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Letter: Short Term Rentals should be regulated, not banned 

Letter to the editor paso robles daily news

Dear editor,

–My family and I have been a resident of Paso Robles for the past four years. Born and raised in San Francisco, I was delighted to discover Paso Robles nearly 27 years ago. For years, I took every opportunity to get away and come here on weekends to help out on an organic farm. I grew to love Paso Robles and knew that one day I would want to retire here. And we couldn’t wait…so my family and I moved out here earlier.

I currently own two vacation rentals (STRs) in Paso Robles, one of which was formerly our second home we purchased over ten years ago. I take pride in personally managing these investments and hire local Paso Robles residents for maintenance whether it be for housekeeping and/or licensed contractors for landscaping, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc. From day one, I have dutifully applied for business licenses and paid Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOTs) to the city.

There is a great misconception that STRs cause neighborhood problems and noise issues. Facts show that this is the rare exception, not the rule. According the Paso Robles Police, out of 40,000 police-related calls in the last two years, a large number of the 40,000 calls were noise nuisance related. Yet, only 33 calls were noise nuisance calls related to STRs. That’s much, much, much less than the total noise nuisance calls in all of Paso Robles. There are also inaccurate claims that STR guests are “constantly partying or publicly drunk.” This is blown way out of proportion and a rarity at best. Since operating 3 years ago, I have never had a police complaint filed on my STRs. Based on the factual data provided by the Paso Robles Police Department… I believe my experience speaks for the vast majority of STR owners in Paso Robles.

I have found that nearly all my guests who stay at my STRs have great respect for not only our properties but also of the surrounding neighborhoods. Paso Robles STRs have given families and friends the opportunity to gather together in a single home to share an unforgettable experience while staying in Paso Robles…something that can’t be duplicated when staying at a hotel. In this short time, these guests not only get together and stay and live like locals, they frequent the local shops, restaurants and wineries in great support of our community.

I have attended every Wednesday Short-Term Rental Task Force Meeting since the very beginning on March 6th, 2019 to the final meeting on April 17, 2019. With such a difficult task at hand, I commend the Task Force on the great job they’ve done. It was a stomach-turning weekly event for me, not knowing what to expect. But in the end, even if there would be new onerous rules and regulations for vacation rental owners in the draft ordinance, I was willing to accept this for the greater good of the community. And I took comfort to hear that the Task Force was in consensus to grandfather all existing STRs, regardless of district. The original draft by the Short-Term Rental Task Force gives us all a chance to see how this new ordinance would work moving forward…especially with the “3 year sunset” clause.

But now the Planning Commission is asking the City to “reconsider the grandfathering?”

As a Paso Robles resident, I support the need for a Short-Term Rental Ordinance for regulations to address neighborhood concerns – BUT, I completely reject the idea of a ban of Short-Term Rentals in the R-1 districts. From the very beginning of the Short-Term Task Force Meetings, it has been very clear to see that the voices of this small “special interest” group had one determined goal – and that’s to drive ALL short-term rentals out of the R-1 residential neighborhoods instead of supporting an ordinance to regulate them. Since Paso Robles has been collecting TOTs from STRs for many years, such an action serves as a precedent to the right for STRs to continue to exist in every district, regardless of R-1 residential.

STRs are not businesses like hotels with hundreds of rooms and guests. STRs are typically single family homes housing a group of related guests – whether it be family and/or friends. For guests to “live here like locals”, I strongly believe such use of Paso Robles STRs are within the zoning bylaws for the R-1 residential districts. After all, the guests who stay at the STRs are living like locals and subject to the same laws and ordinances as Paso Robles residents would be. This small special interest group has been clear from the beginning of the Task Force Meetings that they want to drive out STRs and prefer to live next door to long term residents. Well, that’s a preference and we all have our preferences. That doesn’t give them the right to force their preferences upon my rights as a resident, homeowner and property owner.

My family chose to move here because we have personally seen how Paso Robles has grown as a great community. It’s a great place to live…there’s a dynamic downtown, great neighborhoods and a vibrant wine industry. And I believe this is the result of how the City of Paso Robles embraces tourism. And Paso Robles tourists are made to feel so very welcome…even to the point that some like us have even decided to move and live out here.

Many STR owners in the R-1 residential districts are actually future retirees of Paso Robles. They have invested time, money and great effort to improve the community of Paso Robles where they want to eventually call “home.” Now, imagine how “unwelcome” they would feel if there were suddenly a ban for STRs in the R-1 residential districts. That’s exactly how I would feel. They would be forced to either sell or turn their home into a long term rental…neither of which appeals to them to retire in Paso Robles in the future. They’ve purchased their future homes and owning STRs offered them flexibility. One day, they will become our neighbors. And who knows? Maybe one day, you’ll need to turn your Paso Robles home into an STR.

While regulations for STRs are essential, a ban of STRs in the R-1 residential neighborhoods or anything short of at least grandfathering all existing STRs under a Short-Term Rental Ordinance will prove to be become a great negative impact to the community of Paso Robles. Tourists and future retirees of Paso Robles will no longer feel welcome and tourism dollars would ultimately go elsewhere. In Paso Robles residential R-1 districts, we have business licenses and permits to operate day cares, nursing homes and other home based businesses in R-1 residential neighborhoods. They all have a place in our residential neighborhoods… as do Paso Robles STRs.

Sincerely,

Edgar Chen
Resident & Homeowner of Paso Robles

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on , Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.