A2 Council Takeaway for 2020-08-06

A2 Council Takeaway for 2020-08-06

This week’s City Council session was rescheduled from the usual Monday to Thursday. Supposedly, this was so voters could get enough sleep to wake up early and go vote. The candidates that had the mayor’s support all won their Democratic primary. So now we have to contend with a lame-duck City Council until November. Once in a while, a Republican or independent candidate will challenge for a Council seat in November, but, for the most part, the winner of the August Democratic primary will win the City Council seat in the November election.

CM Julie Grand introduced a resolution to put the option of ranked-choice voting before voters this November. This wouldn’t make RCV happen, but, if approved by voters, would enable the City to move forward as soon as the State allowed municipalities to have them. It was voted down 6-5 under the argument that RCV doesn’t “make sense” without non-partisan elections. Ideally, there would be ranked-choice voting in November with partisan labels. It’s unclear if the State would allow this. Even so, having ranked-choice in primaries is a step in the right direction. It gives third parties a shot at winning and prevents them from being spoilers.

I would imagine the possibility of enabling RCV will be revisited with the new Council.

Another contentious item was the short-term rental ordinance. Currently, AirBnb and VRBO-type rentals are not regulated within the City and have operated in a legally gray area. This has caused some homeowners to have bad experiences with absentee STR hosts who don’t adequately vet their customers, repeatedly. I have sympathy for those who are regularly disrupted by inconsiderate, raucous guests.

The STR ordinance, as currently drafted, would make STR-only homes in residential-zoned properties illegal. There is lots of money at stake so there were lots of opinions offered during the public hearing. Unfortunately, the STR owners did not hire a PR firm. They made some horrible arguments to be allowed to keep their STRs grandfathered in: long-term renters are horrible people, disallowing STRs hurts minorities, and, apparently, they have an incentive to keep the home nice and fixed up which helps property values. Truly altruistic!

The arguments for the ordinance weren’t much better. I understand that not all STR guests are good actors, but commenters got into living next to students is hell and monetizing single-family homes, the Holiest of Housing Options, is bad.

I like Scott Trudeau’s take. Basically, regulate and inspect short-term rentals, just take out the part banning them in residential areas for now and we can revisit it later. The number of houses that STRs take out of the traditional home market is a drop in the bucket compared to the housing that is actually needed.

A bigger point, though, is that some supporters of this are worried that housing options are being taken off the table for potential homeowners and longer-term renters. I thought supply-and-demand didn’t apply to housing, though? It was some magical, special part of the economy that was above Econ 101. If adding more housing doesn’t lower or stabilize prices, doesn’t removing some housing options also not affect prices?

The end result, it’s postponed. Perhaps some of the reasonable suggestions will be taken up by the City Council. If not, I propose enacting as is, but rezoning all residential to a mixed-use zone thereby bypassing the mixed-use zone requirement for short-term rentals. I would like to be a D2, please.

The extension of the Downtown street reconfigurations was approved by unanimous voice vote.

There was the expected posturing around affordability and traffic for the proposed townhomes on Liberty Street. It was all a bunch of noise as the development was approved 11-0. The illusion of City Council discretion on by-right developments lives another day.

City Council ended in relatively record time! Finishing up a few minutes after 11pm.