The basement of the single-family home at 5304 S. New England has been transformed into a modern game room complete with pinball machines and video arcade games. --Photo posted by the home’s owner to airbnb.com

The basement of the single-family home at 5304 S. New England has been transformed into a modern game room complete with pinball machines and video arcade games. --Photo posted by the home’s owner to airbnb.com

Neighbors rally against ‘Mario’s Pad’

Launch petition drive against home rentals

By Tim Hadac

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The exterior of the single-family home at 5304 S. New England (center). –Photo posted by the home’s owner to airbnb.com

At first glance, the single-family home at 5304 S. New England appears to fit in perfectly in Garfield Ridge: nicely appointed and neatly manicured.

But after it was sold a few months ago and then listed (as “Mario’s Pad”) for rent on airbnb.com for $899 a night, some of the neighbors are rallying against what they see as little more than an unregulated, overnight party house.

“I have no problem with a house being rented out, but only if it’s a long-term arrangement,” said one neighbor on the block, who asked that her identity not be disclosed. “This is a nice, quiet neighborhood that values stability. We want to keep it that way.”

She went on to say that in recent weeks, she has forbidden her children from playing outside without adult supervision. She had not done that before and added, “That’s no way to live, in fear.”

When asked if those who rent the house have engaged in any illegal activity, neighbors contacted by the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound were unable to point to any, but said that several people were spotted smoking cannabis on the home’s front porch.

Neighbors have also complained that the property’s security cameras are pointed directly at the home and yards of adjacent houses, instead of the residence and grounds at 5304. They said they find that invasive.

“What gets me the most is how this was slipped in with no public notice,” said one neighbor. “We should have been asked if we want that kind of thing so close to where we live, where we raise our kids, where we pay taxes. But no. Nothing.”

The new owner of the four-bedroom house, 30-year-old David Anthony Williams, has listed “Mario’s Pad” (so named because some of its interior bears a Super Mario-inspired theme) on airbnb.com with a clearly stated prohibition on parties, events and indoor smoking. He also said he does not rent the home for less than two nights at a time.

The photos he has provided show the interior to be clean, attractive and inviting. The basement appears to have been transformed into a pinball and video arcade, with at least a dozen machines.

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The basement of the single-family home at 5304 S. New England has been transformed into a modern game room complete with pinball machines and video arcade games. –Photo posted by the home’s owner to airbnb.com

In written messages exchanged with the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound, Williams said, “It seems like the neighbors are making up fake complaints based on the evidence from my Ring camera.”

One of those involves Williams himself. A neighbor claimed Williams is an absentee landlord who lives in the suburbs. Williams said he lives at 5304 but is away quite a bit, traveling on business. He said he works in supply chain management.

In a telephone interview with the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound, Williams indicated he is interested in being a good neighbor.

He said he grew up in the northwest suburbs and purchased the home in Garfield Ridge because he finds the neighborhood to be a strong combination of attractive and affordable, with the added convenience of its close proximity to the airport and quick access to the Loop.

He added that the home gives him and his girlfriend more living space.

Williams is a former college student and an athlete. For a few years in his 20s, he was a professional mixed martial arts fighter.

He said that since he purchased the home, became certified as a shared-housing site via the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and listed with airbnb.com, he has only rented his home once, to a family of five adults and two children.

He added that he decided to list with airbnb.com because the practice is legal and it would provide him with a bit of added income.

Tabares agrees with neighbors

Neighbors objecting to turning 5304 into a rental property have made their case to 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares, who herself lives within walking distance of the house.

She also opposes short-term rentals of single-family homes and has united with neighbors to launch a petition drive to forbid the practice in the precinct.

“The support has been overwhelming,” Tabares told the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound. “We’ve had no shortage of volunteers going door to door with petitions.”

If all goes as planned, the drive will culminate within a matter of weeks with a City Council vote, with the practice banned in the precinct. However, it would not be retroactive, so it will not affect the short-term rental of 5304 as long as Williams owns the property and successfully lists it with airbnb.com.

Tabares expressed frustration with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, who she said failed to notify her in advance that a property owner had applied to be a home-sharing site. She said it is her understanding that BACP usually does.

Slightly less than half of all precincts in the 23rd Ward prohibit short-term rentals of single-family homes.

That fact was not lost on another neighbor, who requested that his identity not be disclosed.

“This whole situation would never have happened if we lived in the 13th Ward,” he said, noting that under 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn’s leadership, all 48 precincts in that ward long ago banned short-term rentals of single-family homes.

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