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Will Boulder Voters Weigh In On Occupancy Limits? A Judge Will Decide

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Courtesy of Bedrooms Are For People
Bedrooms Are For People campaign coordinator Chelsea Castellano (center) collects signatures from Boulder residents earlier this spring. The campaign is suing the city for access to the 2020 ballot after a deadline mix-up this summer.

Weeks ahead of when Colorado’s 2020 election ballots will be printed, a local campaign is taking the City of Boulder to court to be included on those ballots.

The case centers on a signature deadline mixup. This spring, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city told the local campaign Bedrooms Are For People that their signatures needed to be collected and turned in by an extended deadline of Aug. 5.

Then, this summer, the city switched course, saying the deadline was actually in early June. The change resulted in the Bedrooms campaign being disqualified from the local ballot.

Boulder’s city attorney told the city council on July 21 his staff made the mistake due to a lack of clarity around how the city’s charter and state election laws interact. Last month, the Boulder City Council voted not to accept the campaign’s more than 7,000 signatures.

Chelsea Castellano is a volunteer with the Bedrooms Are For People campaign, which seeks to let all housing units to be occupied by a number of people equal to the number of bedrooms in a home, plus one more person. She says students and lower-income workers would benefit from the policy change.

Current Boulder law restricts the number of unrelated people living together to three. That’s even if a home has more than three bedrooms.

She says students and lower-income workers would benefit from the policy change.

“It’s important that this is a community decision made by the full community,” Castellano said. “Not just by those who typically have the power to make decisions in Boulder.”

The campaign also wants the question included this year because turnout is expected to be high, Castellano added.

A spokeswoman for the city did not return a request from KUNC for comment by publication.

In the July 21 meeting, some city council members supported adding the question to the ballot, given that the Bedrooms campaign followed the original direction from the city.

“You gotta trust the city when the city tells you something,” councilmember Adam Swetlik said. “Otherwise, what’s the point in being the city?”

Bob Yates, who voted with the council majority, argued that state law called for petitioners to meet the earlier deadline for signatures.

“It’s regrettable that there was confusion at the very beginning, but I believe that state law applies,” Yates said.

Yates also suggested forming a new working group to explore changing Boulder’s occupancy limits through a route other than the ballot question.

The first hearing for the Bedrooms’ campaign case is set for Thursday morning in Boulder County District Court. A decision from the judge is expected within the next week.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the goal of the ballot measure. The measure seeks to relax the city’s housing occupancy limits to be occupied by a number of people equal to the number of bedrooms in a home, plus one additional person.

I cover a wide range of issues within Colorado’s dynamic economy including energy, labor, housing, beer, marijuana, elections and other general assignment stories.