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City officials looking into cracking down on short term rentals downtown

By Gabriela Vidal

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — The heartbreaking death of two teenagers at an apartment complex in downtown St. Louis Friday morning marks the second time this month a teen has died at a property that was rented out for an event.

St. Louis police say 12-year-old Paris and 14-year-old Kuaron Harvey were shot and killed at around 2 a.m. on Friday at the Cupples Station Loft Apartments downtown. The family reportedly rented out an apartment there to celebrate a birthday. The family has also said the shooting was accidental; however, Public Safety Director Dan Isom says the shooting is being investigated as a murder-suicide.

“No matter what the outcome of the investigation, this is incredibly heartbreaking and tragic for the city of St. Louis,” said Isom. “And it speaks to the proliferation of guns in the City of St. Louis and how especially they are dangerous for our young people.”

This and the recent shooting death of a 16-year-old at Ely Walker Lofts downtown earlier this month are also demanding another call for action.

“But now, given recent events that seem to have taken a turn, and people seem to be now making sure that we have some sort of wrap around when it comes to putting in requirements for having Airbnb’s, especially in downtown,” said LaShana Lewis, chair of the St. Louis Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Lewis says members of the Board of Aldermen are working on a bill they hope will put some barriers on who can rent out properties as Airbnb’s in the downtown area.

“Nothing to completely bar it, but maybe just kind of put a little bit more of handles around it so that we don’t feel like we’re as lost as we are now when things like this happen,” said Lewis. “And we feel like there’s non-recourse or no way to move forward.”

Lewis expects it will be loosely based on a similar board bill proposed by Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia back in 2020, which would consider amending certain sections of the city’s zoning code in order to “allow and promote Short=Term Rental,” and “repealing certain sections of the city’s code regulating bed and breakfast establishments in order to provide equal opportunity for traditional lodging providers.”

The goal will be to make people have to go through a formal permit application in order to use their property as an Airbnb-type rental. This would more likely apply to properties that are not tied to a management company, as those can already set rules and regulations on whether to allow short-term rentals in their buildings.

“It’s more about making sure that people who are renting out the places are being responsible stewards for their properties,” said Lewis. “Especially when it comes to multi-family units like condos, like in apartment complexes, where you also have to think about what the permanent residents might be thinking and or experiencing whenever these places are being rented out.”

While the details are still being worked out, one parameter Lewis would like to see is a policy requiring an adult inside the rented property.

“Just so we can make sure someone is there to help when unfortunate circumstances like the one that has recently happened happens,” said Lewis.

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