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Managing a business from within the CHOP
By Wm. May
Published: 06/29/20 Topics: Government Comments: 0
It has been local, national and even international news. After numerous marches for Black Lives Matter, confrontations with police took place at barricades literally one floor below our offices in Seattle's vibrant Capitol Hill Neighborhood. (You can see our Orange building in the photo.)
The protests and participants have organized themselves first into CHAZ, the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone which morphed into CHOP, the Capital Hill Opposition Protest. Our family lives just 3 blocks away so working and living here has become a nightmare.
Ours is a administration office for a network of vacation rental management companies, inns and resorts located mostly around Washington State and Idaho. Staff do accounting, advertising, reservations and software engineering.
The building is what might be called an "art loft" building built first as an automobile dealership a century ago, with 20 foot ceilings and huge windows overlooking a lovely park. Unlike downtown skyscrapers, the space offers peace and calm for a staff here long hours 7 days a week.
The neighborhood has always been the focus of groups marching for multiple causes. Minorities of all types, those opposed to the military, and those supporting gay rights march outside our door multiple times each year. Twenty years ago during the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle, riots erupted.
Then, we lived about a dozen blocks away but even from that distance each night I was heart broken to see my 8 year old son frightened to hear the screaming, yelling and flash bang devices used to drive away self described anarchists.
My conclusion then was that no one, absolutely no one, has the right to make him feel that way, regardless of their reasons. I did not imagine it would happen here again.
Dr. Martin Luther King and his contemporaries made a point of never chanting when they marched, for fear that adrenalin rushes would cause participants or the police to become violent. Silence is golden, while vicious noise and anger do nothing for the cause.
This time however, in Seattle and elsewhere, with the outrage over the killing of George Floyd and others, the chanting, screaming and profanity outside our windows made it difficult to do our jobs. Most staff members were working from home due to Covid-19.
Vicious riots began in Seattle's downtown, just 2 miles from our location. Citizens were shocked at the destruction, theft and violence. Police responded to the relief of many people but were denounced by individual protestors.
Having been driven out of downtown, the marchers converged on our neighborhood to confront the police who then set up barricades. Seemingly 24 hours a day, for days on end, protestors displaying an unbridled anger and aggressiveness, pushing forward until someone - police or protestors - made the confrontation violent usually at night. In addition to well-meaning protestors surely anarchists and other trouble makers were attracted to the chaos.
Police employed tear gas, flash bang devices and large numbers of officers to cause the crowds to disperse. Eventually, over the objection of the police chief, the Mayor gave orders to abandon the precinct building and have the officers run away.
For we essential workers, being on the second floor gave us some safety, but we felt compelled to sneak into the building each morning and depart each night from the opposite side of the block. At night self-proclaimed armed men challenging workers coming and going. Some demanded money from businesses.
As soon as the police fled. a large group of people block streets, defaced every building the area, and took over the Cal Anderson park that lays directly below my window. People are camping in the park, tearing up lawns to build gardens. Hawkers are out selling or giving away food, T-shirts and who knows what.
In the past few days there have been 7 shootings, 2 people killed and 2 in critical condition. Parents of victims, are pleading with protestors to go home, as is the Mayor, the police chief and a coalition of African American clergy. Unfortunately some city council people are justifying the violence due to "systemic racism".
Before this began I enjoyed strolling through our lovely park on my way to work. Now I avoid the park because it saddens me to see bums building campfires in the emptied kiddie wadding pools.
At night I hear gun shots, fireworks and constant chanting from over 3 blocks away. As loud explosions wake me at 3 or 4am I can only wonder what else is next. Is there no law or order?
I have enjoyed living in this small neighborhood in this big city. I grew up in a small town and now for the first time ever, I am plotting how to get back to places where sensibility abounds.
Today CHOP's territory is slowly decreasing. Some barricades have been removed. The number of participants has eroded. Police hope to reoccupy their precinct but are going slow to not offend anyone.
It makes me wonder, why those who have been victimized feel its their right to victimize others. I want to support the needs of everyone, but by using violence and employing anarchy they are harming their own cause.
Author: Wm. May
Blog #: 0766 – 06/29/20
Government Officials Driving Tourism Economy Away
By Ron Lee
Published: 06/01/12 Topics: Government Comments: 0
Businesses, Chambers and tourism groups in every destination throughout the United States are spending money to grow their tourism segment of their economies.
That is a wise move.
Tourism is a clean, responsible industry that brings in visitors anxious to shop, attend events, tour attractions, rent lodging, and pay the taxes that go with them.
Manufacturing, distribution and other market segments sometimes seem more attractive to civic leaders, but those businesses are hard to attract, require years of courting and subject towns to intense review and - for many - rejection. Plus, big industries can leave town far quicker than they arrive, dumping lots of people out of work. Like it or not, Vacation Rentals are here to stay.
All destinations will have some luck and attract some visitors with good advertising, promotions, public relations and business participation.
Trouble is, however, many will fall short of their potential. Sometimes what the area offers just doesn't compare well with other desirable destinations. But another big mistake is when local government officials fail to offer what consumers want. Today, that one big thing is tourists who ask for, and even demand, access to good, clean, upscale vacation rental homes.
For at least a decade, the vacation rental industry has been exploding. Even during the recession the number of visitors who demand to stay in a house or condo instead of a hotel room has continued to climb.
So it is surprising to find small communities, who beg for tourists, then kill the industry by disallowing vacation rentals, making it ridiculously expensive to get permitted, or making them impossibly difficult to get approved.
They implement overzealous regulations and requirements that they would never impose on long-term rentals or full-time residents. What is good for the goose is good for the gander - as the old saying goes. So, if leaders believe that vacation homes must have new standards for health and safety, then why do they not require them for everyone? Failure to do so is just old fashioned hypocrisy.
On a recent trip to a beautiful Washington State Destination, a review of city and county rental regulations revealed a lack of insight by elected officials.
A clerk at the county office said, "We don't have any rentals in many areas of the county and it's surprising because some of the areas are so beautiful." she then paused and added, "Or maybe that's because vacation rentals aren't allowed there." Duh.
The geography of the area is gorgeous. The land is pristine and beautiful, with cute villages, attractive shops and periodic festivals and events. Agriculture is big business with products esteemed worldwide.
There are a number of conventional well-kept motels and cottages. But there are also properties that have seen better days and detract from the scenery. Many appear abandoned. They are not shabby chic, they are just plain shabby.
New home developments have been stymied by the economy, although some recent additions bode well for demand. Peeking out among nicely kept homes, are houses and cottages that have seen better days. Many of those, as well as some of the nicer second homes, sit empty year round, even during the busy summer season.
City and county officials have made short-term vacation type rentals illegal, or permits difficult to get. The up to $750 annual special use permit is one of the highest known in the country and requires begging neighbors for permission, and having the kind of inspections that would cause long-term rental home owners to go ballistic. With the inspections and other nonsense they require, costs can exceed many thousands of dollars.
And for what reason?
Like most areas, the reasons cited are that vacation rental homes "could" get used as party houses. Or that "Tourists drive cars through the neighborhoods and sometimes the trash isn't taken out to the street on time." complained one person at a county "scoping session."
No one wants trouble in their neighborhoods, but these possible issues never materialize. Some neighbors even say they "do not want people in the area that I don't know personally." Supposedly, "It destroys the character of the neighborhood", whatever that means.
There is no right in the Constitution that you must know and like your neighbors. But it is a foundation of American liberty that owners have a bundle or rights related to their real estate, including the right to right them out. So much for freedom.
In jurisdictions where rental permission is more easily obtained, but just as rigorously policed, and where owners must engage a competent local manager or management firm, problems do not happen.
The County even caved into neighbors in one desirable neighborhood who don't want "to have different neighbors each week," as the County clerk explained. Fear of problems is valid, but refusing entry to visitors feels a lot like simple xenophobia, the "fear of others."
A local real estate leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "You know the reasons for the lack of vacation rentals is regulations, don't you? Most people just won't spend the money to see if their neighbors will allow them to rent." How come the expensive applications fees are non-refundable, if the permit is denied? Looks like just another shake-down by officials.
Communities who enacted vacation rental prohibitions years ago, are seeing the light and revising laws to allow vacation rentals in all residential areas with proper permitting; and the requirement that properties be occupied within reasonable rules.
Doing otherwise scares away visitors. Consumers have decided they want to stay in vacation rentals and no amount of meddling in the free market by officials will dissuade them. Take away vacation rentals and they are sending visitors elsewhere, while local shops, restaurants and attractions lose out. It is not just home owners who lose.
The cities and counties where vacation rentals are allowed gain fee income; shops, events and attractions do more business; additional jobs are created; and tourism taxes flow.
Let's hope that officials in counties and communities, all over the country, wake up and stop killing the tourism business they so desperately need - by giving consumers what they want - many more vacation rentals.
Author: Ron Lee – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0212 – 06/01/12
Sponsor: VRAI – – VRIA.org
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