Another dysfunctional hearing on Airbnb regulations ultimately ended the way vocal North Side aldermen and Airbnb proponents hoped: in delay, with Joint Housing and License Committee co-chair Ald. Joe Moore (49) saying he would not move the ordinance to the full Council for at least a month so aldermen, who clearly had many questions about regulations, could “take a breath.”
Attendance: Chairman Joe Moore (49), Chairman Emma Mitts (37), Pat Dowell (3), Sophia King (4), Gregory Mitchell (7), Michelle Harris (8), Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), Patrick Daley Thompson (11), George Cardenas (12), Marty Quinn (13), Raymond Lopez (15), David Moore (17), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie B. Cochran (20), Michael Scott Jr. (24), Roberto Maldonado (26), Walter Burnett Jr. (27), Chris Taliaferro (29), Ariel Reboyras (30), Scott Waguespack (32), Deb Mell (33), Carrie Austin (34), Michele Smith (43), Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45), James Cappleman (46), Ameya Pawar (47)
The meeting was called to order roughly 15 minutes late. Dozens of the same Airbnb hosts and supporters that packed the audience the night before had returned. Members of the joint committee told reporters they’d yet to see any new language reworked late the night before–the third substitute in three days. The ordinance was first introduced by Mayor Emanuel back in January, but has faced stiff opposition from aldermen from wards with the most bookings, and from Airbnb proponents who don’t want to see the service’s growth stifled.
A one page summary of the latest changes was eventually distributed to all aldermen, and Housing Chairman Joe Moore (49) called for consideration of a substitute ordinance. Aldermen Michele Smith (43), Scott Waguespack (32), and John Arena(45) all objected, saying they hadn’t received the substitute. The summary was missing details on one of the biggest changes: administrative relief for high rise buildings.
Ald. Moore pushed back, suggesting as a courtesy, administration officials should be able to testify on the changes while ordinance language was copied and distributed. Smith refused again, and the meeting was delayed further until language could be passed out. Stuck in a holding pattern, aldermen milled around chambers while the clock got closer the council’s scheduled 10:00 a.m. start time.
At about 9:25, Ald. Moore again called the substitute up for consideration. Ald. Smith immediately motioned to lay the substitute on the table until next meeting of the License committee, and asked for a roll call vote. Smith and Moore engaged in a somewhat tense exchange about courtesy. “Would it be in the public’s interest to at least hear from the commissioner before the motion?” Moore asked.
Smith remained obstinate and asked for a roll, and began to explain why, but Moore cut her off, and called for a roll. Some confused aldermen who’d been coming and going from chambers voted “yes,” believing the vote was to consider or adopt the substitute. Ald. Moore had to talk above the fray, explain the motion, and re-start the roll.
Vote to Table:
Yeas (8): Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), Marty Quinn (13), Raymond Lopez (15), Matt O’Shea (19), Scott Waguespack (32), Michele Smith (43), Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45)
Nays (12): Pat Dowell (3), Sophia King (4), Gregory Mitchell (7), Michelle Harris (8), Michael Scott, Jr., (24), Roberto Maldonado (26), Walter Burnett, Jr. (27), Deb Mell (33), Emma Mitts (37), James Cappleman (46), Ameya Pawar (47), Joe Moore (49)
After the motion to table failed, the committee took up the substitute. Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek was again pummeled with brand new questions about BACP’s enforcement capacity, the Department of Innovation and Technology’s (DoIT) ability to get a licensing database up and running within 150 days, and the mundane–like whether hosts could provide food or alcohol.
“I have a problem with voting on a 55 page document that I got five minutes ago,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza said as questioning continued.
Lapacek said the giant loophole Ald. Smith took greatest issue with had been reworked. The new ordinance would cap the number of Airbnb rentals allowed in high-rises at six, and offer a guide to the commissioner when deciding waivers. Single family homes could only be listed if it is “the owner’s primary resident [sic] AND the owner is present for the duration of the rental.” Homeowners associations and condo boards could opt out, rental buildings could enforce their own rules, and renters would have to get permission from the apartment owner to list on Airbnb.
But unsatisfied, the questions continued from Ald. Arena, Smith, Tom Tunney (44), and Patrick Daley Thompson (11). Five minutes before 10:00 a.m., Ald. Carrie Austin (34) grew exasperated. “Roll call!” she yelled from the back row, telling colleagues around her the opponents could delay the vote another way, and Tuesday’s hearing had been long enough. Ald. Michelle Harris (8) joined Austin’s calls. Chairman Moore wrapped testimony and called for a roll on the substitute.
Yeas (17): Chairman Joe Moore (49) and Emma Mitts (37), Pat Dowell (3), Sophia King (4), Greg Mitchell (7), Michelle Harris (8), George Cardenas (12), David Moore (17), Willie B. Cochran (20), Michael Scott Jr. (24), Roberto Maldonado (26), Walter Burnett, Jr. (27), Ariel Reboyras (30), Deb Mell (33), Carrie Austin (34), James Cappleman (46), Ameya Pawar (47)
Nays (9): Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), Marty Quinn (13), Raymond Lopez (15), Matt O’Shea (19), Chris Taliaferro (29), Scott Waguespack (32), Michele Smith (43), Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45)
After the failed vote, Smith told reporters, “I don’t think that this is good for democracy, to introduce an ordinance with this many changes at the last minute. We should consider this more. This is typical of the tactics that Airbnb has used in other cities around the globe. I’ve never been involved in regulating anything where we actually don’t know what we’re regulating.”
Ald. Marty Quinn (13), not normally one to make waves, voted both to delay and vote down the substitute. “We have some work to do on it. 95% of the 13th Ward are single family homes. I have some concerns about giving authority to supersede the zoning rules concerning home share, concerning room share,” he told Aldertrack after the vote. “I have some real concerns about turning single family home blocks in the 13th ward into areas that have a lot of transition.”