A Celebration of Life and of Our Rental Rights
As it happens, life took a very different turn Sunday one week ago.
The suitcase was already 95% packed for a four-day excursion to Nice with friend, blogger and battler of the Love Locks, Lisa Anselmo. Reservations were made at several of my favorite restaurants and Niçois friends were booked to join us. Part of the plans included a train ride to Ventimiglia in Italy to wander through the massive Friday open-air market, a ride on the 100 bus that hugs the coastline from Nice to Menton and perhaps a shopping trip to the Zara store in Monte Carlo (the best one I’ve found).
I had a leisurely and delightful Sunday lunch at the Salon de Thé at the Musée Jacquemart-André before seeing the exhibit there — from Giotto to Caravaggio, a shopping spree at a fundraising-for-charity pop-up store on rue Commines and a tall, cool café frappé at Café Charlot when I got the news. It came in the form of a text message from one of my sisters to call her.
“Mother died this morning,” she said.
I became hysterical and hung up in the wake of her words. Within the hour, a flight was booked to New Orleans and the planned trip to Nice midweek cancelled. I convinced Lisa to keep the flight and enjoy the Riviera without me. (Someone had to go say Bonjour to Henri-le-Cactus!) Until that moment I had the image of the Mediterranean at the forefront of my thoughts when reality was that I was about to spend the week doing something very, very different.
I will spare you the details of what it’s like to say goodbye to your last parent, one that seemed so immortal, still in great health at the age of almost 98. In the wake of the mourning of a death is a celebration of a life. We chose to see it this way and it was a warm and loving experience to be among caring family and friends.
My mother was one of those rare people who “no one ever said a bad word about” (we heard that many times over), who was adored by people of all ages, from the very young to the very old, and who was best known for her never-ending generosity, sharp wit and great style. She was buried alongside my father in the synagogue’s cemetery, underground, rather than above, as are most New Orleans graves because the city is built on a swamp — you can’t dig too deep without hitting water.
New Orleans is growing up and out of Hurricane Katrina. The signs are there of a healthier city and the ability to eat seriously well while getting drenched in a tropical storm hasn’t changed one bit. We had a great and inexpensive meal at Café Dauphine in the 9th Ward — yep, that’s the same 9th Ward that Hurricane Katrina’s floods struck so hard, and now it’s totally hip and gentrifying as it should. in New Orleans there is a festival of some sort just about every weekend (the Greek Festival is going on right now) — as life is one “Big Fat Easy Party” and tourism is up with almost 10 million visitors in 2014 (nola.gov/mayor/press-releases/2014/20140422-tourism-numbers/).
New Orleans, where tourism is key to its economy, is battling a similar short-term rental dilemma as in Paris. The city officials argue that short-term rentals “undermine established neighborhoods and take housing off the market.” The city’s zoning ordinance defines a short-term rental as any kind of lodging for a period of 30-days or less, or 60 days or less in the French Quarter. Other cities are having the same dispute. Like in Paris, San Francisco has considered allowing short-term rentals only for owners’ primary residences on a limited basis, while imposing certain kinds of requirements such as insurance.
While I was focused on other personal things in New Orleans, I got the news that back in Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was launching a “Blitz in Paris against illegal tourist rentals.” (See the article in French) What Anne Hidalgo calls a “blitz” (“coup de poing”) is an abbreviation of the German word “blitzkrieg,” or “lightning war” which was the period of sustained strategic bombing of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Funny that she chose to use this word…or perhaps it was the media who coined the phrase? The “blitz” focuses on Le Marais (4th arrondissement) with 20 officers from the housing department carrying out spot checks in 80 buildings — addresses identified on the basis of ‘reports from neighbors’ (denouncements) or simply visiting rental Internet platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO…and likely AdrianLeeds.com.
I am struck with the thought, is this World War II during the occupation when the French police rounded up over 13,000 Jews out of their homes, their beds, just because their crime was their religion? When neighbors were denouncing their Jewish neighbors?
Anne Hidalgo is at war against short-term rentals, but there is one major difference. In other cities across the globe, the battle between landlords and city officials argues rentals of LESS THAN ONE MONTH, not ONE YEAR! The law that applies to cities of over 200,000 in France, but which is only enforced in the city of Paris, defines that on secondary properties, the shortest furnished rental lease is ONE YEAR. I was ‘controlled’ personally late last year and as a result, have sold two rental properties, one of which was destined to be my own retirement home. Long-term (one year or more) rents at controlled rates would not cover the expense of ownership, therefore there was no choice but to sell them. Mme. Hidalgo got what she wanted, while destroying my dream and all my hard work.
Regardless of whether you are on the side of the city or on the side of the landlords and their tenants, the “blitz” turns the average citizen or foreign property owner into a criminal. These are people like you and me who ‘intelligently’ invested in a property that would generate an income and appreciate in value — a property they could use themselves and make available to others who prefer to stay in apartments rather than hotels. The “blitz” launched by the city wreaks of fascist behavior — what George Orwell defined as ‘bullying.’
Are Hidalgo and her band of controllers just big time bullies? They have given themselves the right to enter your property, even if you are not there, as long as the guardian of the property has the key! They are following people with their suitcases entering apartments in the hopes of finding ‘offenders’ — those unsuspecting tourists who have rented a ‘home’ in place of a hotel, to enjoy Paris as a resident…for a few days or UP TO ONE YEAR.
I am ashamed by the Paris city administration for thinking that they are justified in harassing owners, tourists and guests of our city with their blitzkrieg tactics to find ‘offenders.’ The ‘offenders’ are citizens and foreign investors — people like you and me who thought they were doing something really worthwhile when they began their plans to invest in the City of Light…and look where it got them?
At the same time, the press issues news of big corporations taking over the apart’hotel industry. “The Ascott Limited has announced this week a new target of 10,000 rooms in Europe by 2020. The owner-operator, who acquired Citidines apart’hotel chain in 2002, expressed its confidence in the European market by pledging to add another 5,000 apartments over the next five years. Ascott has already invested over £700 million in Europe and will continue to do so to reach its 10,000 unit target.” (see incentivetravel.co.uk/news/hotel/26759-world-s-largest-serviced-apartment-owner-operator-expresses-confidence-in-european-market-with-new-2020-target#sthash.hUyLN01I.dpuf )
Move over little guy, move in big guy, and watch the profits move out of France and out of the pockets of the people. Is this what Anne Hidalgo and her band of ‘officers’ really want for Paris? Is this the Socialist idea? Others are on our side. In Los Angeles, a group has formed to tell this other side of the story. See the Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance.
LASTRA believes in “Good Neighbor,” “Good Host” and “Good Guest” guidelines. “When observed, protect neighborhoods by ensuring quiet, peaceful enjoyment for everyone—neighbor, guest and host alike. We believe STRs bring tangible benefits to homeowners, residents, travelers and local communities. We think people have a right to rent their property on a short-term basis, whether it’s on VRBO, Airbnb, HomeAway or any other platform.”
During this time of mourning a death and the celebration of life, is a battle for our rights. We have the right to allow anyone we want stay in our properties, paid or otherwise. The government, any government, doesn’t have the right to tell us otherwise…much less set out on a blitz to ferret out the so-called ‘offenders.’
Help us bring the truth to the surface — that the rights of thousands of people are being seriously compromised. Sign our petition at: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Mayor_Anne_Hidalgo_Paris_France_Amend_the_Paris_shortterm_rental_laws_and_make_them_fair_for_all/?Day2Share
A la prochaine,
The Adrian Leeds Group
(at the Salon de Thé, Musée Jacquemart-André)
P.S. Plan your getaway for a few days in the sunny south of France! Rent Le Matisse in the heart of Nice at a 10% discount when you book NOW for your stay through the high season — now through September 15th! For more information visit Parler Nice Apartments Le Matisse or email [email protected]