Editor’s note: I have always held the opinion as an editor that public officials and figures who make decisions about our lives should be identified when they make public statements, such as in letters to the editor.
When I do identify them, they often argue that this is their own opinion, not that of their board or as a representative of their agency. In any case, I still believe it is important that you, the reader, know where your representatives stand on issues important to the community.
In the letter below, the letter writer, the Idyllwild Water District vice president, expresses his own opinion.
STR authorities ignore community
First, kudos to your reporter covering short-term rentals (STR) and identifying the issues and views of both sides. Fundamentally, the proposed ordinance that will be reviewed by the planning commission on April 20, has not met the needs of either side and especially those of us who have put the interest of our unique community foremost.
The ordinance simply normalizes the STR business, pays a limited attention to curbing noise and truly excessive occupancy, but otherwise completely ignores our community’s fundamental concerns. Most glaringly, even when it proposes some limited overseeing, it totally lacks any effective policing of those standards and does not provide a reasonable schedule of fines and prompt rectification of just complaints.
STR supporters, especially those who are not residents and are commercial entities, argue for a substantial reduction of the limited proposed standards. For example, they would eliminate the suggested inspections, posting of identification information to aid enforcement and substantially increase the number of permissible guests per units.
The interest of the county remains the same: it is the collection of the occupancy tax, which goes into the general fund, without any dedicated benefit for our community.
Most of our county’s cities that have a say in the life of their communities, for example, Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City, have banned STRs altogether. We, of course, do not have any say in the life of our community, as demonstrated by the fact that a petition signed by 1,000 of us, asking for stricter controls and a moratorium on issuing new permits, has been completely ignored by the board of supervisors. We have not had a meaningful participation in the ordinance now under review.
Palm Springs set STR regulations early in 2008 in developing a comprehensive set of regulations. The purpose and goals of our STR regulations should be the following:
1. Preserve the character of neighborhoods,
2. Minimize the potential adverse impacts of transient uses on residential neighborhoods,
3. Ensure that STR use remains an ancillary and secondary use of residential properties.
We estimate that STR users, permitted and not permitted, now well exceed 15% of our housing of the Pine Cove and Idyllwild areas. (As per the county, the total number of STRs might be twice as much as those that have been permitted.) The proposed ordinance would only encourage the further growth of this percentage.
We need to participate in the April 20 hearing so that the STR ordinance will truly represent the interest of our community.
Abandoned property brings down neighborhood
Despite the controversy that has come with the discussion of STRs in our community, it’s wonderful to see the county acting to find a solution to this issue.
In our neighborhood, an “abandoned” property (bottom right photo) has been on Riverside County’s radar for years with no apparent resolution. What locals call the “old white gas station” on the side of Highway 74 near Pinyon is regularly vandalized and trespassed upon. Currently, the gates are knocked down, the windows are broken and it is covered in fresh graffiti.
In the eight years we’ve lived nearby, the owners have never maintained it. The locals paint over the graffiti and regularly file reports with the county. I’ve even contacted Supervisor Washington’s office. All to no avail.
The building itself has been condemned by the county and the owner has been informed they must either maintain it or demolish it. They have done neither.
Now that the county is so close to finalizing the new ordinance on STRs, we hope it can focus its energy on this long-term, lingering blight. Can the Town Crier help those of us regularly exposed to this eye sore? What can be done to hold these absentee owners accountable?
Our daily exposure to this property is disheartening. It does not represent who we are or our community, yet it is the first thing visitors see on their way up the Hill.