Stephanie Ashworth lived in a neighborhood north of Tarrytown, near W. 35th St. and Balcones Drive the summer of 2013. One of her neighbors wanted to move to a different school district and decided to rent out their home on Airbnb upon leaving.
“We’re like—’ok’—we didn’t know any better,” Ashworth said. “And it was awful.”
Ashworth said guests played loud music, used the pool naked and would return from trips at the lake stumbling drunk out of party buses.
“It ruins your peace of mind where you should be able to have it. Where you should be able to feel safe, where the kids should be able to go out front,” Ashworth said. “And we shouldn't find used condoms, empty beer bottles, the trash, the parking, it's so disturbing.”
Ashworth is now head of the Austin chapter of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition, a statewide group that assists people looking to restrict and regulate short-term rentals in their residential neighborhoods. She talked to Austonia following Airbnb’s announcement this week that it will deploy new anti-party technology in the US and Canada.
The initiative aims to prevent potentially high-risk reservations by being a more robust version of the “under 25” system, which reviews guests under the age of 25 without positive reviews who are booking locally. A similar variation of this system has been piloted in Australia since October 2021 and has resulted in a 35% drop in incidents of unauthorized parties in pilot areas.
Airbnb is hoping for similar success in other regions but noted that there could still be some hiccups once the system is in effect.
“While we are optimistic that this technology will have a positive impact for the safety of our community and our goal to reduce unauthorized parties—we want to be clear that no system is perfect,” Airbnb wrote in a statement announcing the new tech. “We work hard to deter bad actors from using our platform, but ultimately Airbnb is an online platform that facilitates real world connections.”
For Ashworth, this system falls short of what she’d like to see from the company and she’d like for them to be clearer about what constitutes a party in the company’s eyes.
“So I have no doubt that this technology they're touting for the party houses is nonsense,” Ashworth said. “They are not a company that's run with integrity, they're not a good corporate citizen.”
But people will continue to flock to Airbnb as Austin continues to be a major tourist destination with festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest drawing in thousands. Even on a regular weekend pandemic recovery has been in full swing with downtown entertainment districts seeing visits close to 2019 levels.
Ultimately, Ashworth sees room to accommodate tourists while ensuring neighborhoods remain homey for Austinites.
“My personal opinion is the home team comes first,” Ashworth said. “The whole city doesn't need to be turned over to the tourist industry and areas that are zoned residentially should remain for residents. I do understand that we are a tourist destination. But you can have a short-term rental pretty much anywhere in the city except in residential zones.”
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While Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey may forever have Austin's hearts, plenty of other winners live in Austin's city limits, including seven Guinness World Record holders.
The books frequented at Scholastic Book Fairs feature past and current Austinites—from speedy burrito makers to ancient felines—that made their mark in their own niche categories.
Here's a look at those record-smashing feats:
World's longest legs (female): Maci Currin (4.4 ft)
Cedar Park teenager Maci Currin strutted into the 2021 World Record book with her record-setting legs. At nearly a meter and a half in length (her longest leg checks in at 53.255 inches,) the 6 ft 10 teenager is no stranger to standing out.
Currin, who said she's been bullied for her height in the past, hopes the recognition will inspire other tall girls to embrace their height as she hopes to move into the modeling industry.
Oldest married couple (2020): John and Charlotte Henderson
❤️🙏🏽 The UT and @LonghornVillage Retirement Community mourning the loss of a legend: John Henderson. You’ll remember, he & his wife, Charlotte, set the @GWR for the oldest married couple of aggregate age. The two of them met at UT. He was 107: https://t.co/gVtWrTixGL pic.twitter.com/2YgoptUyEX— John-Carlos Estrada (@Mr_JCE) October 19, 2020
Not-so-newly weds, UT alumni John and Charlotte Henderson tied the knot before the Guinness Book of World Records had even started collecting records.
Before Austin's skyline featured much more than the Capitol, the two were married in 1939—83 years ago—after meeting in a UT zoology class in 1934. The two were named the oldest living married couple, when adding the two's ages, in early 2020.
At 107, John Henderson was also the oldest living Longhorn football player before his death in October 2020.
Fastest Sandwich made with feet: Rob Williams (1 minute 57 seconds)
Austinite Rob Williams is the ultimate bread-winner.
Williams became the fastest person to make a sandwich with his feet when his nimble toes crafted a bologna, cheese and lettuce sandwich, complete with olives on cocktail sticks, in a minute and 57 seconds. An audience member named Sally was lucky (or unlucky) enough to take a bite out of the record-breaking sandwich after it was created by the Kamikaze Fireflies member at Austin's Zach Scott Theater in 2000.
Biggest dog hair ball: Texas Hearing and Service Dogs (201 pounds)
Texas Hearing and Service Dogs put together a hefty hairball when it gathered fur from over 8,000 dogs to create a 201-pound fur ball. The bundle of fur became the heaviest on record and weighed more than the average weight of even the world's largest dog breeds.
Oldest Cat: Creme Puff (38)
Speaking of hairballs: Creme Puff the cat probably coughed up her fair share in her 38-year life.
The record-setting feline was born in 1967 and lived with her owner, Jake Perry, in Austin until August 3, 2004, breaking the record as the oldest cat on record.
Her secret? Dry cat food, broccoli, eggs, turkey bacon, coffee, and even an eyedropper full of red wine every two days.
Perry, who also had a cat named Granpa Rex Allen live to age 34, kept his home fit for kitty royalty, complete with a movie theater in his garage that played nature documentaries for their entertainment.
Most contributions to a painting: Schlotzsky's (2,643)
Austin's original sandwich chain earned a spot on the list after a whopping 2,643 residents contributed to a paint-by-numbers mural at Schlotzsky's original location on its 46th birthday in 2017.
Sloke One, the “Mayor of Austin Graffiti Art,” crafted a colorful outline of a giant sandwich in front of an Austin skyline to commemorate the chain.
Most lanyards worn at once: Guillermo Rodriguez (300)
Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel paid witness to a world record-smashing moment when the strong-necked Guillermo Rodriguez wore a whopping 300 lanyards at his Jimmy Kimmel Live! SXSW appearance in 2015.
In a performance that was more slow-paced than Rodriguez probably would have liked, Kimmel put on the 300th lanyard as Rodriguez was presented a plaque to commemorate the feat.
Most burritos made in three minutes: London Nichols (10)
After getting plenty of practice as an employee at Austin-based Freebirds World Burrito, London Nichols broke the burrito-wrapping record as she made 10 burritos in just three minutes at SXSW in 2017.
Smallest test tube: UT scientists (2009)
Though it may have been hard to see the accomplishment, scientists at UT made the world record book as they conducted an experiment with a test tube with a diameter equivalent to one-thousandth of human hair in 2009.
Most haircuts in an hour: Ivan Zoot (34)
Customers may have cried after their rapidly-executed cuts were revealed, but barber Ivan Foot still earned respect as he completed 34 haircuts at the Men's Grooming Center in Austin in 2008.
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Lately, the crypto market is looking shaky.
The price of bitcoin fell by more than half from its high, the digital currency luna crashed to $0 and a type of so-called stablecoin TerraUSD has been described as dead.
Reporting from the LA Times notes that experts seeing a correlation between traditional markets and the cryptocurrency market is high right now, with plunges in one being followed by a plunge in the other. On Wednesday, stocks had their worst day in more than two years with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 1,164 points.
Crypto’s volatility has long been questioned, especially after SXSW this year was filled with Web3 enthusiasts and displays.
With 8% of Texans owning Bitcoin and many others involved in the local crypto and Web3 scene, what are they feeling amid the crash?
In a written comment to Austonia, ATX DAO said a positive with the downturn is that “most of the speculative moneygrab type projects get washed out of the market, and the quality projects that deliver real value remain and gather more attention.”
The group went on to say it could work to their advantage as they carry out their latest project: a mural at Native Hostel that will have an NFT version. They’ll use sales toward donations to HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a local nonprofit that supports artists and creatives.
Meanwhile, Yagub Rahimov, a founder of an Austin-based Web3 company explains that they aren’t really impacted by the crash.
Since the company known as Tested Web functions as a Web3 online reputation marketplace, it is utilizing blockchain technology without tokenizing.
“We are a share to earn marketplace. That means that any activity that users have on tested web.com, we will be rewarding,” Rahimov said. “Those rewards are coming in the form of rewards points. And every quarter they can opt in to receive either a gift card or a check. We are not issuing any cryptocurrency. That's one of the important elements that I believe we got it right that way.”
With recent developments at Tested Web, Rahimov says he “couldn’t be happier.” After struggling to find tech talent in early spring, he’s had a hiring spree in the last 10 days and received a $1 million grant and partnership with Silent Notary, a blockchain-powered validation provider.
But his recent business success aside, Rahimov is noticing what’s happening in the markets and predicts that the correlation between the crypto market and traditional one will be broken.
“The way Bitcoin was introduced back in 2009, it was as a reply or response to the 2008 market crash,” Rahimov said. “And it really feels like we are in 2007, 2008, actually, early, early days of the market crash. And if it becomes that way, very likely that the winner is going to be those of decentralized parties.”
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