Living Next to an STR

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 15, 2012

Dear Editor,
    The August 10 article “Steam Still Rising From STRs” [News] by Josh Rosenblatt was full of hot air. It was poorly researched, spent too much time talking with HomeAway reps, Council Member Chris Riley, and misquoted Susan Moffat in the last paragraph. His mischaracterization, using terms like xenophobia and paranoia, sounded like freshly-minted HomeAway propaganda.
    I have lived next door to a commercial short-term rental; it was not a party house, as some are, but I would prefer not to have unregulated, unsupervised lodging businesses replacing housing and residents in my neighborhood. There are many reasons why it is a bad idea to allow commercial STRs in neighborhoods. Cities with better governance have understood the negative impact on affordability created by CSTRs and acted accordingly. Riley and company just gave 3% of the single-family structures in the city to HomeAway, its competitors, and a group of investors to replace residents with CSTR house hotels. Reducing housing supply drives up demand, prices, and property taxes, as does attaching commercial revenue to residential property. Riley tossed out the Planning Commission’s two years of work, and replaced it with a CSTR business wish list. Riley also set no limit on the number of multifamily units that can be converted to CSTR use.
    HomeAway earns income by advertising CSTRs in neighborhoods, whether they are operating legally or not, and they hired Matt Curtis, Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s former aide, plus two attorneys from Brown McCarroll, to lobby the city during the last two years. Questionable actions occurred during this period, including blocking enforcement against STRs and the three-week delay of the filing of the Board of Adjustment decision against STRs during the period of the completion of HomeAway’s initial public offering.
    HomeAway is in the business of undermining residential zoning. The discord witnessed here has been sown broadly by HomeAway and its competitors. If you enjoy staying in a CSTR in a neighborhood, you should ask yourself whether you would want to live next door to one. Both of HomeAway’s founders live outside of the city and will not be subject to this ordinance, but they have spent a great deal of effort and money to insure that you might, and five members of the City Council were willing partners, Leffingwell, Riley, Bill Spelman, Sheryl Cole, and Mike Martinez. Riley has chosen to live Downtown in a commercial area; it’s curious that he has led the charge to allow a large number of commercial STRs in residential neighborhoods.
Steve McGuire
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