Aldermen join forces to dry up Airbnb market around Midway Airport

on Oct10

10 October 2017 | 3:39 pm

A pair of Southwest Side aldermen joined forces Tuesday to prevent any more single-family homes around Midway Airport from turning into Airbnb “party houses.”

The City Council’s License Committee agreed to declare two more precincts of the 13th Ward and three precincts of the adjacent 23rd Ward off limits to Airbnb and other home-sharing services.

Home-sharing will not be banned around Midway Airport, even if the full City Council agrees with the committee’s recommendation. Existing Airbnb hosts will be grandfathered in. New hosts will be prohibited.

Zalewski said he plans to methodically go about the business of declaring all 39 of the 23rd Ward’s 39 precincts off-limits to new hosts after “several incidents on the Southwest Side” that scared the life out of his constituents.

“They overwhelmingly have come to me and said, `We’d rather not even take a chance of…turning single family homes into basically a party house and even taking a chance of having danger there,” Zalewski said.

“So, we’re taking this precautionary step to get ahead of the curve and eliminate those precincts from the possibility of Airbnb. I have secured signatures on eleven precincts. So, we’ll be rolling out several each meeting for the next several Council meetings. My goal is to do all 39.”

The more serious of the two motivating incidents occurred in a single-family home in Beverly on New Year’s Eve.

“Well over a hundred guests. Extremely loud music vibrating the house. Shootings that occurred. The Fire Department was called. The house was deemed unsafe because of all the dancing and activity. Some of the floor [boards] were starting to give in. The shootings were the tipping point,” Zalewski said.

“In the 13th Ward, there was a loud party… Airbnb was never intended for these types of activities. I truly always thought Airbnb would be much more popular downtown near the night spots. But, because Midway Airport is out there and some people may not want to stay in a hotel, I just don’t want to take a chance on turning our community into party central.”

Quinn is much further along in the process.

Counting the two precincts approved Tuesday, 27 of his 48 precincts have either been declared off-limits to new Airbnb hosts or are in the process of being declared off-limits in a ward that already has roughly fifteen licensed hosts.

That’s no small task.

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.

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.

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. And last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration started the painstaking process of registering Airbnb hosts.

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