Southwest Side alderman is first to declare ward off-limits to Airbnb

on Jun22

22 June 2017 | 5:07 pm

Southwest Side Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) on Thursday became the first — and probably not the last — alderman to declare his ward off-limits to Airbnb and other home-sharing services.

The City Council’s Zoning Committee approved an ordinance declaring four of the 13th Ward’s 48 precincts as no-home sharing zones after Quinn jumped through the required regulatory hoops. The alderman lives in one of those four precincts.

Quinn, whose Democratic ward committeeman is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), intends to do the same with the remaining 44 precincts — no small feat.

The precinct-based process is patterned after that used to let Chicagoans vote their precincts dry. Residents of districts zoned R-1, R-2 and R-3 — all dominated by single-family homes — can ban home-sharing outright or impose restrictions more rigid than the citywide ordinance. But to do that, residents of those zoning districts must gather valid signatures from 25 percent of their precinct’s registered voters within 90 days; the clock starts when the resident obtains the petition.

Opponents have a 30-day window to challenge those signatures. If the challenge fails, the local alderman introduces an ordinance implementing the ban or restrictions and those rules remain in effect for four years — thought that’s not ironclad. If precinct residents believe the ban or restrictions are not working well, they can circulate a new petition to undo those rules and the process starts over.

Quinn said he went through that “pretty laborious” process after two egregious instances of home-sharing over the last year.

One was an owner-occupied raised-ranch home, less than 2,300 square feet, that had “every single room, including basement rooms, rented out to someone different,” he said.

“At all hours of the night, you had 24, 25 people walking through a city gangway. Parking issues, quality-of-life issues, urination in the gangway, drinking,” he said.

The other case involved an apartment building. It triggered complaints from a young mother next door about the “transient nature” and about temporary residents who were “beginning to talk to her children,” Quinn said.

Thursday’s vote gave Lincoln Park Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) an opportunity to rail, yet again, about an opt-out provision that, she believes, did not go far enough.

“We led the fight to try to allow the bigger buildings to opt out and now, there are … over 100,000 units of condominiums and rental apartments in which short-term rentals are banned and the city is finally getting its house in order with regard to checking the registrations,” Smith said.

“The City Council did the wise thing in allowing at least some precincts to opt out of this overturning of decades of zoning law. All neighborhoods should have that opportunity.”

The City Council’s 43-to-7 vote last year to regulate the burgeoning home-sharing industry followed months of contentious debate on how to balance the interests of Airbnb hosts thrilled with the supplemental income with the concerns of neighbors dismayed by the rowdy antics of some short-term renters.

To appease aldermen whose wards have been overrun by home sharing, the mayor threw in the opt-out provision. He also backed off his threat to hold Airbnb responsible for policing its hosts to avoid the threat of a federal lawsuit.

Instead, the ordinance imposed a $60-per-unit fee, intended to generate more than $200,000 a year for regulation enforcement. There’s also a 4 percent surcharge on Airbnb and other home-sharing bookings, and a $10,000 annual license for each of the web-based companies.

The ordinance also mandates bi-weekly registration reports to the city, a 24-hour hotline and a requirement that Airbnb develop a plan to address “quality-of-life concerns” that include removing problem units from the company’s home-sharing platform.

The stalled regulations finally took effect in March.

Lia Chacon, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said the city intends “initiate the host/unit registration process in the coming days and weeks.”

“Once effective, Alderman Quinn’s ordinances . . . will prohibit any future shared housing units or vacation rentals in the precincts identified in the ordinances,” she wrote in an email.

City Hall intends to be “proactively enforcing unlicensed activity” and will also be responding to 311 complaints,” Chacon said.

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