood refers to individuals, who, by their eccentricities, become a neighborhood character and thereby exemplify the meaning of living in a defined neighborhood.

Take the case of Irmgard, an immigrant from Vienna, who was for a long time the neighborhood character in the York area. Irmgard ran the local millinery store on Holly St. known as Irmgard’s Toppers. Her unique hat designs won accolades from designers such as Yves St. Laurent and Giani Versace whom she often entertained in her Potter St. home. The British adopted her unique style for their hats for the policemen known as the bobbies. Irmgard was especially loved by the children in the York Neighborhood, who, upon returning from school, would be greeted by her soft cry, “Raus! Sofort!” “It takes a neighborhood to raise a child.”, she often said to those who would visit her shop at the corner of Holly and Ellis to buy a hat or Viagra, which she sold under the counter to desperate housewives. This allowed her to eventually move to Hollywood where she became the inspiration for the television series describing her former clients. Irmgard, du bist mein mensch!

Bellingham resident and Dirty Dan Harris wannabe, Joe Btfsplk, pictured here under his persistent cloud, was a model for Al Capp, the cartoonist creator of the Li’l Abner comic strip. Joe was the founder of Happy Valley where he lived for decades, thus becoming the neighborhood character responsible for defining what it means to reside in Happy Valley. They say it was Joe who brought the constant rain to Bellingham, although some meteorologists contest that assertion. Joe took up Tuvan throat singing in his later years in an attempt to raise his spirits. He briefly found happiness with an Asian bride through an internet dating service and now lives in a yurt in a nondescript but not unhappy valley in Mongolia with his 16 children. Sadly his wife recently ran off with an itinerant aluminum siding salesman from Ulan Bator. Joe was a true Bellingham character.

Nicholas Sorakyz, originally from Kazakhstan and who bears a stunning resemblance to French President Sarkozy, is a resident of Sunnyland. Known for his ability to detect odors, he was pivotal in the agreement between the city and Brooks Manufacturing to reduce the “eeewww!” factor of the aliphatic esters used in their manufacturing process thus sparing the neighborhood additional months of disgusting gaseous emanations. Nicholas, also known as St. Nick to the local children, often entertains them during the Christmas holidays by teaching them expressions such as, “That’s poopy!” ,“Yecchh!” and “Bleaaah!" Suffering from anosmia as a result of overdosing on perfume samples at Victoria’s Secret, Nick has become a recluse in his home opposite St. Sophia’s where he uses a pea shooter to pester churchgoers while hiding behind a bush in his yard. What a character that Nick!

And in the Samish Neighborhood, Mr. Zonemaven, known for his eccentric gestures, his ability to eat large salads and his annoying blog, was at the forefront of civic activism in his neighborhood. Mr. Z as he prefers to be called, was often seen at Samish Neighborhood meetings where he often spoke during the comment period “For the Good of the Neighborhood”. Unfortunately, the association just found out that he spoke only because he thought the comment period was named “What Good is the Neighborhood?”. He was last seen hitchhiking on I-5 during a thunderstorm. Mr. Z., what a character!

These stories demonstrate the cultural poverty experienced as neighborhoods lose their character. Sad days for Bellingham.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Letter to President of WWU

On September 13th, the Bellingham Herald published an article based on an interview with the new President of WWU, Dr. Bruce Shepard (Click here to read the article and here to read the entire transcript). My letter below was sent to Dr. Shepard on September 16, 2008. The letter outlines my disappointment with some of the comments he made during the interview and some suggestions to him for improving relations with the citizens of the city whose taxes pay his salary and make WWU possible.

Dr. Bruce Shepard


Western Washington University
516 High Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

Dear Dr. Shepard,

This letter is in response to your interview with Scott Ayers of the Bellingham Herald which was published on 13 September last. I would like to register my disappointment with some of your comments but, first, I want to let you know that I am not an idle observer.

Western is not an insignificant part of my life. I work at the basketball, football and soccer games played at home. For four years I operated the scoreboard for the WWU women’s softball team. I am a member of the Campus Community Coalition (CCC) and serve on its Enforcement Committee. For the past several years, since its inception, I have taken part in almost every Let’s Talk forum sponsored by the CCC. My wife and I regularly entertain groups of students at our home for barbeques and dinners.

That being said, for the past year I have authored a blog entitled Twilight Zoning in Bellingham. The reason I started the blog was to call attention to the failure of the city to enforce its own zoning codes relating to single family dwellings. The city’s code limits the number of unrelated persons in a single family dwelling to three. If there are more than three, the dwelling becomes an illegal rooming house. We had been told for years that the code was unconstitutional and, therefore, unenforceable. This proved to be patently erroneous as zoning codes such as Bellingham’s were upheld as early as 1974 by the US Supreme Court (William O. Douglas writing for the majority).

As awareness of the issue spread, there began a confusion between the enforcement of the code against illegal rooming houses and nuisance issues such as loud parties, drunkenness, underage drinking, parking, litter, public urination, etc. Not unreasonably, students were primarily blamed for much of these nuisances, although young single wage earners and some families were also culpable. Nuisances can arise from any household, my having said as much in my blog on many occasions. Furthermore, I had brought up the issue of illegal rooming houses mainly because these uncontrolled, unlicensed and unregulated rentals were undermining zoning densities in single family neighborhoods, creating, in effect, a clandestine infill in areas that were never meant to contain multi-family dwellings, i.e., illegal rooming houses.

You said during your interview with the Herald, “I have received some e-mail from people who say the problem with off-campus behavior of students is because the university isn't providing housing. That just doesn't stand up to any sort of critical thinking or logic.” Put that way, you are correct. The problem is, however, the “hands-off” stance of the university on both student off-campus behavior and creation of illegal rooming houses, which are separate issues. You need go no further than your own Viking Union building to find a university sponsored bulletin board with home rental advertisements of a scofflaw nature, inviting 4, 5, 6 or more students to occupy a single home. (Click here to see attachment 1 for a more thorough explanation.) What kind of a message is this sending to the students? Or if, as you say, “Our students are free and independent human beings and they should be treated as such.”, then for what reason the outrage from the students and the university when dozens of cars (mostly those of students) were ticketed for illegal parking near the university months ago? Should they not, as “free and independent persons”, accept responsibility for their infractions? Where is the critical thinking or logic here?

The Campus Community Coalition (CCC) was created “to prevent and address problems related to student alcohol misuse”; however, it has not been adequately funded and has been buried in the university’s administration in the office of Prevention and Wellness. (One might also ask, if, as you say that the university does not operate in loco parentis, the reason for which the university is interested in student alcohol use off-campus.) Unfortunately, I have seen the attendance at CCC meetings dwindle as the representation from various organizations has migrated downward, through the chains of command, from the chiefs, directors and senior managers, to staff and other rank-and-file workers whose decision making powers, if any, are limited. Meanwhile, the citizens have the impression that the CCC was created for a larger purpose, that of providing a broad forum for resolution of campus/citizen issues. In order for this organization to be effective, it ought to be part of the highest levels of university administration and have in attendance those who have decision making powers.

I also understand that the university cannot house all of its students. However, WWU has not built a dorm in several decades, even in the face of increasing enrollment, but has planned furiously for Huxley-on-the-Bay, which, by the university’s own estimate, will attract an additional 500 students. There is not one mention in the university’s planning documents of the manner in which these 500 newcomers will be housed. The much vaunted public-private partnership so vigorously sought after by the university in its desire to move to the port is, sadly, forgotten in the case of providing some creative (public-private) off-campus housing options for students who now have to forage in a “wild west” rental market. Instead, the neighborhoods become unwilling sponges as 8,000 students from WWU compete with students from Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College and local singles of modest or low income for a place to live.

Although you say, “For those directly affected by the problems, I understand their concern and their anger and their passion, but we do have to keep it in context.”, I am afraid that our neighborhoods have been the “context” for decades for an insidious infill caused by a shortage of affordable housing fueled in great part by university students seeking lodging. I personally have lived in the “context” of four illegal rooming houses on my street of 12 homes, hence my “concern and passion” about my retirement home for which I worked 40 years to obtain. Unfortunately, after years of not being heard by the city government and the university, Bellingham homeowners have become enured to the point of numbness since complaints are not addressed or, if addressed, are treated in a perfunctory and ineffective manner.

Your arrival here provided a glimmer of possibility for a new vision which was, regrettably, not reinforced by your comments to the Herald. This disappointment can be reversed by your taking action now to demonstrate a commitment to the community. You can:

>Plan for additional off-campus student housing through public-private partnerships with a zeal equal to that shown in seeking the same partnerships for the university’s waterfront projects.

>Raise the Campus Community Coalition to the level of your office, rework and broaden its stated mission and provide it adequate funding.

>Stop the university’s advertising and support of rentals which violate the Bellingham City Code and warn students that to enter into such rental agreements might bring legal action.

>Work vigorously with the city for a landlord licensing program which will protect the health and welfare of students living off-campus. (Click here and here to see attachments 2 & 3)

>Amend the code of student behavior to include sanctions of illegal, off-campus behavior.

I see an opportunity here for a university to totally transform its relationship with the local government and its citizens and to be a model for such transformation across the country. You have the advantage of many great minds at the university to assist in this endeavor. Otherwise, as they saying goes, “If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting.” If the status quo is the goal, then carry on.

Since I am not content with the status quo, I am willing to meet with you at your convenience to discuss the subjects above.



Monday, September 15, 2008

WWU Continues to Ignore Bellingham City Code

Western Washington University should stop publicizing rentals that violate Bellingham Municipal Code portions which are designed to prevent the creation of illegal rooming houses. The code explicitly states that a single family home shall have no more than three unrelated people. If there are more than three, then the landlord has created an illegal rooming house.

The Viking Union Off-Campus Housing Registry website, which presents available rentals to students, lists single family home rentals for more than three students. (The Registry website proclaims that it is the property of Western Washington University.) Similarly, the Western Front accepts ads for single family homes for 4 and 5 student renters. A bulletin board in the Viking Union (next to the Post Office) contains postings of similar rentals, some of which rent to 4, 5 and even 6 individuals. The off-campus registry is not unaware that rules and regulation govern rentals. It warns landlords, “Be sure that you are not violating your community or State laws that prevent discrimination.” Yet, when asking the landlord to indicate the numbers of renters to be allowed, the site merely advises that the landlord should indicate “the maximum number of people you will allow in your rental.” There is no mention of this “community’s” i.e. Bellingham’s, law limiting the number to three.

Several months ago I wrote to the responsible officers of the Association of Students of the Viking Union to point out the problem I outlined above. I never received an acknowledgment of my communication. On May 17th, I published an entry on the subject on my Zonemaven blog but had no response from university officials. (Click here to read that blog entry) At the minimum, the university should post warnings to students to the effect that by renting a home with more than three individuals, they, as well as the landlord, are breaking the law and liable for legal sanctions. Likewise, WWU should warn landlords that the university will only provide listings for rentals which are in compliance with the law. The university may also be courting a liability if it fails to do so.

It is time for WWU to do the right thing and set an example for its students by eliminating this highly problematic advertising from its website, its bulletin boards and the Western Front. Can the university expect its students to exhibit good citizenship when the institution itself does not demand integrity in its presentations to those very students?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weiss Proposal Number 5 - Upgrade of Nuisance Ordinances

Fifth among the six legs of the stool on single family zoning proposed by City Council Member Jack Weiss is an upgrade of the nuisance ordinances. I take this to mean the ordinances having to do with noise, parking, public urination, littering, underage drinking, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. The Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC) generally defines nuisances thus:

Title 10 Criminal Code
Chapter 28 NUISANCES

10.28.010 - DEFINITIONS

B. "Nuisance" means any act, condition, omission, thing, or use of property which does the following:
1. Annoys, injures, or endangers the safety, health, comfort, or repose of the public;
2. Offends public decency;
3. Unlawfully interferes with, obstructs, or renders dangerous for passage a waterway, public park, street, sidewalk, alley, or highway; or
4. In any way renders the public insecure in life or in the use of property.

Noise is specifically covered in the municipal code: 10.24.120 - Public Disturbance Noise. (Click here to read the Noise portion of the code) The ordinance is in effect 24 hours a day except for noises emanating from construction activities. The 24 hours-a-day proscription usually comes as a surprise to even long time Bellingham residents. Most erroneously think you can pretty much do anything prior to 10pm, 11pm, midnight – chose one you like. A policy analyst is now looking at the noise ordinance as it applies to downtown, especially with regard to music venues. A report is expected to see the light of day in October. It is not clear if proposed changes would eventually affect neighborhoods also.

Parking is covered under many various sections (Click here to go to the BMC and enter the word “parking” as a search term) of the municipal code. I would not at this time hazard a guess as to the manner in which the City Council can enhance these codes. Enforcement of the current codes would appear to me to suffice, however, a recent attempt at enforcing parking on city streets near the WWU campus produced howls of protests from renters and WWU itself.

Public urination is prohibited under BMC Section 10.24.020. (Click here to read that code portion.) Again, I am hard put to discover a means to enhance this ordinance except to make the penalty for an infraction much more severe.

Littering has many facets as dozens of sections of the BMC refer to litter. One problem with enforcement of litter violations is that there is only one person in the city government who enforces litter complaints (formerly known as the Litter Control Officer). Since this summer, that individual (now known as the Neighborhood Compliance Officer) has additional duties enforcing the zoning codes with respect to single family occupancy and illegal rooming houses.

Underage drinking/public drunkenness is mostly covered by the Revised Code of Washington whose restrictions have been adopted by reference into the BMC. I think the Bellingham Police Department does a fairly good job at enforcing these statutes but is limited by time, personnel and other priorities. If the City Council wishes to enhance enforcement of these codes a few dozen more police officers would help immensely. The Campus Community Coalition has done a lot of good educational work over the past few years regarding alcohol abuse but their grant to continue such work has run out.

Disorderly conduct is, in part, defined by the BMC as “Make[ing] or caus[ing] to be made any loud or boisterous noise which unreasonably disturbs the peace, comfort and repose of others, or permits such public disturbance to be made at any residence or business under his charge or control.” (You can read the full definition of that portion of the code by clicking here.) This is the code portion under which most renters or residents are cited when there is an out-of-control party. I would favor stricter enforcement, i.e., no warnings for first offenses.

None of the above will, obviously, cure the problem of neighborhood density control and illegal rooming houses. The treatment for that ill is enforcement of zoning codes related to single family dwellings.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Missive to the Mayor

I sent the following letter regarding single family zoning enforcement and related issues to Mayor Dan Pike on 6 September 2008 to remind him of his stated commitments to the neighborhoods, made during his campaign. The citizens of Bellingham have the right to hold their elected leaders accountable for their campaign promises. I invite my readers to send similar letters to Mayor Pike.

September 6, 2008

Mayor Dan Pike

210 Lottie St.
Bellingham, WA 98225

Dear Mayor Pike,

During your campaign last summer to become mayor of Bellingham, I sent an email to you regarding the mess that the city of Bellingham calls single family zoning [see attachment 1 below]. You sent me two replies [attachments 2 and 3 below] in which you stated the following, in part:

"I am committed to addressing this problem. As it stands, the consequences are devalued neighborhoods, a lack of social cohesion in the affected neighborhoods due to excessive residential (e.g., student renter) turnover, and a dispersal of some enforcement issues (parties, etc.) which create more, and more expensive, challenges to effective policing”.

“This particular issue has been simmering since my days as a student at WWU in the early 1980s. I cannot help thinking that a joint, proactive effort among the City, the University, and affected neighborhoods and property owners could have borne fruit by now, if someone at City hall had demonstrated a little leadership.”

“…if untrue [if the code is not unconstitutional], I will begin enforcement of the code.”

We are now more than a year beyond the date of those statements and, curiously, we have heard virtually nothing on the part of you or the Director of Planning on this issue. The code is constitutional (decided by the Supreme Court in 1974). The council seems to have stolen what little leadership has surfaced on the subject, however, most of their actions have resulted in naught to date, except attempting to push a noodle up the hill. A complaint I personally submitted on an illegal rooming house last April is still being ground around in the craw of the city bureaucracy. It took the complaint almost 4 months to exit the Planning Department and find itself at the desk of the Neighborhood Compliance Officer at the Police Department. What was being done on this complaint for four months? (Question for Tim Stewart and not Todd Ramsay)

You have not been reticent in making decisions, some bold and controversial, on other problems facing the city. Unfortunately, issues such as the waterfront development continue to receive page one attention, although not a soul lives there, while our citizens, who actually live in our neighborhoods, see the quality of life, as you said, “devalued” by the encroachment of illegal rooming houses and uncontrolled, unlicensed and uninspected single family rentals.

I am asking you (not the council) again, today,

-to take bold action on this issue,

-to lead instead of follow the council,

-to demonstrate by actions and by voice your commitment to our neighborhoods,

-to notify a heretofore unconcerned Western Washington University that our city is not a de facto sponge created to soak up their student renters each year,

-to provide more code enforcement personnel to the police department,

-to aggressively enforce the codes now in effect,

-to inform landlords, in no uncertain terms, that the free ride is over and that licensing and inspections will be their future.

Those single family homeowners, those of modest means, who live in their homes and who have worked hard to purchase and maintain the largest investment of their lives, are looking to you for the leadership you promised. We had your word on it.




Attachment 1: Email the Zonemaven sent to then-candidate Dan Pike on 25 Jul 2007.

The candidate for any city office who wants my vote will have to provide some concrete solutions to end this mess the City of Bellingham calls zoning. Someone has to get out in front of this issue for once and for all. Who will be the one to lead? All the candidates are speaking to the issue of growth but none is bringing up the subject of the lack of enforcement of the "single family" residential portion of the Bellingham Municipal Code. Everyone wants to sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya. The problem cannot be solved as long as the city nibbles about the edges of the issue. By nibbling I mean treating the single family home matter as if it were a case of bad rental property owners, alcohol abuse, littering, public urination, parking, etc. These are all symptoms of a more basic problem regarding the approach to zoning enforcement in the city. We spend inordinate hours reviewing, rewording, revising and restructuring our neighborhood plans. Density issues remain a top subject among the citizens and the candidates. All of this becomes meaningless when the basic definition of what constitutes a single family (which is at the core of what constitutes a single family zoning area) purportedly remains elusive. Lack of enforcement has turned parts of this city, zoned single family, into rooming house districts.

I have heard countless times that the current code is unenforceable as it is somehow "unconstitutional." My suspicion is that this mantra of "unenforceability" has been repeated so many times that the assumption is that it is, indeed, valid. Would that someone prove me wrong. Yet, I found after only 5 minutes on the web that Bloomington, IN; Allentown, PA; Lincoln, NE; Binghamton, NY; and Ann Arbor, MI, to name a few, have prevailed in court appeals on their definition as to the makeup of a single family for zoning purposes. If I found these references after only 5 minutes on the Internet, would it be too difficult for candidates to determine if their solutions would be applicable to Bellingham?

Additionally, which candidates will ask that Western Washington University, Bellingham's 800 pound gorilla, step up to the plate in a much more substantial manner? The university just received $47 million dollars for renovation and expansion of their facilities. What role is the university intending to play in the housing of all the students they plan to attract to the expanded university of the future? Who is talking about that? What about the thousands of students each year who are forced by lack of dormitory space to find affordable housing? Not being stupid, they make the economically viable choice, forming group houses. Unfortunately, however, that practice violates the municipal code. Landlords turn a blind eye as do our enforcers. Even if there were no violations of related codes (noise, litter, parking, etc.), the mere footprint of 5-10 people in a single-family home creates a substantially different footprint in a neighborhood where the norm is a family with a few children. The efforts of the Campus Community Coalition are laudable and should continue as an educational process for the students, but to pretend that this will solve the problem of zoning and density within the city limits is to bury one's head in the sand.

Which candidates will stop wringing their collective hands over the issue of the city enforcing its own laws? If candidates are convinced that the current code is unenforceable, will they have the courage to ask that the council remove it from the books so that city will not continue to play with the minds of the citizenry? If we then need something to replace the definition, which I assume must be done to preserve a basic description of "single family zoning", will candidates, once in office, compel the city's legal "experts" to do their homework and reach out to jurisdictions where zoning is a meaningful concept? This cannot remain in the too-hard-to-do column.

Attachment 2: Response from Dan Pike on 7/31/2007:

"I am committed to addressing this problem. As it stands, the consequences are devalued neighborhoods, a lack of social cohesion in the affected neighborhoods due to excessive residential (e.g., student renter) turnover, and a dispersal of some enforcement issues (parties, etc.) which create more, and more expensive, challenges to effective policing.

I have been told that the current code is unenforceable on constitutional grounds. When elected, I will have that looked at. If it proves to be true, I will remove that law from our books and work on other means of solving the problem; if untrue, I will begin enforcement of the code.

Thanks for sharing your concerns with me. I look forward to working productively on election.

Yours for Bellingham,

Dan Pike"

Attachment 3: Response from Mr. Pike on 8/14/2007:

"Below is my reply to an inquiry you sent a couple of weeks ago. I have also received phone and email comments on this issue from others concerned about this issue, and reiterate my intent to address this--early--if elected. As you have noted, an unenforced law is worthless. In fact, it is worse than no law at all.

I have begun reviewing some of the many sites you forwarded; due to time constraints I have only begun, but it certainly appears that other areas have managed to address this issue. Frankly, one of the many reasons I am running is because of issues like this, where a lack of proactive action by the City has left us reacting to a crisis. This particular issue has been simmering since my days as a student at WWU in the early 1980s. I cannot help thinking that a joint, proactive effort among the City, the University, and affected neighborhoods and property owners could have borne fruit by now, if someone at City hall had demonstrated a little leadership.

While I cannot guarantee what solution will work for Bellingham, I will commit to working with you to find and implement an acceptable solution, so this is not a campaign issue in four more years. If you have specific ideas, concerns, or possible solutions, please send them to me at dan@pikeformayor.com. I promise to give this issue the attention it should have had years ago.

Yours for Bellingham,

Dan Pike"