by Rob Robinson [Email address: elr #AT# pisces.as.utexas.edu - replace #AT# with @ ]

At the March 24 meeting of the ANA I gave a report on the work by the Allandale Short Term Rental Committee. Our President, Cynthia Keohane, asked me to write this brief summary of the report.

The Short Term Rentals (STRs) about which we are concerned are houses rented for just a few days or weeks at a time that are not the main residence of the owners. They are houses whose primary use is similar to that of a hotel or a bed and breakfast. We are not concerned about long-term rentals or about neighbors who rent their own homes for just a few days per year.

The Executive Committee of ANA appointed a special committee to investigate STRs late last fall. The Chair of the STR Committee is Maurice Anderson and the other members are Bill Gordon, Paulette Kern, Joe Reynolds, and Leslie Rosenstein. Cynthia Keohane is a member ex officio and Rob Robinson is the liaison to the Executive Committee.

The STR Committee concluded that STRs are a significant problem in Allandale. There are two major issues. The first is safety. People living near STRs are subjected to a flow of strangers on their street and past their front doors, strangers about whom they know nothing. This is troubling to families with children and to older people, especially older people living alone. Allandale has an active and effective Neighborhood Watch program. These strangers also undermine our Neighborhood Watch because block captains no longer know who belongs in the neighborhood and who does not.

The second issue is that STRs disrupt our sense of community. We live in a family-oriented neighborhood and most of us moved here precisely because it is a family-oriented neighborhood. Renters of STRs will never be our friends, and we do not want them to be friends with our children. We do not have parties with them, we do not celebrate holidays with them, and we cannot go to them when we need help. STRs damage the fabric of the neighborhood.

At its December 16 meeting the Executive Committee told the STR Committee to begin working actively against STRs. We contend that existing city code restricts or even forbids STRs in neighborhoods like Allandale. The STR Committee began its new task by asking city staff to enforce existing code. Unfortunately, by the end of January it had become clear that we were making little or no progress. Jumping out of chronological order here, Mr. Greg Guernsey, the head of Planning and Development Review recently issued a formal determination that Short Term Rentals are not restricted under existing City Land Use Code.

Because we were making so little progress talking to city staff, the STR Committee decided to change tactics. We began talking directly to members of the Planning Commission, through which changes to city code usually flow. We have also been talking to City Council members and to other neighborhood associations.

We are making progress now. Many members of the Planning Commission understand that there are serious problems with STRs. Several have said they favor setting up a working group within the Planning Commission to help craft a new ordinance about STRs. We have met with four members of City Council: Laura Morrison, Chris Riley, Randi Shade, and Bill Spelman. Three of them were sympathetic to our message.

Allandale is being represented by a good team and we hope that STRs will eventually be regulated, perhaps even stringently regulated. We have a lot of work ahead of us, though, and no thoughtful person can yet say where we will end up.