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San Antonio's King William Neighborhood Calls For Ban On Some Short-Term Rentals

Paul Flahive
Texas Public Radio
King Willaim resident Christine Becksted lives next door to her rental property.

Margaret Leeds has lived in the King William for 20 years. She’s seen once crumbling, bygone era homes returned to their former glory, restaurants and bars flourish, and the area transform.

But that transformation has led to increased competition for space that, she says, used to be residential. She believes short-term rentals — through Airbnb and other platforms — are eroding that residential footprint even further.

“If the district stays this way and continues to go this way, pretty soon there won’t be a historic district.”

Credit King William Advocates
A map provided by the King William Advocates

That’s why she and other concerned citizens in King William have pushed through a neighborhood association vote banning “whole house” rentals, where the owner doesn’t live onsite, or Type II rentals, where owners do live onsite.

Her group is called the King William Historic District Property Owners and Advocates, and in addition to a ban on whole house rentals they want stricter rules around Type I rentals. They want a ban on outdoor amplified sound, a limit of two on the number of bedrooms in a Type I rental, and to ensure that all traditional bed and breakfasts and STRs are counted in any density requirement the city goes forward with.

“And what that (STRs) does is it takes residential zoning and blows a hole in it by putting in hotels,” said Pat Conroy, another King William advocate.

He sees these developments as a challenge to the idea of neighborhoods, and is worried about affordable long-term rental stock, as well as party houses.

For nearly a year, the city has been working towards regulations on STRs. A vote was scheduled for Feb. 8, but according to city staff will likely be delayed while the City Council reconsiders the draft recommendations.

The draft ordinance would regulate how many STRs could be in an area, would ensure hosts register with the city and are permitted, and that hosts their hotel occupancy taxes.

The current proposal has been met with complaints from a group of Dignowity Hill, from Monte Vista Neighborhood Association, and from neighborhood representatives on the city’s own task force, asking more be done to reduce the impact on residents.

On a narrow lane in the heart of King William, Christine Becksted sits across a brunch spread of muffins and fruit in one of her two whole house rentals.

“I’m of the position that it’s no one’s business what you do with your private property,” said Becksted, a Type II operator.

Her 1,000 square foot house is isolated, she said. One one side has a restaurant, another side is a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, a gallery on the third and finally her residence.

The idea it could be a party house is unfounded, she said. Becksted said she moved to San Antonio from Germany five years ago. Her husband still works abroad and renting the houses through Airbnb is the only way she is able to make a living and take care of her mom. She owns two houses in King William and one in neighboring Lavaca.

But if a ban happened, she couldn’t afford to live in King William, and would be left scrambling.

“To start over and have to figure out another scenario of how we’re gonna do that I think is more disheartening than anything,” she said.

She said she isn’t there to flip houses, but to retire. But because much of the narrative around hosts like her is driven by fear, she said she is having increasingly negative interactions with neighbors.

Credit Paul Flahive / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Christine Becksted in her Mission Street Type 2 rental

“It’s hostile to say the least,” she said “Borderline harassment in some situations.”

She talks about receiving negative text messages from neighbors and seeing negative comments on social media.

One host, who didn’t want her name used, talked about getting threatening emails over the issue.

Not all the hosts, however, felt this way. Some had no negative interactions but but were more discreet about hosting.

“I think the dialogue could have been handled in a less personal way,” said Chris Price, president of the King William Association.

Price wasn’t surprised about the comments from operators — it’s a subject that’s stoking a lot of passion.

“It’s the most talked about issue right now,” he said.

He sent a letter to the mayor asking for a ban on Type II rentals because he does think they take away from the residential character.

It isn’t immediately clear that the city could pass a ban in a single historic district.

The current bed and breakfast ordinance originated in King William but was put in place over the entire city.

A ban in one may lead to a ban in all 29 historic districts, Price said. Austin was sued for a similar ban in 2016.

The draft ordinance has yet to be scheduled for a full council briefing, but city staff said it will be at least a month before council discusses it.

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

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org