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.