Council held its final meetings of 2019 last week with two significant conversations and a packed public forum.
On Monday night, December 9th, 54 people testified in the public forum about short term rentals and climate change, primarily. Both are immediate concerns of council. In September, council had directed staff to draft an ordinance containing a number of new requirements of short term rental owners, including owner occupancy. The majority of speakers at forum were hosts who made compelling arguments about the economic benefits for owners who included retirees and young mothers as well as their role as good property managers and neighbors. This issue came to council out of concern based on experience in other cities that proliferation of short term rentals constricts the supply of much needed longer term housing and creates commercial activity in residential areas. At Wednesday’s work session following the forum, Council wisely postponed moving forward on the draft ordinance until staff has an opportunity to gather more information about the number of out of state and non-owner occupied short term rentals as well as existing rules regulating home businesses in residential areas. Council also asked staff to convene a citizen advisory group comprising stakeholders to help inform the emerging policy. Staff will return to council by the end of March.
At Monday’s work session council took its first dive into the desired components of a new city hall. This included a discussion of seismic strength, LEED certification, underground parking, and city hall’s potential as a community gathering place. Staff will return to council with more specifics in early 2020, including more insights about costs.
Council reconvenes in January, beginning with the State of the City on January 8th at 5:30 in the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center. The event is free and open to the public. Our first council meeting is January 13th.
I wish you all a restful, peaceful, light-filled holiday season and happy new year.