Dear editor:
In response to Mr. Bomar from Los Angeles in the Jan. 27, 2022 TC’s “Another Point of View,” here are some actual facts for him and our entire community to consider:
• Idyllwild’s aging wastewater treatment plant is over 50 years into its 30-year projected lifespan.
• 2013 (pre-short-term rental [STR] boom) sewer flow was 30.7-million gallons.
• 2019 (pre-pandemic) sewer flow was 42.8-million gallons.
• 2019 showed an increase of 12.1-million gallons over 2013, which is a 40% increase in flow with less than a 4% increase in customer accounts.
Those are figures from Idyllwild Water District. Here are some additional facts:
• Two studies by San Timoteo Watershed Management Authority and UCR found that septic leach line seepage can contaminate underground water supplies (B. Lopez, Record Gazette, 7/21/06 and E. Waldner, Press Enterprise, 2/24/12).
• Fern Valley Water District and Idyllwild Water District (IWD) have both installed granular activated carbon filters to treat our water supply.
• Our three water districts have far more septic systems than sewer connections.
In May 2020, IWD’s general manager determined that our aging wastewater treatment plant “can only safely handle an additional 74” equivalent dwelling units (over half of those are in two proposed projects).
Need more facts? Here’s three more:
• At least three local motel complexes were purchased and converted into full-time apartments.
• At least two manufacturing-medium zoned (which allows for only one residence for a caretaker) were purchased and converted into multiple full-time apartments.
• At least three single-family residences were purchased and converted into multiple full-time apartments.
Enough facts to contemplate for now. Here is the humble opinion of an Idyllwild native whose family has had five generations living in our beautiful mountain community for nearly 100 years.
The first set of facts clearly demonstrate that we have experienced a full-time population boom over the last decade. The second set of facts shows that our water supply is in danger of contamination from over-population combined with continued drought. The third set of facts correlates the increased number of apartments with the lack of houses for rent because of STRs.
I personally have nothing against STRs if they adhere to County Ordinance 927, the owner lives near the rental and a cap is put on the number of STRs allowed. If we limited the number to 10% of our total residences, we would have more motels available that weren’t converted into apartments, we would have more single family residences available for our local workforce to rent full-time, we would not have an unsustainable load put on our utilities; fire, medical and law enforcement services; food, gas, postal and banking services; and our local recreational offerings.
As far as Mr. Bomar’s reference to Idyllwild being “literally built on tourism and short-term rentals”, that’s debatable. Were the Cahuilla people tourists? How about the cowboys who drove cattle all the way to Tahquitz Valley? I guess you might consider the TB patients at the Idyllwild Sanatorium short-term renters. I don’t.
Were the loggers providing the railroad with lumber for their tracks here on vacation? Most of the original “tourists” came here from cities like Los Angeles or San Diego to camp, hike, fish, experience the wilderness, enjoy the quiet and solitude, and respect our beauty and resources.
The bottom line is that Idyllwild is currently over-populated considering our very limited and finite resources. Uncontrolled STRs, and new motel and apartment construction is contributing significantly to the problem. If we continue with this pace, the very thing that brought visitors to our mountain in the first place will be gone forever.
Have any of the IVRO folk considered that the reason for the average home price in Idyllwild being $450,000 is precisely because people from “off the Hill” are buying up our homes to use for STRs and paying well above the asking price?
How about if you just visit us by supporting our motels and restaurants, and then eventually move here full-time when you are able? Is that really too much to ask? If you truly cared about our mountain community, I don’t think it is.
David Hunt
4th generation Idyllwild hillbilly