CATHEDRAL CITY — Private security services, similar to those used in Palm Springs, could be tapped to help monitor Short-Term Vacation Rental properties in this community.

The City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 13, will consider an agreement with Allied Universal Security Services, with headquarters in Conshohocken, Penn., to provide private security services for a short-term vacation rental (STVR) enforcement pilot program.

A contract allowing for a security officer dedicated to a 40-hour per week schedule, working an 8-hour shift would cost approximately $4,864 per month.

Robert Rodriguez, director of planning/building, recommends the contract be approved.

Private security services could provide all or part of a solution to an issue that has been simmering, sometimes boiling, for at least five months.

With an estimated 352 short-term vacation rental units currently operating in the community, and associated complaints, the City Council in June imposed a temporary moratorium on STVRs.

Security Services Sought for Vacation RentalsThe city had received numerous complaints regarding excessive noise, parking, litter, disorderly conduct, and concerns regarding security and public safety at short-term vacation rentals. Adding to the proliferation of short-term vacation rental units is newer online technology that allows short-term vacation rentals to be marketed to a larger audience than ever before.

Between January and May 2019, the city received 36 noise-related calls from 22 rental properties. Six of those short-term vacation rental units account for two-thirds of the complaints.

What began as an incidental use in residential neighborhoods has become a trend, which under certain circumstances can have an overall negative impact on the welfare of the community, according to Tami Scott, Administrative Services Director.

Generally, there are two areas of concern related to an increase in the number of short-term vacation rental permits issued, according to Scott’s staff report. They are: public nuisance issues and density. Nuisance issues include noise complaints, habitual party houses, trash, parking and debris.

Density concerns relate to the number of short-term vacation rental units in any given area and the availability of parking and other city services

At its most recent meeting on Sept. 9, the STVR task force proposed interim recommendations for consideration by Council for immediate implementation.

The criteria for consideration of these interim recommendations were that they address issues of concern to the residents and they could be implemented without the need for ordinance amendments and at a moderate cost as fee changes will not be implemented, if any, until the Council considers the final task force report. The task force suggested two interim recommendations:

1. Improved screening of online advertisements for STVR units and immediate issuance of citations for violations.

2. Use of private security service on a scheduled or on-call basis to respond immediately to hotline calls. On Oct.  9, 2019, the City Council directed staff to proceed with the implementation of both recommendations as pilot programs. The City Council supported an agreement for private security services that allowed additional coverage beyond the 40 hours per week proposed for special events and holidays.

The agreement with Allied Universal Security Services would provide a minimum of 40 hours of service per week by Allied Universal Security Services staff with the option additional hours if needed for special events and holidays.

The proposed agreement is for one year but the city may terminate it at any time with 30 days written notice.

The private security service will help in the enforcement of the STVR program by having someone available to immediately respond to hotline complaints and complaints the Police Department receives during the highest STVR activity days and times.

The Code Compliance Department will continue to manage enforcement during all other times and will work closely with Allied Universal Security Services to manage service times, scope of services and reporting needs for enforcement and case management.

Although the proposed contract, as stated is for one year, the requested General Fund budget amendment for this pilot program is for 4-months only, or $19,460. Should the pilot program be successful and a recommendation to continue the security service beyond the 4-month term become necessary, a subsequent budget amendment would be presented to City Council.

The contract price would include a vehicle allowance and smartphone for the security officer. The hourly bill rate is $21.09 per hour and $31.63 for Holidays or an overtime rate.

Cathedral City is not the only community that has wrestled with this issue. Palm Desert and Palm Springs have as well.

Palm Springs voters went to the polls in June 2018. They rejected a ban on short-term vacation rental units.


Image Sources

  • Short-term Vacation Rental: NBC San Diego
  • Allied Universal Security Services: Allied Universal Security Services