The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is becoming the latest flashpoint in the fight over short-term rentals in New Orleans.
Renting out rooms or entire apartments or homes during the annual two-weekend event has been a longstanding tradition for some residents, but the advent of Airbnb has turned the practice into a major business. And that has inspired backlash.
According to a news release from the short-term rental site, 20,000 people in town for Jazz Fest this year are staying in short-term rentals they found through the site. The release said there are 15 different neighborhoods in the city where more than 200 people booked homes or rooms through the site.
The website couched that as a positive for the city, estimating that those visitors will generate $12 million in economic activity at local businesses or restaurants.
That’s not a view shared by all, particularly in some of the neighborhoods where short-term rentals offered through Airbnb and other sites like VRBO are most prevalent.
There are at least 4,000 local listings on Airbnb alone, most of them whole homes being rented to tourists, even outside of special events like Jazz Fest, according to data from insideairbnb.com, a site critical of short-term rentals that tracks listings in multiple cities.
Signs began popping up over the weekend on utility poles in Faubourg Marigny, one of the hotbeds of short-term rentals, addressing tourists with a collection of cliché s about New Orleans before turning to the negative impact that critics say short-term rentals are having in the neighborhood.
“Are you staying in an illegal short-term rental listed on Airbnb or VRBO?” the signs said. “If so, YOU are directly responsible for displacing the last remaining longtime neighborhood residents that are survivors of the largest disaster that’s ever happened in America by creating a market for illegal short-term rentals in this residential area.
“And that, dear tourist, is a ---DAMN SHAME. Enjoy your stay in our former homes, y’all!”
The signs may have been inspired by similar fliers that popped up recently in San Francisco’s Chinatown district, telling tourists that their visits had led to the eviction of Chinese immigrant families.
“We have survived the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, 2 World Wars, the 1906 Great Quake and Fires and the 1989 Earthquake,” according to those fliers. “But now our lives, our schools, our grandparents’ homes and social fabric are being destroyed.”
IG’s work draws praise; less so for monitor
A three-member Quality Assurance Review Advisory Committee released its evaluation of the work of two independent city investigative agencies last week, offering high praise for the Office of the Inspector General and a mixed review for the Office of the Independent Police Monitor.
The city ordinance creating the OIG and OIPM calls for a review committee to assess their written work product. The committee consists of members appointed by the City Council, the Ethics Review Board and the Office of the Mayor.
“In general,” the committee said after reviewing the two agencies’ 2014 reports, it “found the OIG to be extraordinarily productive in producing the documents we reviewed. The written work products of the OIG addressed some of the most important issues facing the City of New Orleans.”
It said the OIG’s “public letters and investigations were timely and effective interventions,” and its “audits, like the investigations, again showed the OIG to be meticulous in its comprehensive methodologies.”
As for the police monitor, the committee said it “reached both positive and negative conclusions.”
It said it found the office’s “analysis of the New Orleans Police Department’s Retaliation Policy, Pattern and Practice to include questionable conclusions based on data collected. The OIPM’s inferences of widespread retaliation against civilian complainants and intradepartmental whistleblowers within the New Orleans Police Department suffered from insufficient investigative techniques and lacked reliable data and documentation.”
On the other hand, it said, “the OIPM’s evaluation of NOPD’s newly proposed retaliation policies and recommendations offered sound, thoughtful additions and clarifications to the new policies which, if adopted, would materially enhance the efficacy of those policies.”
The committee also said the OIPM “overreached the duties and responsibilities allocated to it” with an “unabashedly partisan and sensationalist assertion that inadequate investigation of several officer-involved shootings during Hurricane Katrina created a human crisis that exponentially expanded the destruction of the storm.”
However, “the committee commended the OIPM on the depth and scope of activities covered (in its annual report) and generally on the professional judgment exercised by the OIPM throughout its report.”
All of which left at least one question unanswered: Why did it take until April 2016 for the committee to review the two agencies’ 2014 documents?
Dinner at Commander’s cost Joe Biden a lot
Vice President Joe Biden had some complimentary words for Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his father, former Mayor Moon Landrieu, during Biden’s visit to the city last week to speak to the American Cancer Research Association.
“I would go anywhere with him,” Biden said of the younger Landrieu. “I’ve been around so long I’d go anywhere with his dad.”
Moon Landrieu was mayor of New Orleans from 1970 to 1978 and later a Cabinet secretary under President Jimmy Carter.
Biden said the former mayor was responsible for his daughter Ashley’s decision to attend Tulane University in 2000, after Landrieu took the Bidens out to dinner at Commander’s Palace .
“We’re sitting there at Commander’s, and — I’m not going to name the chef because I could be wrong — but one of the world-famous chefs came out and he was wearing a ‘Biden for President’ button and he says to her, ‘How are you, darlin’?’ ” Biden told Mitch Landrieu. “He said, ‘Come here anytime you want, anytime you want.’ ”
The vice president went on to recount his daughter’s enrollment at the university and her attempt, after a few months in the city, to get the restaurant the family traditionally patronized during Thanksgiving to serve oysters Rockefeller.
“She said, ‘Oh, by the way, Daddy, I need more money for food,’ ” Biden said, explaining he was perplexed because his daughter had a full-service meal plan at the university.
“When I go over to Commander’s, it costs a lot of money,” she added.
Biden said he asked, “What are you talking about?”
To which his daughter replied, “Well, he said to come anytime.”
Compiled by Jeff Adelson and Bruce Eggler