Monday, August 27, 2007

At-Large Candidate Lilliquist Responds. Candidate Bjornson – Mute or Moot?

On 7/29/2007 Michael Lilliquist responded thusly:

"I agree that this is a problem, but I am doubtful that the current law will ever prove effective. One problem is that not all unrelated families are troublesome. The other, constitutional question about what constitutes a family is simply one that the City should avoid taking on. We don't need the legal headache. I believe that we should focus more on the illegal behavior - noise, garbage, parking abuses, etc., than upon the familial status of the renters.

I think we need to put more muscle behind enforcing noise, littering, and nuisance regulations; the Council should instruct the mayor to direct the police to make this a higher priority; and I support re-introducing a law to hold landlords accountable. I am disappointed that Bjornson did not support the Landlord Accountability ordinance when it was first proposed. A voluntary system, that she suggested but never followed up on, won't work and has not worked. I see no reason to be tolerant of this kind of misbehavior. It's basic law-and-order. I see no reason not to write a tougher law. I'm not sure why we need to wait for three violations/convictions before we start to impose sanctions.

I hope this answers your question.”

Unfortunately, not.

"We don't need the legal headache." If, by this, you mean that the city does not want the headache and that it prefers that the homeowners have a constant headache, I agree.

Let's talk about citizen headaches. I have been fighting the battle of four de facto rooming houses on my street since 2002. I have heard the tired refrains from the mayor and council about unconstitutional codes, enforcement of noise, litter, parking ordinances, landlord accountability, etc. ad nauseam. Had they worked, the problem would be gone by now. Here is an example of four homes on my street of only 12 homes.

House #1 was a rental when I moved into the neighborhood in 2002. The students moved out because they could not stand the noise coming from the rental next door!! The home was then bought about 4 years ago by the parents of two WWU students. The parents lived in Arizona. The two sons then invited from 3-4 (?) other renters to join them in the house. After multiple disturbances over 18 months a final, wild party with over 100 "guests" they were cited for disorderly conduct. That finally stopped the loud parties, etc. except for the cars parked at the end of the cul-de-sac. The students graduated this year and a single family (real, not fake) bought the home.

House #2 is next door to the house above. Here the owner has been living in a mother-in-law apartment while renting the main part of the house. There has been a succession of renters who have been involved in such activities as car racing (trailers with cars and tires decorating the neighborhood) and an in-home business which the Bellingham Municipal Code forbids and which included vans and trucks parked on the street. One family of renters in 2002 was involved in a drunken domestic dispute which resulted in a broken front door and the arrest of a woman. All of these renters had multiple vehicles some of which teh police towed as abandoned or as hulks. The garage was used mainly for storage and, in one case, for the restoration of a vehicle. This owner must find his renters in biker bars or similar establishments.

House #3 is directly opposite my house and has been a rental since before I bought my home in 2002. There have been a series of tenants. For the first year there was a group of students (one of whom lived in the garage) followed by several families and then this last year by another group of students/young renters (not students). When the single family renters were there we had two quiet years. The families had one or two vehicles, which, unfortunately, they chose to park in the driveway instead of the 2-car garage. This past year, the young renters have been relatively quiet but only after having the police called on a party last fall at which dozens of uninvited guests showed up with concomitant noise, litter and public urination. The police gave a warning and that seems to have curbed further desire on their part to have parties. They do, however, have about a half dozen vehicles which get parked in the drive or on the street, often facing the wrong way or blocking my mail box. On the weekends, more cars show up as the girlfriends join the guys and remain overnight. I am not moralizing, just stating the facts. The students are leaving at the end of August and the owner is again renting the place. I have filed a formal complaint with the city on this house on several occasions. The landlord shows them a lease with 3 names on it and the city says, "Looks OK to us." Just who owns the six cars out front of that house every morning is somehow not the city's concern.

Home #4 was occupied by a group of young men who rented from the owners. The owners were one of the young men and his father. About 6 people lived in the house, each with a car. Some of the renters had formed a band and had converted the garage into a rehearsal room. You can imagine the noise. The vehicle traffic to and from the house was heavy and continued throughout the night, every night. Cars were parked all over the cul-de-sac. They finally sold the home to a single family.

As you can see, the problems of noise, litter, public urination, parking, etc. were solved only in the cases where a single family bought the home and there were no further rentals. If you don't attack the root cause, you end up replaying the same score every year or two. The only effective remedy is zoning enforcement. For without it, all other efforts are moot.

As for the landlord accountability ordinance, I agree in principle. That my barber has to be licensed while landlords, whose behavior has many environmental and health consequences, are not, is mind-boggling. However, let's not pretend that this will solve the zoning problem. While landlord accountability is a good idea it is not the answer to the problem of zoning enforcement.

On 7/30/2007 and 08/01/2007 Candidate Lilliquist replies.

"I m sorry to hear it. Perhaps you can find reasons to support me on other issues? It's your call, of course.

I am also sorry that you perceive me at putting quality of life issues in a secondary place, because I believe the opposite to be true. I think more vigorous enforcement of noise, parking, and littering to be an appropriate response, and I believe a landlord accountability ordinance will be a valid legal tool to enforce these laws and to punish transgressors. You might also consider the fact that the incumbent, Louise, actually opposed the landlord accountability ordinance when it was brought forward. She favored a "voluntary system," but then never acted on it.

Thank you for taking the time to care about our quality of life issues.


"I certainly understand your frustration with the long-standing,
ongoing abuses and disturbances. It is a problem that needs fixing.

At this point, without any authority to act or investigate, I will just have to say that I agree that the City needs to take legal action.




And Louise? Where are you?

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