Boston City Council Updates

The Boston City Council last met on Wednesday, May 9 for a public hearing at Boston City Hall. The following items were discussed.


Liquor Licenses

Government Operations Committee Chair Mike Flaherty and Sponsor Ayanna Pressley reported back to the Boston City Council regarding a home-rule petition for a Special Law to authorize additional non-transferable liquor licenses in Boston.

The Home Rule includes: 5 citywide all-alcohol licenses, 5 citywide beer & wine licenses, 3 all-alcohol and 2 beer & wine for each of Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and Roxbury, 3 all-alcohol and 2 beer & wine for Main Streets Districts, and 1 all-alcohol license each for the Lawn on D at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston Center for the Arts and the Billing Building.

Several Councilors voiced urgency on this matter, as many neighborhoods lacking licenses are struggling from inequality.

“We’ve all seen the transformative power of sit down restaurants in neighborhoods,” said Presley. “They lay the foundation for more equitable growth in the district. At the same time, we need to keep in mind the longer we wait our small business owners are kept in limbo and forced to guess at the viability of certain neighborhoods.”

Councilor Flaherty noted that there was question remaining on whether the proposal should be split in two, because there is additional concern about granting blanket umbrella licenses for a large development, and whether that results in progress for equity.

“Umbrella licenses cut us right out of large negotiations of these large developers,” said Councilor Frank Baker. “We want them to sit with us more often than less often.”

At the hearing, Flaherty said his colleagues also wanted consideration for the Greenway, Roslindale, Charlestown, and West Roxbury.

There is also a deadline to get this Home Rule Petition to the State House to make sure they have enough time to debate this issue as well.

The matter remains in committee.


Short Term Rentals:

Mayor Martin Walsh tried to late-file a revised ordinance creating regulations for the short-term rental industry, including platforms like Airbnb, but it was blocked by Councilor Frank Baker’s objection.

He objected because of the Open Meeting Law requiring 48 hours’ notice, legislative dockets must be filed with the Clerk’s office by Monday morning in order to appear on the Wednesday meeting agenda.

There is a process for submitting dockets late, but it requires unanimous consent of the Council.

The item will appear on next weeks’s agenda and the Council will discuss at the hearing on May 16.

On Wednesday, May 9, Mayor Martin Walsh announced an amended citywide ordinance establishing guidelines and regulations to better track and regulate short-term rentals.

The ordinance takes a three-tiered approach to classifying short-term rentals:

Limited Share Unit – consists of a private bedroom or shared space in the owner-operator’s primary residence, in which the operator is present during the rental. The fee associated is $25 a year.

Home Share Unit – consists of a whole unit available for a short-term rental at the primary residence of the owner-operator (unit in which operator resides for at least nine months out of a 12-month period). The fee is $200 a year.

Owner-Adjacent Unit – consists of an owner-occupied two or three family building, in which the owner lists a secondary unit as a short-term rental for up to 120 nights per year. In addition, the owner is able to list their primary residence for an unlimited number of nights-per-year. The fee is $200.

The regulations also provide protections for occupants of the short-term rental unit by prohibiting any property with outstanding housing, sanitary, building, fire or zoning-code violations from being lists.

The operator will be required to provide notice to abutters of a short-term rental unit within 30 days of approved registration.

The regulations require the unit to register with the City of Boston each year to verify compliance with the ordinance.

“This ordinance offers reasonable regulations of short-term rentals to close corporate loopholes, protect our housing stock, and stabilize neighborhoods,” said Councilor Michelle Wu. “I’m proud to support this legislation.”

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