Airbnb: The next proxy war?

Breweries, Food Trucks, soon Uber, and now Airbnb…

Here is a series of note regarding Airbnb in the city. I am comfortable sharing as none of this was marked attorney-client privilege so these are probably public anyway. It has been going on for some time and probably contributes to a scarcity of affordable housing options. I don’t really have an opinion on this since I am not sure what the city is legally authorized to do.

If we are going to have Airbnb here, we need some language to ensure that people are getting safe, sanitary housing, I don’t think that is currently always happening.

Letter of concern from Serenity House

Mayor/Council: There have been complaints about the number of Airbnb rentals that are occurring in the city. This is for your information. Steve

From Randy Johnson:
From: Johnson, Randy
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 12:45 PM
To: Adkins, Terry <>
Cc: Alfredson, Pat <>; Kvenvold, Steve <>
Subject: RE: Serenity House Network concerns regarding Airbnb

Hello Terry,

It is my opinion that Mr. Brad Jones comments are not completely accurate.

I was involved in a meeting on May 16, 2016, with Brad Jones, Dawn Beck from Olmsted County Public Health, and David Dunn from the Planning Department. (I never met with Mr. Jones and Pete Giesen to discuss this issue). During this meeting we discussed the various housing and lodging situations and the roles and responsibilities of each of the various departments. I explained that the Building Safety Department is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Rental Housing Licensing program which is geared toward housing where the occupants are primarily permanent in nature and are not considered transient (less than 30 days). Dawn Beck explained that Olmsted County Public Health mainly deals with lodging facilities where the occupants are transient in nature. David Dunn explained that the Planning Department enforces the Land Development Manual which contains regulations where these various housing and lodging situations may exist within the given zoning district.

The main discussion surrounding the Airbnb facilities is the fact that these tend to fall between the cracks and currently there does not appear to be any enforcement process available other than possibly the Planning Department and this depends on whether or not this a permitted use within the zoning district. I indicated that the Building Safety Department does not have any enforcement authority because these are transient in nature and it is my understanding that these are usually rented out by the day or week. Dawn Beck indicated that even though these are transient in nature, her department does not have any enforcement authority because State Statute does not allow them to issue a lodging license for a facility with less than 5 bedrooms with the exception of the new Medical Lodging Facilities. She also indicated that even though some of these Airbnb facilities may advertise and be used as Medical Lodging Facility, they usually do not fall into the definition of being used “exclusively” as a Medical Lodging Facility.

I am not really sure how Mr. Jones can make the statement that “there are clear violations” because you need to be able to point to a specific ordinance, statute or law to make the declaration that a violation exists. We were not able to come up with any during our meeting so it seems strange that he walked away with the understanding that these are clear violations. It is also my understanding that after our meeting that Mr. Jones has met with various lodging groups and has informed them that it is my responsibility for the enforcement of these Airbnb facilities and that these exist because if my lack of enforcement.

It is my option that if the City wishes to somehow regulation these type of facilities that the City will need to lobby the State to create a new regulation or create an ordinance themselves. Along with this comes the question as to the purpose of the regulation. Is the desire to band them or to allow them to exist and regulate them. I believe Mr. Jones and Jodie Hook from the Serenity House Network are interested in banning them because it takes away from their interests. It is my understanding that the City of Duluth tried to regulate these type of facilities and they are still trying to recover from this attempt.

Hope this helps and please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Thank you

—–Original Message—–
From: Adkins, Terry
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 1:43 PM
To: Johnson, Randy <>
Cc: Alfredson, Pat <>; Kvenvold, Steve <>
Subject: FW: Serenity House Network concerns regarding Airbnb

Randy, could you help me understand the status of Airbnb from the perspective of the City’s Rental Code. The message below from Brad Jones indicates he met with you and Pete Giesen, that there are clear violations, and there is a need for joint city/county enforcement against the violators. Yet, in her April 1, 2016, memo to me, the Mayor, and the Council, Assistant City Attorney Pat Alfredson indicated she met with you regarding this subject and you indicated the following:

“Randy Johnson, Director of Building Safety, is aware that short term rental activity is occurring in the community. Mr. Johnson stated the facilities are usually being rented out by the day or by the week, therefore, he does not believe a rental registration certificate is required. He explained that regulations address properties that are rented out on a more permanent basis; usually 30 days or more. It was his opinion that rental for anything less than 30 days is usually considered a lodging facility and would involve the Health Department.”

I just need some clarification as to where you stand on this issue and whether Brad Jones’ message is indeed accurate.

Thank you,


—–Original Message—–
From: Kvenvold, Steve
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 1:15 PM
To: Adkins, Terry <>
Subject: FW: Serenity House Network concerns regarding Airbnb

Terry, you may be asked about how to go about enforcing the matter addressed below. Steve

—–Original Message—–
From: Brad Jones []
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 1:10 PM
To: Brede, Ardell <>; Kvenvold, Steve <>; Staver, Randy <>
Cc: Clarke, Lisa M. <>; Rob Miller <>
Subject: FW: Serenity House Network concerns regarding Airbnb

Thanks Mayor,

I am hearing this complaint almost every day now from our business community. We are preparing a ‘Traveler Warning’ that we will post on our website and we will request that Mayo Clinic, the Chamber & The City post it on theirs as well. That warning will inform visitors that we highly recommend booking accommodations who have a lodging license (as you know we only list those on the website). I believe that is a good start to informing our visitors that we have a process for licensing and inspecting properties to ensure their safety, sanitation, proper insurance etc.

These are clear violations and need to be addressed. Otherwise, the issue will only get bigger. We have met with Randy Johnson & Pete Giesen regarding this and the need for enforcement. I have a printout of most of the properties that are in violation.
My suggestion is that we send a joint (City & County) letter to these non-licensed properties pointing out the violation. If they wish to do this business, we have a simple process and inspection to become licensed.

I’m not sure what the penalty is for this violation? BTW…I have several other nightmare stories that I could share. This is why we all worked so hard for the lodging licensure and zoning changes last year.

BRAD JONES // Executive Director
Rochester MN Convention and Visitors Bureau
(D) 507.424.0821 //

Have you heard? Rochester, Minnesota is in the midst of a $84 million expansion to the Mayo Civic Center #Opening2017.

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