Vote on Sharing Economy

#1

I’d like to propose the following resolution to be voted on, if we want to take a position on the sharing economy. Both short term rental regulations and Uber/Lyft regulations are coming up at the city council in early December and so now would be the time to take a position on them. Please offer any suggested changes or additions and feel free to weigh in if this is something that’s important to you that we take a position on or not.


Friends of Austin Neighborhoods supports the sharing economy. Home sharing and ride sharing are important to Austin families by allowing them to make additional money to help them afford their increasing rents, property taxes, and costs of living. The additional income from the sharing economy provides income for struggling families, helps keep others in their homes, and helps creates a diverse community of varying income levels and ethnicities in our neighborhoods.

The city of Austin should be focused on how to help the middle class instead of proposing regulations that may directly harm them. Each new regulation provides an additional barrier to entry, makes it harder for families to participate in the sharing economy, and limits the different people of different economic means that get to enjoy our greatest neighborhoods.

FAN supports abundant and diverse housing in Austin; including temporary housing options. All short term rental types benefit our neighborhoods by providing a convenient place for Austinites to stay in their own neighborhoods during remodels or between houses or between leases, allows temporary housing for new Austinites relocating to Austin, and provides housing for visiting families.

FAN supports new and abundant transit options. Ride sharing provides low cost alternative transportation, provides an extension of the city transportation system, and improves the safety of drivers and riders by providing options that prevent drunk driving.

Home sharing and ride sharing promote a welcoming and inclusive environment for Austin. Austinites want and support these options in our neighborhoods. Please consider supporting the sharing economy and the Austin families that use and rely on them.

Please Oppose Burdensome Ride Sharing Regulations:

  • Burdensome safety inspections on cars
  • Burdensome fingerprinting requirements
  • Limiting pickup and drop off locations
  • Reporting data to the city that may violate the privacy of drivers and riders
  • Requiring unnecessary markings on driver’s personal cars
  • Any other requirements that make it harder for ride sharing drivers to be drivers

Please Oppose Burdensome Home Sharing Regulations:

  • Unnecessary bans on homeowners/renters for any short term rental type
  • Distance requirements that preemptively ban homeowners/renters from short term renting their home based on the location of other short term rentals
  • Requirements for random and mandatory inspections of people’s homes without reason or cause
  • Reduced occupancy limits based on property/site instead of being based on dwelling/license
  • Allowing eyewitness accounts to be used as evidence in administrative hearings for violations, which can encourage abuse by anti-STR activists against good STR owners
  • Requiring conditional use permits, board of adjustments, or neighborhood association approval to get or keep a license
  • Increasing license fees that may make it cost prohibitive for families to get and maintain a license
  • Requiring a guest registry that may violate the privacy of guests and owners
  • Any other requirement that makes it harder to receive and maintain a license for good owners
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FAN Vote: 6 Proposed Resolutions
#2

I think these should be two separate questions (maybe more).

I could see polling people on several distinct homesharing issues and the one ridesharing issue separately from homesharing. My opinions on each are pretty different.

My suggestion would be:

  1. In favor of type 1 STR without 30 day restrictions? (i.e. should you be able to do a type 1 all year if you want to)
  2. In favor of type 2 STR in ADUs?
  3. In favor of type 2 STR everywhere?

(are there any distinctions for type 2 which make more sense than those?)

  1. In favor of ridesharing with these restrictions: […]
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#3

Is there any way to simplify things into one vote that you see? I guess to me they seem like the same thing, but to others maybe not. I’m hopeful that there might be a few other resolutions to vote on at the same time as the sharing economy vote, so the fewer votes the better at one time I think so people are more likely to participate.

Anyone have any interest in creating a resolution for contact teams or PUD changes? =)

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#4

I think the downsides of having 3 or 4 questions in a vote on this are far smaller than the downsides of having 1 question in the vote - because people who are strongly against any component will tend to vote against the whole thing if that’s their only available option.

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#5

I agree that it should be split into multiple votes.

Roger Borgelt

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#6

Ok, I’ll work up two separate resolutions.

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#7

Pete,

With all due respect to your and others’ efforts on these fronts, I urge the Board of FAN to not bring your proposed resolution to a vote.

I do not believe that the sharing economy, understood here as short-term rentals (STRs) and transportation network companies (TNCs), is an issue germane to the vision and charter of FAN. FAN’s emphasis should overwhelmingly be on supporting inclusive and diverse neighborhood voices, not picking up divisive issues that have more to do with regulation standards than they do with neighborhood advocacy.

I am incredibly offended by the recent actions of one TNC, Uber, who has lashed out with scathing advertisements and an inappropriate ad hominem campaign against one of our elected Council Members. Our community should have no patience for this bullying and FAN should not be party to supporting, even indirectly, the offensive actions taken by this company in the face of proposed regulation.

Further, given Council’s recent actions regarding STRs I do not see FAN taking up this issue to be politically wise or particularly relevant to our mission. The argument that Type 2 STRs are meaningful diverse and abundant housing strikes me as tenuous, for one thing; if a residential property is being run as a hotel it should be subject to commensurate regulation, just as TNCs should receive regulation to not have an unfair competitive advantage over taxi companies. I am fully in support of the sharing economy in housing and transportation as well as other venues, but I do not support the de facto deregulation they have come to expect.

I’m afraid I disagree with the content of this resolution and more importantly its relevance to the FAN vision.

Brendan

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#8

Yes, we may want to help fine-tune the wording or delay one of the votes, but I don’t think these two topics are irrelevant to FAN or its vision.

TNC

Our neighborhoods can be complete communities, with families and people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, and with a variety of employment, goods, services, and transit accessible to all residents.

TNCs help provide diverse transit within our neighborhoods. For many, Lyft and Uber allow them to live a car-free lifestyle.

STR

Austin neighborhoods must continually evolve with the changing needs of the City, and we recognize such natural change presents opportunities to improve our neighborhoods. Accordingly, we support the kinds of changes that will enhance the affordability, inclusivity, connectivity, mobility, and quality of life in our neighborhoods.

If other neighborhood advocacy groups are passing resolutions saying that STRs do *not *belong in neighborhoods or should have certain restrictions, I don’t see a problem with our group voting to on the same questions. This is truly a neighborhood issue and there are valid reasons to like and dislike STRs as neighbors.

@brwittstruck, it appears that you would vote against (or abstain from) both of Pete’s resolutions even though you support the issues. Maybe you can work with @Pete_Gilcrease to suggest changes you could support?

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#9

I agree with Brendan on principle. Instead of merely becoming an alternate pulpit for divisive issues, I would like to see FAN demonstrate how to properly engage the full range of viewpoints of neighborhood’s residents. I would like to see FAN be educational and inclusive even if that means toning down over urgent issues or avoiding allegiances. If we’re going to vote on anything, perhaps in consideration of bringing an underdog viewpoint to the Austin City Council, for example, let it be about our observations of the validity of the process in play. There’s a lot to be said about misinformation and communities flailing about for cosmetic solutions.

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#10

All, we need to separate the question of what to bring to the membership for a vote versus having a robust discussion of the issues and what each of us personally believes.

If a member - whether @Pete_Gilcrease or someone else - wants to bring something up for a vote, and it pertains to the FAN vision, then the board shouldn’t refuse to give the membership a chance to vote just because we don’t support the particular measure or feel it might be divisive.

However, I do think we should strive for some level of consensus among our membership rather than 51% majorities. Fortunately, all of our votes on resolutions so far have been nearly unanimous. But I think we should consider an amendment to the by-laws to address this issue of ensuring dissenting and minority opinions aren’t drowned, perhaps just by allowing comments alongside votes, as @LarryS suggested a few months ago.

Let’s welcome the discussion here and have the board separately evaluate the decision on whether to bring resolutions to the membership based on consistency with the FAN vision and purpose.

I would add that in this case the membership and FAN have already spoken in support of ADUs as short-term rentals. While the topic of general support for STRs is broader, it’s a bit redundant. I doubt someone will support ADUs as type 2 STRs but not other forms of STRs.

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#11

I think you could spend (waste) a great deal of time arguing about whether Uber is or is not a good thing. I personally will check out on FAN and this discussion. Personally I believe Uber et. al. are a bad model for any sharing of anything. Tying ourselves to a for profit highly aggressive outfit is a death knell for FANs credibility.

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#12

I’ve gone through the responses and the discussions ensuing Pete’s suggestion on a vote. I personally don’t agree that we should be voting on ride sharing, and that is not to be taken as “you can’t do it because I’m on the board and I said no.” The reasons that I have an issue with it were mostly touched on by Roger, Larry, and Brendan. When we put forth a vote, it is clear that an overwhelming majority of FANs vote FOR what we propose. I HOPE this is because our ideals are pretty aligned between members, but it could also be due to a bandwagon mentality, or a lack of information given with the vote. I believe that people generally feel that as a member of FAN, they should support what we put forth, but not without serious questioning & consideration first. I think it is a risk to tie the ride sharing vote with the short term rentals because of the immense amount of information that an individual would have to research to intelligently vote on these issues, even if we view them as somewhat intertwined. I support having members look at the two issues individually.

Beyond those issues outlined above, I personally disagree that we need to minimize or prevent “burdensome” requirements on Uber drivers and other ride sharing programs. All of the items listed under ride sharing are totally reasonable to create a safe condition for users of the ride sharing program. If safety is a burden, then it’s one we should carry. Uber is well funded and will have no trouble getting by without us. I understand though, that I can vote against this proposition if brought to a vote.

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#13

While we need to be sensitive to the issue of tyranny of the majority, I have a really hard time accepting that the leadership should filter what the membership can vote on based on what the leadership thinks will gain a consensus among the membership.

We all need to be careful here not to let our biases taint our perceptions of what constitutes a good and inclusive process. Also, we need to be mindful of shying away from the membership taking principled stands that we fear might affect perceptions of our organization.

"Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?’ And on some positions, it is necessary for the moral individual to take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because it right.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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#14

Would people feel more comfortable with a more broad statement of support for the sharing economy without the specific regulations to oppose?

The reason why I’m bringing it up is because some or most of these regulations have little to nothing to do with safety from what I can see. They seem simply more about making it harder for people to become Uber and Lyft drivers or to rent their homes out to make additional money. As far as I’ve seen there hasn’t been any evidence to back up that the “safety” inspections on cars or the fingerprinting requirements, etc. help in any way or are safer in any way then the current background checks that Uber and Lyft already do. The same can be said about some of the new regulations that are being considered for home sharing - an outright ban might not be able to pass and so the focus seems to be on ways to make it nearly impossible to get or maintain a license to rent your home without calling it a ban. Will someone get a license to rent their house for SXSW if they have to agree to let code enforcement into their home randomly throughout the year while they live there without any reason or cause? Probably not. Should Austin be coming up with solutions/regulations to potentially nonexistent problems especially when those “solutions” can potentially harm people’s lives with no added benefit to the city?

The practical impact is less people will be willing to jump through all of the hoops (and pay for all of the various fees that might be required for each requirement) to be able to make the additional money that they would have made as Uber/Lyft drivers. This reduces economic mobility and alternative transportation options for everyone. It’s very similar to voting restrictions. The more restrictions that you place on voting, the less people will vote. Are driver’s licenses really necessary to prevent voter fraud or is requiring a driver’s license simply another way to prevent minorities from participating in the voting process? Is requiring abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers more about safety or is it simply a way to ban abortion without calling it a ban? I guess the answer to these questions depends on who you ask.

I think there’s also a legitimate concern about the money that Kitchen has received from the taxi industry, if that claim is correct. Are these regulations being pushed because of a legitimate concern for safety (when no data or information has been provided that these regulations will help in any way - unless I’ve missed the data and statistics)? Or is this potentially the taxi industry trying to limit its competition through donations to city council members?

The Austin City Council appears to be taking us backwards on issues that are changing and improving our economy. As a city we should be embracing progressive changes to our economy and helping them thrive and not trying to hold us back. We should be asking how do we make it easier for Austin ride sharing drivers and home sharers, not how do we make it harder for people to pay for their rent, taxes, and groceries.

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#15

I’d propose the following resolutions, if a broader language would be better. Please let me know if anyone has any suggestions!

Ride Sharing Resolution:

Friends of Austin Neighborhoods supports ride sharing. Ride sharing is important to Austin families by allowing them to make additional money to help them afford their increasing rents, property taxes, and costs of living.

Our neighborhoods can be complete communities, with families and people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, and with a variety of employment, goods, services, and transit accessible to all residents.

Home Sharing Resolution:

Friends of Austin Neighborhoods supports abundant and diverse housing in Austin; including temporary housing options. All short term rental types benefit our neighborhoods by providing a convenient place for Austinites to stay in their own neighborhoods during remodels or between houses or between leases, allows temporary housing for new Austinites relocating to Austin, and provides housing for visiting families.

Austin neighborhoods must continually evolve with the changing needs of the City, and we recognize such natural change presents opportunities to improve our neighborhoods. Accordingly, we support the kinds of changes that will enhance the affordability, inclusivity, connectivity, mobility, and quality of life in our neighborhoods.

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#16

I like separating the 2 resolutions, but would add some of the following language back in to the one about STR’s:

Please Oppose:

Unnecessary bans on homeowners/renters for any short term rental type
Distance requirements that preemptively ban homeowners/renters from short term renting their home based on the location of other short term rentals
Requirements for random and mandatory inspections of people’s homes without reason or cause
Reduced occupancy limits based on property/site instead of being based on dwelling/license
Allowing eyewitness accounts to be used as evidence in administrative hearings for violations, which can encourage abuse by anti-STR activists against good STR owners
Requiring conditional use permits, board of adjustments, or neighborhood association approval to get or keep a license
Increasing license fees that may make it cost prohibitive for families to get and maintain a license
Requiring a guest registry that may violate the privacy of guests and owners
Any other requirement that makes it harder to receive and maintain a license for good owners

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#17

I appreciate the discourse here but I don’t see this as a case of leadership filtering what the membership can vote on. Instead, we’ve had one member put forward a suggestion for a resolution. To prevent FAN voting from being overrun with pet projects (not saying this is one, but it could open the door to it), there needs to be a standard level of discussion–perhaps and likely from these forums–such that both potential support and concerns regarding the proposal can be aired BEFORE the Board makes any move to bring a vote on the topic.

Already, these resolution proposals have benefited from public discussion. At what point a proposal like this is considered “fully cooked” through a membership discussion and ready for a vote is an issue I hope we can begin to broach with our next Board/membership meeting.

I’ll leave it at that, and encourage this thread to continue with a discussion of the merits and language of Pete’s proposal, and I am heartened to see some new voices weighing in here.
B

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#18

I think it’s important to add safety as a reason to support TNCs. They provide an easy way for people to get home after a night of drinking.

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#19

@peachcynthia. Ok, I’ve readded that language. Like the below language?

@rickyhennessy Does something like the below work? Otherwise, what wording might work best for safety?

@brwittstruck One thing that we could do it include the url link with the resolution when sending it to anyone. That way anyone with different opinions could be heard as well. Would that work?

Ride Sharing Resolution:

Friends of Austin Neighborhoods supports ride sharing. Ride sharing is important to Austin families by allowing them to make additional money to help them afford their increasing rents, property taxes, and costs of living. Ride sharing increases public safety by providing alternative transportation that helps prevent drunk driving.

Our neighborhoods can be complete communities, with families and people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, and with a variety of employment, goods, services, and transit accessible to all residents.

Please support fair and reasonable ride sharing regulations.

Home Sharing Resolution:

Friends of Austin Neighborhoods supports abundant and diverse housing in Austin; including temporary housing options. All short term rental types benefit our neighborhoods by providing a convenient place for Austinites to stay in their own neighborhoods during remodels or between houses or between leases, allows temporary housing for new Austinites relocating to Austin, and provides housing for visiting families. The additional income from the sharing economy provides income for struggling families, helps keep others in their homes, and helps create a diverse community of varying income levels and ethnicities in our neighborhoods.

Austin neighborhoods must continually evolve with the changing needs of the City, and we recognize such natural change presents opportunities to improve our neighborhoods. Accordingly, we support the kinds of changes that will enhance the affordability, inclusivity, connectivity, mobility, and quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Please support fair and reasonable short term rental regulations.

Please Oppose:

  • Bans on homeowners/renters for any short term rental type
  • Distance requirements that preemptively ban good homeowners/renters from short term renting their home based on the location of other short term rentals
  • Requirements for random and mandatory inspections of people’s homes without reason or cause
  • Reduced occupancy limits based on property/site instead of being based on dwelling/license
  • Allowing eyewitness accounts to be used as evidence in administrative hearings for violations, which may encourage abuse by activists against good STR owners
  • Requiring conditional use permits, board of adjustments, or neighborhood association approval to get or keep a license
  • Increasing license fees that may make it cost prohibitive to get and maintain a license
  • Requiring a guest registry that may violate the privacy of guests and owners
  • Any other requirement that makes it harder to receive and maintain a license for good owners
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#20

The language of these resolutions is adequate, but mundane. I feel we’re missing an opportunity to bring hearts and minds together rather than just join the crusade handed to us.

It’s been my observation that the media, the opponents and the proponents of STR and ride-sharing are guilty of strategically mis-naming issues and oversimplifying talking points that smell like proxies for what is really going on underneath. We can’t make good decisions under these terms. At best, we can merely see one side “win” and the losers forced to live as we wish. I don’t feel that’s constructive, nor good for society.

What I would find refreshing is language which addresses the real/root issues not being named, exposes failures and misinformation in the existing public process, and examines whether the prevailing remedies are based in reality. Maybe we can start a new tradition of honest debate in Austin.

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