Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series of opinions on Measure C. The views expressed in this column are solely those of Geoff Kors.
I am writing to share why I am voting No on Measure C, the ballot measure that would ban rentals — of 28 days or less — of single-family homes.
I respect that this is an issue about which many people, on both sides, feel passionately. I appreciate its complexity, especially for a city that has 45,000 full-time residents, millions of tourists, and thousands of people with second homes. Two years ago, we had significant noise issues, numerous illegal vacation rentals, no enforcement department, and businesses were buying up multiple homes and apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods and converting them to full time tourist lodging. That is why we developed a policy to address these legitimate concerns without going to the extreme measure of banning vacation rentals as Measure C proposes.
Palm Springs now has one of the strongest vacation rental ordinances in the country. That ordinance, which went into effect in April of last year, resulted from more than a dozen public meetings and conversations with residents, businesses, and property owners. Our vacation rental ordinance, which I helped draft along with Councilmember J.R. Roberts, put in place new rules with the goal that residents would not be negatively impacted by noisy renters, that property owners could continue to rent out their own home, and that visitors, especially families and groups of friends, could rent homes if that is their preferred lodging option.
Included among the new rules are the following:
- Limitation on the number of vacation rentals allowed per year, per home;
- Prohibition on owning or having a financial interest in more than one vacation rental;
- Banning of vacation rentals in apartment buildings;
- Prohibition of vacation rental clusters of several connected homes;
- Limitation of no more than two people and one car per bedroom;
- Notices about rules must be posted at every home;
- All renters are required to be met with a live greet to explain the rules;
- All vacation rental homes are inspected for fire and building safety and compliance;
- Three violations within any 12 month period results in a two year suspension;
- Operation without a permit results in a permanent ban on the owner ever operating; and
- No amplified music outside at any time and no music may be heard at the property line of a neighbor.
Another provision of the ordinance is that it requires vacation rental owners to pay a $900 annual permit fee. A compliance department, which is totally funded by these vacation rental permit fees, promptly responds to complaints made to the vacation rental hotline. In addition, every renter who stays for 28 days or less is required to pay 11.5 percent transient occupancy tax which helps fund important City programs and services.
The best news is that the new ordinance is working! In just the first year, we have seen calls to the hotline drop by approximately 40%; police responses to registered vacation rentals have been reduced by 90 percent freeing up our police department to prevent crime; 75 “problem houses” have been shut down; and there has been a 10 percent reduction in the number of vacation rental permits.
As promised, the Vacation Rental Subcommittee has initiated monthly meetings to address concerns as they arise. In addition, the Subcommittee has committed to considering changes to the ordinance based on the experience over the first year.
Unfortunately, if Measure C were to pass, the City Council would be prohibited from making any future changes to the ordinance – changes could only be made by the voters at a future election. More important, all of the benefits of our new ordinance would be wiped out.
If Measure C were to pass, the permit fees paid by vacation rental owners and the transient occupancy tax charged to renters would go away – as would our highly effective Vacation Rental Compliance Department. What would remain are vacation rentals. In cities that have banned vacation rentals, vacation rentals are still occurring only they have gone underground.
Without our vacation rental compliance department, calls will once again go to police, taking them away from focusing on preventing crime. It should be noted that residential burglary went down 47 percent in 2017 compared to 2016 and Police Chief Reyes credits the new vacation rental compliance department as one of the key factors in that reduction.
Fire and safety inspections would end if Measure C were to pass, making homes and neighborhoods less safe.
Noise would once again become a significant problem as we would no longer have an enforcement staff.
There is also an economic impact to banning vacation rentals. Tourism is our No. 1 economic driver. Vacation rentals bring in over $10 million of the $100 million annual City Budget. The loss of revenue from banning vacation rentals would directly impact the programs and services our residents enjoy and the needed repairs to our aging infrastructure. Guests staying in vacation rentals spend approximately $200 million on their vacations to Palm Springs, benefiting small businesses including restaurants and retail stores tourists and residents enjoy. Vacation rentals also provide for over 1000 local jobs.
Palm Springs is a City of 45,000. Yet thanks to our thriving tourist economy we have amenities rarely found in cities anywhere near our size. We have an international airport with non-stop flights to cities across the county. We have a world class art museum and an internationally recognized Air Museum. We have high quality entertainment. We have wonderful restaurants, stores and attractions. The list goes on. We live in a cosmopolitan city in a beautiful natural environment with amenities of a much larger city because of tourists. Measure C would drive away a large segment of our visitors and send a message that tourists are not welcome here. It would also result in a loss of over 40 percent of rooms for visitors, dramatically cutting the number of people who come to our City.
If Measure C were to pass, the other negative impacts include the loss of property values, and people would lose the ability to supplement their income by renting out their homes to visitors. Ultimately, it comes down to what is best for our residents and our City. I truly believe that the benefits of allowing people to continue renting their homes as vacation rentals far outweigh the challenges. By working together to ensure our vacation rental ordinance is the most effective it can be, we can continue to welcome tourists, enjoy the many benefits that come with our tourist economy, and enjoy the incredible place we call home.
Vote NO on C.