Banning Airbnb in Lawrence, Kansas???

Tomorrow evening, the City Commission of Lawrence, Kansas will discuss short term rentals in the city.  I have some very strong feelings about the subject and made sure I completed the survey the city sent out several months ago.  My perspective is not one of someone who owns a short term rental or who has any plans to have one in the future, but instead, is that of someone who has a great deal of experience using services such as Airbnb when traveling both throughout the United States, and internationally.


My husband and I have been customers of Airbnb since 2013 when our first experience with the service was renting an apartment with my parents in Barcelona, Spain.  The apartment was located one block from Sagrada Familia and, from the balcony of the apartment, we had a spectacular view of the cathedral from an angle few tourists would ever have the opportunity to experience.  None of us spoke Spanish, but we were able to communicate with our host (who spoke no English) easily through the Airbnb platform.  The apartment was across the street from a grocery store and in the same block as many local restaurants.  Because we were able to get such a great deal on the apartment through Airbnb, we spent significantly more just being “tourists” in a city we fell in love with.

Since our trip to Barcelona, back in 2013, we have been completely sold on the sharing economy idea of Airbnb.  We do not travel anywhere for pleasure without looking for an Airbnb property to stay in.  In fact, since 2013, the only time I have stayed in a hotel was when I was traveling for work, and we have even started to shift business travel lodging to Airbnb when possible, because it allows for collaboration between colleagues in an environment that isn’t full of the hustle and bustle of a hotel lobby.  We can sit around a dining room table and debrief all the things we learned at a conference, or we can work on presentations while sitting comfortably on a couch in the living room.  It’s really a fantastic way to travel with colleagues.

Vancouver, BC
London, UK
Washington, DCBoston, MAAustin, TX

My husband and I have stayed in Airbnb properties all across the US (Seattle, Downtown Kansas City (twice), Austin (twice), Denver, Washington, DC, the North Shore of Oahu, and Boston) and internationally in London (twice), Vancouver (in the same apartment on three separate trips), and Barcelona.  We feel like utilizing available short term rentals allows us to experience cities like locals do.  We eat at more neighborhood restaurants, shop at more locally-owned stores, spend more money, and really get to know each city we visit.  Because we’re able to experience the true nature of each city, we find ourselves much more connected to each place and much more likely to return for another trip.  Additionally, booking through services such as Airbnb has allowed us to stay in areas that are much closer to city centers and in much more popular areas for far less than we would have had to pay to stay in a hotel.  I can say, without a doubt, that we have been able to travel more and visit more destinations because we are booking with Airbnb rather than with a hotel.  Hotels in many of the destinations we have visited would have made the trip cost-prohibitive.

Lawrence is a city that’s primed to make people fall in love with it.  I’ve lived here my whole life and my love for this city is contagious.  Whenever I have friends coming into town, or even old high school friends coming home to visit for a holiday, I feel compelled to tell them about all of my favorite places in Lawrence and about all the new places that I’ve recently had the opportunity to love.  In my experience, Airbnb hosts are some of the very best ambassadors of the cities in which they have property.  They want the experience of their guests to be as positive as possible.  They want those guests to come back.  They want people to love place they call home as much as they do.

I understand the purpose of regulating short term rentals, but I’ve encouraged our City Commission to do it in a way that will not suffocate their existence in Lawrence.  By keeping them around, we’re encouraging people who love the sharing economy to add Lawrence to their list of desired destinations.  I’m certain people staying in these properties are spending more money in town than those who are staying at a hotel.  My husband and I are those people in other communities and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

 

 

 

How Does the East Ninth Project Benefit LFK?


I happened upon a Facebook post today from a longtime family friend. He posted about the East Ninth Project asking “how many homeless families would that money wasted on this project for Hipsters help?” After my expected initial confusion at this question (I definitely don’t consider myself a Hipster), I had time to reflect on some of the really positive outcomes this project will have on the community.

1) The East Ninth Project benefits families with children.
When our nephew was born, my husband and I would take him for walks to Downtown Lawrence in his stroller. When you’re pushing a sleeping one-month-old, you notice every single crack and bump. Some parts of the sidewalk between Delaware and Massachusetts Streets are completely reduced to rubble, and we were forced to walk with him in the street.

2) The East Ninth Project benefits those on bikes. It provides a safe route from Delaware to Downtown Lawrence for adults and children at any skill level to ride their bikes without having to be on the street with cars. This is an important benefit, as it means that a five-year-old who just graduated from training wheels won’t have to bike down the street, shared with delivery trucks and other vehicles. And when that 5-year-old inevitably falls off his or her bike, they’re not going to be met with a face full of gravel from the deteriorated sidewalks.

3) The East Ninth Project benefits people with disabilities. Right now, I don’t believe there are any ADA accessible sidewalks or paths along this stretch of 9th Street until you get all the way Downtown. Neighbors in wheelchairs have no safe way to get Downtown without a car. This project will provide a fully ADA accessible path.

4) The East Ninth Project benefits the environment and health. Reducing the carbon footprint of East Ninth Street by providing safe walking and biking routes improves the air quality in the neighborhood and encourages healthy lifestyles. With each connecting path and riding option in Lawrence, individuals are much more likely to choose to bike, and yes, walk, versus choosing the car default.

These are only a few of the numerous benefits this project has. . . I’d say those benefits impact far more than just “the Hipsters” in the neighborhood.

To speak to the comparison my friend brought up, transitional and affordable housing is important to me. One of our good friends found permanent housing with the support of the homeless shelter and other local organizations. Previous City Commissions approved tax breaks for developers, sacrificing revenue, which could have otherwise been contributed to a budget that would have provided greater resources for affordable housing. Reversing these type of decisions will help. We also need to support efforts as part of the budget process to make sure that careful planning and consideration is given to housing. But that is the thing, we have budgets, we have planning around priorities, and every issue can’t be all or nothing. Thankfully we seem to have a commission who has taken the housing issue seriously while understanding that there has to be a balance and process.

After attending 15 months of meetings revolving around the East Ninth project (which is literally in my front yard), it is my belief that this is the best plan for the area and will provide a benefit to the largest population of people, both inside East Lawrence and outside. When my husband and I moved to our house in East Lawrence nearly 10 years ago, I was disappointed with the minimal maintenance of city infrastructure in our neighborhood. East Lawrence streets have been left with pot holes far after those in other parts of the city have been fixed. New York Street in particular north of 9th is one of the roughest bike and car rides in city.

I have lived in Lawrence my entire life and for the first time in my memory, aside from re-bricking a street that is now also in poor shape, the City is investing a large sum of money in East Lawrence infrastructure improvements. This is long overdue.

Contributing to the East Lawrence I Love

 In light of some recent characterizations made about “new” people running for election to the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association Board and because there isn’t a forum to let my extended neighbors know who I am and what I want to contribute to the neighborhood, I thought it might be warranted to blog about my history, my love for East Lawrence, and what I hope to contribute.

 

First, a little bit about my history: 

 
Lawrence
 
I have lived in Lawrence my entire life. I went to elementary school at Schwegler, Jr. High at South (when it was still a circle) and graduated from Lawrence High School. My dad is a KU grad and worked in the airport consulting industry for most of his 40+ year career. My mom worked for Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka for 19 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom for my sisters and I, while handling a couple of health issues of her own. I love Lawrence and plan to live here for the rest of my life. 
 
I have been volunteering as a Planning Committee Member for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Douglas County for the past 6 years. 2016 will be my 3rd year serving as the Event Co-Chair. In the time I have been Co-Chairing the event, we have raised over half a million dollars for the American Cancer Society’s programs and services in Douglas County. 
 
East Lawrence
 
I have been running meetings, volunteering with numerous charity organizations, planning large events, and public speaking since I was 11 years old. When my husband, Josh, and I moved to East Lawrence, about a decade ago, we began attending ELNA meetings, helping with the Block Party, baking for the Kickball concession stand, buying and wrapping items for the adopted family, etc. I was also involved in running the ELNA website for a while. We stopped attending ELNA meetings after some time because of the way we felt when we left those meetings. There seemed to be an overlying negative tone and the meetings ran later than I was willing to stay because of my job in Overland Park and the early commute. 
 
We became involved again when East Ninth began to gain some speed. Josh and I have both attended hours of meetings, studied notes from meetings we were unable to attend, researched topics and asked questions as they came up. This time has been valuable in terms of really understanding the project as well as getting to know more of my neighbors in the community. 
 
ELNA
 
But, being a part of the ELNA Board is about much more than just East Ninth Street. Josh and I have lived directly on 9th Street for a long time. We are in the heart of one of the very best neighborhoods Lawrence has to offer. Now that I’m working at KU and don’t have an hour and a half commute every day, I’d like to dedicate some more time to the neighborhood association and be sure that my voice helps to shape the decisions that are made where the neighborhood is involved. 
 

Below are a few examples of things I would try to bring to the table:

  • Working cooperatively with the City to establish protections for residents who have concerns about being priced out of their homes
  • Reaching out to all our neighbors to make sure that they feel comfortable sharing their opinions about neighborhood issues
  • Treating everyone (city officials, neighbors, visitors, etc.) with respect
  • Mobilizing volunteers to find ways to help neighbors who are struggling or need some sort of help that we’re able to provide
  • Encouraging young people in the neighborhood to get involved by providing additional volunteer opportunities (possibly an “Adopt a grandparent” style program)
  • Making meetings manageable for all who are interested in attending and having their voices heard
  • Making all agendas and meeting minutes available electronically
  • Focusing on and shaping positive change as we encounter it
  • Continuing to build on the great print and email newsletters we currently have
  • Encouraging continued active participation in City Advisory Boards, Committees and Task Forces
  • Possible expansion of the use of our website, Facebook page and Twitter accounts (not placing this duty solely on the neighborhood coordinator, but spreading the responsibility among multiple board members)

East Lawrence is great community and ELNA has been a significant part of making it what it is. I hope to work as part of the board to continue that tradition and build on it.


Amanda Davis
amanda.woodward@gmail.com

 

East Ninth Project Progress

There are some very exciting things happening in East Lawrence, Kansas right now.  Due to its proximity to Downtown Lawrence and the up-and-coming Warehouse Arts District, East Lawrence is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Douglas County and there are no signs that will be changing in the foreseeable future.

Because of the desirable location, rich cultural history and deep-seeded love of our neighborhood, East Ninth Street, between Massachusetts Street and Delaware Streets received a prestigious ArtPlace Grant in 2014.  More information about the ArtPlace Grant can be found HERE.  Essentially, this Grant provides $500,000 for public art aspects (administration, design, fabrication, and installation) along 9th Street.  In addition to the $500,000 Grant, the City of Lawrence has pledged approximately $3 Million toward additional design and construction surrounding the project.

For a neighborhood who has seen little infrastructure improvement in years, this is a huge opportunity to better the neighborhood and make it a desirable location to live for years to come.

In a memo dated August 4th, 2015, the City of Lawrence announced the final artists for the project.  They are:

East Ninth Artists

Integrated Artists

The deadline for the Associate Artist program was August 3rd and selections for that program should be coming soon.

The design phase is just beginning and the excitement for the project is building.  A website and Facebook group were recently started to encourage support for the project among neighbors and other stakeholders.  If you are interested in the project and showing your support, please visit our website at www.eastninth.com or our new Facebook Page – Community and Culture on East Ninth.

The website includes a comprehensive FAQ page with information about the project, which is very helpful in getting caught up with the process.

We would love to hear your thoughts and what you’re most looking forward to about the project.

Related Links & Articles
City of Lawrence East Ninth Website
East Ninth.com
Community and Culture on East Ninth
Lawrence Arts Center
el dorado, Inc.

6 News Lawrence Story – August 3, 2015
Lawrence Kansas Live BLOG

 

Bird Dog Bar at The Oread Hotel

 
Those of you from Lawrence may have noticed the new structure that now towers above the northern end of the University of Kansas campus.  The Oread hotel was recently completed and is not fully in operation.  With the opening of a new luxury hotel, comes the chance to try some new restaurants in town.  My friend Shauna and I took the opportunity while wedding planning, to visit the Bird Dog Bar in the Oread Hotel several weeks ago and we left satisfied and impressed. 

We didn’t order anything that was terribly exciting (we both got burgers) but instead of french fries, I ordered the Mac & Cheese as my side.  Let me just tell you, this was some of the most amazing mac & cheese I’ve ever had.  I actually wanted to get it as my main dish but I’m always hesitant to do that because there are lots of ways for people to screw up mac & cheese and I didn’t want to possibly waste my money on something that was merely mediocre.  The Bird Dog’s mac & cheese was anything but mediocre.  It was outstanding and the next time I go here, I will absolutely order it as my main dish!

What’s even better about the Bird Dog Grill?  Oh, that’s right, the Oread offers free 2 hour valet parking with a purchase from any of its restaurants.  That’s pretty awesome on campus, where parking comes at a premium.

Shauna and I also decided to try the roasted red pepper hummus and pita as an appetizer and we weren’t disappointed with that either.  The hummus and pita comes with celery, cucumbers and olives and it was really good.  I’m not usually a fan of anything with any kind of bell pepper in it, but this was very good and I would definitely try it again.

Overall, the Bird Dog Grill gets my vote for a new restaurant in town that’s got staying potential.  I wish them the best of luck and look forward to going back again!

Our First Noodles & Company Experience

I’ve been excited about trying this place since I heard that they were opening in the old Palace Cards & Gifts location at 8th & Mass quite a while ago.  I am a huge pasta fan, so how could you possibly go wrong with an entire menu based on pasta?  Although I wish it was a local restaurant downtown rather than another chain, I’m sure that we’re going to become frequent guests at the local Noodles & Company. 

I ordered the Pad Thai.  Ever since I discovered this dish, I have been in love with it and try it everywhere it’s offered.  My favorite is still Zen Zero on Mass Street, but there’s nothing wrong with the version that Noodles & Company makes.

Josh ordered the Bankok Curry and he really liked it (notice he ate most of it before I remembered to take a photo).  I wasn’t a huge fan because it was pretty sweet and I really prefer that my noodles be savory. 

Overall, we really liked Noodles & Company and will be back again, I’m sure.  The prices are very reasonable and their entire menu begins as a vegetarian dish that you can add protein to if you wish.  I’m sure it will do well downtown.

Lawrence, KS Farmer’s Market Grand Opening – Guest Post by Umut

 
After almost a six-month hiatus, the Lawrence Farmer’s Market is back this weekend. This is great news to those of us who prefer local, seasonal produce to what is available year-round at the grocery stores.

My husband Bryan came to appreciate asparagus late in life, at about age 30, and now he just cannot wait for the local asparagus season. For the last two years, he started asking around February if asparagus is coming soon. He’s like a little child waiting for Christmas and Santa Claus. “Is it here yet? Is it here yet?” he’ll keep asking. Even though we could be buying asparagus in December or January, store-bought asparagus tastes nothing like the local batches that start becoming available at the farmer’s market in early April. Farmer’s markets help us reconnect with where our food comes from and the cycles of Mother Nature that make it possible.

Here in Kansas, the market starts out slow with salad greens, spinach, asparagus and maybe a few peas. Following asparagus, if there isn’t a late cold snap, we’ll get rhubarb. After rhubarb, strawberries and other berries come in. Late June and definitely by the Fourth of July marks the beginning of local tomatoes. Then come all the other hot weather produce, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. Late summer gives us a bounty of watermelons, cantaloupe and another favorite of Bryan’s, the charantais melon. Last but not the least, sweet corn arrives, oh the wonderful local sweet corn!

Most Americans aren’t aware of the fact that the majority of the produce we get in the grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles. The distance alone is proof that those vegetables and fruits cannot possibly be fresh. When the farmer’s market is in season, the produce available there is at most a day old. That is a considerable difference in freshness. That means a huge difference in flavor and nutrition, not to mention the local produce undoubtedly lasts longer in our fridges.

In the last few years, there have been some adventurous people, who have experimented with a strictly local diet where they only eat foods that are grown within a 100- to 150-mile radius (For more information go to: http://100milediet.org/). That diet may be easy to follow in places such as California or Florida but is a little difficult in Kansas. I’m not advocating that we all try to do that, but using more local, seasonal ingredients in the meals we prepare will make the food taste a lot better and cooking a little more interesting and fun. Plus, it’s a way to help out the local economy and make new friends with the people who grow our food.

The local farmers are great resources in cooking as well. When you come across an interesting vegetable or fruit, ask the farmer about it. Chances are, you’ll not only come away with great ingredients, but brand new recipes, too.

To find more information about the Lawrence market, go to www.lawrencefarmersmarket.com. There are more than 36,000 local markets across the country. If you want to find a farmer’s market near you, you can check out www.localharvest.org, which is a phenomenal resource of local producers and markets.

Happy local eating, everyone!

Sylas & Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream

In a word. . . heavenly.  Sylas & Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream in Downtown Lawrence has long been a favorite downtown destination of mine.  Downtown Lawrence definitely isn’t lacking ice cream shops as we have both a Ben & Jerry’s and a Cold Stone Creamery as well as another local candy shop, Penny Annie’s within about 4 blocks of Sylas & Maddy’s, but it’s definitely worth it to walk past the others and head for Sylas & Maddy’s. 

My favorite selection is the 5 flavor sampler.  You get a mini scoop of 5 different flavors of your choice and then get to try a little bit of everything.  Some of my favorite flavors include, Gold Dust, Strawberry Cheesecake, Blueberry Cheesecake, Rock Chocolate Jayhawk, Da Bomb, Maddy’s Mud, Queen of Hearts and Andes Chocolate Mint.  Josh is a big fan of the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and I agree that it’s awesome!  I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad flavor at Sylas & Maddy’s. 

They keep the menu rotating every day, so you can try something different all the time.  I noticed when we were there on Sunday afternoon that they had a new flavor, Banana Split, so obviously, they are expanding their menu all the time.  They make their own waffle cones in front of you and also have homemade fudge behind the counter (YUMMY!). 

I would definitely recommend a stop at Sylas & Maddy’s for anyone who is traveling through Lawrence looking for something sweet.  You will not be sorry!!!


Valentine’s Day at Pachamama’s in Lawrence, KS

 

I meant to get this review up sooner than today, but it just didn’t happen.  Better late than never, right?

 

Pachamama’s is touted to be one of the very best restaurants in Lawrence, Kansas.  It has been located in two different buildings since it was first opened in 1996.  The first location was a wonderful building on the far west side of town, but because it sat out of the sight of the public (or for some other reason) it was not the most popular restaurant in town.  Since moving to their current location at 800 New Hampshire Street in downtown Lawrence in 2006, their business has flourished.  Whenever Josh and I walk by on our way somewhere else they are always busy.  They also have the Star Bar, which Josh and I have been to a few times before and they make some pretty awesome drinks.  If you’re ever there when it’s cold outside and they’re offering the hot chocolate with the homemade marshmallows, you should definitely order it!  It’s to die for!

 

Unfortunately though, I had never been to Pachamama’s to actually eat.  I’ve heard other people talk about how great it was, but we’ve just never had occasion to actually go there until last Saturday. . . Valentine’s Day. 

 

Josh was completely in charge of determining where we were going to eat and planning the evening, so I didn’t know until Friday night that we would be going to Pachamama’s.  They had designed a set 6 (really 5) course menu for $75 per person with an optional $25 wine pairing.  Josh and I both decided to do the wine pairing and we weren’t disappointed.  I’m slowly becoming acclimated to drinking wine (which I previously thought was pretty disgusting).  The wine pairing on Valentine’s Day was a good way for me to try several different kinds of wine without having to have a whole glass or whole bottle.  Unfortunately, I don’t yet feel comfortable whipping out my camera and doing a photo shoot in the middle of a busy restaurant, but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. 

 

The menu was as follows:

 

Three Lovely Bites

Crispy Bacon-Oyster Brochette, Tomato Confit, Hollandaise

Smoked Salmon Tartar Lemon, Chives, Fried Fennel

A Slider A La Plancha, Idiazabal Cheese, "Special Sauce"

Juve & Camps Brut Rose Cava N.V.

Porcini Mushroom "Cappuccino"

Wattle seed dusted parmesan-goat cheese foam

Alto Adige Terlaner, Italy

 

Tasmanian Sweet Crab

Avocado, Mango, Beet Green Vinaigrette

2007 Dr. Loosen Riesling, Germany

 

Ginger-Blood Orange Refresher

 

Choice of:

Pan Roasted Barramundi (Josh ordered this one)

Warm shitake-lentil salad, minted sweet pea crush, tangerine-sherry pan sauce

2007 A to Z Pinot Noir, Oregon

or

Seared Hanger Steak (I ordered this one)

Potatoes Aligot, ruby chard, roasted garlic, salsa verde

Colle Dei Venti Barbera d’Alba, Italy

Tres Leche Caramel Soaked Sponge Cake

Whipped cream, espresso ice cream, Irish cream creme anglaise

Chamber’s Muscadelle, Australia

 

My favorites from the menu were the Crispy Bacon-Oyster Brochette, the Porcini Mushroom "Cappuccino", and the Seared Hanger Steak. 

The brochette had just the right amount of crispiness and the oyster was not overpowering.  Besides, everything is better with bacon, right?

If you know me well, you know that I am NOT a mushroom fan by any stretch of the imagination. My real reason for not liking mushrooms is the texture.  I can’t stand the slimy chunky ick that is a mushroom.  This "cappuccino" was blended so well that if you didn’t know better, you would have no idea that it involved mushrooms.  If all mushrooms were prepared like these were, I would eat them all day!

Now, the steak was other-worldly.  There is no other way to describe it than to use the phrase that I used that night.  This steak was "close your eyes and enjoy it" good.  It was cooked exceptionally and just melted in your mouth.  The potatoes and ruby chard matched the steak perfectly.  It is absolutely something that I would go back to Pachamama’s for and it probably wouldn’t matter how much I had to pay for it.

 

All of the other dishes were great as well, but those were the top three for me.  Josh said that he enjoyed my steak more than his barramundi, but the barrramundi was good as well.  All in all, it was an amazing meal and well worth the wait for me.  It’s been open for over 10 years and I have lived in Lawrence through that entire time, but still hadn’t made it in.  I definitely won’t wait that long to visit again.

 

They’ve even got a great Sunday Suppers event that will be going on through at least the end of March, according to their website.  3-course meals for $25 at Pachamama’s. . . who could ask for more???