Portland Officials Say an Airbnb Rental Hosted Too Many People. Homeowners Say Part of the Problem Was “Racial Animus.”

That argument drew a scathing response from City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

(Sam Gehrke)

Portland has cracked down on the owners of an Irvington house who allegedly flouted city limits on the number of Airbnb guests allowed in the home.

The Aug. 28 tentative decision by the City Council is remarkable for several reasons. It's rare for the city to revoke a short-term rental permit, let alone for the City Council to hear an appeal.

What's more, the homeowners—Raymond Burse Sr. and his son Raymond Burse Jr., a former goalkeeper for the Portland Timbers—argue racism fueled neighbors' complaints and the city's inspections, because the homeowners are black. That argument drew a scathing response from City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the first black woman on the City Council.

Here's how the case unfolded.

Jo Ann Hardesty. (Sam Gehrke)

The house: A 3,600-square-foot home on Northeast 9th Avenue. The Burses bought it in October 2017 for $740,000. The previous owner had already racked up $35,000 in city fines for breaking short-term rental rules.

The rules: The city's Bureau of Development Services granted the Burses a short-term rental permit in 2018. That permit came with conditions—the same rules in effect citywide, plus some specific to the house. They included a limit of six guests per night, no smoking on the property, and quiet hours after 10 pm on weekend nights. The homeowners were also required to post the rules prominently in the house.

City inspectors allege all these rules were broken repeatedly. The Burses racked up $53,000 in fines from the city.

The parties: Neighbors began keeping a log of violations. In the summer of 2018, they reported several parties extending long into the night.

"Loud party on back deck," a neighbor wrote on Aug. 25, 2018. "Guests arrive after 10 pm. Noisy drop-off of two guys at 2:30 am wakes us. Another group dropped off at 3:30 am. At 4:30 am, three guys on back deck smoking and drinking."

A similar entry was logged on Sept. 22. "All day party and BBQ starting at 10 am and extending into the night and to the next morning of the 23rd."

The defense: A hearings officer revoked the Burses' short-term rental permit on June 21. They appealed. In last week's City Council hearing, Raymond Burse Sr., who lives in Kentucky, said the neighbors' complaints stemmed at least in part from racism. "My son has raised, on several occasions, racial animus" as a factor, Burse Sr. said. "His records show that there has been no cooperation from neighbors. Not one time did any of them come to us and complain. Their objective was to close it down, no matter what."

The decision: The City Council voted unanimously against giving the Burses their permit back. Commissioner Hardesty said the evidence of rule-breaking was overwhelming and rebuked Burse Sr. for invoking racism. "I know that we live in a community that has suffered from deep gentrification, from racial tension and racial inequality," she said. "I just want the record to reflect that I'm appalled when race is used as a hammer and as an excuse for nonaction."

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