Letter: STR regulations stopping the growth of ‘the little town that could?’
To the editor,
–Five years ago, my husband and I were sipping a glass of wine in a small bistro in the town of Exeter, CA. We liked the wine so much we asked the manager about it and she explained that the wine came from a small town a couple hours away. The next day we found ourselves at that very winery, Jada. This was how we for the first time came to visit the adorable town of Paso Robles.
Since that first trip, we have been returning to Paso as often as we can. We have stayed in all kinds of hotels, from Best Western to the Allegretto Vineyard Resort, but it never made us feel at home. As our two boys grew older, we started looking at alternatives with a bit more space, perhaps a kitchen to cook some local produce, a pool for the boys, a backyard since we were apartment dwellers. This led us to consistently booking short term vacation rentals over hotels.
Over the years we have rented numerous homes from generous Paso residents, all with a number of things in common: They are adorable, warm, welcoming, loved and well cared for. We ave been thrilled to make each and every one of them our home for a week or a weekend.
With this, the dream was born. What if we could have our own house in Paso one day?
Living in Los Angeles, our local property market is well out of our price range. Could this wonderful town be our path to owning our own home?
Because my husband’s office is in LA, we knew we might not be able to relocate fully right from the start. We would have to keep paying rent on our apartment in LA. But how could we afford to buy a home we would not be able to live in full time?
Our thinking was inspired by our own experience during the 2010 recession. As markets crashed and jobs disappeared, we fell on hard times and had to leave our home for a few months, but because our landlord was kind enough to let us sub-rent our apartment, we didn’t have to give up on LA altogether. This was a saving grace, and it opened up our hearts to the idea of sharing our home with other people.
Add to that all of our positive experiences with vacation rentals in Paso and around the world, the solution was obvious: We would occasionally rent our home to others to help offset the mortgage. To us, the idea of sharing our home with other people who also loved Paso Robles, or newcomers who would fall in love with it the same way we did, was a no brainer.
The idea of a short term rental also came with a number of additional benefits: Wear and tear would be less than with a long term tenant, we wouldn’t be stuck for years with some unruly renter and, most importantly, we too would be able to enjoy our own home as often as we could.
Management logistics were a challenge, until we discovered that Paso Robles already offered the perfect solution. There are a number of amazing and locally run property management companies that take great pride in their neighborhoods and the houses they manage. Working with a local company also meant all of their proceeds would go right back into the local economy. Now the package was starting to feel complete, all we needed was the right house…
And we found it. An adorable house with a backyard and even a pool. Over the last months we’ve spent every free moment available, along with our two boys who are now 11 and 14, clearing the yard, tiling concrete, painting old woodwork and generally working on making the house ready to be a home for us, as well as a great vacation rental for others.
We have hired local craftsmen and companies to do some of the work we couldn’t manage on our own, and spent far too much time in local hardware stores. One point of pride for our boys is that they painted the backyard fence all by themselves, a big accomplishments for two city kids who have more experience playing video games than doing manual labor!
We have also started to get to know our neighbors, all incredibly sweet and generous people whit whom we have been exchanging phone numbers and swapping stories. We have spent time in local furniture stores and restaurants, speaking to residents and tourists alike, really getting to know our new town. Our experience has been nothing but fantastic, which is exactly what we would expect from Paso Robles.
That is, until just a few days ago.
After a Paso Robles Planning Commission meeting on April 24th, there is a proposal heading to the city that would limit the number of short term rentals to 100 for residential “R-1” areas.
This is nowhere near enough to meet the demands and many homeowners will be left out, a devastating blow to many families, possibly even our own.
Given that Paso Robles is now beginning to thrive largely on people coming to visit the town and surrounding wineries, reducing the availability of short-term rentals could have a major impact on the town’s economy and growth. It would mean fewer people will be able to come visit, less taxes will be collected and less money pumped into local business, restaurants, shops, festivals and so on.
This newly proposed ordinance has the power to halt all the amazing progress that Paso has been experiencing.
The nay-sayers will have you believe that all vacation renters come with uncaring attitudes, that they all make lots of noise and throw huge parties. As a family who has stayed in short term rentals many times, I would like to say that we have always been respectful of our owners and their neighbors. We don’t want to tarnish our vacation by upsetting people, or, God forbid, being asked to leave.
The reality is that, on more than one occasion, the neighbors to the rental property we rented have been the source of any noise, proving to us that removing short term rentals will not resolve any perceived noisy neighborhood issues.
If you have a wonderful home, you will want to share it with your friends and family. You will invite them over and have gatherings, and when people gather there can sometimes be noise. This seems far more likely to happen frequently if we were living in our house than if we were occasionally renting it out.
Of course, regulations are a must. As are resources for our neighbors. Should we have any issues whatsoever, we need to respond immediately. If we are out of town, we would expect our management company to be at the property within minutes should anything go wrong. In fact, rules to ensure this are already being proposed by the Planning Commission, along with a great number of regulations to make sure the spirit of every neighborhood is protected.
Trust me, I want my home and my neighbors looked after as much as you do. We love our home. My kids have had an Easter Egg Hunt in the backyard, we have laid floor tiles, worked on the garden, painted every wall. This house is already part of our family and we would never accept anyone treating our home or our neighbors with anything but the utmost respect and care.
The fact that this myth is being perpetuated is very disappointing. I believe the guidelines proposed by the Task Force the city appointed were a great fit for the situation. Going beyond this, severely limiting the number of opportunities for hard working families like our own, seems like a very cruel thing to do. The financial implications would be quite devastating.
Our house was built in 1941 and since then that house has had many people live in it and enjoy it. The town too has gone through its own journey of ups and downs. Currently Paso is surging ahead, being smart about its planning and growth. Stopping that growth would be like stopping “the little town that could.”
Our youngest child put this best when we explained to him what was going on and he said: “That doesn’t sound like a very nice and neighborly thing to do.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I sincerely hope the city will not allow his new limitation to come to pass.