Sour Patch Kids house for artists angers neighbors

AUSTIN (KXAN) — During South By Southwest, innovative ideas and projects are showcased in Austin. But a program debuted this week has one neighborhood frustrated. The candy brand Sour Patch Kids is renting a home on Waller Street for one year. Traveling artists can crash for free, in exchange for their social media posts on platforms — like Instagram and Twitter.

Some neighbors on the quiet East Austin block say it doesn’t belong on their street. Steve Macon isn’t opposed to the concept but believes it should be in a commercial area.

“This is my home; I live here. This is a quiet neighborhood. I am one of many, many neighbors that is very concerned about this,” said Macon. “This is big business. This is big commercial business.”

At a neighborhood meeting, Macon says homeowners voted unanimously to file a complaint with code compliance.

Marcus Elliott, acting division manager of legal operations for the Austin Code Department, got the first complaint two months ago through 311. Last week, he had enough evidence to give the owner a violation for unlicensed short-term rental. Owners are facing two other violations for impervious cover and setback. Before owners can apply for a short-term rental license, they must correct those two violations.

“Per the current short-term rental ordinance, you’re required to pay city and state hotel taxes for any rentals less than 30 days,” said Elliott.

Elliot says the tax is per rental; 9 percent for the city and 6 percent for state.

Patch House representatives were not available for an on-camera interview. Melissa Kahaly, a public relations representative, says the Patch House is hosting several SXSW parties. She added there are no planned events the rest of the year and that the house will serve as a quiet place for artists to stay.

If owners of the house do not comply, they could face citations or court charges. Elliott says neighbors can direct complaints to 311.

“I want the city to take care of the neighbors,” said Macon. “This is impacting my quality of life; it’s impacting, quite frankly, the value of my home.”

“The lease-holders of this house have been in transparent communications with the relevant city government departments,” Kahaly said in a statement. “All departments know what is going on and have confirmed that we do not need any extra level of approval. We respect the community and have measures in place to help ensure that guests are mindful and courteous of the neighbors.”

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