Mayoral and city council elections will be decided by U+2 stance

Kevin JensenNext Tuesday, Fort Collins will hold its elections for city council members and mayoral candidates.

Whichever candidate — for either mayor or city council — vows to repeal U+2 will receive thousands of student votes and will win the election.

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CSU students have a long history of fighting Fort Collins’ U+2 occupancy ordinance, which states that no more than three unrelated people can live in an apartment or house, unfairly targeting and persecuting the city’s college-aged population.

While the U+2 laws have been on the books in Fort Collins since the 1960’s, the city ordinance first started to be enforced in 2006 and immediately started receiving vocal opposition from the CSU student body and surrounding community.

The discussion surrounding U+2 laws became even more heated in 2009 when the requirement that a notice of violation to allow the party seven days to correct the violation before being issued a citation was eliminated.

The meeting to discuss this 2009 amendment was rescheduled to the week right before finals in an attempt to limit student participation, and was passed by a 5-2 margin, allowing an enforcement official to administer a citation without first serving a notice of violation, which many argued disregards the due process protections of the 5th Amendment.

Still, others pointed out that city officials are also violating the 4th Amendment by searching your house for evidence of code violations without a warrant. With U+2, an official can administer an inspection, judgement and ruling all at once, resulting in a $1,000 fine — per person — and an order to move out in seven days (later changed to 30).

On Tuesday, October 20, 2009, ASCSU representatives showed up at the City Council meeting to deliver 1,290 letters and 1,857 signatures from students endorsing changing — or completely eliminating — the U+2 housing ordinance.

ASCSU’s proposals for reform were modest, echoing similar attempts at reform in years before, such as changing the housing ordinance to U+3 (allowing one additional non-relative per residence), increasing extra-occupancy availability and increasing education and enforcement of other peace-keeping ordinances.

Even these smallest of changes fell on deaf ears, however.

Fed up with being ignored and feeling that students weren’t being treated as if they are a valuable part of the community, on Friday, October 23, 2009, ASCSU organized a student boycott of Old Town called “We are $168 million,” to illustrate the city’s economic dependence on CSU students by having students spend money on campus rather than in Old Town for one night.

But city officials were unfazed by the thousands of letters, signatures and principled boycott; CSU’s student government’s proposals didn’t even make it onto the city council’s agenda during the comprehensive review of U+2 at its public work session, while other residents went further still, pushing for even stricter rules and enforcement of U+2 and even proposing a gated “CSU City” be erected east of Timberline Road to keep us out of the community.

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In response to the anti-climatic conclusion to the comprehensive review of U+2, which remained basically unchanged afterwards, the Collegian’s editorial board at the time wrote, “Time and time again, city officials and select residents have expressed nothing less than prejudice toward students and the City Council has decided to side with them. The council’s decision to ignore a substantial portion of the city’s population is unjust and discriminatory.”

For too long, despite all student attempts, U+2 has plagued the students of this community, kept in place by entrenched city officials who had no intention of doing away with U+2.

Next Tuesday is election day — our chance to elect somebody to city council or as mayor who is sympathetic to our cause.

Current Mayor Weitkunat has no intention of doing anything with U+2 — she likes it. She can’t see anything wrong with denying law abiding adults the liberty to choose with whom and how many people to live, in the name of limiting noisy parties and protecting the property value of houses — the two main reasons commonly touted in defense of U+2.

This explanation for the necessity of U+2 always puzzled me because we already have laws against excessive partiers that comes with a hefty fine of their own; so why enable the persecution of four unrelated people living quietly in a house?

The notion that property value and community livability has been affected since the enforcement of U+2 or even would be affected, on the other hand, is complete nonsense, as city-sponsored research by the Denver-based company Corona Insights revealed. After reading the reports, Former Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez concluded that the report supplied no evidence that the number of residents per household has any effect on neighborhood livability.

And if there are properties that bring down neighborhood quality, in most cases it’s the fault of the property owners rather than the tenants, who have little control over the overall aesthetic appeal of the property, having neither the resources nor authority to do so.

“This is supposed to be a city of choices — a city that gives choices, not takes them away,”  Martinez said. “(The city) has no business separating or segregating parts of the community.”

Let’s hope the candidates running for city elections next Tuesday will echo these sentiments expressed by Fort Collins’ former mayor, and will vow to repeal the long-standing city ordinance.

Get rid of U+2 and CSU will vote for you.

Content Managing Editor Kevin R. Jensen is a senior English major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. He can be reached at  kjensen@collegian.com or on Twitter @kevinrjensen.