"Two months ago, the Bellingham City Council re-examined an old ordinance on housing which prevents a home from being occupied by more than three unrelated people. I testified before the Bellingham City Council against this proposal to enforce this antiquated municipal law."
Testified? Well, not quite. You and I and about a half dozen others spoke for three minutes each during the citizen comment period at the beginning of the 8 October 2007 City Council Meeting. Not what I would call testimony, which is a term normally reserved for a statement made under oath. If you, Mr. Lukoff, have made such official testimony about which I am unaware, please let me know.
"I believe the law is discriminatory, likely illegal and could purge many low income people from their homes including single mothers and the elderly. The law makes it difficult to obtain housing for many groups which are different than (sic) the “traditional” Ozzie and Harriet family."
I have, in the last 6 years, yet to come across or to receive a report on any illegal rooming house containing groups of single mothers and the elderly. If your objective is to ensure adequate and safe housing for these categories of
"The law is illegal as it attempts to deny housing based on “marital status” and “family status” both of which are irrelevant to the impact on neighborhoods. There are many “violators,” with little to no negative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods."
In the previous paragraph you stated that the law is “likely illegal” but in the space of several sentences you state the code in question has become definitively illegal. The fact is that there are jurisdictions, notably
"Enforcing this will make violators out of honest citizens, where no remedy is called for, or will leave the city in the awkward position of enforcing this selectively."
Who is advocating selective enforcement? Honest citizens are just that until they break the law, after which they are no longer honest citizens. The remedy is the creation of affordable housing and ridding the city of these illegal housing carbuncles festering on the body of our municipality. Instead we are faced with weeping and gnashing of teeth on topics about waterfront development, which will have no effect on growth issues, or the height of overpriced condominium buildings in
"Thus, two married heterosexual couples are able to legally share a house. Yet, two unmarried couples or two gay couples who attempted to share the house would be barred from doing so by the city. The unmarried couple would be forced to become married to qualify for housing. The gay couple would be barred in this situation in acquiring housing, as marriage is not an option for them in
Some large houses in
Don’t blame the zoning ordinance for all of the above, which is mainly due to the lack of affordable housing. The answer is not to twist our zoning ordinances to fit a situation which should be remedied by strong action on the part of the city. Until such time, the much vaunted “character of
As far as I can tell, the zoning code seeks to control densities and has nothing to do with rowdy teenagers, nor should it.
"The courts would do well to strike this ordinance down." You keep talking about the goal of the ordinance.
You keep talking about the goal of the ordinance.Again, the ordinance on single family homes is there to provide a means to limit the number of people who live in an area. True, some families are larger than others, however, the city has to deal with average households in its planning processes. Noise, litter and parking enforcement actions are not the answer to uncontrolled infill.
And then what?
For all your concern about the single mothers, the elderly, the low-income workers, etc., you proposed no solution to the crisis of affordable housing except the status quo wherein illegal rooming houses continue as totally uncontrolled, unlicensed and otherwise unregulated dwellings. Groups of students and low-income workers will continue to live in houses where the electrical, plumbing and other safety elements (e.g. smoke and carbon monoxide detectors) are never inspected. Homeowners will continue to see the value of their investments eroding and the quality of life in their neighborhoods deteriorating.
Recently, one of Bellingham's citizen's made some very good points regarding Mr. Lukoff's article in a letter to the editor of the Herald. Here is the letter in its entirety:
"On the Dec. 16 opinion page of The Bellingham Herald, Aaron Lukoff made a very emotionally compelling argument for the courts to strike down the city ordinance against no more than three correlated people in a singlefamily home.
However, Lukoff’s first premise is that there is something inherently discriminatory about an ordinance that negatively affects some people. The consequences of this would be that all permits and zoning would be useless unless no one was negatively affected. Clearly, that won’t work.
I was a single mother living with one child in a single-family home with two renters at times. This was a perfectly legal situation that helped me financially. Three elderly people could share a house. Perhaps, two gay couples could not, but a social contract might suffice for a marriage, so that’s one way to go.
The purpose behind the ordinance in all cities is to protect people who expect to live among neighbors who operate as a family, not a fraternity house. Fraternities should be on campus. In areas of multi-family zoning, rooming houses could be licensed and behavior controlled. Let’s try to go that way.
Brenda E. Brooks"A final note: In the interest of openness and forthrightness, it would be useful to know if Mr. Lukoff's law practice on landlord/tenant issues involved representing the landlords or the tenants.