ALERT: Lawsuit, Ballot & Palm Desert Ban
January 22, 2018

Dear PON member,

We continue to receive questions regarding various activities underway to limit short-term rentals in our valley. These include:

Status of the PON lawsuit against the City of Palm Springs
Ballot initiative: Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods (http://psn4n.org/)
Whether the Palm Springs STR ordinance is “working”
City of Palm Desert ban on STRs
Whom to contact for more information

Lawsuit: PON vs. City of Palm Springs
Protect Our Neighborhoods filed a lawsuit in Riverside County Superior Court against the City of Palm Springs early last year. Our legal action contends that R-1 zones do not allow for businesses to operate without requiring conditional use permits, and that these short-term vacation rentals are in fact commercial businesses, and quite more than just an “ancillary use”.

We continue to believe that residential zoning must be respected, and single-family residences masquerading as vacation rental motels most weeks out of the year, owned by absentee landlords are much, much more than incidental or ancillary uses of a single family home. We believe that the city continues to show deferential treatment toward the vacation rental industry by allowing unlimited vacation rental permits in our R-1 residential neighborhoods. This has turned many neighborhoods into commercial hotel zones.

Commercialization of our neighborhoods is nothing new. For a decade, the industry has had a front row seat at the drafting table as each “new and improved” vacation rental ordinance was written. The latest ordinance, like its predecessor ordinances, was written without any protections for our neighborhoods or respect for our zoning. It is silent on the question of "how many are enough?" As a result, our residential neighborhoods, are devolving into commercial zones. In a city of about 13,000 homes, almost 2,000 are owned by investors running mini-motels. About 85% of these owners don’t even live here - using our neighborhoods as cash registers. They are certainly not residents just "trying to make ends meet until we retire". What is even worse for our city, according to our visitors and tourist bureau, is that short-term renters spend less here than our real hotel guests. Which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Vacation rental visitors split the rent, bring their coolers of Costco food and beverages to save money and party around the pool. We are the ones who suffer and are disturbed week in and week out. If you haven’t been affected yet, you’re lucky. Don’t expect your luck to last forever because it won’t.

Thanks to our city’s newest, industry-blessed ordinance and its lack of protections for permanent residents, zoning and neighborhoods, we are all just one For Sale sign away from an unsupervised mini-hotel next door or behind us.

Our lawsuit continues to wind its way thru Riverside County Superior Court. In early January, there was a status hearing. Our attorney requested additional city statistics regarding some specific neighborhoods where short-term rentals have completely turned quiet residential streets to congested, hollowed out blocks of for-profit unsupervised mini-motels.

The proliferation of unsupervised mini-motels continues as more long-term residents become fed up and move away.
In Vista Las Palmas, mini-motels make up 21% of the homes.
The figure is closer to 30% in the Movie Colony.
In Demuth Park, working-class families used to be able to rent or buy a reasonably priced home. No longer. Investors flipped almost 40% of those homes into unsupervised mini-motels! Demuth Park is an embarrassing example of how outside investors, with our city's tacit blessing, are eliminating much-needed affordable housing in a city which hasn't created a single unit of affordable housing in ten years. Why do this to an already-underserved population? Why should our hotel and restaurant workers have to live in DHS or farther away and spend their scarce dollars commuting to their jobs here because there isn’t available affordable housing? Because there are no city limits on “how many are enough”. That’s why.

Ballot to limit short-term rentals: let the residents decide
Last month, the local citizens group Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods (http://psn4n.org/) collected petition signatures from over 5,400 voters. These residents believe the decision to allow unsupervised, unlimited numbers of motels in their neighborhoods should be decided by the voters. This Wednesday, January 24, the City Council will discuss its options. The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. This is an opportunity for you to attend, speak your mind and let your elected officials know that the voters must decide how their residential neighborhoods should be protected from unlimited commercial mini-motels full of strangers. The City Council options include:
Modifying the existing ordinance to meet the requirements in the ballot measure: a 28-day minimum stay per rental contract, or,
Requesting city staff to conduct an impact study to be completed within 30 days; and then set the date the measure will go to public vote, or,
Setting a date for a special election or adding the ballot measure to the next public election, which would be the June 5 primary.

If the ballot measure passes, it WILL:
Limit absentee-owner rentals to a minimum of 28 days per stay in residential R1-zoned single-family neighborhoods.
Give STR owners two years to adjust their business model or relocate their business to an area of the city zoned for hotels.

The ballot measure WILL NOT affect or impact:
Home sharing or owner-hosted vacation rentals which will continue to be legal
STRs in non-R1 zones or long-term rentals
Condominiums which can make their own rules
HOAs that decide for themselves how to handle STRs
Apartment renters which are already protected by city ordinance

Palm Desert bans short-term rentals
Last year, Palm Desert residents fed up with the proliferation of unsupervised mini-motels in their neighborhoods, let their elected officials know that they finally had enough and wanted them banned.

Unlike the elected officials in City of Palm Springs, who encourage absentee landlords and out of town investors to hollow out our neighborhoods, Palm Desert’s Mayor and a majority of its City Council refused to be bullied by an industry which trotted out the same tired, false arguments used for years to justify commercializing of residential neighborhoods. Instead, the council held hearings, listened to all sides, rejected the lies and threats, put residents first and as a result, protected the peace and quiet of its neighborhoods. Congratulations to Mayor Jan Harnik and the Palm Desert council members who stood up to pressure and did the right thing for their city, its neighborhoods and its residents. And to the coalition of concerned neighbors who forced action on the issue.

Palm Desert has banned ALL vacation rentals in R1 and R2 zones and gave current short-term rental homeowners until July 2019 to either sell their property or rent their homes for more than thirty days. Palm Desert demonstrated to its residents that quality of life and zoning matter. They put the needs of residents first.

New Palm Springs ordinance is “working” for whom?
Palm Springs officials tout its new short-term rental ordinance as a success. But for whom is it working? The new ordinance, like its predecessor laws over the last decade, were written by - and for - the short-term rental industry. There have never been restrictions on "how many are enough?" Nor are there limitations on proximity of unsupervised mini-motels to each other to avoid creating groups of “compounds” or how many STRs should be allowed on each block.

Our city hands out STR permits like they’re Skittles, without concern on the cumulative impact on neighborhoods or residents. Because there are no limits on “how many”, our neighborhoods are disappearing. Yes, the ordinance is working: for investors and absentee landlords, but not for residents. We are all just one For Sale sign away from living next door to or behind another noisy, commercial, for-profit mini-motel as investors treat our neighborhoods as cash registers.

Stay informed
PON team volunteers attend various formal and informal meetings to keep abreast of activities affecting the STR issue. You can also keep informed in four ways:
Attend stakeholder meetings and speak your mind as a stakeholder, as well. The city holds regularly scheduled stakeholder meetings. It is here that you can hear and also speak to the group on their efforts to decrease legal code size for a bedroom, change safety and fire codes to their liking, and tinker with our noise ordinance. The meeting schedule is available at: http://www.palmspringsca.gov/government/departments/vacation-rentals
Attend and speak at the Board of Administrative Appeals regarding STRs which have affected your peace and quiet and have appealed fines. This board of voluntary citizens hears appeals from STR owners who have been fined for violations which include everything from operating illegally to repeated code enforcement violations. The city unfortunately refuses to notify adjacent neighbors of these hearings, but you can find out about them at: http://www.palmspringsca.gov/residents/boards-and-commissions/agendas/administrative-appeals-board
Attend City Council Meetings which occur twice monthly at 6 p.m. Agendas are posted at: http://www.palmspringsca.gov/residents/city-clerk/city-council-meetings
Check out our website: http://protectourneighborhoods.net/