Not even having your father sitting on the Brookhaven City Council will keep your multibillion-dollar business from being outlawed. Joe Gebbia Jr., a co-founder and chief product officer of short-term rental behemoth Airbnb, faced that reality this week.
Gebbia Jr.’s father is Joe Gebbia, a Brookhaven City Council member since the city’s incorporation in 2012. The council voted Nov. 27 to completely ban short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods as part of a rewrite of the city’s entire zoning code. The council did agree to allow short-term rentals in apartment complexes, but only through the public process of obtaining a special land use permit.
Councilmember Gebbia recused himself from the council discussion and vote on the short-term rental portion of the zoning code, saying only that he had a family member in the business.
Councilmember Gebbia rarely speaks publicly of his son and likes to point out his daughter is an award-winning TV journalist. But he did say in a 2017 interview that he loaned his son some money to start Airbnb. The younger Gebbia paid back the loan, according to his father. Councilmember Gebbia said he was not an investor in the business, but that he regularly uses Airbnb when traveling and encourages friends to do the same.
Airbnb said in a written statement it was disappointed in Brookhaven’s decision.
“We are disappointed Brookhaven passed such a restrictive law and remain committed to working with officials moving forward to ensure that hosts can continue welcoming guests to the surrounding Atlanta area,” according to a spokesperson.
How to regulate short-term rentals is a policy decision metro Atlanta cities and local governments across the nation are grappling with.
Brookhaven’s decision comes after some City Council members said they were receiving increasing numbers of complaints from residents about short-term rental houses becoming homes to loud parties and driving heavy traffic into their once tranquil suburban neighborhoods. Last year, the owner of a house in north Brookhaven was cited for operating as rental commercial business, a violation of city ordinance.
The city of Atlanta is in the process of drawing up an ordinance to restrict short-term rentals after several mansions in Buckhead were continuously being rented out through Airbnb for extravagant, nightclub-style parties, disrupting neighbors and making headlines.
In Sandy Springs, short-term rentals must be registered and licensed with the city. Owners of short-term rentals are required to provide detailed records of rental activity to the city and give emergency contact information to everyone living within 500 feet.
The hotel industry is also clamoring for government oversight. Short-term rentals are becoming stiff competition while avoiding the same taxes and regulations. In Georgia alone, Airbnb listings jumped from 9,000 in September 2017 to 14,000 listings a year later. Nearly 5,000 listings are in metro Atlanta alone.
Jim Sprouse, executive director of Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, said he is working with a state House study committee on crafting potential legislation to regulate short-term rentals in Georgia and is watching Atlanta’s ordinance process.
As for Brookhaven’s decision to prohibit Airbnb and other short-term rentals in its residential neighborhoods, Sprouse said every city has the right to regulate its zoning.
“We could not go in and drop in a hotel in a residential area without getting it approved,” he said.
This story has been updated with a comment from Airbnb.