On Thursday, the City Council will vote on a measure that would allow short-term rentals, including bed-and-breakfasts and whole-home rentals, throughout the entire city. The sweeping proposal before it is both dangerous and unnecessary and should be defeated.
The proposal is dangerous because it would eliminate residential zoning in the entire city. It would pull the rug out from under those who have chosen their neighborhood based on its residential character, threatening their quality of life and investment. It would also make it unsafe for anyone who wants to live in a residential neighborhood to move into the city. Neither existing residents nor potential purchasers can know whether they’ll have neighbors or commercial enterprises next door.
The sweeping proposal is also unnecessary. Any change could be made on a local-option basis. Neighborhoods that favor the change could opt in; those that don’t want them could opt out.
Some have argued that excluding certain neighborhoods from the change would be inequitable. Implicit in this argument is the premise that the proposed change is undesirable across the board. If that’s the case, the council should shelve the proposal completely, not ram it down the throats of everyone.
It is clear that many neighborhoods, particularly those that would be hit hardest by the proposed change, don’t want short-term rentals. None of the arguments offered in support of the proposition — revenue for the city, the creation of an enforcement mechanism for an underground activity, additional revenue sources for some — justify forcing a change that is opposed by the very residents who will have to live with the negative impacts.
So, what is driving the push to force short-term rentals on unwilling neighborhoods? There's a lot of fog here, but it's pretty clear that the internet vendors would derive the big bucks from those neighborhoods. Needless to say, that's a bad reason for imposing unwanted zoning changes on them.
In New Orleans, we sing the praises of our neighborhoods, citing their variety as one of the city’s great strengths. Yet, we have before us, with the support of the administration, a one-size-fits-all proposal that works against that very concept. I urge council members to respect the wishes of the city's neighborhoods.
retired nonprofit leader