ALERT:  City to Residents: Take it or leave

October 26, 2017

Dear PON member,

As the days are finally showing hope of cooling down, we thought this would be a great opportunity to tell you about the work we've been doing on behalf of our members and residents during this past summer.

We've been moving forward with the lawsuit to hold the city accountable for its egregious abuse of residential zoning laws. Our legal action contends that R-1 zones do not allow for businesses to operate without a specific conditional use permits, and that these short-term vacation rentals are in fact commercial businesses. PON maintains that the general plan and residential zoning must be respected, and unsupervised small motels operating most weekends of the year, owned by absentee landlords are much, much more than incidental or ancillary uses of a single-family home, as the city contends.

Our next court date will occur in November, as a “Status Hearing”. We will have more information for you after that hearing.

We have continued to have a presence at the monthly Palm Springs vacation rental stakeholder meetings. While these meetings are primarily geared toward helping vacation rental owners navigate the application process and adherence to the new ordinance, our vigilant attendance lets the city leadership, vacation rental owners and agencies know that our members too are stakeholders in this community. We have used the forum to hold the Vacation Rental Compliance Department accountable for adhering to the ordinance and ensuring enforcement does not get watered down at every turn at the demands of an insatiable industry. PON will be issuing a report in the next couple of weeks detailing specific concerns in this regard.

We also attended and spoke publicly at two Board of Appeals meetings. These meetings are interesting because a city-appointed five-member citizen’s panel hears the cases of vacation rental owners who have been fined or penalized and who wish to appeal their penalties. The appeals board is provided with a “recommendation” by the city. (We find no mention of this provision in the Ordinance.) The Board has the option of concurring with the fines and penalties or voting to rescind them. (Before this summer, this board had not met for at least three years). At the meetings, we have publicly raised appeals process issues for our members including why the immediate neighbors are not notified in advance, so they can submit testimony or a cross-appeal. The answer we received from the city is “…because we are not required to do that….” The outright arrogance from the city towards its own residents is stunning. PON has repeatedly requested that the VR department create clearly understandable operating procedures to preclude issues like this and provide credibility to the appeals process.

We’ve asked what the new staff is doing to strategically target cheaters operating illegally. If, for example, 100 illegal vacation rental homes are discovered, the fines alone could bring in $500,000 plus unpaid TOT, minus expenses. And since our own local vacation rental companies have said there could be a couple thousand operating illegally, we are at a loss to explain why the department isn’t being more aggressive with these cheaters. We will continue to pursue this issue with the city. It’s free money.

PON has requested a substantial amount of historical data through public records requests. Some of that data has recently been received and is being studied. For now, we have updated the STR by Neighborhood report and STR Growth Trends report on the PON website.

Although the city has seen a net 3.7% increase in the number of STRs since December, the trend in many neighborhoods is alarming. Demuth Park, one of our more affordable neighborhoods for first-time home buyers and longer-term renters, experienced a 74% increase in the same time period. PON will be digging deeper into the impact on renter displacement there and elsewhere.

What about the ballot measure? Over the last couple of months, you may have noticed a petition circulating regarding vacation rentals. Please know that PON is not a political action committee; therefore, we are prevented by California law from becoming involved with this effort.

The ballot initiative is being put forth by an organization called Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods (www.psn4n.org). According to its website PSN4N is staffed by Palm Springs residents on a volunteer basis. (Most of the volunteers have also been involved in the work PON is doing.) Currently, they are in the end stages of collecting signatures and will be submitting them to the city by the end of November for certification and inclusion as a ballot measure next year. If approved by voters, the proposed measure would restrict rental periods to 28 days or more in R-1 zoned single-family residences unless an owner is physically present on the property or the rental is in an HOA that allows shorter-term rentals. Existing STR owners would have a 2-year sunset to adjust their business model. If you would like more information, we encourage you to check out their website or reach out to the group.

So, what can you do to help our efforts? As always, we appreciate your continued support and there are multiple ways to stand up to the proliferation of STRs in your neighborhood.

First, if you are having a problem with a vacation rental in your area, call the hotline (760)322-8383 immediately during the incident. While your natural inclination may be to try to be a good neighbor and accommodate the renters or try to handle the issue yourself, the city will have no record of the action that you took or the fact that the rental is impacting your quality of life and rights as a resident unless you call the hotline. Remember that providing your name and address is optional and not required to file a complaint. However, if you are reporting a music or noise issue it is essential to allow the code enforcement agent access to your yard to hear the music or record decibel levels for a noise complaint at the property line. That is your option.

Second, this November we have an opportunity to elect two new council members who are sympathetic to our cause. Please take the opportunity to investigate all candidates thoroughly. Some of them speak of “neighborhoods”, but will do little to protect your rights and others will have to recuse themselves from voting on vacation rental issues due to personal profits from the vacation rental industry. Many members of our group have found Robert Stone, Judy Deertrack and Glenn Flood to be supportive of the residents regarding the issue of short-term vacation rentals.

Finally, consider making a financial contribution toward our legal action. The wheels of justice turn slowly and, unfortunately, the cost of litigation runs high. Our next action will be the November “Status Hearing” in Riverside County Superior Court and we will provide an update at that time.   Please help us today, as we fight to Protect Our Neighborhoods!

Your investment in your home, in your neighborhood and in your community is depending on it.

Please consider donating $50, $100, $500 or more today to support our costs to win this battle for the future of our neighborhoods and community. We are stronger together and your contribution is critical to our success. You can donate securely through PayPal, from http://protectourneighborhoods.net/donate/.*

Or mail a check today to:

Protect Our Neighborhoods

P.O. Box 4453

Palm Springs, CA  92263

 

Sincerely,

Protect Our Neighborhoods

PON believes neighborhoods are for residential use, not commercial use, and our zoning code supports that. We appreciate your continued support, especially your financial help with our legal costs. Please consider volunteering your time or donating today to help win this battle for the future of our neighborhoods. We are stronger together.

*We welcome your continued support. We do not share or make public your donation amount, name, email or address.

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Please visit us at our website (http://protectourneighborhoods.net/) for more information and statistics on vacation rentals in your neighborhood, order a yard sign, donate or to volunteer your time.

Protect Our Neighborhoods (PON) is a California Non-Profit Mutual Benefit Organization dedicated to advocating on behalf of Palm Springs residents negatively affected by the explosion of short-term vacation rentals. It is staffed on volunteer basis by full-time Palm Springs residents. (CA Corp. #3940372)

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