Students pack City Council chambers, demonstrate against U+2


Collegian | Lucy Morantz

The City Council meeting room at Fort Collins City Hall overflows with audience members before the council meeting begins April 4. A council member reportedly made a deal with the Associated Students of Colorado State University that if 200 or more Colorado State University students attended the council meeting, then she would put the city’s controversial U+2 housing policy on the ballot for Fort Collins voters to decide its future.

Grant Coursey, Staff Reporter

Colorado State University students packed the Fort Collins City Council chambers April 4 to show opposition to the controversial U+2 housing ordinance in Fort Collins.

The demonstration, organized by the Associated Students of CSU, garnered hundreds of students in opposition to the law, many of whom signed up to present public comment on the issue.


The council chambers were packed so full that Chief Derek Bergsten of Poudre Fire Authority was forced to announce that some members of the gallery would have to leave the chamber because the exits and aisles of the chamber were blocked by sitting and standing community members and students.

The City Council heard 78 public comments, Mayor Jeni Arndt said. Roughly two-thirds of the comments covered students’ opposition to U+2, sharing personal anecdotes on the difficulty the law caused students and advocating for the council to put the issue on the ballot to be voted on by Fort Collins residents.

“I’ve been an original supporter of the occupancy ordinance. I still am; there maybe could be a tweak here or there, but as far as tossing it all out like the state proposal, no, I’m not for that, but I’ll listen and learn.” –Kelly Ohlson, Fort Collins City Council member 

The demonstration was organized by Jorge Garcia, director of housing security for ASCSU, who put together a team of ASCSU members to bring the community and ASCSU together to combat the housing problems faced by CSU students and to advocate for change to the current housing code and ordinances in Fort Collins.

“I am going to be graduating, and it’s unfeasible for me to stay here, and one of the parts is because of housing,” Garcia said. “I would love to stay here. It’s a really quiet community, you know, it’s a good community.”

Garcia said he worked closely with many different parts of ASCSU to make Tuesday night’s demonstration possible, including other ASCSU directors, the ASCSU supreme court and the ASCSU marketing team.

Garcia said the difference between this year and previous years that allowed for the organization of the demonstration is the openness of the City Council toward changing the laws and addressing the issue for the first time, giving him hope for the future of the issue.

Not all members of the council agreed with the students. Councilmember Kelly Ohlson said he disagreed with students on the issue of U+2 but that he would meet with students any time they want to discuss issues like U+2 and said it was good to see so many young people in attendance at the City Council meeting.

“I’ve been an original supporter of the occupancy ordinance,” Ohlson said. “I still am; there maybe could be a tweak here or there, but as far as tossing it all out like the state proposal, no, I’m not for that, but I’ll listen and learn.”


Ohlson said the issue of affordable housing is a difficult one with no clear-cut solution.

“There is no magic bullet to affordable housing,” Ohlson said. “If anybody had that silver bullet, that easy solution, we’d all be doing it.”

Several students attending the demonstration at City Hall and at the barbecue ASCSU hosted before the City Council meeting Tuesday expressed hope that change was possible and anger at the imposition the U+2 law causes.

Lorenzo Gomez, a junior at CSU who spoke during the public comments section of the City Council meeting, said he felt the law was unnecessary and only served to hurt working-class students and families. Gomez finished his public comments to the council by calling on them to put U+2 on the ballot and give the people of Fort Collins the ability to choose whether it was repealed or not.

This sentiment was echoed by community members as well as numerous other students in their public comments, especially ASCSU leaders, including the ASCSU president, speaker of the senate, an ASCSU supreme court justice and many others.

Many students shared their struggles with housing during their public comments. Their stories ranged from the need to work three jobs to afford rent to being forced to commute 45 minutes to and from Greeley every day to find affordable housing.

Student comments emphasized these main points: They perceive the law as discriminatory toward students and low-income community members, the law is damaging to the community atmosphere of Fort Collins and U+2 is an issue that should be decided by the people of Fort Collins through a referendum.

Mayor Pro Tem Emily Francis ended the public comments section of the City Council meeting by reminding the audience that the City Council will be having a work session on city occupancy ordinances May 9 where they will discuss how they want to move forward on occupancy regulations.

Reach Grant Coursey at or on Twitter @GrantCoursey