Dallas city staff issues formal recommendation for short-term rentals
Dallas city staff have issued a formal recommendation on how to deal with short-term rentals. The update comes after hours of discussion — or what one city official called an “interrogation” — during last week's council meeting.
The city’s planning and urban design staff says its recommendation is to “address STRs entirely through the registration process and not through amendments to the zoning code.”
That goes directly against the City Plan Commission recommendation to completely ban STRs in single-family residential zoned areas of the city.
Julia Ryan is the director of planning and urban design. She says Dallas has a history of improper use of zoning ordinances.
“We as a city use zoning as a tool for things that aren’t zoning,” Ryan said at Wednesday’s council meeting. “We are now dealing with a lot of those consequences.”
The recommendation, outlined in a June 9 memo to Dallas city officials, makes it clear that prior to the heated debate over the issue at Wednesday’s council meeting “staff did not prepare a professional recommendation.”
Now, that recommendation differs from the City Plan Commissions recommendation, which was authorized in late 2021.
The recommendation is to make STRs a lodging use only — banning them from single-family residentially zoned areas of the city.
During the meeting it became clear that city staff moved in the direction that was given to them by the city plan commission. The idea to enforce STRs solely with a registration system — which was first introduced by Ryan — took multiple council members by surprise.
“Not once have I ever heard your recommendation in our countless talks,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Omar Narvaez said during Wednesday’s meeting. “That’s why I am perplexed right now.”
According to the memo, “the Dallas Development Code is silent on the tenancy or ownership status of the occupants of a residential property.” That means that there is no difference in land use standards, regardless of if the property is owned, leased or rented.
Staff argues that a different part of the city code contains actual standards for rental properties and STRs that they say address the concerns voiced by city officials and residents. They say under these codes, enforcement of the root issues of STRs — bad operators — would be easier.
Horror stories and data
Staff’s recommendation is based on “the assertion that the major concerns related to STRs are operational.”
Much of the controversy around STR properties in Dallas stems from resident complaints about wild parties that turn to chaos, armed tenants and drunken tourists.
“STRs have invaded our communities with a hostile take-over at our expense,” District 5 resident Ruth Torres said during Wednesday’s meeting. “Our communities should be safe to raise our kids, not…endangering out lives to dodge bullets in our own homes.”
Torres says an STR owner built a stage in rental’s backyard to host live bands “all summer long.” She says another property hosted a party where those in attendance blasted offensive music and “emptied clips at their pool for over seven hours.”
Residents just like Torres, dominated the open microphone portion of the council meeting, each recounting a similar narrative.
But according to city staff’s briefing, identified STRs in residential areas accounted for around 3% of service calls between January and April of this year.
During the same time both 311 and 911 received over a million calls.
And although residential STRs had a higher average number of calls associated with their properties than non-STR homes, city staff says the “difference is less than one call.”
80% of the city’s identified STR properties “generated zero calls” for over a hundred call types city staff analyzed.
The Dallas City Council will vote on the controversial STR ordinance on June 14. Council members will consider either an amendment to the city’s development code that classifies STRs as a lodging use, or city staff’s recommendation to deal with the issue through registration.
The city plan commission’s recommendation to essentially ban the properties from certain areas of the city would result only 1.8% of currently operating STRs being eligible for a permit.
In addition, city staff says that 40% of existing STRs are in Planned Development Districts (PD) and Conservation Districts (CD).
“If the City Council approves a zoning code amendment that creates ‘short-term rental lodging’ as a new main use…each PD and CD would need to be examined to determine if STRs are permitted in that district,” the memo says.
City staff said at Wednesday’s meeting that dealing with STRs with a registration ordinance instead of with zoning, also allows for more oversight of enforcement.
“It will need a full amendment to the registration ordinance in order to chance the rules,” Planning and Urban Design Assistant Director Andrea Udrea said. “As opposed to zoning where you can change the rules PD by PD, lot by lot.”
Along with the planning department, the city’s Code Compliance staff is also signing on with the recommendation.
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