Dear editor:
I would like to add another perspective on the current debate over short-term rentals (STRs).
The original ordinance regulating STRs was “introduced” Nov. 17, 2015, then passed, with changes, and without another reading, in January 2016. The revisions not read allowed street parking and waiving of occupancy limits, giving free rein to large groups using these homes. Our own Supervisor Chuck Washington signed the ordinance.
I find the justification the supervisors offered for the original 2016 Ordinance 927 questionable: “Regulation is more advantageous than an outright ban because short-term rentals support the tourism industry, promote economic activity and can generate transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenue.” It continues with “a short term rental qualifies as a hotel,” that the tax will go to the General Fund, and “cannot be earmarked and dedicated to enforcing the proposed ordinance.” So, the county saw this as an opportunity to justify an illegal activity so that it could collect tax revenue for its own discretionary use.
The activity was illegal because our R-1A zoning (which covers all homes in Idyllwild outside the central village core of R3-A and C-P-S) does not permit hotels. Hotels are permitted with planning review in both R3-A and C-P-S zones, which is where currently most, if not all, of our motels, hotel rooms and cabins are appropriately located.
Even the R3-A zone is protective of our tranquil environment. It was established, per the county, “to allow residents in mountainous resort areas… to combine limited commercial uses with a residential dwelling. It is the intent of the Board of Supervisors… that these limited commercial uses shall not alter or disturb the residential or resort nature of the premises or its surroundings.”
It is shocking that the county, once concerned about R3-A mixed use “disturbing” the residential neighborhoods, now freely admits it is permissible to do so, by admitting in its proposed new STR ordinance that STRs have “adverse impacts to surrounding neighbors and properties including unpermitted large-scale events, excessive noise, disorderly conduct, traffic congestion, illegal vehicle parking and accumulation of refuse.”
Since the county wants to “facilitate economic growth”, the supervisors have turned all of Idyllwild into an R3-A or commercial zone, so that investors from off the Hill can reap their financial rewards operating “hotels” absolutely anywhere, while local residents pay for that with their tranquility, as well as damaged property values.
Buyers are now asking if there are STRs adjacent to, or near, a home they are considering buying, and if so, they decline to buy. In appraisal, we call that external obsolescence, a decline in value caused by an outside influence over which one has no control.
I recommend rescission of the ordinance and demanding that the county maintain the relied-upon zoning protections which existed when we all bought our homes. Many nearby cities have done this, for example Cathedral City, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert.
The planner handling it is asking for input from the community. He is Steve Jones, [email protected]
Penelope Smrz, MAI
Real Estate Appraiser
Idyllwild