Letters regarding short term rentals
The Paso Robles Daily News received multiple letters to the editor regarding short term rentals this week:
Re: Vacation rental guests are upscale, interesting folks
This is a response to the letter written by “Judy”
My daughter has a “short term rental” which is managed by Turnkey. Not only does Turnkey manage her property, they have decibel monitors and limit the number of people who can stay in her home at any one time.
Any complaints re noise, excessive numbers of cars or late-night partying would be immediately dealt with.
This is not the case when owners like Judy, manage their own properties, deposit a check and leave town. These owner-renters are absent and do not witness what happens at their homes.
No properties on our street have 7 car garages or space to park 7 cars at a time for a 4 bed-room short-term rental so of course, any excess parks on the street and in front of other people’s homes.
Am also not quite sure how “Judy” determines that her renters are all “Upmarket”. Is she inferring that other renters are not?
Dr. MH Seaman
Doing the math on STRs
Let’s get down to business. I think we’ve heard every possible side of this issue from one side saying,” how vacation rentals have cleaned up the streets, increased property values and improved our neighborhoods” to the other side saying, “how they take from the heart of community, bringing noise, parties, parking issues and are a constant nuisance to those surrounded by them.” One thing everyone seems to agree on, from owners to neighbors to the websites promoting these rentals, including our city officials, is that these are hotel transient lodging businesses.
Vacation rental owners are required to pay for a business license as well as TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax). So, let’s talk business… The City of Paso Robles currently collects approximately $500,000 annually from 350 licensed vacation rentals. These vacation rentals are somewhat evenly divided, 170 are located in the uptown and town center area zoned for these type of businesses. 180 in residential 1 and 2, are not zoned for these type of businesses. These businesses are operating illegally in residential zones.
The state of California and City of Paso Robles zoning laws clearly states Hotels, Motels, and transient lodging may not operate in residential zonings. The city collects TOT based on the space rented and the rent received. One house that rents to 4 – 10 people, the city collects TOT on the rent paid and each night it was occupied. My neighbors house rents for $250 per night most weekends with an average of 6 occupants. If each couple were each to get a room at a hotel at $250 a night, the city would collect tax from three rooms. How about the house behind me that has an occupancy up to 10 people and often does? Now multiple this by the 180 vacation rentals operating in residential zones. Run some averages. It’s not hard to do the math. Our city is leaving $500,000 to a $1,00,000 on the table each year they allow these illegal businesses to continue. Is this good business? Our City officials have a duty to run our City with fiscal responsibility.
There would be no issues if owners followed zoning laws
Disturbances are only one issue with STVRs. There would be no issues if the city and owners acknowledged existing zoning laws. R1 zones do not allow for hotels as correctly identified by Muni Code 5.06. STVR’s operate just like a hotel. R1 zoning wisely separates business from our dwellings.
Impacted neighborhoods, those with multiple STVRs, are subject to the commotion created by the commercial use of STVRs. Having 6-18 adults on properties very near to resident’s homes, not just occasionally, but subject to that usage most weekend, is not what is intended for single family dwellings. It does not have to be a drunken party to cause disruption. Use of STVR’s in properly zoned areas is appropriate.
Think about the integrity of our neighborhoods
I wish the people who are in favor of the short term rentals would think about the integrity of our neighborhoods. I have lived in my neighborhood most of my life. We all knew each other. We had block parties and we watched each other’s houses and fed their animals. Now I don’t know who will be next door or across the street. There are comings and goings most of the time, between the renters and the people who clean, etc. some are quiet and some are partiers, one never knows. I would just like to know my neighbors and not have to listen to parties every weekend.
A solution in search of a problem
Why the proposed short term rental ordinances should be abandoned
The proposed short term rental ordinances arise from the complaints of a small, and vocal, group of influential homeowners in an R-1 zoning district who wish to hold an entire group of responsible short term rental owners to task for the alleged actions of one, or two “bad apples.” If indeed the renters of the problem properties (STRs or otherwise) are in violation of law, by all means cite them under existing nuisance laws. Those laws apply equally to property owners, long term renters and short term renters and are already on the books. Instead of targeting the purported problem the city proposes to enact sweeping, onerous, regulations for all the STR owners in Paso. Ironically, the proposed ordinances won’t address, much less solve, the claimed (but unverified) problem that caused the ruckus in the first place. The problem, if there is one, is not STRs in general, it is those particular owners and the conduct of the people they rent to. Bad neighbors exist in every community and it has always been so. They can be owners, renters or people visiting said owners and renters. Broadly speaking, there is no evidence that STRs cause any more issues than any other group and they likely cause less problems since STRs are rarely occupied full time. In other words, if you are going to have a bad neighbor, wouldn’t you rather have it be one that goes away on Monday rather than a long term owner or renter who causes problems constantly and won’t leave?
Anecdotally, one must question whether there is even a problem. Of the 40,000 calls the Paso Roble police in the last two years, only thirty three (33) involved STRs. Of those, twenty (20) were made by a single individual who would re-dial the police over and over for the same incident. There is no evidence that even one call resulted in an arrest or citation. Statistically, that means exactly .003% of the police calls were for STR issues. That is, effectively, zero. In our (quiet) neighborhood there have been far more issues from the full time residents than STRs.
While the proposed ordinances proclaim both that STRs have created “crisis” and that they are a “threat” to Paso. Neither assertion is supported by a shred of actual evidence and all of the available evidence directly contradicts such assertions.
On the other side of the coin, factually speaking, STRs have a HUGE positive impact on this community. Much of our rental income goes right back into the local economy because we employ a wide variety of people to help keep our properties in top shape including people to clean between renters, landscapers to keep the property looking tidy, pool service folks to maintain the pool, someone to keep the heater and air conditioner working and plumbers to fix the inevitable leaks and other issues. In our case, we also employ a local manger (who has several employees) and have had local service providers replace the roof, fix the sewer line, get rid of the termites and retrofit our house with solar panels. Over the course of any given year we directly employ at least ten (10) people to provide one service or another and indirectly support even more individuals.
In addition to all of that, we are evangelists for this community. We love Paso, we love wine, we love cycling and we want to share the experience. Our renters partake of the local wines, olive oils, restaurants, grocery stores and various other attractions and in so doing spend far more on any given weekend than the average local resident. In addition to our renters, we have introduced numerous friends, and family members, to the area, all of whom have become Paso fans.
Many of us with families much prefer renting STRs over hotel stays when we travel. Not only is it less expensive for large groups to rent an STR (versus multiple hotel rooms) there is always more room to hang out, you get to cook your own meals if you want to and you get a good feel for the community. Personally, I find that while the “big box” hotels detract from the charm of Paso that well-tended STRs add to the charm.
On top of all that, STRs generate over $600,000 of direct tax revenues for Paso Robles at essentially no cost to the city. All of which is to say, the STRs in Paso Robles are doing just fine without a whole raft of vindictive regulations which won’t even solve the isolated issue which started this whole mess. The income that STRs already generate could probably pay for at least another three (3) full time police officers – none of whom would spend a measurable amount of time dealing with STRs because they don’t require it. When you look at the proposed “hotline” it makes no sense because, at most, it would get one call every other month. And don’t all of us pay taxes to have the Paso Robles Police Department available to deal with all sorts of issues, including these? Why not just require STR owners to give their neighbors their phone numbers?
At last night’s City Council meeting the entire Council heartily embraced the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Board for their efforts to increase tourism in Paso. The Council should likewise embrace STRs in Paso and work with STR owners to collaboratively devise reasonable guidelines that don’t create needless bureaucracy for the City or onerous requirements for STA owners.
The proposed ordinances should be abandoned and Paso Robles should start fresh and look for thoughtful ways to embrace this group as an economic partner, in a positive way, for the long term benefit of the entire community.