Acikalin, who has contributed $5,810 to Ramsey's campaign since 2015, is currently operating one of the properties, at 920 Frenchmen St., as a short-term rental. He's barred from having guests there more than 90 days a year under its current residential zoning. He's told neighbors he wants to open a medical clinic once the site is rezoned.Just for the sake of context, these spot upzone maneuvers have quickly become the mode of choice for property owners looking to back door their way in to the short term rental business. Typically the owner proposes some sort of commercial use for the property that just happens to also have space for STRs available. But the goal is a commercial short term rental license.
But that's raised skepticism among neighbors such as Eugene Cizek, a longtime architecture professor at Tulane University who has been involved in City Planning issues in the Marigny neighborhood since the 1970s. Cizek said he's concerned that granting Acikalin's request would return the city to the "spot zoning" problem that proliferated before a citywide master plan was adopted in 2010.
Increasingly, homes near tourist areas are being bought specifically for the purpose of converting them to AirBnBs, and a single person might masquerade as the “occupant” of numerous homes that are rented out all the time – and some companies even hire local people to play that role, Dedecker said. Property owners are also increasingly asking for spot zoning changes on homes from residential to business zoning to fit into the third category of short-term rentals, commercial, which allows more tenants and can be rented year-round.There are a lot of these in various stages of discussion right now.
Here's one at the former Zara's Supermarket on Prytania Street.
This one, which appears to be a no-go at this point, would have been, ostensibly, an ice cream shop.
Here is a property owned by Pat Swilling. He asked for a commercial spot-zone without even specifying what sort of business he might like to pretend to want to open there.
Councilwoman Stacy Head asked for clarification.Note that in all three of the above cases, LaToya Cantrell intervenes on behalf of the would-be Airbnb owner one way or another. Here is one LaToya supports even without a bogus front business scheme. It's just a developer who wants to do STR condos. It does help to have councilmembers on your side. Here is a property on Bienville Street the council voted to upzone despite the Planning Commission's denial. There's a list of CPC denials that could still be overridden depending on the Council's disposition.
“I can’t tell you I’m not going to, but I’m going to do something else as well, like a mixed use,” Swilling said.
Head pressed him further.
“So you’re going to do short-term rentals. Just tell us the truth here,” Head said. “What do you want to do? That’s the question here. You said a coffee shop. I’ve got a whole list of things that have been promised to the Council that have never come true. … I’m so tired of being lied to by developers not giving us what they promised to give us.”
Head turned her question to Cantrell, asking whether it would be a coffee shop or not. The zoning requested would allow for that, Cantrell said. Swilling added that coffee shop, ice cream shop and others were all under consideration.
“Now it’s not a coffee shop,” Head retorted, saying that Swilling had failed to give the Council his vision for the property.
“That’s very disrespectful,” Cantrell said quietly as Head concluded her questioning.
And that's the real trick with regard to Maklansky's dad's "clinic." The plan in that case was to jam the thing through before Ramsey and the rest of the Winter Council* leave office. The attention has probably spoiled that. The real fun begins in May when we learn, to everyone's shock, no doubt, just how pro-Airbnb the new Council and, of course, Mayor Cantrell end up being anyway. But we've still got a few months to pretend otherwise.
*I've been calling the lame ducks the "Winter Council" but the weather hasn't cooperated much with that term for almost a month now. They're gonna be around for a while, still. Maybe we need a new thing.