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Q&A with Jared Polis: Textbook prices, U+2, marriage equality

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Photos by Abbie Parr.


U.S. Rep. Jared Polis visited campus Wednesday to meet with a small group of Associated Students of Colorado State University members.

Polis was first elected to Congress in 2008, and he now serves on the Committee on the Education and the Workforce, the Committee on Rules, the Natural Resources Committee and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He serves the Second District of Colorado, which includes Fort Collins, Boulder, Loveland and Broomfield.

Both the roundtable discussion with members of ASCSU, and the interview conducted with the Collegian, have been edited for length and clarity. The following are some of the questions asked by members of ASCSU.

ASCSU: U+2 is a big problem for a lot of students. What do you think we can do about that?

Polis: That’s a bad law. You guys should try to repeal it. That would be the most substantial thing you can do. You have my support and I’m happy to lend my name to it and support it here and in Boulder. It’s an anti-student measure and it increases the cost of housing. Are there any city council members who support repealing it?

Ray Martinez on city council has been very vocal in his support for looking at other options.

I’ll mention it to Wade (Troxell) as well. Part of the dynamic is you need to get in touch with your fellow students and get them to be involved with city politics and vote. Because when people run for city council, who votes? It’s the people who complain about students. It’s not students. Students turn out to vote for president, but they don’t turn out in municipal elections. That’s the reason these laws exist. There would never be this discriminatory statute if students were at the ballot box. When city council only hears from people complaining about students, and not from the students themselves, this is what happens.

What can be done about increasing scholarships (and) increasing access to resources?

The frustrating thing for legislators in our state is that the issue has to go to the voters if it’s revenue-related, so there’s very little they can actually do down in Denver. So that’s the state piece. The federal piece is very important for students because that’s the student loan program and also the federal research funding for the University.


We are working on lowering interest rates for student loans. Another reform we are working on is trying to get open source textbooks to become the norm. On top of your tuition, it’s usually over a $1,000 a semester just for textbooks. There’s no reason for that at all. It’s basically margin for the textbook companies. The professors who contribute to them make very little money. They mostly do it for the professional aspect. So we would move toward open source textbooks that can be used online, or you could even create a physical manifestation of them and it would only cost $5 or $10, instead of $200. That’s what I think would be a huge savings for students and one of my top priorities.

Collegian: Were you in D.C. when the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage came down? What was that experience like?

I was on the steps of the Supreme Court. We were expecting the decision to come out. That day, there were thousands of people lined up there. The word emerged that they had found in favor, and there was an enormous spontaneous street party in celebration there. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., started to sing and everyone was just very excited.

It was great because it settled all of this back-and-forth in states that were doing and undoing it. People couldn’t figure out if they were married or not because one day it was legal and one day it was not, and it was really ridiculous. So this finally just settled it all, so it won’t even be an issue going forward.

Do you see the transgender movement gaining momentum in Congress or D.C.? Do you think it will be the next step for the LGBTQ+ cause?

I think there is definitely an increasing awareness about transgender issues. Transgender Americans are included in all of our non-discrimination bills in the state of Colorado, we prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s very much in the mainstream to make sure we have protections for transgender Americans to make sure they can’t be fired from their job, and make sure they have the ability to marry who they want.

What’s your take on the primaries right now?

I think it’s a great opportunity for students to get engaged and involved. Presidential races represent an opportunity to get students involved and stay involved so that the candidates speak to issues that are important to students like college affordability and housing. Hopefully, we will have a candidate visit CSU.

Collegian Reporter Erin Douglas can be reached at or on Twitter @erinmdouglas23.

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  • R

    Ray MartinezSep 4, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Even though I do believe that the U+2 was deliberatively created to attack the student population, it is technically legal, but from my perspective, principally wrong. Nevertheless, there is a process that Landlords or developers can go through to allow special extensions in certain zoning districts:

    We do have a procedure that allows an extra occupancy rental to allow for up to 5 persons rather than 3 if certain
    conditions are met and within limited areas. This regulated by Article 3.8.28 of the Land Use Code, which provides guidance on the use and size limitations as well as a density standard. Further, there are limitations on the number of exceptions allowed on any given city block within the LMN Zone District. Staff believes that more individuals do not take advantage of this process since it is not permitted in all districts.

    1) Limited areas where extra-occupancy is allowed:
    rental houses are allowed in the LMN, MMN, HMN, NCB, D, RDR, CC, CCN, CCR, C,
    CN, NC, CL, E, and I zoning districts

    2) Special conditions that must be met:

    If a property is in a zone that allows extra-occupancy rental houses, a development application must be submitted for the conversion. In the LMN zone, an application requesting more than 4 tenants is subject to a Type 1
    administrative public hearing. An application requesting 4 or less tenants is subject to Basic Development Review and does not require a public hearing. In all of the other zones where this use is allowed, an application requesting more than 5 tenants is subject to a Type 1 administrative public hearing. An application requesting 5 or less tenants is subject to Basic Development Review.

    If approved, a building permit is required to ensure that the property complies with applicable building and rental housing codes. I have attached a handout that provides information on conversion requirements. In addition to these requirements, the Land Use Code establishes regulations for parking, square footage per occupant and density.

    Parking requirements include .75 parking spaces per boarder, rounded up to the nearest whole parking space, plus 1 additional space of the house is owner occupied. Additionally, each parking space must have unobstructed access
    to a street or alley in most cases.

    Minimum building square footage equals 350 square feet of habitable floor space per boarder plus an additional 400 square feet if owner occupied.

    Density requirements state that no more than 25% of parcels on a block face can be approved for extra-occupancy rentals in the LMN zone. There is no limit in other zones.

    Only detached single-family dwellings, townhomes, and duplexes are eligible to be converted to extra-occupancy rental houses. Eligible dwellings must be located on a lot that is in a platted subdivision.

    We have had 86 applications and approvals (either BDR’s or type I’s) for extra occupancy rental houses in the last three years. Aspen Heights is currently under construction. When Aspen Heights is completed, Zoning will add the 82 new addresses to the Code Compliance extra occupancy rental record list.

    The breakdown actual applicant is as follows:
    2013 = 1
    2014 = 84 (82 of these were Aspen Heights)
    2015 = 1

    Consequently, the process is obviously not used very much; partly because the City doesn’t promote this process.

  • B

    Beatrice KrummholzSep 3, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Congressman, I would like to respectfully remind you, and the students, and Council Member Martinez, that the majority of the permanent residents fully support the Occupancy Ordinance. Landlords can apply for Extra Occupancy Rental Housing status in a majority of the City’s
    zone districts.

    This is not a “bad law.” It has been of tremendous help in restoring the quality of life in single-family neighborhoods.

    Furthermore I would like to point out that your hometown of Boulder has occupancy limits which are quite similar to those in Fort Collins.

    And finally, it is certainly not your job to be engaging in City policy making.