Getting an update on occupancy enforcement now. Will see if council still wants to suspend evictions, and if they'll do it now or when they start working on reform next year.
Refresher here. It's a bit confusing.
TLDR: Council was gonna vote to stop evicting ppl tonight, but then the city was like, 'Hey, we already stopped evicting ppl due to occupancy even tho you told us not to last year' so then council was like 'Oh, OK, nvm' but THEN...
Bedrooms Are For People was all, 'It's still necessary or people won't feel safe participating in the gov't process to reform occupancy limits' and some members of council were like, 'Oh, OK, then, let's still do it' but others were like 'Let's wait until next year'
So that's where we are tonight.
Planning director Jacob Lindsey: We did develop COVID protocol for occupancy evictions that avoided the displacement of tenants. "We will not displace tenants during this time."
"We will, however, continue to respond to complaints, inspect properties, document violations and look into life-safety issues: Major hazards like windowless bedrooms," Lindsey says.
"These are the kinds of obvious and clear, egregious challenges to life safety that we're looking for," Lindsey says. A separate team focuses on building codes that aren't life-safety related.
Lindsey: We are planning for an occupancy study in 2022. Our ability to deliver a viable solution to you is going to be dependent on how big that project is gonna be and the scale of public engagement. Those are v time consuming.
"I would advise you as council members to be prepared for potential tradeoffs on other workplan items, bc we have a v finite number of hours" that staff can commit to, Lindsey says.
Joseph: If someone calls about over-occupancy, does that mean the city doesn't respond? Do they only respond to complaints that allege life-safety issues?
Lindsey: If we receive complaints about any zoning violation, we do investigate those. All of them.
NRV: "We don't know what the conditions are until we go see it. ... We don't enforce if there are no life safety issues."
Joseph: "Do we have other regulations? This idea that we use this complaint process to investigate life-safety issues... it's a bit strange. Are there other mechanisms?"
"Is there another way of enforcing life safety?" Joseph asks.
Lindsey: We're not using occupancy as a way to discover life-safety issues. That's not a common occurrence. It does happen, rarely. There is a separate process to report building code violations, but we don't receive many of those.
We typically discover building code issues after construction or other processes that require permits, Lindsey says.
Yates: We have lots of laws are complaint based, right? Barking dogs, sign issues, etc.

Yes, Lindsey and NRV says. That's how a lot of cities do things.
"A lot of it just comes to staff capacity," NRV says.
Benjamin: I'm a bit concerned about equity. It exists in this town that a family of 6 in a 3BR house might be violating codes, but they float on by. "The only difference is relation."
Lindsey: "Investigation is not a pathway to eviction. We will not be displacing tenants. ... In all cases, our mission is to ensure that all buildings are safe to occupy. Single-family or otherwise."
Brockett: I assume that people were doing an inspection in a home for some reason and they discovered a family who were related with an unsafe bedroom, that's something we'd flag, too, right?
Lindsey: Correct. The remedy for that would be taken up with the owner. If it's occupied by the owner, they'd be responsible for remedying it. If it's occupied by tenants, the owner would be responsible for remedying it.
Speer: "I'm not sure I fully understand the distinction. If it's a related family who's living and some ppl living in an unsafe room, we're not telling them you can't live there or finding them another place to live that's safer. In that way, it feels v inequitable."
NRV: In another city, we treated families the same as unrelated tenants. An unsafe condition is an unsafe condition.
Cities don't expect owner-occupied homes on a regular basis, NRV says, bc there's no mechanism or reason to do so. So it's an interesting conversation.
Folkerts: How are we avoiding displacement? Adding windows to a windowless basement?

Lindsey: "I'm not prepared to discuss details of cases. But staff have always tried to work with the landlord to try and figure it out. That's the goal every time."
Friend: If a complaint is filed, that's going to trigger action by the city. And we've gotten feedback that as soon as a landlord gets noticed, they're asking someone to leave. So they're getting auto-evicted.

Can we take steps to mitigate that?
Lindsey: The city investigates and finds a violation, THEN lets the owner know.
"It is exceedingly rare" that those cases result in an eviction process, Lindsey says.

Missing the point of Friend's q, that ppl self-evict when they get a notice.
NRV gets it, tho. "I can see there could be an unintended consequence. I still believe strongly that we have to preserve the right to go address life-safety issues."
NRV: Because we have so few cases, in those cases that you hear of, where someone alleges they're being evicted bc of a staff visit, I'd say please let me know. We'd want to intervene. That's not what we're up to do.
Friend: Could we send a letter to occupants letting them know we aren't evicting except for life safety? So if they're asked to leave, please contact the city?
Joseph: When someone makes a complaint about occupancy, what do we say to them?

NRV: It depends on how that complaint comes in.
Joseph: When you investigate, do you report back to the complaining party?

Lindsey: No
Joseph: "I still support very much, very strongly a formal temporary suspension of the occupancy" enforcement, "for equity reasons. I'm not convinced the complaint process is the best way to engage community members on life-safety issues."
"I think as a community, we can do better, and we definitely should do better," Joseph says.
If someone calls and complains about 5 ppl in a 4-bedroom house, Joseph says, we should not respond to that.
Lindsey: "We will not displace tenants during this time."
Brockett: I'm v much interested in taking up this q about what can be changed in our occupancy rules. I plan to do that at the retreat.
Speer: We've basically been in an informal suspension for the last year-plus. What I hear is that there's a lot of fear in the community of ppl who are living over-occupied.
"That's where that formal suspension does make a dif for a chunk of folks who are living in our community," Speer says.
Speer: These issues of nuisance, of life safety and of occupancy, they're separate. They're related, but they're separate. We do them a disservice when we conflate them.
Benjamin making a point: This is not a regurgitation of the Bedrooms Are For People ballot measure, which lost. It's important to separate that. Occupancy reform has been at the forefront for many years.
"This is going to be a clean look, while leveraging the conversation and narrative that we've had over the past two years," Benjamin says.
Friend: "The time to add this is at the retreat."
Friend: In this case, we have an informal suspension of occupancy. The goals I wanted to achieve are achieved: Not evicting people. I don't understand when that happened; that is mysterious to me. But I'm glad it happened.
Also asks that the city "makes it very clear" when they do an investigation that people won't be evicted.

Proposes "tethering" a formal suspension to occupancy reform work.
Joseph: Even if there's an informal process, that can turn formal at any time. People don't know where they stand. It's still v fearful.
"This idea as a governing body that we have an informal process, to me, sounds v inappropriate. I think it should be a more formal process that says here's where we are, here's where we stand," Joseph says.
Asks for a vote tonight to formally suspend occupancy evictions.

Brockett: We didn't request that tonight, so I'd say it's not on the table.
Erin Poe, city attorney: Correct. In this section of the meeting, a formal vote can't be taken.
BUT if a majority of council wanted to, a formal vote could be scheduled at a future meeting.
Folkerts: I agree with what everyone says in terms of this is really important to look at occupancy, not to implement a failed ballot measure but to look at this important issue with engagement with the community.
But "a complaint-based process is not an equitable process," especially when we're not enforcing the underlying complaint, Folkerts says. "A police officer can only pull you over for certain things. They can't pull you over for things that aren't illegal."
"The way that this is being implemented right now feels fundamentally problematic to me," Folkerts says.
Speer: "It does kind of feel important that council align with the city on this." Council voted last year to keep evicting due to over-occupancy.
NRV: I think council voted to continue our practice. That's based not only on COVID but our staffing issues. But I do take your point about how do we communicate this.
"The issue I have with a suspension that has a time clock to it, is idk when COVID is going to end," NRV says. "I think a better mechanism is how to address the fear or concern" around the complaint and investigation process.
"We have no way of knowing if there is a life safety concern unless we actually visit the property," NRV says. "That's just a reality."
Friend's cat Elmer making himself heard over Zoom. I agree with him, whatever he's saying.
Friend: We're so close to the retreat. We're already not enforcing. I'm not sure why it matters that we do this now, rather than at the retreat.
Yates: For those of you who want to vote on this before the retreat, please think of what that public hearing will look like. It is going to blow up at least one meeting, probably two. That's not a reason not to do something but think about everything else we're working on.
Wallach: Since we're only dealing with life-safety issues, a moratorium at this time would only prevent us from dealing with life-safety issues.
Wallach: "This needs to be done holistically, not in a reflexive manner."
To do a moratorium is to say that the occupancy ordinance no longer exists in any way, bc we can't enforce any portion of it, Wallach says. That's disrespectful to the 17,000 ppl who voted against Bedrooms.
Responding to Folkerts q, NRV says staff will improve communications after complaints to let ppl know that the won't be evicted.

Will let council know what it says.
Winer: "If we do this moratorium on enforcement, we are telling the ppl who voted no on 300 'Who cares about you? We know better.' We are going to lose the community's trust. I'm begging you all to just hold off until the retreat."
Speer: I hope we can help bring down the vitriol by clarifying that we're not overturning the election results. That's a real concern after Jan. 6. That's not what we're doing. We're talking about occupancy reform, which was not on the ballot.
That was a measure to do it a specific way, Speer says. They are two separate things. I'm asking my colleagues to keep those separate.
Benjamin: What's going to make this really successful is standing on great process. That's by bringing the community into the conversation, to stand on good governance and good process.
His point was to bring this up at the retreat.
Joseph and Speer vote to schedule a vote (lol) to officially stop occupancy evictions, but they're the only ones. So *when* that will happen (still seems likely to happen at some point) will be decided at the retreat.
Joseph: "I know there are times on council I have not been as courageous as I can be. I do believe bc of the people who are on council this time around, it's going to be much different. I'm v hopeful."
Brockett: "I for one am confident that this issue is one this council can make real progress on."
So that wraps this, and the meeting (for me at least).

Occupancy evictions will still not happen, but council may consider *formally* stopping them during reform work. TBD at the retreat, Jan. 21-22
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1 Dec
Moving on: The public hearing on redevelopment of 2054 Spruce. Presentation:…
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