Insurance may not allow STRs

Editor’s note: This letter was emailed to Riverside County Principal Planner Steven Jones and the board of supervisors.

Dear Mr. Jones and Riverside County supervisors:
I very much appreciate the significant efforts the county has been making to revisit and improve short-term rental (STR) policies. Bravo. Our family has had a presence in Idyllwild for four generations, and the street on which our current home is located has become a bit of an STR mecca. We have experienced many of the impacts that you are well aware of and I won’t repeat them all here.
There is one dimension that may or may not be on your radar yet: insurance. Many insurance companies actually don’t allow their policyholders to use their properties for STRs. This is also the case for the FAIR plan that we are on, which, of course, many households have had to fall back on given non-renewals due to the high fire risk. Insurance would presumably be denied to such households where fires were started by short-term renters. I imagine that many owners are not even aware of this “coverage gap.”
A second insurance dimension is liability. Many people are under-insured in this regard, thus putting them at risk if losses occur. And, if a loss is caused by a short-term renter at a property where liability coverage doesn’t extend to renters, then others in the community are adversely impacted. I have heard that some incorporated towns in the county do stipulate liability limits, but, of course, this would have to be done at the county level to benefit Idyllwild and other unincorporated areas.
I’ve searched the June 22 draft of the ordinance (22June-927.1-draft.pdf) and didn’t find any occurrence of the word insurance.
As insurers have no practical way to enforce compliance prior to loss events, it would be good public policy for RivCo to require written evidence of insurance showing that STRs are allowed. Presumably this should be upon registration and then affirmed at each annual renewal of an owner’s STR permits. Similarly, it would be prudent to specify a minimum liability insurance limit (and one that would apply to events caused by short-term renters).
Evan Mills
Idyllwild homeowner

Noisy STRs

Dear Editor:
Mr. Peter Davison’s July 28, 2022, letter to the editor rang a bell with me. A few months ago, a formally quiet house in the neighborhood was converted to an AirBnB. I don’t know who could have allowed such a thing. If the responsible person was up for re-election, I would surely vote for the other person.
I’m a 75-year-old veteran who has lived here, fulltime, since 2014. I loved the tranquility, but the AirBnB has ruined that. Half the people who rent the house treat it like “party central.”
There is a hot tub, which often acts like a magnet to those who love to scream and play loud boom boxes ‘til all hours. If that were not enough, the two-car garage was converted into a game room, complete with pool table and other amusements. This attracts guests who love to yell, play boom boxes and stay up late.
Our bedroom window is directly across the street, so when they open the garage door, for more air, we get totally blasted out.
I finally called Supervisor Chuck Washington’s office about the problem. I was advised of the meeting to discuss Ordinance 927.1 on July 26, 2022. Sadly, the decision was tabled until September.
Mr. Washington’s assistant advised me to call the sheriff every time there is a disturbance. She noted that, whether the sheriff’s deputies come out or not, it will be logged. That document will show how often the renters violate the noise ordinance, so that the owner “may” get into trouble.
When the house first was “open for business,” renters only came on Saturday or Sunday. This past week, we’ve been invaded six nights and days in a row.
I’d like to know how to get the zoning changed. This was a very quiet street. The houses are fairly close together, for Idyllwild.
The party house has no place here. AirBnBs should be a very long distance from residences. I would love to see absentee landlords fined into guaranteeing that only renters who are capable of being good neighbors are allowed to rent.
Barry J. Fox

Happy birthday, Medicare

Dear Editor:
July 30 marked the 57th anniversary of Medicare. Back then, former President Harry Truman, long a proponent of the program, was the first to receive his ID card for what would become one of the most successful of U.S. government programs.
Many improvements have been attempted subsequently, the most sweeping of which came in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 that created the Medicate Advantage Program (MA, Part C) and the Medicare Drug Program (Part D). That act specifically prohibited the government from directly negotiating drug prices with manufacturers, resulting in a much higher price tag for drugs than is true of other government programs like Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.
Because members of one party don’t like government programs, the main goal of MA was to push people into private insurance policies that cost taxpayers more money than traditional Medicare and often suffer from the drawbacks of HMOs. Enrollees who get sick often pay more for care and are limited in choices of providers. Therefore, many switch back to traditional Medicare, something that can usually only be done during the annual open enrollment period. In addition, typical rules about coverage for pre-existing conditions don’t apply so a supplemental policy may not be available.
While Medicare remains popular, it is far from perfect. I ask you to imagine for a moment “improved Medicare for all,” an idea gaining momentum among citizens and politicians. The hurdles to be overcome are high because so much money is made off sick people that any attempt to cut the profiteering results in million-dollar TV ads, huge campaign contributions and outright bribes by those who want to keep their oversized pieces of the pie.
It is becoming obvious, however, that a single-payer system, paid for by a universal tax, would cost less than what we now pay, and could provide healthcare for all of us without copays, deductibles or other out-of-pocket expenses — including dental care and vision care and hearing aids, by the way.
If you are skeptical, as you should be, I urge you to look at and the examples offered by just about every other country in the world, most of which now provide universal care for about half of what Americans pay.
Savings on administrative costs alone would be about $500 billion per year. Employers would no longer have to be insurance brokers. Doctors would no longer need to employ legions of people to beg insurance companies for needed care on behalf of their patients. Drug companies might make reasonable rather than obscene profits.
If the question, “What value do insurance companies provide?” were asked, we might find that the answer is, emphatically, none – the thought that limiting care holds down costs would be discredited once and for all.
Maybe Part C spokespeople like Joe Namath and JJ Walker and William Shatner could look for honest work and nurses could get raises.
Thomas R. Kluzak, MD

Can the downtrodden worm turn?

Dear Editor:
It seems that the Riverside County STR war has taken a turn. While the planning commission worked long and hard to provide an ordinance fair to the entire county, things changed radically at the July 26 BOS meeting.
It turned out that Idyllwild citizenry was pretty much absent. Temecula Valley wino country showed up in droves and they got what they wanted. Supervisor Washington pushed hard that going forward all STRs in their region must be hosted. What?
Deep pockets get their way apparently, as hosted STRs there don’t want competition from hundreds of small unhosted STRs.
But what about Idyllwild? If all of our STRs had to be hosted it would mean hundreds of affordable housing units would become available, at affordable rents, creating hundreds of jobs (hosting).
And with hosts on site, they would handle all of the noise, parking and trash problems that we are currently plagued with.
So I say this Idyllwild: “Call Supervisors Washington and Perez daily. And have all of your friends and neighbors call, too.”
It’s a few weeks before the final vote and they need to hear from us, the trodden-down worms of Idyllwild. It’s not too late to fix our STR problem, but they need to hear from us every day now leading up to their voting on this. Call today. The worm has turned.
Mark Dean
Pine Cove