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
"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
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
Additionally, which candidates will ask that
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.
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