There is no consensus from the City Council on the future of short-term rental regulations in San Antonio.
Council opinions varied widely in a briefing Wednesday for regulating rental properties on popular travel sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Homeaway.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño offered amendments to the STR ordinance to a standing-room only crowd at council’s B Session.
The room was filled with STR operators who support little or no regulation, along with neighborhood association members who, in some areas, have called for an outright ban on short-term rentals.
“District 1 has seen most of the impact from STRs,” said Treviño, “we’re simply trying to find a compromise.”
Under his amendments, how density is calculated would change from a linear, map model to a proportional model based on the total number of STRs on a block. This means that instead of maintaining a certain distance between rentals, the total block would be calculated with no more than 1/8 being allowed for STRs.
Another amendment includes existing bed and breakfasts in any density calculation. The impact of this would fall largely on King William and Monte Vista neighborhoods, which host most of the city’s remaining B&Bs.
The amendments would bar STRs from being used as event venues and ensure city incentives for affordable housing properties don’t end up converted to STRs.
But while Trevino is adding amendments, several council members said the proposed ordinance already goes too far.
Meanwhile, Councilman Manny Pelaez isn’t convinced that any ordinance is needed at all. Concerns over the impact of STRs on property values and public safety are unfounded, he says.
“What we heard today was that many of the concerns, that there’s no data out there to support heavy regulation of short-term rentals,“ he said.
Airbnb and other STRs have been accused of changing the character of a neighborhood when densely grouped. That doesn’t bother District 2 Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw, who highlighted the need to change some aspects of his own district. He pointed to two neighborhoods — Dignowity Hill and Denver Heights — that have benefited from investment dollars coming in to the area, often times with a STR component.
“Now they look great,” he said. “It’s really turning around communities.”
These are dollars that near westside Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales would like to see in her district.
“More than anything we need people to move back in,” she said of District 5. “If part of getting our houses up to speed is short-term rentals, then I would welcome that.‘
The city has struggled to regulate STRs. They created a task force last March which produced the current proposed ordinance.
“I’m disappointed that there’s so much confusion around this issue,” said Cosima Colvin, who represented the Beacon Hill neighborhood association on the task force. “Frankly, having met with a number of council members recently, they really weren’t well informed on the subject.”
Multiple council members pleaded ignorance to the STR ordinance and said they were seeing it for the first time, which was the reason they were hesitant to act on the issue.
Treviño said he plans on visiting with many of his council colleagues to try and sell them on the ordinance with changes.
Council sent the ordinance back into committee, and then to governance where city staff will present changes based on today’s discussion, before going back to B-session.
Paul Flahive can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @paulflahive