Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The packet with information on the items the aldermen will be discussing is available online.

Two items on tonight’s agenda:

Requiring licenses for rental dwelling units.

Community and Economic Development Director Steve Griffin says the existing ordinance doesn’t require a life safety inspection before registration. Says the new proposal would condition licensing on life safety inspections (although only anticipates inspecting them once every four years).

Says similar programs are widespread in other communities.

Notes that a special commitee appointed by the mayor met several times in recent months to come up with revisions to the proposal.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says committee spent many hours working on it. Says members had a lot of reservations, but that the result seems to be a workable product and perhaps the best the city can get.

Griffin says aldermen, NU students, landlords and residents were on the committee.

Public Comment

Betty Ester, 2113 Church St., doesn’t see how it will add any more benefits for tenants other than what already have under landlord-tenant ordinance.

Says property in the CDBG area would be inspected every two years, elsewhere in the city would only be inspected every four years, under this ordinance.

Bernard Hammer, attorney for a condo owner in Evanston, says two-flats are exempt under the law — says that denies equal protection rules. (Condos would require inspection.)

Junad Rizki asks whether the city is counting on the $500,000 in revenue from the program to balance next year’s budget. Says there are only a tiny minority of buildings that are a problem. Says it’s just a revenue raising scheme for the city.

Dan Schermerhorn, of rental firm in Evanston, says committee, which he was on, didn’t have an opportunity to consider whether licensing was needed. It was only charged with “tweaking” the proposal from staff.

Says a lot of the concerns are about noise complaints — but that police don’t generally ticket tenants when they respond to noise complaints. Says citing a landlord for noise violations doesn’t work — it’s the tenants that are causing the problem.

Says landlords who comply with the rules are being punished under this ordinance.

Says the city only registers 68 percent of the rental properties in town are registered under the existing ordinance.

Says years ago were told administrative adjudication would solve the problem, then that rental registration would. Now saying licensing will do it. Doesn’t believe it.

Howard Handler, NSBAR, says the ordinance would require landlords to immediately evict tenants — which they can’t legally do under state law. Says Mount Prospect has an ordinance that doesn’t have that conflict. And Skokie is considering an ordinance that would not have the conflict.

Says the ordinance is fraught with errors.

Josh Braun, says he opposes the ordinance — says existing regulations would be sufficient if appropriately enforced.

Jane Evans, 813 Gaffield Place, was member of the mayor’s committee, says impressive that committee came to a consensus. Says ordinance is about life-safety issues. Lives in Fireman’s Park neighborhood. Favors the ordinance. Says should inspect first, issue license only after compliance.

Mary Rosinski, 1729 Chancellor, a realtor and landlord, says should take the ordinance back and re-evaluate it. Says are trying to solve the wrong problem. Have sufficient regulations already. Are potentially putting landlords in conflict with the state law. Says ordinance would potentially affect every homeowner in town.

Jeff Smith, 2724 Harrison, agrees with NSBAR concerns about the ordinance. Says city doesn’t have 14,000 problem landlords in Evanston. Says already have sufficient tools to deal with the problem. Says property is a right and renting it out is a right that’s fundamental to ownership. Says ordinance claims it’s not a fundamental right. Says that sets the city up for a challenge on equal protection or due process grounds.

Lisa Pildes, 2111 Ridge Ave., resident of Fireman’s Park neighbohrood, landlord who owns six properties in the neighborhood. Says doesn’t believe rental licensing is necessary. Doesn’t object to registration, or to raising that fee to pay for enforcement.

Says only 12 buildings had the problems last year that the ordinance is designed to address — of more than 2,000 rental buildings in the city.

Suggests that all units should be charged the same registration fee — rather than different rates based on the size of the building.

End of citizen comment

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asks for response from staff to the comments.

Griffin says apartments are subject to the same license as single family home, but two-flats that are owner occupied that would be exempt from licensing — because they tend to be well maintained.

Says sprinklered-buildings would have a lesser fee.

Insists the ordinance is about life-safety issues, not routine, lesser violations.

Says city has a current caseload of aboutg 33 properties with 200 units that are in some state of disrepair involving life-safety issues. Says hopes to inspect properties on a two to three year cycle.

Says see few “nuisance” violations — but if a property has ongoing crime issues … a crack house … many police calls…it’s those properties that want to use the license provision to revoke that.

Says landlord would get 30 days notice before inspection. Would focus on problem properites.

Rainey asks about non-conformance with state statute…does city’s home-rule status let the city get around that?

City Attorney Grant Farrar says on that issue, thinks its touching on the eviction issue — says that’s governed by state statute — says he doesn’t see it as a conflict. Says the committee fully explored that issue.

Wilson says “nuisance property” is a defined term — part of a process to be declared a nuisance the landlord would have an opportunity to participate in the process and avoid the designation.

Says city shouldn’t have to file a court case to get authority for an inspection, which has to under the existing rules. Licensing would be a way to get around that.

Says he believes the city should move forward with the ordinance.

Holmes says the city has been working on this issue since 2007, says claiming city is doing it just for the money is a mistake.

Says it’s not just about students — in the Fireman’s Park neighborhood — says there are problems all over the city. Says she’ll be voting for the ordinance.

Rainey says the bad landlords have been hiding behinds the skirts of the good landlords. Says is nothing  she cherishes more than a good landlord. But there’s nothing worse for a neighborhood than a bad building with a bad landlord. Says the problems can happen anyplace.

Says thinks the ordinance is needed. Says registration hasn’t worked.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says every ward has bad landlords. Says it’s remarkable when property changes hands the difference it makes in the community — if get a better landlord.

Says city needs tougher tools so don’t have to suffer for long periods of time with bad landlords.

Committee approved the ordinance on a 5-0 vote.

Requiring licensing of vacation rentals

Rainey says she the issue came up in her ward. But says the ordinance as drafted is one of the most ill-considered ordinances she’s ever seen.

Says the ordinance would require a minimum of a 24-hour stay — says that’s a “one night stand.”

Says that’s not something the neighbors can police.

Says for vacation rentals neighbors are the police.

Says many community rentals do very well with vacation rentals – -but wioth a minimum of two weeks to a month.

A vacation rental anticipates turnover on a regular basis — compared to regular rentals that are much longer in duration.

Urges removing the ordinance from the agenda. Have staff hold hearings in neighborhood to testify ways to make the concept work. Says can’t prohibit them, but should be able to control them.

Wilson seconds Rainey’s request. Says the ordinance was put togehter quickly to address some immediate concerns. But says requires a much closer analysis and addressing concerns of public.

Wynne says she agrees wtih Rainey and Wilson. Says ordinance was drafted hastily. Doesn’t achieve the change the residents want.

Says wants to see regulation of vacation rentals — but needs more work.

Public comment

Speaker says city code already prohibits vacation rentals — under its restrictions on home occupations — bans shelter and lodging provision.

Greg Richards, 2529 Ashland Ave., says opposes any ordinance that would let property owners turn their home into a hotel. Says somebody’s doing it down the street from his house.

Says it makes his neighborhood less safe.

Wants the city not to regulate it… but to enforce the existing code and put a stop to it.

Kim Novi, 2507 Ashland Ave., asks the city to enforce the ordinance it already has. Opposes vacation rentals.

Mark Rozai, 2500 block of Ashland, says lives next door to home that’s renting to transients. Says another neighbor is considering doing it as well. Says creates security issues for neighbors. Says would never have moved to Evanston if knew that the house next door could become a transient hotel.

Maureen O’Donnell, 2509 Ashland, says lives next door to 2515 Ashland, bldg that is offering home for $75 a night … additional guests for $15 a night…cheaper than a flop house. Says no way to vet the residents.

(Several other speakers make similar points.)

Howard Handler, NSBAR, says the ordinance fails to distinguish between someone who rents occasionally and somebody doing it all the time. Says somebody who was briefly renting after they sold their home but couldn’t move into new one wouldn’t be able to rent the home for a few weeks, unless went through long registration process.

Says a NU professor on sabbatical couldn’t rent out a home for short term to friends.

Says need to distinguish between full-time and occasional rentals.

Judy Kaylor of Jefferson condo association at 2415 Central, says she’s opposed to vacation rentals because of security issues for the building.

Kim Erwin says need to distinguish between people who have financial problems and need to take in bordes, and ones of abdicate their responsibility for managing their home and allow anybody to come in.

Jeff Smith, 2724 Harrison, says has frequently stayed at vacation rentals in other cities, often for just a night. Stayed with the same woman he’s been married to for decades — so not a “one night stand.”

Says Evanston has real problems in Evanston, real crimes, but the number of crimes committed by guests and visitors to the city is probably far less than by full-time residents.

Says agrees with Rainey that the ordinance needs revision — but should be balanced and open-minded discussion.

End of public comment

Wynne compares discussion tonight to debate over bed and breakfast ordinance — which only she and Alderman Fiske supported.

Says she understands the concerns raised tonight — says R1 zones should be limited to residential use — not having commercial uses.

Rainey says the vacation rental that she’s familiar with is nothing like a bed and breakfast. There’s no supervision on site day to day.

Says in the case on Dobson it’s absolutely a free-for-all.

Rainey says the Zoning Board of Appeals “failed us.” It said there’s nothing in the city code to prevent this.

Says hopes some of the attorneys from north Evanston who spoke tonight may take up the concerns of the Dobson residents on a pro-bono basis.

Rainey moves to take the issue off the agenda for further discussion later.

Approved.

Committee adjourns.

City Council meeting to start at 8:55 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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2 Comments

  1. City staff purposely misleading.

    As was the case during the Licensing Committee meetings, again, tonight City staff, including the City Attorney purposely used tricky language to mislead Aldermen and members of the public.

    According to the proposed ordinance, if a rental license is revoked and tenants and their belongings are not immediately ejected out onto the street, then the property owner will be fined $14,500 the first week and $17,000 each additional week.  However, state law does not allow for the immediate eviction of tenants — one must go to court and file an eviction suit to do so.  When asked if the proposed rental licensing ordinance conflicts with state eviction laws, Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar said it does not — he left it at that.  

    True, the ordinance does not specifically require a landlord to immediately eject tenants and their belongings onto the street, but the ordinance calls for very steep fines if a landlord does not.  Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar, and other staff, have continously and purposely omitted this very important detail when answering the question if the ordinance conflicts with state law.

    This tricky and purposefully deceiving spin that the ordinance does not require immediate tenant ejections, but then not inform the Council and the public that the City intends to issue fines for complying with state law is a disservice to the community and and assault on honest, intellegtent policy discussion.

    Howard Handler
    Government Affairs Director
    North Shore – Barrington Association of REALTORS

  2. Ordinance appears to be unfair

    If this ordinance somehow passes as constitutional. But who knows. OJ was found not guilty of murder and obamacare was ruled constitutional. The landlords will not be the ones who pay the fee. They will need to raise the rent to cover the cost. It will be the renters who are paying the estimated $ 500,000.     Good move city council.

     

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