Gunfire has damaged a Buckhead house — allegedly as some form of threat to an Airbnb rental guest — whose owner has long battled the city over short-term rental complaints about another mansion in the neighborhood. Paul McPherson, the owner, says he will no longer rent either property on Airbnb.
“Absolutely crazy. Just madness — madness,” McPherson said of the Dec. 12 shooting at his house at 550 Chateaugay Lane, on a cul-de-sac off Loridans Drive. “…I’m just left to clean up the mess. I’m not going to do Airbnb there anymore. It’s the end of the road for me.”
The shooting, which happened when McPherson was out of state and a cinematographer was staying as an Airbnb guest, damaged the house, but had no reports of injuries, according to the Atlanta Police Department. Police responded to reports of gunfire and vehicles fleeing the house.
“As I walked up to the front door, I saw that the front dining room windows had been shot up and the front door also had a bullet hole in it,” said a police officer in the incident report.
An email from the North Buckhead Civic Association quotes Maj. Barry Shaw, the commander of the APD’s Buckhead-area Zone 2 precinct, as saying, “It was an Airbnb that was filming a rap video there.” But McPherson said the guest told him the video was shot elsewhere — a claimed he says is backed up by security camera footage — and involved some other kind of popular music besides rap or hip hop. The guest brought people to the house after the video shoot, which then led to some type of altercation and the gunfire.
“He had invited them back to my property and a rival militia, a rival pop group, came, and I don’t know what happened,” McPherson said, adding he later spoke to the guest. “He really did sound really, really scared.”
The result of the shooting was “thousands and thousands of dollars” in property damage, McPherson said. The crime is currently listed by police as a vandalism case since there was no immediate sign of injury or directly targeting a person, he said.
McPherson also owns a mansion at 4205 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road that has been ordered by the city to halt Airbnb rentals after a string of noise complaints. Those complaints got media attention in 2016 when the Peachtree-Dunwoody mansion was rented out for a hip hop concert at which social media posts showed one guest flashing a pistol. McPherson long defended his Airbnb listings of that property as lawful, but now says he has stopped short-term rentals there, too.
The city says that McPherson’s short-term rentals of the Peachtree-Dunwoody mansion violate the zoning code and repeatedly ordered him to cease and desist. Last year, the Reporter found the property listed on Airbnb under three different names, none of them McPherson’s. McPherson previously said he believes that short-term rental is lawful and claimed the complaints were motivated by racism from his neighbors. He says the promoters of the 2016 concert tricked his local property manager by claiming to be seeking housing for an “elderly aunt” in town due to a “family tragedy.”
“My house is not the problem. My ethnicity is a problem,” McPherson told the Reporter last year about the Peachtree-Dunwoody mansion.
McPherson now says he stopped short-term rentals of that mansion, will stop doing it on Chateaugay, and will “reassess” his involvement with Airbnb, which he also uses to rent out another home in New York City. He said he resides at the Chateaugay house when he is in town, so he understands the neighborhood affect of the shooting incident.
“Obviously, it’s very distressing to neighbors, first of all,” he said. “Neighbors don’t deserve that kind of thing happening… My main concern is the neighbors.”
He said the neighborhood is so quiet, he advertised the property for rental as “Tranquil Buckhead Retreat.” The typical guests were families with children and people attracted to quiet time in the property’s large garden.
“I get a lot of Buddhists who stay there… just people who want quiet in middle of city,” he said. “You don’t think that’s going to attract people who are going to have a gunfight.”
“It’s quite legal for me to do it,” he added about short-term rentals in the neighborhoods. “I just choose not to do it. I don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable with where they live.”
McPherson voiced mixed feelings about Airbnb, defending it as blamed by the media for incidents that happen in long-term rental housing as well, while also saying the service could do more to help hosts vet guests.
He said he has not had problems with his New York property and suggested that something about Atlanta’s culture could be a factor.
“It’s not an Airbnb thing. It’s not a ‘me’ thing,” he said of criminal incidents, adding that “99.9 percent of the time, obviously, it goes right.”
On the other hand, McPherson said, Airbnb provides very little information about a guest until a booking is arranged, aside from host reviews. The guest staying at Chateaugay rated high in three reviews on Airbnb, McPherson said.
“I think that could be done a little bit better,” he said. “You have their picture and Airbnb’s word that they’re good people, and you can’t judge people by a picture.”
Airbnb and other short-term rental services have become increasingly controversial in local cities as they spread into the suburbs. Sandy Springs is rolling out a registration and licensing system, and Brookhaven recently banned such rentals in many single-family residential areas — despite Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia Jr.’s father being a member of the City Council.
Update: This story has been extensively updated with comment and information from Paul McPherson, and with information about short-term rental regulations in other local cities.