Proposed Airbnb Regulations Hit a Wall of Opposition at City Council

The City of San Antonio's effort to regulate short term rentals through firms like Airbnb are far from completed, as several members of Council expressed concern about the reasons for the proposed regulations, or whether regulations are needed at all, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"I really have done some soul searching on this one, and I really can't think of anything less Texan than telling somebody who they can and cannot rent their own property to," northwest side Councilman Manny Pelaez said.

Short term rentals exploded during the just completed Final Four, with Aribnb reporting some 5,000 local homeowners rented out rooms in their home, or their entire home, to visitors.

City Development Director Michael Shannon told Council regulations have to be in place not only to insure order and preserve neighborhood peace, but to make sure the City gets the tax revenue from these rentals, because people who stay in hotels pay Hotel Occupancy Tax rental to the City.

"There was a very quick understanding and agreement that everybody needs to pay it," Shannon told a Council work session. "That doesn't mean everybody likes to pay it, or that everybody is paying it, because clearly they're not."

Shannon estimated that only 290 of the 2,000 San Antonio homes which are regularly rented out by Airbnb are currently registered and are paying HOT tax revenue from their rentals.

But Shannon said this is also a concern of making sure Short Term Rentals don't damage a neighborhood.

"We have heard a lot of neighborhoods that have expressed some concern that Short Term Rentals, or having a lot of them in your neighborhood, starts commercializing your neighborhood, and the negative impacts of that," he said.

But Pelaez pounced, getting Shannon to concede that he has no firm data indicating that the presence of Short Term Rental property in a neighborhood does anything at all to damage property values.

"I am hearing is that one of the most common complaints that these STRs might impact negatively property values of neighbors," he said. "And what you are telling me, Mike, is that you found no evidence of that. In fact, you have found the opposite of that to be true."

West side Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales urged Council to consider the different conditions of neighborhoods and not to come up with a 'one size fits all,' regulation. She says while STRs may have one effect in upscale, highly desirable neighborhoods like King William and Monte Vista, on the west side STRs may have a completely different effect, and may serve to improve the value and the image of a neighborhood.

The City is not only looking to make sure HOT tax is collected in all Airbnb rentals, but it also wants to set a way for homeowners who rent out rooms for short term rental are registered with the city, and make sure that wedding venues and meeting halls don't use the law to skirt zoning regulations.

Also, the City wants to regulate noise and parking around STR homes, something that caused Pelaez more concern.

"I've heard arguments that we have noise issues, and we have parking issues," he said. "We have ordinances for that already on the books."

Another concern arose over a claim that enforcing Airbnb regulations would require the hiring of seven additional City employees.

Mayor Nirenberg conceded that the proposals are far from ready for approval, and he cited the City's struggle with Uber and Lyft.

"If we have learned anything from our experience from ride-share, it will take some time and care to find the right balance of regulation that will suit a city like San Antonio," he said.

But Palaez questioned the need for the entire process.

"If I'm not telegraphing it clearly enough, let me tell you quite plainly," he said. "I have seen nothing here today that I want to support."

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