The Norman Transcript

March 9, 2014

Unrelated person ordinance needs to be enforced, not abolished

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

The opinion expressed by John Lungren, a Realtor, in a recent Norman Transcript should be recognized by all who read it for what it really is: a self-serving, uninformed attempt to influence the City Council. The motive is self-evident: greed, nothing more. Purporting to speak for a “group of 53 property managers/landlords,” the letter calls for the City Council to abolish the city ordinance limiting more than three unrelated persons from occupying a single family residence, claiming it is “offensive and appalling” and a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Poppycock!

· Hungry Landlords and Property Managers: One need not drive around Norman long to see the growing number of apartment complexes being built that are targeted to students, and the corresponding number of “Available in May” signs popping up earlier and lingering longer in the yards of rent houses.

Apparently three tenants in a single family residence does not produce enough revenue to satisfy this group of 53 property managers and landlords. But the solution for them is not the one they urge: that they should have the unlimited ability to rent their single family properties by the bedroom, as they now do in many Norman neighborhoods, without regard to the effect it has on the nearby homeowners. The right solution is a new business plan: start with respect for the homeowners in our community; use your business knowledge and skill to own and manage duplexes, four-plexes, boarding houses and apartment located in areas that are properly zoned for that purpose.

· Uninformed (But Never in Doubt): Mr. Lungren and his group of 53 waive the U.S. Constitution in our faces claiming their rights to due process, privacy, free association and so on, are being violated by Norman’s ordinance prohibiting more than 3 unrelated persons living together in a single family residence. Contrary to what they say, Norman’s ordinance is not unconstitutional, and the United States Supreme Court, 40 years ago, said so. In 1974, in Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas (Google it!), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a city ordinance defining the word “family” to mean “not more than 2 unrelated persons,” when used to limit the number of inhabitants that could occupy a residence zoned as a single family dwelling, did not violate the rights to equal protection, privacy, or association, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, enjoyed by the property owner or the tenants. If limiting the definition of “family” to two persons is okay, how can limiting it three not be so?

To quote the U.S. Supreme Court, “The regimes of boarding houses, fraternity houses, and the like present urban problems. More people occupy a given space; more cars rather continuously pass by; more cars are parked; noise travels with crowds. A quiet place where yards are wide, people few, and motor vehicles restricted are legitimate guidelines in a land-use project addressed to family needs. This goal is a legitimate one ....”

· Don’t Be Fooled: John Lungren, a Realtor, and his group of 53 want the “3 unrelated persons” ordinance to be abolished because they believe it threatens their livelihood, not because they believe their rights under the U.S. Constitution are being violated. The “3 unrelated persons” ordinance has long been in place and should remain in place. And it should continue to be enforced for the benefit of all property owners in Norman and the common good of our community.

This push by John Lungren and his group of landlords and property managers is nothing more than an attempt to rezone single family neighborhoods through the back door, a slight of hand attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of every homeowner who is not paying attention, and slowly convert the single family home next door into a boarding house, little by little. If we are wrong, this group should just come out in the open and be honest; apply to have the City council rezone the houses they own and manage as multi-family dwellings. They know that won’t work because homeowners would be up in arms, so they are trying an end run, hoping the City Council goes along.

We are not opposed to Mr. Lungren and the members of is group making an honest living in the real estate business. We are, however, opposed to Realtors, property managers and landlords, making a living at the expense of homeowners and the community at large. This group of 54 is not exempt from the same civic duty we all share: to ensure the orderly and peaceful enjoyment of our homes and the community we live in.

And we are not opposed to students living in single family houses as long as the number is reasonable and they are good neighbors. And 3 unrelated persons living together in a single family residence is a reasonable number.

Don’t be fooled. As a group, homeowners are many more than just 53. And we vote. We hope every homeowner who read John Lungren’s letter in last Tuesday’s Norman Transcript will think about that and contact their City Council member to let them know that our “3 unrelated persons” ordinance needs to remain in place and be enforced, not abolished.



J.R. GARCIA, Norman







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