‘Let us remember that voting for the initiative will not eliminate STVRs in La Quinta.’ — Jeff Smith [Opinion]

All the discussion and controversy surrounding the ballot initiative to limit short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) in our city, and the biased report commissioned by our city council threatening the loss of city services if it passes, lead to two questions: What are neighbors worth? And what costs do we residents pay for the presence of mini hotels in our residential neighborhoods?

Firstly, let us remember that voting for the initiative will not eliminate STVRs in La Quinta.  Licensed hosted homestay will still be available in every neighborhood, and non-hosted will still be available in all Commercial Residential zones scattered throughout the city.  Tourists and Temporary Occupancy Taxes (TOT) will not go away.

What will go away are neighbors.  But what do we lose if we replace neighbors with those who come to our residential neighborhoods for only a brief stay?  Sense of community and quality of life are concepts difficult to quantify.  Let’s try.  We will continue to lose people we know on our block, quirky they may be, but we know them.  We lose folks who volunteer in our community to coach soccer, baseball, softball, and youth leagues of every kind.  We lose those who might bring an irrigation leak to the attention of a neighbor because we care about the community and their water bill, we lose volunteers for the library, museum, and historical society.  We lose people who will check on our houses when we’re not home. We lose people who have ties to this community who are willing to act for the benefit of their fellow citizens without the desire for commercial gain.

Snowbirds used to be an important asset to La Quinta.  People came from all over the country and Canada, stayed several months and went home after having had time to become neighbors, become part of our community, and spend money here.  STVRs have driven rental rates so high that fewer and fewer of those friends can afford to stay as long or at all.  They will find somewhere else to go.  The effect of increased numbers of STVRs has of course affected all aspects of the housing market.  Those families wishing to purchase or rent homes here have found themselves priced out of the market.  Fewer homes available to buy or rent full time equal higher prices.  It is very hard or impossible for those just starting out.

It is difficult to put a monetary value on these costs. Residents of La Quinta have now become the first responders to virtually every STVR rule and regulation infraction from noise or parking violations to trash containers left in the street.  We who live here bear the costs of monitoring and reporting on hundreds of strangers in our midst every week.  Is the peace of mind and disruption to the lives of residents something we can evaluate?  The costs of STVRs are largely borne by the city and its residents yet the income generated goes to individual STVR owners.  We don’t think that’s fair.  The loss of community and the costs to residents are just too high.  Vote to limit short term vacation rentals in La Quinta.

Image Sources

  • City of La Quinta: Edward Armendarez