City’s Airbnb ban ‘arbitrary, capricious’ form of ‘vicious class legislation’

Houses on the north side of Wilder Street in Chattanooga, left, are forbidden from participating in the Gig Economy and short-term vacation rentals on platforms such as Airbnb. Those on the south side are allowed. The city’s illegal ordinance has been in effect 736 days (just over two years) and awaits a legal challenge. (Photo David Tulis)
Mary Alice Crapo made major investments in refurbishing this house at 2512 N. Wilder St. She is being cited to city court by inspector Caleb Fisher on this charge: “STVR – CERTIFICATE REQUIRED.” The city won’t give her a certificate because she is under its 100 percent Airbnb ban, which Mrs. Crapo intends to overturn. (Photo David Tulis)

The city’s short-term vacation rental district, also known and published as the STVR “overlay map,” is unconstitutional because it violates the longstanding ban in American law against arbitrary and capricious acts.

Ordinance 13194 went into effect Oct. 1, 2017 to allow some Chattanoogans access to the Internet, and to prevent others such as Mary Alice Crapo from use of the Internet to bring cash flow to themselves by the private use of their private lots and houses. 

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

The ordinance says the “overlay” map describes “that certain area of the City of Chattanooga, as determined by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.” Its shape was determined by the nine members of city council who heard from constituents whether they wanted to be “in” the district. Negotiations prior to passage dictated which homeowners would be free to participate in Gig City STVRs. A recent amendment added several properties to the map in Hixson. 

Chattanooga touts itself as Gig City. Once called the Environmental City, Chattanooga today promotes itself as a leader in the Internet economy. City government and EPB, the city’s standalone electric utility, invested millions of federal and local dollars to build a gig-speed fiber-optic network to lure business and to serve customers. Yet city council denies thousands of homeowners, especially east of Missionary Ridge, means of bringing in paying visitors via Airbnb and other platforms.

The ordinance is a Beijing Wall around Chattanooga, a censor against free association, a prophylactic to separate Chattanoogans from millions of dollars in potential rents. Mrs. Crapo, 65, is a divorcee and a social security beneficiary who has a right to use her private residence in the STVR market to provide herself a means of support, independence and prosperity.

Residing in City of Chattanooga at 2512 N. Wilder St. — but outside the overlay map — the accused is excluded from the Gig City free market economy allowed to others.

‘Arbitrary and vicious class legislation’

American liberties and justice are held aloft on the principle of law applied equally to all. It is a principle of constitutional law that private and personal favor is wrung out of the operation of the state and its subdivisions, that the rights of the people are secured by general laws applicable to all of like station.

The Tennessee constitution, Article 11, Section 8, preserves the right to be free from arbitrary legislation. “The Legislature shall have no power to suspend any general law for the benefit of any particular individual, nor to pass any law for the benefit of individuals inconsistent with the general laws of the land; nor to pass any law granting to any individual or individuals, rights, privileges, immunitie [immunities], or exemptions other than such as may be, by the same law extended to any member of the community, who may be able to bring himself within the provisions of such law.” 

The federal constitution at the 14th amendment guarantees equal treatment under the law, ordains “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

“The Legislature may group the citizens of this State into different classifications or classify various areas of the State for the purpose of enacting legislation applying to such particular classifications, but such classifications must be placed upon a reasonable basis. *** When an effort is thus made to distinguish and classify as between citizens, the basis therefor must be natural, and not arbitrary or capricious. The classification must rest on some substantial difference between the situation of the class created and other persons to whom it does not apply.”  Kelley v. Byington et al 185 Tenn. 421 *; 206 S.W.2d 409 **; 1947 Tenn. LEXIS 347 ***.

“ARBITRARY. Means in an “arbitrary” manner, as fixed or done capriciously or at pleasure; without adequate determining principle; not founded in the nature of things; nonrational; not done or acting according to reason or judgment; depending on the will alone; absolutely in power; capriciously; tyrannical; despotic; *** Without fair, solid, and substantial cause; that is, without cause based upon the law. *** [N]ot governed by any fixed rules or standard. [Citations omitted] Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th ed.

“ARBITRARY. What depends on the will of the judge, not regulated or established by law.” Bouvier’s law dictionary, 1856

‘Good reason and just basis’

The high court in 1910 overturned a law that had plagued the prosperity of Tennesseans 23 years, having been enacted in 1887. The law applied to corporations and not individuals in the same business, at the same place, in the same manner, and with similar employees. 

A statute or ordinance “must have some basis which bears a natural and reasonable relation to the object sought to be accomplished, and there must be some good and valid reason why the particular individual or class upon whom the benefit is conferred, or who are subject to the burden imposed, not given to or imposed upon others, should be so preferred or discriminated against. There must be reasonable and substantial differences in the situation and circumstances of the persons placed in different classes which disclose the propriety and necessity of the classification. If legislation arbitrarily confers upon one class benefits, from which others in a like situation are excluded, it is a grant of a special right, privilege, or immunity, prohibited by the constitution, and a denial of the equal protection of the laws to those not included. If the legislation, without good reason and just basis, imposes a burden upon one class which is not imposed upon others in like circumstances or engaged in the same business, it is a denial of the equal protection of the laws to those subject to the burden and a grant of an immunity to those not subject to it.” State v. Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Co. 124 Tenn. 1 *; 135 S.W. 773 **; 1910 Tenn. LEXIS 37 ***; 6 Cates 1

The Chattanooga St. Louis Railway court calls the law in question “arbitrary and vicious class legislation.” 

For a statute to be discriminatory, in the sense of the constitutional prohibition, it must discriminate among persons in a like situation, as, for instance, when persons are engaged in the same business are subject to different restrictions or given different privileges under like conditions. White Stores Inc. v. Adkins 202 tenn. 180, 303 S.W.2d 720, 1957

In light of the foregoing, accused asks this honorable court to overturn the city’s STVR ordinance as inconsistent with the constitutional rights of the people and thereby free her of claims made against her by the city.

Chattanooga blockades Internet, starves homeowners

The David Tulis show is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

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