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Tempers Rise As City Council Committee Punts On Short-Term Rentals In San Antonio

San Antonio City Hall
Ryan Loyd
TPR News
San Antonio City Hall

San Antonio City Council member Greg Brockhouse walked out of Thursday’s health and equity committee hearing in frustration.

“It’s a total waste of time,” he said afterwards.

Brockhouse said he was frustrated with the decision to send a package of short-term rental regulations to B session for discussion, rather than voting on whether or not it should go to council. Short-term rentals are room or home rentals that take place on online platforms like Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO.

“The committee has abdicated its authority,” he said.

Brockhouse said he was leaning towards voting against the regulations going forward. The measures are the result of aneight-month long volunteer task forcethat recommended fees, inspections, and enforcement mechanisms that could revoke permits and control the number of short-term rentals in a given area.

More than 20 residents signed up to speak at the meeting, many were STR operators speaking against the measures.

“We expected a big turnout,” said development services department head Michael Shannon. “This is a pretty passionate issue that a lot of people care about.”

Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Short-Term Rental Task Force craft recommendations for council in October. One of 16 public meetings.

Shannon said this was the most people he had seen show up to speak at any of the 16 public meetings over the course of nearly a year. Many in attendance pointed to how close the regulations were coming to a full council vote — scheduled for Feb. 8 — as an explanation.

The choice to delay means it could be weeks or months before the measures come to a vote.

“This is the first time I have seen (short-term rentals),” said District 8 council member Manny Pelaez, whose district, he added, isn’t a hot spot for these kinds of rentals.

Pelaez had the names of the original council members who signed the document asking for STR regulations to be explored, pointing out three of the five members were no longer on City Council.

Many council members on the committee also expressed reservations about the proposed regulations.

Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Council Members Sandoval and Shaw review Short-Term Rental recommendations from Task Force.

Committee chair Ana Sandoval said they’re sending it to B session because the health and equity committee only has a few members, whereas in B session all the districts have a voice.

“This is a citywide issue,” she said. “It affects a lot of folks, particularly in some districts that aren’t on this committee.”

Sandoval said she felt let down Brockhouse chose to leave.

“I’m disappointed one of my colleagues decided not to stay and participate in that conversation or listen to the concerns of the people who came out to speak.”

With the council vote delayed, city staffers and council members expect the debate to intensify.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter at @paulflahive

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org